What grade did NY Jets QB Mike White earn against the Buffalo Bills?
The New York Jets lost a gritty road game to the Buffalo Bills, 20-12. New York’s offense struggled but White earned the respect of many as he fought through multiple scary hits to throw for 268 yards and launch numerous big-time throws. White exited and re-entered the game on two occasions and did his best to lead the Jets on a comeback bid in the fourth quarter despite numerous mistakes by his supporting cast.
However, White’s performance in this game has allowed the “QB Wins” community and the box-score brigade to emerge in full force. White’s record dropped to 1-2, he failed to throw a touchdown pass for the second straight game, and his offense only scored 10 points. Clearly, he must not be playing well.
When watching White’s film, is it revealed that White deserves more blame than he is getting? Or did he have another impressive game that is belied by the surface-level numbers?
The QB Grades series exists to answer questions like those.
Before we get into White’s performance, check out the explanation and glossary below if you are unfamiliar with how my QB Grades series works.
My goal with this grading system is to capture the true quality of the quarterback’s performance independent of his surroundings. Box score statistics are usually misleading, as they do not account for a variety of factors that are crucial to consider when determining how well the quarterback performed on a given play. Even advanced metrics tend to overlook some important details.
If I had to choose one word to summarize the goal of this system, it would be this: contextualize.
I want to use the film to contextualize quarterback evaluation in a way that numbers cannot. The mission is to account for essential factors of quarterback play that can only be seen by combing through the footage of each play.
After re-watching each play on the All-22 film, I grade it on a 0-to-10 scale. Once I’m finished grading each play, I take the average of all plays to form a 0-to-100 overall score with 50 being approximately league-average (based on my studying of numerous other quarterback performances across the league).
Here are just a handful of the primary factors that are taken into account in the grading of each play, and a few basic examples that sum up what I’m looking for:
- Decision-making/Field-reading (Did the QB choose the best available option or did he leave a better play on the field? Regardless of whether a ball is actually intercepted or not, did the QB put the ball in danger of being intercepted? These are just a couple of basic examples; all aspects of decision-making, field-reading, and processing are considered.)
- Throw difficulty (Clean pocket or pressured? Wide open or tight window? Stationary or on the move? Short or deep? Same hash or opposite hash? Anticipatory or already open? The more difficult a throw is to execute, the more valuable it is.)
- Accuracy/placement (Even if the pass is completed, was the ball placed in the best possible spot or did the receiver have to make an extra effort to catch it? Was the ball placed in a spot that maximized YAC? Did the QB protect his receiver from a big hit? Additionally, QBs deserve credit for throwing good passes that are dropped, whereas most stats will blame them for an incompletion.)
- Game situation – score, time, field position, down and distance (Good decisions based on the clock/situation are crucial. Playing the sticks is also important – it is not a good play to complete a tightly covered 5-yard out on third-and-10 while a 15-yard dig is open, but a 5-yard out on third-and-4 is good.)
Once again, the goal is to properly contextualize each situation. Not all 40-yard completions are created equal. Not all interceptions are created equal. You need to watch a play to understand whether the quarterback did a good or bad job (and exactly how good or how bad he did). Simply looking at the result of a play cannot give you these answers.
When we tirelessly analyze every play on film and grade the quarterback’s individual effort independent of his surroundings or the on-paper outcome of the play, we get a much better estimation of how well he actually played.
Of course, keep in mind that these grades are subjective. They are but one man’s opinion and are not intended to be viewed as gospel. Feel free to let me know your takes on my grades for these performances.
For each performance, I include a few metrics that help explain how White arrived at his final grade.
These are some of the metrics I will break down for every game.
Overall grade: 0-to-100 grade based on the average score of all plays analyzed. An estimation of individual performance quality.
Positive plays: Number of plays graded above 5.0: above-average efforts.
Negative plays: Number of plays graded below 5.0: below-average efforts.
Neutral plays: Number of plays graded as a 5.0: plays that are not noticeably good or bad. These are typically lost plays or plays in which the QB can hardly be evaluated: screens, batted passes, miscommunications, and unavoidable sacks are commonly graded as a 5.0.
Positive/negative ratio: Ratio of positive plays to negative plays. Defines the quarterback’s consistency level.
Average positive score: The average score of all positive plays. An indicator of how high the quarterback’s peaks were — a higher score indicates his best plays were often highlight-reel-worthy while a lower score indicates that his best plays were typically unspectacular.
Average negative score: The average score of all negative plays. An indicator of how low the quarterback’s valleys were — a higher score indicates his mistakes were typically minor while a lower score indicates that his mistakes were typically brutal.
Wow Factor: Combination of average positive score and average negative score. An indicator of the combined ability to produce outstanding moments and avoid big mistakes.
7+ plays: Number of plays graded 7.0 or better: elite moments. Big-time plays, if you will.
≤3 plays: Number of plays graded 3.0 or worse: brutal moments. The ones that make Jets fans throw things at their TV.
Mike White’s grade at Buffalo Bills
Let’s dig into everything that went into my 0-to-100 grade for Mike White’s performance in Buffalo.
Was this game another feather in White’s cap? Or does he deserve more blame than he is getting?
Time to find out.
- Nania’s Overall Grade: 65.3 – (Average: 50, Great: 60+, Elite: 70+, Poor: <40, Awful: <30)
- Plays graded: 46
- Neutral plays: 11
- Positive plays: 25 (54.3%) – (Average: 56%, Phenomenal: >65%, Poor: <45%)
- Negative plays: 10 (21.7%) – (Average: 28%, Phenomenal: <20%, Poor: >40%)
- Positive-negative ratio: 2.50 – (Average: 2.00, Phenomenal: 3.00+, Poor: <1.00)
- Average positive: 6.21 – (Average: 5.90, High: 6.00+, Low: <5.80)
- Average negative: 3.43 – (Average: 3.80, High: 4.00+, Low: <3.60)
- Wow factor: 9.64 – (Average: 9.70, High: 10.00+, Low: <9.40)
- 7+ plays: 7 (15.2%) – (Average: 8%, Phenomenal: >12%, Poor: <4%)
- ≤3 plays: 4 (8.7%) – (Average: 8%, Phenomenal: <4%, Poor: >12%)
- Box score stats: 27/44 for 268 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT (6.1 Y/A, 78.6 passer rating). 3 sacks for 30 yards. 0 rushes for 0 yards. 1 fumble (recovered by Jets)
White had another strong game that goes unrecognized if you only look at the scoreboard and box score.
Unfortunately, White’s performance did not translate to points on the scoreboard, but for the second consecutive game, White was far down the list of culprits for the Jets’ lack of scoring. Poor pass protection, a generally poor run game, two lost fumbles by teammates, predictable play-calling, and some key drops on catchable passes were the primary reasons for the offense’s 10-point outing.
White was the main reason New York had any sort of chance to win this game. Buffalo was creating an immense amount of pressure and covering well in the back end. The only way the Jets could move the ball is if their quarterback could deliver tight-window throws under pressure (in brutal weather), and White continuously made those throws. With a league-average quarterback performance or worse, I think the Jets would have been shut out in this game.
This was not a perfect game from White by any means. I have it as his lowest-graded performance of his three appearances this season, albeit by a small margin compared to the Minnesota game. He got off to a rough start, missing some good opportunities in the first quarter.
However, starting with the second quarter and through the end of the game, White was highly impressive. I had White with a 25.7 grade in the first quarter (11 plays) and a 79.2 grade through the final three quarters (35 plays).
White was more boom-or-bust in this game than in his previous two performances, as evidenced by his season-high average positive score (6.19), season-low average negative score (3.43), tied season-high total of seven-plus plays (7), and season-high total of three-or-worse plays (4). He did have some big mistakes that I knocked him harshly for. However, he had nearly twice as many big-time plays that were deserving of lofty praise.
This is White’s third consecutive game with a 60.0+ grade. I have never given Zach Wilson a 60.0+ grade in three straight games. Sam Darnold did it once (Weeks 10-12 of 2019 vs. New York, Washington, and Oakland), although he never matched White’s streak of three consecutive 65.0+ grades.
White’s grade for the 2022 season sits at 69.9. It is the highest grade I have given a Jets quarterback over a three-game span since I started doing this in 2018.
Mike White’s film at Buffalo Bills
Let’s take a look at some of the key plays from White’s performance vs. Buffalo.
For each play in the breakdown, I’ll list the grade I gave him for that play. Anything above 5.0 is positive and helps push his overall game grade above 50.0, and vice versa for anything below 5.0.
2nd & 8 – (12:46) (Shotgun) M.White pass incomplete short middle to T.Conklin.
Rough one for White to get us started as he misses a short throw behind Tyler Conklin. As we’ll notice in the early portion of this review, I think it took White some time to acclimate to the weather conditions, since his first-quarter accuracy was up-and-down. Once he got settled in, though, he was very sharp. Grade: 4.0
3rd & 8 – (12:42) (Shotgun) M.White pass short right to G.Wilson to NYJ 14 for 10 yards (T.White).
White made up for his second-down miss with this third-down strike to Garrett Wilson on a slant route against Tre’Davious White. Grade: 6.0
2nd & 17 – (10:09) (Shotgun) M.White pass short right to Mi.Carter to NYJ 20 for 3 yards (T.Johnson) [D.Jones].
This play has been discussed by fans since it was highlighted on the broadcast by Tony Romo, so I wanted to bring it up.
Romo thought White should have hit Elijah Moore (slot right) on the corner route. I don’t agree with that. Yeah, sure, Moore looks wide open eventually, but put yourself in White’s shoes. White starts his reads on the left side, and when he gets back to the right, what does he see? He sees a linebacker with plenty of depth next to Moore and an outside-third cornerback in position to cover the out-breaking route. Those are signs that Moore will not be open. So, White declines the option and immediately checks it down to Michael Carter.
As it turns out, the outside-third cornerback botched his assignment and followed Wilson inside, leaving Moore wide open, but there is no way White could have known that would happen. He could have seen it if he stayed on Moore a beat longer, but why would White do that? He has to get through his progressions on time. Moore did not look like a good option when White got to him. So he passed on it, as he is supposed to.
Plus, White eventually gets wrapped up by a defender as he gets the ball out to Carter. If he stuck on Moore, he would have gotten hit or sacked by the time it was clear Moore was open. That will frequently happen if you stick on a read too long. White rarely falls victim to this fate as he goes through his progressions at a proper pace.
This is a good job by White of reading the entire field and making a smart decision to check it down. It is not a miss. I cut Romo some slack since it is very hard to digest a play and break it down on a live broadcast within the limited amount of time between two plays. Grade: 5.25
3rd & 14 – (9:24) (Shotgun) M.White pass short right to T.Conklin to NYJ 27 for 7 yards (M.Milano, D.Jackson).
Okay, now this is a miss. White starts his read on the left side of the field but moves off it too quickly. Elijah Moore has a chance to be open for the conversion on the left, but White checks it down to Conklin on the other side.
On the left side, the Jets have Wilson running a go, Moore running a post-corner, and Carter leaking out for the checkdown. This is a chance for White to make a simple read. Seeing the Bills rotate to Cover-3 post-snap, White should know Wilson will clear out the outside-third cornerback (#27), so he just has to read the curl-flat defender (#7). If that defender gets depth and cheats inside to cover Moore, White can check it down to Carter. But if he doesn’t get in position to cover Moore, then the window to hit Moore is open.
On the previous play, White was warranted to not stick on Moore’s route because it did not look open when he got to it. Here, though, White should have liked what he saw when he started on that left side and given it more of a chance to play out considering it’s third-and-14. I’m not sure what prompted him to move away from it so quickly and take a throw that had a 0% chance of converting. Grade: 4.0
1st & 15 – (6:03) M.White pass incomplete short right to E.Moore.
White dirts a screen pass to Moore. Can’t have it. As I said, White’s accuracy was shaky to start. Grade: 3.0
3rd & 10 – (5:20) (Shotgun) M.White pass short right to C.Davis to NYJ 35 for 15 yards (D.Jackson). NYJ-C.Davis was injured during the play. He is Out. C.Davis walks off.
White starts his read to the right side. With Corey Davis having inside leverage against the cornerback and Conklin clearing out the middle by carrying the linebacker with his post route, White likes Davis’s dig route. However, he knows the safety is lurking and ready to drive on Davis. So, White quickly gives a look to Conklin, getting the safety to bite on that route instead of Davis’s. Watch how White not only points his eyes in Conklin’s direction, but also adjusts his lower body to feign as if he is preparing to throw, helping to fully sell the fake to the safety.
After getting rid of the safety, White immediately comes back to Davis and fires. You could nitpick and say the ball is a little too high, but when you have a big target like Davis, you want to maximize it by letting him go up and get it, boxing out the defender. Great third-and-long play from White. Grade: 6.5
3rd & 4 – (3:35) (Shotgun) M.White pass incomplete short left to C.Uzomah.
Not a fan of this decision from White. He starts his read on the left, and of all matchups to target against man coverage, he goes with C.J. Uzomah running a curl on the outside. I have no idea why Mike LaFleur dialed this up, but regardless, White should have quickly seen that Uzomah was not going to win this route. It’s clear from the start that the DB has him blanketed.
White should have moved off Uzomah and gone to the right side, and if he did, he would have seen that Wilson had beaten his man over the middle and was open for the conversion. Finally, White comes up short on the throw to Uzomah anyway, giving him no chance to at least use his size to get a jump ball. Bad play. Grade: 3.0
1st & 10 – (2:26) (Shotgun) M.White sacked at NYJ 43 for -9 yards (G.Rousseau).
White should have thrown the ball away at the tail end of this play, but he did a marvelous job of avoiding the initial pressure, so I cut him a little bit of slack. Grade: 4.5
1st & 10 – (6:46) (Shotgun) M.White pass deep middle to E.Moore to 50 for 24 yards (T.Edmunds) [E.Oliver]. NYJ-M.White was injured during the play. His return is Probable. M.White walks off.
We’ve gotten through White’s rough first quarter. From here on out, most of the plays in this review will be positive. White caught fire in the second quarter and kept it burning for the rest of the game.
This play is… spectacular. It rivals White’s fourth-and-10 throw in Minnesota for his best of the season and possibly the best I have seen from a Jets quarterback in recent memory.
White executes the play fake and immediately deepens his dropback as he sees the pressure is bound to arrive. Knowing a crushing hit is about to come, White shows no fear as he steps up into the pressure and fires anyway. White places beautiful touch on the ball as he drops it over the linebacker’s head. The ball then drops into Moore’s chest in perfect stride, just beyond the reach of a defender who has very tight coverage.
The toughness on display here is incredible. White knows that the only way he can make this throw is if he accepts a hit so he can deliver with proper mechanics. And that’s what he does. If White made any subtle, awkward movements to protect himself, his mechanics would have been compromised and he would have missed the throw. White does not care if he has to get crushed to deliver a good throw. That is how he makes up for his lack of special athleticism – since he cannot avoid the pressure, he just doesn’t let it bother him.
Completing a pass can hardly get more improbable than this. Grade: 10.0
3rd & 10 – (5:42) M.White returns at QB. (Shotgun) M.White pass short right to G.Wilson ran ob at BUF 38 for 12 yards.
This is White’s first play back in the game after being knocked out from the hit he took on the Moore play. Joe Flacco’s ineptitude buried White in a third-and-10 hole for his return.
White stands tall in the pocket on third-and-10 and throws an anticipatory bullet to Wilson on an opposite-hash out route, all with Bills linebacker Matt Milano right in his grill. Marvelous. Grade: 8.0
2nd & 12 – (4:29) (Shotgun) M.White sacked at 50 for -10 yards (A.Epenesa). FUMBLES (A.Epenesa) [A.Epenesa], touched at 50, recovered by NYJ-C.Uzomah at NYJ 49.
I don’t think you can blame White for this fumble. He reads middle, doesn’t have anything open, and goes to Moore for the checkdown, and the pressure arrives from the back side as soon as he pulls the trigger. Brutal block from Uzomah, who appears to have momentarily lost connection to the serves. Uzomah is eons late off the snap and allows undeterred edge pressure from the back side. Can’t have it. There really isn’t anything White could have done differently here, so it goes down as a neutral play for me. Grade: 5.0
2nd & 12 – (14:13) (Shotgun) M.White pass incomplete short left to D.Mims (M.Milano).
Rare blunder for White within his strong run over the final three quarters. This should be an interception. Milano gets plenty of depth in the flat to stay underneath Mims’s out route, but for some reason, White challenges him. Milano leaps and gets two hands on the ball but fails to come up with it. It’s an interception-worthy pass from White – really the only one I have seen from him this year. Grade: 1.0
3rd & 12 – (14:08) (Shotgun) M.White pass short right to G.Wilson to NYJ 39 for 13 yards. Penalty on BUF-D.Jackson, Defensive Holding, declined.
White converts another third-and-long with an opposite-hash out route to Wilson. The refs miss a blatant penalty as Wilson is hit long after he goes out of bounds. Grade: 7.0
3rd & 10 – (12:55) (Shotgun) M.White pass deep right to B.Berrios to BUF 36 for 25 yards (D.Jackson).
White flashes deep-passing ability as he drops an absolute dime to Braxton Berrios. Seeing the safety turn his hips inside and seeing Berrios’s man screened by Mims, White knows he has this throw and pulls the trigger. He hits Berrios in perfect stride against tight-window coverage. Yet another third-and-long conversion from White. Grade: 9.0
1st & 10 – (12:09) (Shotgun) M.White pass short middle to D.Mims to BUF 24 for 12 yards (D.Jackson).
Tremendous anticipation from White on this throw. White sees Mims’s inside leverage on his man and starts winding up long before Mims turns around. White places the ball in a great spot between two defenders – far enough ahead to where Mims can remain separated from his man, but not too far to where he would be led directly into the linebacker. Grade: 6.5
2nd & 11 – (11:43) (Shotgun) M.White pass short middle to G.Wilson to NYJ 37 for 13 yards (T.White). Buffalo challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was Upheld. The ruling on the field stands. (Timeout #1.)
Getting his bell rung just seems to bring out the best in White. This is his first throw back in the game after getting knocked out a second time, and he whips a needle-threader to Wilson over the middle for a second-and-long conversion. Grade: 6.5
1st & 10 – (11:07) M.White pass incomplete short right to D.Mims (D.Jackson).
Here’s an opportunity I think White missed. Wilson turns his man around on a corner route and has plenty of separation. That’s where I would have liked to see White go. Instead, White opts for a much shorter throw to Mims. It’s actually an accurate throw and should be caught, but Mims does a poor job of making the contested catch, allowing the throw to reach his body instead of attacking it with his hands.
Regardless, I think Wilson was the right throw here. Grade: 4.0
1st & 10 – (10:04) (No Huddle) M.White sacked at NYJ 42 for -11 yards (S.Lawson).
Not much of an excuse for this sack. Got to throw it away. Grade: 2.0
2nd & 4 – (2:43) (No Huddle, Shotgun) M.White pass deep middle to E.Moore to BUF 39 for 19 yards (T.Edmunds).
Awesome throw here. Watch the progression. White starts in the middle and sees Moore more isolated with the linebacker in zone coverage, so White knows he can hit Moore if he gets the linebacker to move. So, White moves his eyes to the right and holds them there until he sees the linebacker slide over.
Once White sees the linebacker move, he comes back inside to Moore and fires (while under pressure). Watch how quickly White pulls the trigger – he just rips that thing from a stand-still position with almost no load-up. The quick release allows White to beat the incoming pressure and squeeze the ball into a fast-closing window, as the linebacker hits Moore just a beat after he secures the ball. Grade: 7.0
3rd & 5 – (2:00) (Shotgun) M.White pass short left to G.Wilson ran ob at BUF 18 for 16 yards (T.White).
White and Wilson hook up on another opposite-hash out route. The window isn’t as tight on this one as some of the other out routes White completed, but what makes this one impressive is the anticipation. White gets this ball out centuries before Wilson turns around. By the time Wilson turns his eyes back to the QB, the ball is almost halfway there. White does this with, once again, pressure in his face.
An out route from the opposite hash is one of the most sneakily difficult throws for a quarterback. White made them look way too easy in this game, especially considering the pressure and weather. Grade: 7.0
3rd & 1 – (1:25) (No Huddle, Shotgun) M.White pass incomplete short right to B.Berrios.
As it pertains to Braxton Berrios, it’s up for debate as to whether he “should” have caught this. Some argue this is a difficult catch he shouldn’t be knocked for. Some argue it’s a catch he needs to make. I am a member of the latter group, but it’s open for interpretation.
Regardless, we are here to evaluate Mike White individually. When looking solely at White’s effort on this play, I think this is another fantastic throw.
This is the throw LaFleur dialed up for White here. Look at the other route-runners – the back side players are running half-speed and Conklin is just coming inside to clear out room for Berrios. This ball is going to Berrios all the way. White’s job is to execute the throw, and I’m not sure how he could have executed it any better.
It’s an incredibly small window (well-covered by Buffalo) and White threads the needle as he puts it directly on Berrios – not too high, not too low, not too far out in front, not too far behind. The QB does his job at a high level here, in my opinion. Grade: 7.0
Mike White is 3-for-3 to start the 2022 season
This was an imperfect performance that featured a handful of costly mistakes, but the positive impact of White’s peak moments significantly outweighed the negative impact of his lowest moments. That is the most important takeaway from this game: how staggeringly high White’s peaks were. He executed so many low-percentage plays in unfavorable situations, almost single-handedly keeping the Jets alive.
Mike White continues to soar beyond my expectations.
I was a vocal critic of White prior to his elevation into the starting lineup three weeks ago. He did not impress me all that much in 2021. His 2022 preseason was even more uninspiring. I was so down on White that I thought Chris Streveler deserved to be the Jets’ QB3 over him going into this season.
But things have changed, and I have altered my perspective accordingly. We have seen an entirely new quarterback here in 2022. White’s game-manager reputation is long gone at this point. He is launching big-time throws at a rate that can rival any quarterback in the NFL right now. Heck, White actually leads the entire league with 11 “tight window” completions (less than one yard of separation) over the past three weeks.
Something clicked for White between the preseason and the moment New York elevated him to the backup role over Flacco in Week 8. I’m not sure what it was – maybe he started grinding harder in the film room and on the practice field, or maybe his preseason woes triggered some sort of epiphany on what he needed to do to elevate his game. (Just speculating.)
Whatever it was, it’s obvious that he did something very impressive behind closed doors to prompt the Jets to elevate him seemingly out of nowhere in the middle of the season. And, clearly, whatever White did to impress them is translating to the field, because the White we are seeing right now is nothing like the White we saw in 2021 or the White we saw in this year’s preseason.
It’s unfortunate that White’s performance over the last two weeks has not translated to better results for the team as a whole, but it’s always important to look beyond surface-level results and evaluate quarterbacks individually. He is playing well.
White’s performances against Minnesota and Buffalo each would have been good enough for the Jets to win the two Patriots games in blowout fashion. I think they may have even had a chance to defeat Baltimore or Cincinnati. It feels like typical Jets luck that once they finally get good quarterback play, many other parts of the team have taken steps back from their usual level.
White has played very good football for three consecutive games since entering the starting lineup. Jets fans should be excited about the team’s potential over the next four weeks with this level of play from the quarterback position. If the rest of the team can get back to where it was before the last two games, the Jets can become a juggernaut thanks to the way White is playing.
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