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Mike White: An Analytical Breakdown of His 2021 Play




Data from PFF and Sports Reference

At 26 years old Mike White appeared in 4 games in 2021 for a total of 138 dropbacks and 132 pass attempts. He completed 88 of those atempts - a 66.7% completion percentage, for a total of 953 yards (7.2 YPA), 5 TDs and 8 INTs. The Jets went 1-3 in White's 4 apperances, famously beating the Bengals 34-31 in a 405 yard passing effort. Below we will break down his splits in terms of under pressure, when blitzed, defensive strength of opponent, and so on.

Defensive Strength of Opponents

Mike White faced off against the Patriots, Bengals, Colts and Bills in 2021, only playing less than a half-game against the Colts and more than a half game against the Patriots. Their defensive ranks:

  • Patriots: Overall D - 8th, Pass Rush - 24th, Coverage - 4th
  • Bengals: Overall D - 13th, Pass Rush - 21st, Coverage - 10th
  • Colts: Overall D - 7th, Pass Rush - 18th, Coverage - 14th
  • Bills: Overall D - 9th, Pass Rush - 10th, Coverage - 5th
The list above shows all of the opponents that Mike White appeared against were solid NFL defenses, with the only exception being that 3/4 teams were below average in pass rushing.



Under Pressure & When Blitzed

The constant theme in this write-up for Mike White will be a myriad of very good, efficient and productive offense combined with extreme conservatism at the QB position but somehow contrasted with an insanely high interception and turnover-worthy play rate.

Mike White had the unique distinction in the NFL of having a higher turnover-worthy play rate from a clean pocket than he did when under pressure. In fact he was one of five out of 44 QBs in 202 for whom that was true for, leaving him in the company of: Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Trevor Siemian, and Taysom Hill.

However the biggest discrepancies in Mike White's ability to move the offense and generate first downs came in his splits when blitzed and when not blitzed. QBs on average generate more first downs per dropback when blitzed than they do when not blitzed, to the tune of about 35% first down rate when blitzed and 30% when not blitzed. However once again Mike White stands out, being 1 of 13 QBs who had a lower first down rate per dropback when not blitzed than they did when they were blitzed (31 QBs were the opposite). Overall Mike White had a sub 30% first down rate when blitzed and a just over 37% first down rate when not blitzed. The main culprit for this was a difference in turnover-worthy play rate where White led the NFL in turnover-worthy play rate when blitzed at 16.1% (NFL Avg is 1.8%). Strangely enough, he pairs that insanely high rutnover worthy play rate when blitzed with a 0% pressure to sack conversion rate, in other words he never took a sack on a blitz, but did manage to have 5 turnover-worthy plays and 3 actual interceptions when blitzed. Comparatively when not blitzed Mike White had a 3.4% turnover-worthy play rate (NFL Avg is 3.7%) and just a 13.3% pressure to sack conversion rate.

Similarly, Mike White had a 3.9% turnover-worthy play rate which is 1.2% better tha the NFL average 5.1%. Counterintuitively though, Mike White had a NFL worst 7.3% turnover-worthy play rate which is nearly 3X the NFL average of 2.5%. Much of this is due to the fact that Mike White had by far the lowest average depth of target when pressured at 6.5 yards when the NFL average is 10.8 yards. The next lowest ADOT when pressured was Daniel Jones at nearly 8 yards. Interestingly enough, White's ADOT was 6.4 to 6.7 yards deep no matter what, no matter if he was blitzed or not or if he was pressured or kept clean or if he was holding onto the ball >2.5 seconds or <2.5 seconds. Absolutely unique in that respect as most QBs ADOT fluctuates wildy depending on time to throw, pressure, blitz, etc.

Mike White also had one of the highest checkdown rates in the NFL in 2020 at >10%. I believe the only QB higher than hi was Trevor Lawrence at 11% and the only other QB at >10% was Joe Flacco.

The Bengals Game

I rewatched every Mike White play from the Bengals game and here are my advanced stat takeaways:

  • 45 attempts on 47 dropbacks (elite in terms of getting the ball out)
  • 82.2% comp% on a 4 yard ADOT - EXTREMELY dink and dunk
  • 2 sacks on 17 pressures for a 11.8% pressure to sack conversion rate (elite)
  • 2.31 second time to throw - coincides with ridiculously low ADOT
  • On 45 attempts, Mike White attempted and completed 7 screens
  • On 38 non-screens, Mike White checked down roughly 11 times
  • On 27 non-screens and non-checkdown pass attempts, Mike White targeted the shallowest receiver in the play call 22 times
  • Mike White had 1 pass attempt >20 yards downfield where he badly missed Elijah Moore wide open for a TD, however it would have been negated by an offensive hold anyways
  • Mike White only targeted a receiver who wasn't the shallowest route on a pass play on just roughly 5 times out of 47 dropbacks.

Conclusion

Mike White was an enigma, a checkdown Charlie who avoided sacks at an elite rate who simply refused to throw the ball down field unless it was a wide open busted coverage. He paired that with an inexplicable propensity to throw some extremely dangerous balls and turnover-worthy plays that earned him the highest INT rate in the NFL in 2021, with most of that damage coming against the blitz and also when not pressured.

Mike White is going to attack shorter down the field than any other QB in the NFL is 2021 was any example while simultaneously getting the ball out faster and taking fewer sacks than anyone in the NFL.

Luckily for Mike White, the Bears blitz among the least of any teams in the NFL at just 15% and they have 2 starters in the secondary out this week. They also traded away Roquan Smith - their best coverage LB as well as their best pass rusher. The Bears are transparently tanking and have the worst pass defense in the NFL currently, despite ranking just 31st in EPA per dropback allowed (trade deadline losses will force them to 32nd by year end). This looks like a perfect defense for Mike White to dink and dunk against considering their best defensive player left is their FS who like to roam the deep middle. The only thing that could pose a problem for Mike White is the fact that the Bears pass rush is awful and Mike White will still get the ball out at around 2.3 to 2.4 seconds no matter what, and historically he is much more turnover prone in a clean pocket, so he could be in line for more INTs since the Bears pass rush is so bad. Felt very weird typing that. Regardless, if Mike White can't beat the Bears and hang at least 24 on them then he probably shouldn't be in the NFL as anything more than a 3rd string QB or PS level.

This is a FanPost written by a registered member of this site. The views expressed here are those of the author alone and not those of anybody affiliated with Gang Green Nation or SB Nation.