One of the big questions concerning the Seattle Seahawks passing game in 2022 was how the deep passing game would perform with Geno Smith. After all, we were used to seeing big plays from Russell Wilson on an annual basis and he has a well-earned reputation as an elite long ball quarterback.
Well not only did Geno maintain Seattle’s deep passing success, he set the NFL’s best standard last year based on the number-crunching from NextGenStats.
NFL.com’s Adam Shook used both traditional and advanced metrics (and really the advanced metrics do the heavy lifting) to rank the NFL’s top-10 deep passers from last season. Jalen Hurts was 3rd, Tua Tagovailoa was 2nd, but coming in at the very top was the league’s Comeback Player of the Year.
Deep attempts: 24-of-51, 719 yards, 13:2 TD-INT ratio, 116.6 passer rating
Deep comp: 47.1%
Deep xComp: 33.8%
Deep CPOE: +13.2%
PASSING SCORE (on deep attempts): 99
Smith certainly didn’t earn 2022 Comeback Player of the Year honors by playing it safe. The veteran let it rip plenty, completing nearly 50 percent of his downfield passes for over 700 yards, a good chunk of his 4,282 yards for the season.
These numbers are all impressive, but what vaulted Smith up to the top spot was just how productive he was when throwing deep. Nearly half of Smith’s 30 touchdown passes came on deep passes, and his 13 downfield scores led all quarterbacks. This rate of success was stellar: 25.4 percent of Smith’s deep attempts produced touchdowns in 2022.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see how he finished with a deep passing EPA of +42.3. Going deep was highly rewarding for the Seahawks with Smith at the controls, helping him finish third in passer rating on such attempts. Add in a CPOE of +13.2% — which leads all quarterbacks on this list — and it’s easy to see why he was the best deep passer of the season.
For a little refresher on xComp and CPOE, from the article:
xComp (expected completion percentage): a quarterback’s average “completion probability,” which represents the aggregate level of difficulty of a set of pass attempts.
CPOE (completion percentage above expectation): the difference between a quarterback’s actual completion percentage and expected completion percentage, controlling for the level of difficulty of each pass.
For a more simplified version: Geno made some phenomenal but difficult throws, and no doubt this is a bit of a two-way street that he has tremendous receiving targets in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to reel those passes in.
By the way, Russell Wilson was 7th in this list so while he had an objectively sub-standard overall performance, he was still productive in an area in which he’s excelled for virtually his entire career.
It is highly encouraging that Smith has shown the capability to continue carrying out what is undoubtedly a major component of the Seahawks passing attack. Now he has Jaxon Smith-Njigba on the roster and hopefully he can be both another deep option but also really help the Seahawks better exploit the intermediate part of the field, where Geno got into a bit of trouble towards the end of last season.
Exciting times for Seattle’s passing game, as improbable a thought that seemed at this time a year ago.