The New Orleans Saints clearly believe that Derek Carr is an upgrade on Andy Dalton. However, some of the more detailed film analysis out there disagrees. According to Johnny Kinsley, Derek Carr finished the 2022 season as the 22nd most accurate deep ball passer in the league, while Dalton finished as the eighth-best deep thrower in football.
For those unfamiliar, Kinsley has charted deep passing for the past few seasons now, and always breaks down his findings by depth of target, accuracy, field direction, accuracy, and several other variables. If you have some time on your hands, it’s well worth the read.
IT'S HERE: The 2022-23 Deep Ball Project is finally out. See how accurate your quarterback was throwing the ball downfield! https://t.co/qgGj45bLvF pic.twitter.com/kSpxjuZVKR
— Johnny Kinsley (Deep Ball Project Is Out Now!) (@Brickwallblitz) March 8, 2023
Derek Carr A Notably Worse Deep Ball Passer Than Andy Dalton
Derek Carr’s 2022
As it turns out, there might be a reason that the Las Vegas Raiders decided to part ways with Derek Carr. According to Kinsley’s studies, Carr was only accurate on 26 of his 60 downfield attempts, which is certainly not good. Carr’s biggest issue came on throws to the right side of the field, as he was only accurate on five of his 19 attempts. The data also shows that Carr was heavily reliant on play action. Carr was accurate on 63.6% of his deep passes using play action, the eighth-best mark in the league, while he was only accurate on 38.8% of his non-play action pass attempts.
Deep accuracy is primarily a quarterback stat, but having good receivers obviously helps in that regard. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that we were worried about Joe Burrow’s ability to stretch the field, but those days are a thing of the past now that he has Ja’Marr Chase. Poor supporting casts can help write off some underwhelming performances, but Carr doesn’t have that excuse. Davante Adams is still one of the best receivers in the league, and Darren Waller is a great tight end when he’s healthy. If anything, New Orleans has a worse group of pass catchers than Las Vegas.
If Saints fans are looking for a silver lining, Kinsley points out that Carr is usually better than this. By his charting, Carr finished the 2021 season as the 16th-best deep passer in football. Nobody is ever going to confuse Derek Carr with Dan Marino, but if he can return to a league-average deep passer, then the Saints should be able to become NFC South champions.
Andy Dalton’s 2022
Nobody in their right mind, including Kinsley himself, expected Dalton to put up a top-eight finish as a deep passer. Yet, here we are. Stepping in for an injured Jameis Winston before eventually taking the job, Dalton quietly put together one of his best seasons stretching the field. Granted, this did come in a relatively small sample, as Dalton only attempted 29 passes of 21 or more air yards last year. That being said, even with fewer attempts, Dalton deserves a lot of credit for playing this well.
DALTON DEEP TO OLAVE – 53-YARD TD STRIKE!!!!#LARvsNO | 📺: FOX pic.twitter.com/OmWF2gwsk5
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) November 20, 2022
This type of performance is wildly out of character for Dalton, and even if he gets a starting job next year, nobody should expect him to be this good for a second consecutive season. However, the fact that Dalton was able to perform this well and the Saints offense still looked that bad implies that Carr might not be the one-stop fix that New Orleans is looking for.
This goes beyond deep passing numbers as well. Last year, Dalton beat Carr in the film-based Pro Football Focus grades by a comfortable margin (82.1 for Dalton, 66.6 for Carr). Once again, this was something of an outlier for Dalton, and he’ll probably come back to Earth next year, but these numbers suggest that Dalton wasn’t the problem last year, and the Saints might not have utilized their resources too wisely.
Main Photo: Kirby Lee – USA Today Sports