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Last minute thoughts: Can Stetson Bennett continue to impress vs. Raiders?

Why LA’s rookie QB could play better but have worse stats than he did a week ago

Los Angeles Chargers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams had to be impressed by QB Stetson Bennett’s debut against the Los Angeles Chargers last week. Sure, things started out a little uneven for the rookie—and we will get into those details—but he showed the same athletic ability and gamer mentality that were littered throughout his film at Georgia and across his scouting report. If the Rams were excited about the traits they thought they were getting when selecting Bennett in this spring’s NFL Draft, they should only feel more confident to see those attributes show up on a professional football field.

But Bennett’s debut must be met with nuance. While his athleticism and playmaking showed through, there was still plenty of room for improvement—especially during his first few plays in the game.

While the rookie’s traditional stats of 17/29 for 191 yards and a touchdown are impressive on the surface, advanced metrics and PFF tracking data tell a different story. These advanced metrics are a much better predictor of future outcomes than traditional stats, and it’s important to note that while Bennett might actually perform better over the next two preseason games his box score numbers may actually look worse.

The bad

Bennett had three turnover-worthy plays that won’t be reflected in his traditional statistics because Chargers defenders dropped the passes. 29 pass attempts is a relatively small sample size, but his 8.3% turnover-worthy play percentage would have led the NFL last season after applying a 20% drop back threshold.

I usually think of sacks as a QB-generated measure and pressures as a guide for offensive line performance. The Rams offensive line allowed pressures on 55% of Bennett’s drop backs, which a very high rate that almost prevents quarterbacks from being able to operate at a functional level. Bennett was able to avoid sacks with his mobility, but he did end up taking three total. All of them came deep in the backfield—maybe Bennett was trying to do too much—and put the offense behind schedule, though the Rams did convert on multiple third and long scenarios.

Based on Bennett’s extensive play time at Georgia, it may be fair to expect the turnover-worthy plays to become less frequent over time. Better pass protection would also help with this, but nearly every offensive line is dysfunctional in the preseason especially when the depth players start rotating in.

The good

Pat McAfee showed an impressive highlight reel from Bennett’s debut on his show, but on almost every play you see a defender bearing down on the rookie quarterback. Logan Bruss had an especially rough outing in pass protection at right tackle, and most of these pressures came from the defenders he was blocking. The impressive part is that Bennett was able to function despite the pressure and extend players with his athleticism, even though some of his best individual plays came from within the pocket and the rhythm and timing of the offense.

The bottom line

Bennett may very well play better Saturday evening in his second preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders, but he may throw an interception or two and his numbers look much worse than they did a week ago. Trust what you are seeing from the rookie quarterback as he continues to make strides and learn the ropes of an NFL offense. It’s encouraging that the traits from his college career and scouting reporting are translating, though he needs more time to become a polished NFL signal caller.