The guys over at Pro Football Focus published an interesting study on Tuesday afternoon that examines the frequency and success of NFL quarterbacks throwing deep in 2010. Their definition of 'deep' is any pass that travels at least 20 yards in the air before being caught, intercepted or falling incomplete. Let's take a look at the three primary categories examined -- completion percentage on deep throws, deep throw percentage of attempts, and interceptions on deep throws -- and see how Kyle Orton fared in 2010. To qualify for inclusion, a quarterback had to have at least 30 deep throws meaning Tim Tebow wasn't included.
Completion Percentage on Deep Throws
Kyle Orton: 27 deep completions; 73 deep attempts; 36.99% (11th)
Deep Throw Percentage of Attempts
Kyle Orton: 73 deep attempts; 498 total attempts; 14.66% (12th)
Interceptions on Deep Attempts
Kyle Orton: 2 INTs; 73 deep attempts; 2.74% (1st)
So, as you can see, Orton was above average in terms of the number of times he attempted throws 20 or more yards down the field, he completed an above average percentage of those attempts, and when not successful, he wasn't hurting his team with interceptions. Not a bad recipe for success.
One of the primary knocks on Orton has been his perceived inability to stretch the field vertically. While it's indisputable that Orton doesn't have one of the stronger arms in the league, the data suggests that he's every bit as productive as his peers when it comes to successfully attacking defenses vertically through the air. The primary issue I have with this study though is that 20 yards doesn't exactly qualify as 'deep', at least not in my mind. All NFL QBs these days are able to throw that deep 20-yard out, and completing those types of patterns don't necessarily give you an indication of a QB's ability to keep defenses honest with the treat of a long pass play.
Anyway, a nice piece of work by PFF with the analysis. And for Broncos fans eager to see the Tim Tebow era begin in earnest sooner rather than later, don't forget that Orton wasn't the one responsible for Denver's 32nd ranked defense. The former Purdue grad may leave plenty to be desired as a franchise quarterback, but he's thrown the ball fairly well during his tenure in Denver, and that includes with his deep attempts during Denver's disappointing 3-13 season in 2010.