In an early-season battle between division rivals and two potential playoff teams, the Miami Dolphins went into Foxborough and beat the New England Patriots 17-16. The most interesting subplot from the game was the duel between two former Alabama teammates: Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa. And while Tua might have come out of the game with a win, the statistics suggest Jones had a more efficient day.
Mac Jones’ traditional statistics are clearly better than Tua Tagovailoa’s
A quick glance at Tua’s box score suggests that he had a middling performance on Sunday. He threw for 202 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception, and also added a touchdown with his legs.
His Patriots counterpart fared somewhat better. Jones totaled 281 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps most impressively for a rookie in his first NFL start, he avoided turning the ball over. Although, it’s worth mentioning that he nearly caused real problems for New England early on in the game with an ill-advised backward pass that ended up on the ground. Still, purely based on their box scores, it appears that Jones had the better day.
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The advanced metrics also favor Mac Jones over Tua Tagovailoa
In addition to his superior box score, Jones also earned better advanced metrics than Tua did. As evidence, let’s turn to the Offensive Value Metric (OVM). The OVM is a grading system created by the (Bx) Movement to evaluate players not based on their statistics, but rather by how much influence they had on those statistics.
According to the OVM, Tua was outperformed by his former backup by a wide margin. While neither of their grades is particularly impressive, Jones’ grade of 26.7 certainly looks better than Tua’s grade of 22.92.
The difference between those grades indicates that not only did Jones have better counting stats than his former teammate, he also earned those statistics in a more efficient manner.
The advanced metrics show why Jones graded so much better than Tua
To understand why Jones’ grade was higher than Tua’s, we need to examine the advanced metrics involved in calculating those grades.
First of all, anyone who watched the game could tell you that Tua attempted passes that were more difficult than Jones did, and the advanced metrics confirm this.
Tua threw into contested windows on 25.9% of his targets, far higher than Jones’ mark of 10.3%. Tua’s passes also traveled 9.4 yards downfield on average compared to an average of 6.3 yards for Jones.
The reason Jones earned a higher OVM grade despite those differences lies in how successful his pass attempts were.
To start with, although Tua attempted a number of deep throws, his passes only traveled an average 5.1 yards downfield on his completions. That was actually lower than Jones’ average of 5.4 yards.
Meanwhile, Jones completed an impressive 74.4% of his passes, far more than 59.3% for Tua. To an extent, that difference is to be expected. After all, as we have already established, Jones attempted less difficult passes.
However, according to the NFL’s calculations, Jones’ completion percentage was an impressive 4.9% higher than expected. Tua, on the other hand, completed 3.5% fewer passes than the metrics suggest he should have.
In short, while it is true that Jones followed a much easier game plan than Tua did on Sunday, he did a far better job of executing it.
We’ll see how the two young quarterbacks continue to develop
The data clearly suggests that Jones had the edge over Tua in Week 1. That said, it is still early in the NFL season. Both quarterbacks will have excellent opportunities to again prove themselves next Sunday, although Jones has a much easier task ahead of him.
His opponents are the New York Jets, who will likely remain among the NFL’s bottom feeders for at least another season. Meanwhile, Tua will face the potentially championship-bound Buffalo Bills.
We’ll see how the pair of Alabama prospects hold up in two extremely different situations.