It's a good time to be an NFL quarterback. It's a passing league, there are seemingly more great pass-catchers than at any time in recent memory, offensive coordinators are getting more and more creative in scheming their players open, and the league has pretty much mandated bone-crushing hits out of the game where QBs are concerned.
The baseline for league-average play has accordingly been raised, but there are still plenty of players who are clearing it with a whole lot of room to spare. Today, we're going to look at the guys who are playing the best this season, and what one thing they are doing that separates them from the rest.
In no particular order (apologies to Russell Wilson, who isn't featured due to injury)...
Kyler Murray: Playmaking under pressure
Every NFL quarterback performs worse in a muddy pocket. That's just how it is. It's more difficult to throw the ball with defenders in your face, for obvious reasons. The best quarterbacks minimize the degree to which their performance drops off, either by getting rid of the ball quickly and with pinpoint accuracy, or by using their athleticism to make plays outside of structure. Murray does both.
He is 19 of 33 for 336 yards, three touchdowns, one interception, and a league-best 110.2 passer rating when under pressure so far this season, according to Tru Media. The man is just so slippery. You cannot take him down with one free rusher, because he will make that guy miss. He has to immediately step into the waiting arms of another defender when he starts to move around, or else he's going to make you pay, whether by taking off downfield himself (six scrambles for 42 yards) or finding one of his many weapons in a developing hole in the secondary.
It's notable that he's hitting an incredible amount of big plays down the field in these situations, with throws of 20-plus air yards accounting for 27.3% of his attempts under pressure. He has added more EPA than any quarterback in the league on deep throws, according to NFL.com's Next Gen Stats model, so it seems like a pretty good strategy.
Justin Herbert: Attacking boundaries with lasers
Herbert is making a second-year leap to superstardom, and he's doing it by routinely making some of the most difficult throws in all of football. He has a league-high 24 completions of 15 or more yards on throws outside the numbers, which means he's hitting the most hard-to-access spots on the field with more regularity than anybody in the game.
He's 91 of 124 for 983 yards and eight touchdowns on outside-the-numbers throws overall, giving him the most completions and third-most touchdowns in the league on these plays. The arm strength and touch it takes to make throws like this is just outrageous, but Herbert is out here making it look easy. And he's making defensive backs look ridiculous (and lose their minds) in the process.