At least one critic of at least one area of Ryan Mallett’s game liked what he saw last week.
Wade Phillips told In The Loop on Sports Radio 610 on Friday that he was impressed with Mallett’s Houston Texans debut in the win over the Cleveland Browns, particularly in the short passing game.
“He threw the ball in the short game better than I thought he would,” Phillips said. “I thought he would be more of a down the field passer, but he hit 66 percent, threw the ball, got rid of the ball.”
Phillips said during his weekly appearance last week that he wasn’t sure if Mallett, touted for his huge arm strength heading into the 2011 NFL Draft, would mesh with the heavy dose of short passes called in head coach Bill O’Brien’s offense, but was pleasantly surprised when Mallett did just that last week.
“I said going into it that they had a short passing game and I didn’t know if he’d fit that, but I think I was certainly wrong there, or at least that game,” Phillips said on Friday.
Mallett had 221 yards on 20 of 30 passing with two touchdowns and one interception in his first NFL start. Mallett, 26, was picked up this offseason in a trade with the New England Patriots for a conditional 2016 pick. In his first game replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mallett matched the number of games Fitzpatrick had this season of at least 20 completions, 200 yards and two touchdowns: one in nine starts.
Though he excelled in the short game last week, he also flashed his off-the-charts arm strength that made him one of the NFL’s most intriguing draft prospects four years ago. According to Pro Football Focus, 16.7 percent of Mallett’s attempts traveled at least 20 yards down field. If it qualified, that would rank third in the NFL, just ahead of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Mallett’s ability to stretch the field at any time is an element previously unseen in this offense, and arguably part of the reason why the ground game and running back Alfred Blue were able to be so effective.
But for an offense predicated on its short passing game and ball control, it’s important that Mallett be able to execute the plays that are called. Phillips said he was impressed with how Mallett did that last week.
“I thought he did well as far as the short passing game, and it kind of fits into what they’re doing, short passes and running game, and that’s the game that they’ve won,” Phillips said.
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