AFC South Truth Detector: How Many Balls Did the Jaguars Drop in Week 1?

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistSeptember 11, 2012

Are plays like this a "drop" or a "pass defensed?"
Are plays like this a "drop" or a "pass defensed?"Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE

Blaine Gabbert had a respectable day passing the football against Minnesota, but some Jaguars fans feel it should have been even better.

In response to my claim that Gabbert had a C- kind of day overall, one reader suggested his numbers were suppressed by seven dropped passes.

That's the kind of claim that merits investigation by the AFC South Truth Detector. The Truth Detector will make an appearance whenever fans make fact claims that can be verified by research or by looking at film.

My investigation of the game film turned up six passes that merit closer study as possible drops.

A dropped pass is not merely any pass that hits a player in the hands. If a defender strips the ball or hits the ball, it doesn't count as a drop. The term "drop" should only refer to passes where the ball was properly placed, and the receiver simply failed to do his job.

The Jaguars had a clear drop early on as Greg Jones failed to haul in a short pass. This is clearly a valid drop as there is no defender causing the incomplete pass, nor was the pass incorrectly placed.

From there, the situation is murky. Part of the misconception is the unfortunate use of the word "drop" by announcer Kevin Harlan. He mischaracterized several plays as drops that clearly were not.

I suspect that most of the confusion is simply the result of poor announcing.

He accused Laurent Robinson of a drop at the 5:45 mark of the second quarter. The ball was not dropped, but rather broken up by a defender. Both players had their hands on the ball at the same time, making it a pass defended, not a drop.

He claimed Montell Owens dropped a pass that was clearly low and behind him at the 14:56 mark. This was not a drop, but a bad throw. Harlan would later make the same mistake again on a pass to Owens. These balls were thrown low and behind the receiver, who had to reach back and down while changing directions. They were difficult throws to catch and certainly not "drops."

The worst offense by Harlan was on a deep ball to Mike Thomas at the 11:49 mark of the fourth quarter. Thomas was crushed as the ball arrived. This does not qualify as a dropped pass either. The throw led him right into the safety, and Mistral Raymond of the Vikings leveled him. Accusing the receiver of "dropping" the ball as he gets annihilated by the safety is irresponsible.

Finally, a pass to Robinson in overtime was legitimately dropped by the wide receiver.

By my count, Gabbert was the victim of just two "legitimate" dropped passes. Both occurred on short routes, and would not likely have affected his overall numbers greatly.

The AFC South Truth Finder judges the claim of seven dropped passes to be false. It's possible Harlan said the word "drop" seven times, but that doesn't make the statement true.