When a team is struggling in football the quarterback is the first person fans and analysts look to. For the Badgers, Graham Mertz has been a polarizing quarterback in the media for his play. Some analysts and fans love him, while others don’t understand why he is a starter.
Is Mertz an Effective Quarterback?
Graham Mertz is entering his redshirt Junior year in 2022 for the Badgers. He still has two seasons of eligibility left, including this year, and will most likely be a four year starter. So far in his time at Wisconsin, he has 4060 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions, with a QBR of 57.1.
Ideally, the interceptions would be down and the ratio would be higher. However, there are ways to still be effective while throwing picks. Wisconsin is historically a run first offense, and with a stud like Braelon Allen and a strong offensive line they love to pound the rock. Allen has been effective this year with a 73.7 offensive grade, which is down so far from his 80.9 grade in 2021. The offense has been up and down while struggling to find consistency.
In certain games this season, Mertz has been responsible to pass and lead the offense. Against Washington State, Mertz dropped back to pass 39 times and finished with a passing grade of 64.7. The Badgers receiving group was blanketed most of the game and couldn’t get open, which resulted in endless roll-outs. When standing in the pocket, Mertz was an effective passer and the turnovers were fixable mistakes. The interception thrown to the lineman occurred because he wasn’t far enough out of the pocket. He knew it was collapsing and tried to turn his hips and throw while moving. Unfortunately, it was tipped and intercepted.
Mertz Versus Ohio State
Ohio State defeating the Badgers and scoring 52 is a blemish this season, for sure. The game came down to poor decision making and communication. The interception Mertz throws to start the game looked like a severe under throw because it was behind the receiver. However, Mertz talked to his receiver and in the film it appears he curled to the left when the route was to the right. Either way, the corner probably would’ve made a play on the ball.
Graham Mertz throws it right to the Ohio State defense 😬 https://t.co/OaxffFG7yd
— Brian (@byysports) September 25, 2022
Following the interception, Mertz took a couple hits trying to leave the pocket and run. One hit in particular looked rough and he ran right towards the linebacker. Mertz finished the game with a 72.3 offensive grade without throwing over 100 yards. Overall, Wisconsin couldn’t piece together multiple plays and didn’t do much against Ohio State.
The Winning Recipe for the Badgers
It hasn’t been all bad this season, however. While there are plenty of things to complain about given the current record, this team is very talented. New Mexico State is certainly not a program everyone knows about. Football isn’t their forte, but flying through them showed the offense can click. A team doesn’t “accidentally” score 66, there is talent behind that.
Mertz recorded a passing grade of 81.7 and threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns. He completed 12 of 15 of his pass attempts and only made two real mistakes. The interception was a clear mistake, but Mertz tried to roll out when there was nowhere to go as well. His pocket presence has still been an issue this year, but when he has time in the pocket he can deliver.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) September 22, 2022
Mertz has been up and down, but if he corrects his mistakes this year, he could be a top quarterback. The skills are there and he has shown he can be effective. He has a great ability to pass from the pocket and he can throw on the run as well. As long as Mertz continues to develop his pocket presence and utilize his blockers, he could help the Badgers develop as a team.