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By the Numbers: 2021 Florida Gators Passing Game

An inconsistent area of the Florida Gators football program this year, its passing game will need a lot of work as it closes out its season.

Photo Credit: Alex Shepherd

In continuing a mid-season review of the Florida Gators football program's performance over the first seven games of the season, the team's passing unit has been the most oft-criticized, perhaps second to the defense at times throughout the year.

That comes with good reason, whether it be due to poor play by the position as a whole, or the team's coaching staff, the Gators must have a resurgence during its final five games of the year in order to evoke some confidence across its fanbase moving forward or into next season.

RELATED: By the Numbers: 2021 Florida Gators Running Attack

This upcoming week against the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs will perhaps be the most important for the quarterback position at Florida.

The QB controversy is certainly very much alive, though it didn't seem to be that way just a couple of weeks ago, and now the team will have to see whether or not Emory Jones, the usual starter, or redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson will become the team's signal-caller the rest of the way.

There's a reason why the Gators are in the situation they are with its passing game, though, and the numbers through the first seven games of the year tell the tale.

This season, Florida entered with a shift at QB. Out was stellar passer Kyle Trask, who left via the NFL Draft, selected at the bottom of the second round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and in was a rising redshirt junior QB in Jones who had bid his time in order to get to the position as the team's starting QB.

There was no question that the team's p[assign game would slack compared to last season. How could it not? Florida was one of the most potent passing offenses in the FBS, and exiting was a few of the best offensive players for a passing attack in Trask, tight end Kyle Pitts and receivers Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes, all NFL talents.

Though there was expected to be a drop-off, the idea was that a potent rushing attack would take over, with the complementary aspect of the team's offense being its passing attack. While the run game has improved, significantly, its passing game has been far too inconsistent.

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Gators HC Dan Mullen during the team's loss against LSU (2021)

Gators HC Dan Mullen during the team's loss against LSU (2021)

Thus far this season, Jones has completed 118 out of 175 (67.4%) of his passes for just 1,304 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The TD:INT ratio is the crux of the situation, with far too many turnovers occurring at key situations throughout the season.

Jones hasn't played poorly throughout the year, but he certainly hasn't brought the team to greener pastures over the past couple of weeks with his arm. Against Alabama, Kentucky and LSU, the team's three losses this year, Jones completed 52 out of 77 (67.53%) of his passes for just 558 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.

Those numbers simply haven't been good enough, and the results tell the tale. His only two multi-passing touchdown performances of the season have come in games against Tennessee and Vanderbilt, where he completed two and four touchdowns, respectively.

As far as rankings go, Florida is currently ranked 55th in yards per game passing (247.4). The team simply hasn't made a lot of efforts, through the air, but as stated previously, it has made up for it with its ground game.

The intrigue comes in the team's second signal-caller, Richardson, who is potentially going to become the team's starter moving forward, though head coach Dan Mullen wouldn't say either way on Wednesday during his teleconference with the media.

Thus far this season, Richardson has looked fine in the passing game, though it's a small sample size.

He's completed 21 out of 37 (56.8%) of his passes for 392 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. He's been very much boom or bust in the passing game but has thrown the ball downfield far more often with 10.6 yards per attempt compared to Jones' 7.5 yards.

Richardson's legs have been deadly this year, adding another dimension that Jones has added as well, with 348 yards on the ground. But, coupled with his propensity to make explosive plays happen through the air, and the idea that he's the QB of the future, many are calling for him to play sooner rather than later.

So, while the Gators' passing attack hasn't been completely inept this season, it hasn't exactly won games for the program, either. This year wasn't supposed to be pass-heavy, but in this league, it needs to be better than it has. Perhaps it will improve over the next slate of games.

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