But as we talked about last August, Dungey’s rushing ability also happens to be his greatest asset, and the one that makes his passing all the more effective. The senior quarterback excels while running the football, even if it means accumulating extra hits over the course of a season.
For more proof of just how effective he is as a ball-carrier, we turn to this stat from ESPN’s David Hale:
Stat of the day: Syracuse’s Eric Dungey gained positive yardage on 56.5% of scrambles — actually slightly better than Lamar Jackson (9th best rate in P5, 6th-best among returning P5 QBs)— Comrade HaleBot (@DavidHaleESPN) April 25, 2018
It’s worth nothing that Lamar Jackson did have over 2.5 more yards per carry than Dungey did, and on 80 more attempts, no less. But still, creating a positive gain out of more than half of his carries is still a major win for Dungey, who had 595 yards on the ground last year (his highest single-season total yet).
In general, Dungey rolling out of the pocket was typically a good thing for the Orange offense. There’s no easy way to find numbers on how college football players threw outside of the pocket or on the run, but Dungey’s abilities there were great to the naked eye. His propensity to take off left defenses guessing, buying him time where most quarterbacks couldn’t find much.
With a questionable offensive line for at least the first half of last season, though, his riskier style of play became somewhat of a necessity. For all of 2017, the Orange offensive line was bad on passing downs (86th overall, according to Football Outsiders) and 79th in standard downs sack rate. That second number sounds poor, but the adjusted (for speed, opponents) sack rate was just outside the top 40. That group was starting to turn a corner last year. And now, they’re healthier and deeper for 2018.
Considering that, Dungey should be better protected this year, and more able to operate from within the pocket. But the question, again, is whether or not Syracuse is benefited by him doing so? This will be his best O-line of his four-year career, but his game thrives on the need to create out of necessity (due to lack of protection).
Can Eric Dungey be the same player if he runs less, and stands and delivers passes from the pocket more often?
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait and see until the season starts. And even if this line does improve by leaps and bounds (I’m confident it will, to be honest), it’ll be intriguing to see if Dungey can adjust to leaning on them after years of them leaning on him. If he can, we may start seeing something resembling a pocket passer for the Orange. It’s just too soon to say if Dungey will find comfort or the same effectiveness in that role.