The Jets announced earlier this week that Tim Boyle will serve as their starting quarterback for the upcoming game against the Miami Dolphins. With Zach Wilson benched, it will be interesting to see if the offense runs more smoothly with someone else at the helm. However, not much attention has been given to what Boyle himself brings to the table, so let’s break down what he’s capable of.
Boyle served as Aaron Rodgers’ backup in current Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s system for a couple of seasons but didn’t really play. However, he did get to start three games the following season after having signed with the Detroit Lions, though they lost all three of those contests.
The first two of these three games were close, as Boyle kept them in the game until late, despite posting underwhelming stats. In the first, the Browns ran the last eight minutes off the clock to hold on for a 13-10 win, denying Boyle the chance at a late game comeback.
The second saw him drive down to the red zone with a chance to pull out the win against the Atlanta Falcons, but he forced the issue and threw a game-clinching interception. In the third game, Boyle had more success in terms of making plays and racked up a solid 262 yards and two touchdowns through the air, however, he also threw three interceptions and Detroit was blown out by Seattle.
With the Jets in preseason, Boyle had a couple of efficient performances as he posted a quarterback rating of 92.7, albeit while facing backups. He was 9-for-10 in one game and 9-for-11 in another as he ended up with four touchdowns, two interceptions and a completion percentage of 66 percent. He did have at least one inaccurate throw or bad decision in each game, though. He completed 7-of-14 passes for 33 yards in relief of Wilson against the Bills.
To make a comparison with Wilson, it’s first appropriate to single out the main differences between them. Boyle has much better size at 6-foot-4 and has already made good use of this with a quarterback sneak on fourth down in Buffalo, which is something Wilson has been notoriously unreliable at doing.
The other main difference is that Boyle was nothing like the kind of draft prospect Wilson was.
With UConn, Boyle only surpassed 160 yards once in three years and posted 13 interceptions with just one touchdown. His numbers improved once he transferred to Eastern Kentucky, but his overall stat line was still underwhelming, and few draft analysts felt he had a future in the NFL. However, a solid pro day earned him a shot and his combination of arm talent and intangibles have been enough to enable him to stick around as a journeyman backup for the past five seasons.
With his scheme familiarity, command, ability to lead and even-keeled temperament, Boyle could be better equipped to handle the exertion of running the Jets’ system and handling the pressure of New York than Wilson was, at least in the short term.
In terms of his other abilities, Boyle’s athletic numbers were decent but it’s obvious he doesn’t have the same kind of mobility or running ability as Wilson. Arm strength, however, is something both players bring to the table with plenty of spectacular downfield passing on Boyle’s highlight reel. His overall numbers on deep throws, however, have typically been poor.
You can expect Boyle to be inconsistent with his accuracy and to struggle with his mechanics and decision-making when under pressure, but that’s something that will affect basically every backup, otherwise they’d probably already be starting somewhere.
One criticism to be made of Boyle from watching film of his previous starts is that he tended to get impatient and to force things rather than taking what the defense gave him. This was perhaps a characteristic derived from the fact that he knew he was only likely to get limited opportunities and felt pressure to make the most of it. He has shown some ability to read the field and make good decisions, though, so in a situation where his job is to keep a good team with a strong defense competitive, his mindset might be different this time around.
With Boyle replacing Wilson as he’s mired in a slump, it’s impossible not to think back to when Mike White stepped in for Wilson and had some success. Objectively, Boyle’s body of work in terms of his pro experience and preseason performances is probably more impressive than White’s was at the time he first got his opportunity, so perhaps it’s not impossible for Boyle to function well given adequate preparation time.
The final question worth asking is why Boyle is getting his chance ahead of Trevor Siemian, who has been on the Jets’ practice squad for the past few weeks. Despite being 0-6 as a starter over the past three seasons, Siemian posted a 13-11 win-loss record with the Broncos earlier in his career, so he’s shown he can win in a game-manager role if he can lean on a top defense. It’s therefore understandable that he might look like a more attractive option than Boyle, who has never won a pro start.
The decision likely comes down to Hackett’s familiarity with Boyle and his knowledge of the system. Boyle will have been preparing to step in at short notice all year, whereas Siemian’s role would have been more as a scout team quarterback in practice, so it might take him longer to get up to speed, even if he is more talented overall.
If things don’t work out with Boyle, though, we could well see Siemian getting his own shot before the team is prepared to contemplate going back to Wilson. The Jets will hope Boyle is a settling influence in this Friday’s game though.