Evaluating quarterback prospects is a two-fold course of for NFL scouting departments.
On the outset, scouts are tasked with figuring out and grading every participant’s particular person traits – for instance, a powerful arm or fast decision-making. Past that comes the scheme query, which might be harder. NFL coaches and executives should determine if and the way a participant will have the ability to use their traits to run knowledgeable offense successfully.
Now, after watching every of the 2018 first-round rookie quarterbacks in preseason motion, we now have a clearer image of how their new offensive coordinators intend to maximise their present talent units whereas supporting their transitions to life within the NFL.
Baker Mayfield: Air Raid contact
One of many larger questions final draft season was how Baker Mayfield would regulate to working a extra “pro-style” offense. That is as a result of Mayfield spent his collegiate days within the wide-open Large 12, working a spread-heavy offense that relied on a whole lot of Air Raid ideas. Whereas the Air Raid is turning into an even bigger a part of NFL offenses, there are nonetheless many who query the scheme’s future within the league.
However after three preseason video games, it is clear that Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley will attempt to ease Mayfield’s transition with acquainted performs.
Mayfield’s first landing move as a professional? It got here on a “mesh idea” – a staple of Air Raid programs relied upon by giants of the scheme like Hal Mumme and Mike Leach:
The crucial facet of the mesh idea is the pairing of two shallow crossing routes, which we see within the play above. Then, coaches can add totally different route combos each exterior and down the sector. On this play, the Browns implement a wheel route from the working again – one of many extra frequent additions – plus a publish route from tight finish David Njoku (No. 80). Mayfield first reads the crossing routes beneath earlier than discovering his tight finish on the publish route deeper in the long run zone.
Having a younger quarterback run performs they’re aware of is a good way to enhance their transition to the NFL. Count on the Browns to do extra of the identical going ahead.
Sam Darnold: West Coast child
On the College of Southern California, Sam Darnold displayed sturdy anticipation and athleticism. However, his inconsistent ball placement and his unorthodox footwork and mechanics made it harder to challenge him on the subsequent degree.
Extra particularly, there have been questions on Darnold’s scheme match within the NFL, and the way the New York Jets might maximize his abilities early on.
First-year Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates is a disciple of the West Coast system – an offensive philosophy predicated on the short passing sport. And that system would possibly take advantage of sense for Darnold proper now. For instance, take a look at this play in opposition to the Redskins from a couple of weeks in the past:
It is a dual-read passing idea that consists of two totally different West Coast core ideas. The Jets run a slant/flat mixture on the suitable aspect of the formation and a “tosser” idea – a multiple-slant-route sample – on the left.
Earlier than the play, the protection exhibits a two-high-safety look, and Darnold needs to work the slant/flat mixture. However because the play begins, one of many safeties crashes down towards the road of scrimmage to cowl the flat route. So, Darnold makes use of his sturdy anticipation to determine that, flips his field of regard to the left, and makes a powerful throw to maneuver the chains. Performs like this illustrate the match for Darnold within the West Coast offensive system.
Josh Allen: Getting vertical
Whereas Darnold’s scheme match was extra of a query mark, anybody who studied Josh Allen got here to an identical conclusion: Get him in a downfield passing system and let him work with that vast arm.
And you’ll usually get a way of how a workforce views a rookie once you see their first offensive play. The Buffalo Payments and Allen had been no exception:
Whereas Allen failed to attach on this throw, you’ll be able to see the pure expertise in his proper arm. There is a purpose the previous Wyoming quarterback flew up draft boards over the previous two years. He is an ideal match for an offense in search of to push the ball vertically, and can get alternatives to make performs that different quarterbacks can solely think about executing. A chief instance got here on Allen’s first landing move, when he challenged a slim throwing window within the pink zone that different quarterbacks would shrink back from:
On this play, Allen throws a vertical route in opposition to a Cowl 2 protection – between the cornerback in beneath protection and the security rotating over from the within. Along with his highly effective arm, the younger pivot might give the Payments an opportunity to actually lengthen secondaries within the vertical passing sport.
Josh Rosen: All about timing
One of many extra fascinating pairings of a rookie quarterback with an offensive coordinator involves us courtesy the Arizona Cardinals.
Final draft season, it was fascinating to see the “too good” narrative develop round Josh Rosen. The previous UCLA pivot was derided by some for being a “millennial” and for having opinions and pursuits exterior of soccer. He now finds himself below the tutelage of Mike McCoy, an offensive coordinator usually criticized for the complicated nature of his programs. McCoy’s schemes incorporate quite a lot of downfield ideas and West Coast components, however whatever the throw distance, he all the time stresses timing.
One instance of this got here in opposition to the Saints, when the Cardinals confronted a Third-and-goal within the pink zone. On the play, Rosen has a “sticks idea” to select from, with every receiver working a curl route on the “line to realize” – or the top zone, on this case. The timing is crucial, as a result of if the ball is thrown too late, particularly with a brief area, the defenders can shut in and break up the move. As a substitute, the timing is ideal and Christian Kirk comes down with the landing:
This is one other instance of crucial timing with a extra vertical idea. The Cardinals run a four-verticals route mixture in opposition to a Cowl 2, and Rosen throws an inside seam route:
If Rosen waits too lengthy, he’ll lead his receiver proper into contact with the security. However the rookie will get it out shortly and throws it low to guard his receiver, and the Cardinals have a recent set of downs.
Rosen and McCoy would possibly make for an ideal pairing, given how they each strategy the psychological aspect of the sport. Performs like these illustrate the significance of timing in McCoy’s offense, and the way Rosen can ship on that.
Lamar Jackson: On the transfer
Final draft cycle, a narrative that simmered under the floor – maybe reaching a full-blown boil – was whether or not Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson ought to contemplate a place change. Nonetheless, Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore Ravens‘ entrance workplace took a distinct view. The traded into the primary spherical to pick out the previous Heisman Trophy winner, and their plan is evident: Jackson is the quarterback of the long run.
Just like Allen, Jackson’s first NFL play gave us perception into how the Ravens need to acclimate him early on. Particularly, the Ravens will look to make use of Jackson’s big-time athleticism to get him on the transfer early and sometimes. On his first offensive snap, Jackson ran a typical play-action rollout passing play, after which tucked away the soccer to select up yards along with his legs.
The rookie’s working skill can be a giant a part of his transition, as highlighted by his 19-yard landing run this previous weekend on a zone-read play. However Jackson’s athleticism may even enable the Ravens to maneuver the pocket aspect to aspect, giving the younger pivot a move/run determination on the sting of defenses. Whereas Jackson took off along with his legs on his first offensive play, he accomplished a landing move on an identical design later within the preseason:
On this red-zone play, Jackson rolls to his proper and makes a powerful, correct throw on the transfer.
Wanting forward, there are murmurs that Baltimore will give Jackson a package deal of performs to run every week, or will even get him on the sector with Joe Flacco on the identical time. If that does occur, you’ll be able to count on to see extra of Jackson on the transfer.
We nonetheless do not know which of those quarterbacks can be Week 1 starters, and which of them should wait. Nonetheless, at this level of their inaugural seasons, we’re starting to see how their coaches are easing them into NFL life. Between figuring out their traits and uncovering their greatest scheme matches, it appears like these 5 organizations really did their homework.