Clue No.1: Decisiveness
Reggie Bush: Last night Bush looked as good as I’ve seen him in the NFL. Like I remember seeing at USC, Bush was patient without straying across the line to indecisive. He was disciplined with his cuts, getting downhill quickly and finishing his runs with low pad level or aggressively. He found the cutback lanes and he ran his typically receiver-like routes.
Applying the clue for the regular season: If Bush continues to make one cut and lower the pads downhill or only use one or two hesitations before hitting the hole during the first two weeks of the season, we’re going to see the second back in a decade who underwhelmed in New Orleans only to experience a revival in Miami.
Colt McCoy: I’m beginning to think I was wrong about Colt McCoy. I understand Jon Gruden’s comparison to Drew Brees in terms of potential. So far this August, McCoy has demonstrated great feel for the Pat Shurmur’s offense. Clearly the work with Brett Favre in the offseason was a great help, because McCoy was quick with his reads and throws but impressively smooth with this execution.
When you see a player move fast but relaxed it’s a clue he has adjusted to the speed of the game. His corner fade to Evan Moore in the end zone last night was a thing of beauty, but I was equally impressed with McCoy taking the quick options to wide open players and throwing those players open with a decisiveness that indicates he was processing what was happening on the field at a far quicker rate than the year before.
Last year on a route over the middle that might have been McCoy’s second or third option, the rookie quarterback would have hesitated a half-beat to an entire beat too long before throwing the ball. This would have resulted in poor placement of the pass or pressure foiling the play. Tonight, McCoy clearly knew where to go and during that half-beat of saved time he had the opportunity to process where he needed to fit the ball to keep his receiver from getting killed or choose a trajectory that helped McCoy avoid the underneath coverage.
These split seconds of time are what young veterans gain as they progress from their rookie seasons. As a result, players execute with greater economy and it’s that economy that spells the difference between an incomplete pass and a completion; a sack and a touchdown; and a deflection and a first down.
Applying clues to the regular season: If McCoy continues to execute with this level of sharpness, he will continue to surprise as an emerging player. Watch for hitches and roughness with his movement after he finishes his drop. If McCoy begins to demonstrate a lot of this activity, the defenses are forcing him to think more than what is optimal for a quarterback to execute the offense. I expect this with some zone blitz schemes, but if it’s consistent then McCoy will still have a ways to go.
John Beck: I agree with ESPN’s Mark Schlereth, Beck looked good. If you’ve been reading the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for a few years then you know I’m not surprised. Beck was poised in the pocket and he demonstrated the capability to slide away from pressure and hit the open man. Beck was sacked three times in this game and this will be a recurring them for him in Washington. However, Beck also demonstrated the arm strength, the improvisational skills and the smarts to find open receivers on the move and from less than optimal throwing angles.
Applying clues to the regular season: Beck was known at BYU for his great anticipation and prowess to create extra time in the pocket and on the move. This is what separates Beck from Rex Grossman as the better fit in a Washington Redskins offense where pass protection is a work in progress. When a quarterback possesses great anticipation he’s an asset to a sub par line because he understands how to buy that split-second of time and give a receiver a true chance to make a play. If Beck continues to appear fluid and athletic enough to get outside and make off-balanced throws he could be a pleasant surprise for a lot of Redskins fans.
Harry Douglas: Yesterday afternoon I mentioned on Twitter that the less discussed reason why Julio Jones will not have rookie production like Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams is Harry Douglas in the slot. The former Louisville prospect was explosive during his 76-yard touchdown reception, catching a crossing route inside the left hash and immediately getting his shoulders square to put a quick move on the Jaguars’ secondary to get outside and torch the pursuit down the sideline for at least half of the gain’s yardage.
Douglas was a reliable receiver with better than credited down field speed in college. He was always impressed with his ability to get to the right spot and work with his quarterback. Early in his career in Atlanta, Douglas flashed his athleticism, but he was still thinking more than reacting.
This is common for young NFL players and one of the most common mistakes the average observer can make is to write off a player as lacking enough athleticism to play the game when the actual problem is a player over-thinking everything:
- Where he’s aligned pre-snap.
- The adjustment to the defense.
- The release
- The depth of the route
- The break.
If a player is thinking just a split-second too long the timing is off and the player appears less athletic when the real issue is a lack of decision making.