RSP Flashback-NFL Fastforward: QB Mike Kafka

What is QB Mike Kafka's game about? Find out below. Photo by MikeFive.

Marty Mornhinweg said 2010 rookie quarterback Mike Kafka is the best first-year passer he’s seen pick up an offense in over 15 years. In training camp this year, the only question about Kafka has been his arm strength. Last Sunday when Mike Vick collided with his own lineman and suffered a concussion and Vince Young was unable to go with a bad hamstring, Kafka was put into the lineup. The second-year quarterback went 7 for 9 for 72 yards and demonstrated good poise and decision-making.

Who is Mike Kafka and is he just a warm body or another Brian Hoyer-Matt Flynn with a Matt Schaub-like future?

I think Kafka has to flash the arm strength and accuracy in the intermediate and deep passing game to warrant the Hoyer-Flynn comparisons. At the same time, the rest of his game shows a lot of promise. Based on my college analysis of Kafka, I think it makes complete sense that he’s in an Andy Reid style offense.

If he starts in Vick’s place I think we’re going to see a lot of plays that fit Kafka’s strengths:

  • Crossing routes and wide receiver screens
  • Play action on early downs
  • Boot legs

Think of Reid and Mornhingweg taking the “Jeff Garcia” chapter from their play book.

Below is my analysis of Mike Kafka against the Ohio State Buckeyes from the 2010 Rookie Scouting Portfolio.

(Above) Excerpts of Kafka’s 2010 East West Shrine Game Performance. Below is my analysis of his performance against Ohio State.

Accuracy and Arm: Kafka displayed good accuracy on a swing pass to the slot receiver on 2nd and 4 with 10:15 in the first quarter from a spread look. Kafka faked the hand off to the his back flanking him on the right, took two steps as if he might be running round right end on a spread read, and then brought the ball up and threw it on a line over the wide receiver’s back shoulder to the right flat.  He led the receiver perfectly so pass catcher had an angle away from the safety to reach the first down marker. The receiver was just a yard shy of the marker on the play.

Kafka led his slot receiver over the inside shoulder on a short pass to the left on 2nd and , which gave the receiver the chance to gain nine yards on his own to the left flat with 2:12 in the first quarter. He was also accurate on the run on a designed roll to his right on a 1st and 10 play with 1:51 in the first quarter. He hit the inside shoulder of the receiver on a hitch and threw the ball low and away to avoid the defensive back that was coming over the top from the outside to defend the pass. Although the receiver could not make the catch, the placement of the ball on the run was good.

Kafka then displayed good accuracy and velocity on a 15-yard slant off play action from the spread on a 1st and 10 play with 14:52 in the third quarter. He hit the receiver in stride at the left hash and gave the receiver room to gain another nine yards on the play for 24 yards. This was the first attempt Kafka made in this game that was over seven yards down field. It was also his first completion of more than 12 yards.

Later he showed strong accuracy while sprinting hard to the right, delivering the ball on the run to his receiver on a drag route to the right sideline in tight coverage 11 yards down field with 14:14 left in the game. Three of his receivers’ four drops in this game occurred with the game out of reach in the fourth quarter on well-thrown crossing routes and hitches to wide open receivers.

Unfortunately the longest throw I saw was a 15-yard pass. If he demonstrates the arm strength required of an NFL quarterback, he has the base accuracy required of the position. In fact, he has a consistent skill at placing the ball in good spots for his receivers to make plays.

Delivery: Kafka’s stance seemed too wide while delivering a short hitch to the flat on a 2nd and 5 with 8:18 in the first quarter. The pass sank as it arrived because an Ohio State defensive tackle tipped the pass at the line of scrimmage. However, the ball still traveled with enough velocity for the receiver to come back to the ball on this seven-yard hitch. The receiver made a nice adjustment on the ball for a six-yard completion.

Kafka was deflected a second time, a 3rd and 8 with 1:18 in the first quarter. Despite two tipped balls at the line of scrimmage in this game, the Northwestern quarterback demonstrated a quick and compact motion. The defensive tackle just had a good angle to see Kafka bring the ball up.

He once again showed very good accuracy while throwing the ball on the move in a tight pocket on 3rd and 3 with 8:45 in the half.

Decisions: Northwestern uses a quick-hitting offense where the quarterback uses a lot of play action from the spread. Kafka does a good job doing a lot of little things to try to manipulate the defense. He took a shotgun snap on 2nd and 5 with 8:18 in the first quarter, quickly looked to his left as he dropped and then turned to the right and threw a quick hitch to the right flat for a six-yard gain. The look bought his wide receiver just enough space on the play.

Kafka initially watched two options over the middle on a 3rd and 3 pass but then felt pressure coming from his left. He did a good job sliding away from the pressure and delivering a perfect pass to his tight end at the right hash for a 12-yard gain with 8:45 in the half.

Ball Handling: Kafka uses play fakes from the spread frequently. His best one came with 14:52 in the third quarter where he did a fine job of dropping his head and shoulders while he placed the ball in and out of the runner’s stomach. He then quickly set up to deliver a 15-yard strike down the left hash to his receiver on a slant for what turned into a 24-yard gain.

As a ball carrier he needs to do a better job of securing the ball under his sideline arm. He took a 3rd and 6 attempt around right end with the ball under his left arm. And a few plays before he switched the ball from his throwing arm to his left arm on a 17-yard scramble around right end as he bent the run back to the left side. He carried the ball under his left arm on a scramble to the left sideline for a first down with 6:06 in the third quarter.

He did a better job once again spinning to his left after feeling pressure up the middle and tucking the ball under his left arm for an 11-yard gain to the sideline with 13:50 in the game. With 3:10 left in the game on a 4th and 12 Kafka had the ball punched from his hands during a sack by the right defensive tackle.

Pocket Presence: Kafka did a good job sensing the right defensive tackle on a stunt to get inside the right tackle with 9:15 in the first quarter. He was able to roll to the right flat for a three-yard gain. On 3rd and 3 with 8:46 in the half, Kafka did a nice job of sliding in the pocket when neither of his crossing routes came open and another receiver was jammed at the line.  He threw the ball on the run with a defender climbing his back while a front side rusher launched into the quarterback as Kafka released the ball. The ball reached the tight end at the right hash on the cross with a pinpoint pass, leading the receiver just past the linebacker in good coverage to get the first down and another nine yards.

Kafka took a hit as he released the ball on a 15-yard slant up the left hash, which resulted in a 24-yard gain with 14:52 in the third quarter. He senses pressure extremely well. He gained seven yards on 3rd and 7 after feeling pressure from his right and taking off to to the left sideline with good speed to beat the defensive back to the marker.

On the next play, Kafka dropped back to set up a screen to the left flat, but the passing lane was too tight for him to make a good throw. So he executed a pump fake, dipped under the pressure at the left hash, and eluded two defenders closing on him. He could not outrun the defensive back in pursuit and he was sacked, but his mobility is more than simply spinning and rolling away. He maneuvers the pocket well with slides, dips, and fakes to get out of tight jams.

He was blindsided off the edge in the red zone with 12:40 in the game. Kafka sensed the pressure, but instinctively backed away from the pursuit rather than climbed the pocket to the gap available to his right.  He was also sacked on the next play trying to reverse his field with 12:10 left. He needed to throw the ball away.

Kafka’s interception with 7:18 in the game was a pass over the middle where he was hit during his delivery. this pushed the ball wide and gave the safety the chance to play center fielder.

Scrambling: Kafka broke a tackle from the middle linebacker coming from the quarterback’s left at the line of scrimmage on a 3rd and 1 run up the middle to earn 11 yards with 9:36 in the first quarter. He broke a defensive back’s tackle attempt at his waist after he cleared the hole.

After initially looking towards a short crossing route on 1st and 10 with 9:15 in the first quarter, Kafka pump faked the route and rolled to the right to elude the OSU right defensive tackle got inside the right tackle on a stunt. Kafka outran the tackle to break the pocket outside and then sprinted past the defensive end who gave chase to the corner, gaining three yards just before James Laurinitis pushed Kafka as the the quarterback ran out of bounds, drawing a penalty.

On the next play, Kafka faked the end around moving from left to right and then took the ball through a lane of right guard, spinning forward as he was wrapped and gaining five yards on this 1st and 10 with 8:00 in the first quarter. He showed good burst around right end and juked towards the inside as he reached the right flat before continuing to the sideline.

Kafka gained another three yards on a quarterback draw, selling the pass before following his running back up the middle for the gain with 7:20 in the first quarter. On 3rd and 2 with 6:46 in the first quarter, Kafka took the ball around right guard and ran through LB James Laurinitis’ hit at the line of scrimmage to drag the defender three yards for the first down. He carried the ball another three times in this series, scoring from a yard away to finish the first drive of the game. Kafka at 10 carries for 35 yards on this initial drive.

On 2nd and 13 with 13:55 in the third quarter, he gained 17 yards on a terrific scramble. He dropped from the spread after executing a play fake. When he felt the left defensive tackle pushing the left guard into the pocket and the right defensive end getting outside his block to collapse the other side of the pocket, Kafka made a good juke move to elude the pressure from the right. When he didn’t see anything come open as he looked down field, he took off, tucking the ball under his left arm. He bent the the run across the middle as he crossed the line of scrimmage. He eluded the safety as he bent the run inside and as he approached the first down marker, he cut the run back to the middle when he saw the cornerback in pursuit to the left hash. Kafka made the cornerback fall with his cut and got another six yards before he dropped under a hit by the safety fro the 17-yard gain.

Kafka had a great run on a 3rd and 6 spread formation keeper with 12:54 in the third quarter. He took the ball to the right and when he saw the LB shooting the gap off right guard he dipped outside and sprinted just past the cornerback trying to free himself from the wide receiver’s block at the edge. Kafka got the corner and beat the safety to the first down marker just as the DB delivered the hit.

Kafka gained 26 yards on a 2nd and 5 keeper from the spread due to an excellent job of pressing the cutback to the left side by initially taking the ball up the middle a couple of steps before he made his cut through a huge lane that developed off left tackle. He then set up by the safety by veering towards the left hash and then dipped away from it, using a shoulder fake to make the defender fall to the ground.  He ran through a wrap to his legs, spinning out of the grasp of a defender for another 10-12 yards on the play with 7:49 in the third quarter.

Overall Take: Kafka is an athletic player who dedicates a lot of time to physical training. He plays with good speed as a runner and passer. His initial burst helps him elude defenders in the pocket or sprint through the hole at the line of scrimmage. He changes direction well and has the vision to navigate creases at the line while gaining yardage in the open field. Kafka also has enough power to slide off glancing blows.

His short-range accuracy is good and he can hit his receivers with pinpoint accuracy – even on the move. What I like most is his pocket presence. He will take a hit when he knows he can complete a pass and he can move around the pocket under pressure to find an open throwing lane. He does need to cub the desire to take steps back as pressure is coming rather than climb the ladder and I didn’t see enough throws from this game to determine his velocity and accuracy in the intermediate and deep game. However if he has this kid of arm and accuracy, Kafka would have scored in the high 80s making him a prospect with starter-caliber upside. I think he’s the perfect long-term prospect for an NFL team.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: