Some plays are like Rorschach drawings: There is no singular answer, but they will elicit a strong leaning in one direction.
It has been a quarterback-heavy month at RSP HQ, which means a great deal of ambiguity. Sound decision-making is a vital asset of successful quarterback play. However, as in life, successful decisions are often the ones that aren’t formulaic or fit neatly as an algorithm on a 3×5 index card tucked inside my little brother’s pocket protector (Harvard PhD, need I say more?).
With the exception of using algorithms to make emotion based decisions, he’s not that nerdy (on the outside).
Whether it is algorithms, tarot cards, coin flips, or prayer, few have perfect information to base a decision. Studying quarterback tape illustrates this fact. I studied South Carolina passer Dylan Thompson the other day and came away impressed with some of the tools that the 6-3, 218-pound signal caller might offer an NFL team as a late-round pick, or more likely, a free agent granted a camp tryout.
As you’ll learn in my upcoming Futures column on CSU-Pueblo QB Chris Bonner, I value a healthy mindset of aggression in my quarterback play. Thompson often displays this mindset when he spots single coverage.
An example is a target of a receiver up the right sideline with 12:42 in the first quarter of the Auburn game. One of Thompson’s strengths is the ability to set his feet fast from the snap, a play fake, or off a boot. He displays this quick set off a pivot here and delivers a ball to the back shoulder of the receiver with nice trajectory. The receiver makes a last-second adjustment, catching the ball above the trailing corner back after a leap and turn to the target.
But forget about the result for a moment and examine the process. If you had to attribute the majority of this play’s success to one factor, what would it be? Was it a good throw based on what you see on the field or was it a mediocre throw aided by the receiver’s catch? Or was it really the quality of the coverage?
All three are certainly factors, but if you’re evaluating Dylan Thompson for a team and you’re preparing a hit-list of plays to watch when he visits the facility, what are you most likely to assume before you ask him about the play?
So is it the throw, the catch, or the coverage. Here are some reasons for each take:
- The Catch: The throw forces the receiver to turn towards the trailing coverage, which is rarely the best placement for a pass. The receiver’s early jump and turn creates separation to make an uncontested reception despite the presence of the defender.
- The Throw: Thompson opts for a back-shoulder placement because he anticipates the safety working across the field to the sideline before he makes the throw and if he leads the receiver there’s a good chance that the safety breaks up this pass whereas a back-shoulder placement gives a receiver a 1-on-1 rather than a 1-on-2 matchup with the ball in the air.
- The Coverage: The corner has safety help coming over the top but let the WR run by too easily, which enhances the quarterback’s placement decision.
There may not be a correct answer here. I have my take, but let’s hear from you.
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