Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room examines the pocket skills of 2018 NFL Draft Prospect Trace McSorley and NFL QBs Jared Goff and Russell Wilson.
Quarterbacks must win from the pocket in the NFL. This is a true statement. It becomes false when we try to apply that maxim too rigidly to a quarterback’s height, weight, and style of play. At that point, we stretch that statement beyond recognition.
Pocket presence is an all-encompassing term for several facets of a quarterback’s skill in a similar way that vision is the catch-all phrase for running back play. Pocket presence requires a diverse set of skills:
- Understanding of his pass protection scheme.
- Theoretical (on paper) and practical (on the field) knowledge of his escape lanes from the pocket based on the pressure.
- Mastery of the footwork that will give him the best chance to avoid pressure.
- Mastery of the footwork that will help him reset his throwing stance after avoiding pressure.
- Accurately linking the timing of his footwork, his receiver’s routes, and defensive pressure into productive decisions.
- Timing his movements to maximize separation from pressure.
The final skill on this list is the least-discussed and one of the most important facets of pocket presence. All of the factors listed above influence the timing of the quarterback’s decision to move in the pocket.
Here’s an example of Tom Brady moving in the pocket with great anticipation of the pressure. The defender is at least 4-6 steps away when Brady takes action.
In this case, it’s the right decision. Brady has a lot of space and he’s making sure that he can slide upfield of the defender and into a secure pocket. He’s avoiding a source of pressure without creating additional sources with his escape.
Appropriate timing of the escape often means waiting until the last moment — baiting the defender within 1-2 steps of contact. This timing puts the opponent an unalterable path and gives the quarterback an opportunity to maximize his separation from the pressure so he can reset and fire to a receiver downfield or break the pocket.
This week’s RSP Boiler Room examines the difference between Penn State’s Trace McSorley — a mobile quarterback — and Russell Wilson and Jared Goff — two NFL stars who understand that “winning from the pocket” is about knowing when and how to maneuver in and outside of its confines.
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