What do quarterbacking, piracy, and buffalos have in common? It sounds nutty, but Rookie Scouting Portfolio contributor David Igono makes perfect sense of it with his examination of Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello and the 2019 NFL Draft prospect’s work from tight pockets.
Danger on the football field often times mirrors real life in the sense that success is usually determined by leveraging the speed of thought. Quarterback play is fraught with variables that are not always visible to the naked eye. Pressure in the pocket is normally seen through a lens of pass/fail, valuing agility and avoidance of contact over quick decision making.
KJ Costello of Stanford is a skilled operator at using his feet in tight spaces to give him enough time to make a decision. His agility in the pocket is best leveraged in a vertical fashion. Costello thrives when given a pocket that he can step up into and deliver a throw. A pocket is much like the shark-infested waters that pirates roamed centuries ago: regardless of your fate, the longer you can stay on the plank the better. Staying on that plank, vertical agility, is crucial to keeping the pass rush at bay long enough to make a play.
Pressure does a funny thing to us when we aren’t prepared. It can make us forget our strengths and prolong our suffering simply because we can’t see the best move right in front of our faces. Costello is able to feel pressure well enough to anticipate where it poses the most direct threat and how quickly he needs to act to complete the pass downfield. Virtually all of his movement is upfield, very little of it is wasted laterally.
This sequence takes me back to a story a coach once told our team about buffalo. Buffalo, unlike other cattle or steer, run directly into the paths of storms. They do this to spend as little time in the midst of a downpour and lightning bolts by heading straight to the eye of the storm. Other cattle run away from the storm, hoping to outrun it or that it will fizzle out before it reaches them.
Every snap a quarterback takes on a pass play is a brewing storm. Savvy quarterbacks use their athletic abilities to leverage the best decision to protect the ball and move the offense upfield. Fear should be a trigger to find an opportunity, not to play it safe.
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