Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens examines an excellent coverage technique by the New England Patriots secondary against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
NFL quarterbacks face far more exotic and complex defenses than they did on Saturdays. Even so, it’s rare to see a cornerback on one side of the field trade-off a crossing route with a safety and then run across the width of the field to undercut a deep pass.
This exactly what Stefon Gilmore does after the Patriots bait Deshaun Watson into thinking that its defense is aligned to stop the run. Pre-snap, Watson believes he has a favorable look to go deep. However, New England baits Watson in the same ways it baited Jared Goff during the Super Bowl.
Pats baited Watson deep…Tony Romo explains pic.twitter.com/ETr4r3agOh
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) September 10, 2018
The best quarterbacks develop excellent pre-snap and post-snap processing. Even so, the NFL defenses that have the personnel to play these type of mind games with quarterbacks can get the best of the top quarterbacks.
Recently, I saw a clip (that I can’t find) of Ed Reed baiting Peyton Manning into throwing the ball deep up the left sideline. Manning thought Reed was working from the middle of the field to the right, but Reed flipped his hips and chased down the route, undercutting the target for the interception.
Physically speaking, it’s an incredible-looking play that slightly tops Gilmore’s effort above. Many college players have the physical skills to make these plays. We overlook that it’s the conceptual understanding of the game and the instant recognition of the situation on the field that underpins why the pros make these plays more commonplace.
It means we need to see college quarterbacks show promise with this kind of mental processing. It requires more than preparation. Lots of quarterbacks study hard. The best have the mental and physical flexibility to act immediately on new information.
The old-school players and coaches sometimes say it can’t be taught. Scientists have evidence that in some situations it can. If you’re a scout, it’s most likely that it doesn’t matter what you think about the topic unless your department and coaches are aligned with the same perspective. If not, then you’re a master to their philosophy and trying to shove a certain player into the organization who requires teaching that your team is ill-equipped to provide is a mistake.
Back to the play above, Watson got baited by excellent team defense that required strong communication, split-second recognition and execution, and top athletic ability. These are characteristics that defensive coaches value from secondary defenders.
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