Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room examines a play from Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s portfolio of work to discuss the factors involved with when a quarterback decides to maneuver from pressure.
When is the right time for a quarterback to begin evasive maneuvers in the pocket? Beyond the simplistic response of “when you see or feel pressure, there’s not really a definitive answer.
When a quarterback takes action to avoid pressure depends on the location of the pressure, the type of opponent applying the pressure, the state of the pocket, the quality of the quarterback’s footwork, and the ability of the quarterback to accurately estimate his athletic ability in the scene unfolding around him.
Russell Wilson excels at waiting for the pressure to get within a step of him before he makes his move (begin at 2:49 below). Wilson understands that when he allows his opponents to get within arm’s reach of him, that they are at the apex of their downhill momentum. When he moves away, that momentum is going to be much hard for his opponents to stop and it maximizes Wilson’s separation.
Although Jared Goff is known for below-average production under pressure, when you properly contextualize the pressure and whether the play call gives Goff realistic secondary targets, Goff’s process under pressure independent of the play call is actually strong. Andrew Luck was also good at “baiting” defenders to get close and then make his move.
Tom Brady is a great example of a player who avoids pressure well because, in addition to having great footwork to maneuver the pocket, he accurately assesses the time he needs to begin his movement. Brady often begins his movement early based on the source and location of the pressure relative to his athletic ability. While Goff and Wilson do this as well, Brady is a more extreme example because he’s a slower quarterback who understands that the earlier he breaks the pocket, the sooner he can get rid of the ball without any disruption to his throw.
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger does this below against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship last year. It’s ultimately a good decision for Ehlinger, a big quarterback with better quickness than you’d expect but at his best when he doesn’t have to throw on the move.
Ehlinger flushes early on this play and resets in time to deliver the ball with a high release point against pressure and with pinpoint accuracy, throwing the receiver open based on the route and position of the coverage.
The more I study the game the more I’m beginning to think that analysts would benefit from defining and tracking process data and not lean so much on production data that gives us an incomplete picture. How quarterback’s handle pressure could be one of those areas where we’d see better analysis.
As for Ehlinger’s game, his game is good enough for an NFL opportunity. How good it is, is something I’m still researching.
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