Tarik Cohen is a special player in the Bears offense

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The Chicago Bears made moves this offseason to bring a variety of offensive talent to play alongside young quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Their most exciting weapon, though, might be a player that was already on the roster in Tarik Cohen.

Chicago drafted Cohen in the fourth round in 2017 and he was an instant hit. He made his mark on the league in his first career game and was the key to a Bears offense that almost pulled off a week one upset over the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. He instantly found his role in Chicago’s offense and was a shining light in what was a dysfunctional Bears team.

Cohen rushed for 370 yards last season on 87 carries, averaging a decent 4.25 yards per carry. The running back also had 53 receptions on 71 targets for 353 yards. He was not the most efficient player but he was one of Chicago’s most dangerous big play threats. The rookie had 6 plays (4 receptions and 2 runs) which gained over 20 yards, leading the team.

The traits that make Cohen most dangerous with the ball in his hands are his speed, acceleration and deceleration. The running back can quickly reach his top speed but also can slow down a stop on a dime without losing balance allowing him to make quick cuts and dodge defenders. Combine his physical tools with his great vision and incredibly fast reaction time and he can scorch defenses.

Cohen’s abilities coming out of the backfield translate to any position on the field. The Bears lined the running back up at multiple positions, including split wide as a receiver or in the slot. His speed and quick twitch skills make him a great route runner and he excelled making catches underneath coverage then making plays with the ball in his hands after.

The same skills that make Cohen such a threat coming out of the backfield also make him a huge threat running after the catch. His great body control and balance allow him to stay on his feet when he has to make awkward adjustments to catch the ball.

Cohen is also incredibly slippery. He is an expert at escaping tackles not only because of his balance but relative size. The rookie is only 5’6, meaning he has a natural advantage when he attempts to get low enough to bounce off of tackles. When defenders approach him up high he is great at getting his body low, becoming small and slipping through their arms.

While his small size does provide some benefits, there are obvious drawbacks. Almost all of Cohen’s receptions come at or around the line of scrimmage, even when split wide. This is expected as he isn’t nearly big enough to win contested catches downfield. No matter how good of a route runner he may be it makes things a lot easier on the defender tasked with covering him when they don’t have much to worry about downfield in man coverage. In zone coverage, if a defense see’s Cohen split out wide then they know to make a quick adjustment on the fly to assign a defender to a shorter zone.

It also hurts him as a runner. While he can deke and dodge his way out of the backfield as well as anyone if the Bears run protection fails and he is left without a cutback lane then he is not strong enough to lower his shoulder and power his way through the pile. He can only bounce around so many tackles, and that led to a large number of carries of under 3 yards for the running back last season.

Holding on to the ball also is an issue for a player of that size. He is great at avoiding big hits but when he does get smacked ball control is an issue.

Durability will also become a concern in the future. Running backs league wide are physically wearing down faster than any other position. At 5’6 185 pounds Cohen’s long-term durability and even his week to week workload are limited. Chicago would obviously love to feed Cohen more often but they also want their versatile weapon to be in their arsenal for as long as possible. Luckily for the Bears, they have another starlet running back in Jordan Howard (who I did a rookie season breakdown on last season) who Cohen provides a perfect compliment to.

Defending the Bears talent rich offense will be an issue for many defenses next season, and Cohen may be the team’s most versatile piece.

 

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Kenyan Drake has finally found his role in the Dolphins offense

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Kenyan Drake became one of the focal points of the Miami Dolphins offense after they dealt Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles mid-way through the 2017 season.  While Miami’s offense could not find much consistency last season, his emergence gave them something to look forward to in the future.

Drake was selected by the Dolphins in the third round of the 2016 draft. He only started one game in his rookie season but saw that number jump up to six in 2017. His workload heavily increased as he had 133 carries in 2017 compared to 33 the year before. He also doubled his touchdown total, scoring a combined 4 in 2017 after scoring two in the previous season. Miami saw promise in Drake and transformed him into a major contributor after dealing away their best running back.

Drake had his coming out party during the Dolphins Monday Night Football upset of the New England Patriots last December. He had 114 rushing yards on 25 carries and added 79 receiving yards on 5 catches.

The running backs greatest trait is his ability to slip through tackles and stay on his feet despite contact. He sheds contact too his upper body with ease. Drake is great at lowering his shoulder and getting underneath tacklers who attempt to take him down up high.

He can keep his feet churning and is great at adjusting his upper body weight to slip by defenders who fail to wrap him up. Drake is not scared to lower his shoulder and crash into defenders. The running back can drag tacklers and carry a pile for extra yardage at times.

While Drake is great at getting through tackles to break into open space what he does after breaking those tackles could be better.

He has the ability to break free from defenders but after that, he usually just ends up stumbling back and forth in any random direction before going down. The Dolphins running back fails to regain his balance after bouncing off of tackles. This means that he does not do a great job of taking advantage of broken and missed tackles, and often ends up running straight sideways instead of upfield.

His vision in the open field seems to struggle at times and while he can spot holes and take advantage of them in the backfield, his frantic hurried running style leads to him getting mentally ahead of himself and lost while on his feet. Once Drake gets into the second level of the defense he seems panicked and more preoccupied with avoiding defenders instead of just gaining yardage.

Despite his ability to slip through tackles and keep his feet churning, Drake has issues keeping his balance. Occasionally he trips over his own feet in the backfield and stumbles down despite little to no contact.

He can’t get out of his own way. While he is great at ripping through tackles on his upper body the slightest touch to his lower body can cause him to lose his balance and go down.

Drake’s footwork really needs some work. He has an off balance running style that generally leads too him leaning heavily forward while stumbling almost. It is very upright and unafraid which allows him to rip away from tacklers, but it also means that he is constantly off balance and is a small touch away from going down.

While the running back has troubles working his way through traffic, he is an extremely dangerous runner in the open field.

Drake has great speed and burst. If he can cleanly get to the second level of the defense than he has a legitimate shot to go the distance. The Alabama product is a big play threat every time he has the ball. He is a very boom or bust runner who can often bust big plays but also is liable to lose yards in the backfield to keep the team behind schedule (which happens to be similar to that of Jay Ajayi).

While Drake does provide some utility in the passing game he is not the special receiving talent some make him out to be. He is an average route runner, and while he is a threat to make big plays in space the same issues that arise with his play when surrounded by defenders in the run game haunt him when he attempts to run after the catch. He often spends to much time dodging back and forth and running sideways instead of turning upfield and fighting for yardage.

With Jarvis Landry out of Miami Drake may be better utilized in the offense, though. Many of the shorter targets and screen passes will be heading his way. He does not often drop passes and they can get him into the flat by himself then his big play potential can really shine.

The Dolphins signed veteran running back Frank Gore this offseason. The former Colt is expected to share carries with Drake in the offense. Gore will most likely take short yardage snaps and give Drake resting time on certain downs.  Last season the Dolphins seemed unsure how to split snaps between him and Damien Williams after the Ajayi trade. He will be used a little less as a bell cow this season and in a more defined role which should help him thrive in what should be a very different looking offense this season.

 

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Micah Hyde is one of the NFL’s best defensive playmakers

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Micah Hyde may have been one of the most underrated signings of the 2017 free agency period. The former Green Bay Packers safety joined the Buffalo Bills on a five year deal worth just over $30 million.  The safety lived up to his billing and was the best player on a Bills defense that carried the franchise to their first playoff appearance in this millennium.

Hyde was a versatile piece on Buffalo’s defense. He took snaps as a nickel corner, box safety and even as a single high safety in some situations. He had a career high five interceptions last season and emerged as an elite playmaker at the second level of the defense.

Whether he is lined up in the box, as a single high or nickel Hyde’s greatest attributes are his ability to quickly identify what the offense is doing, his quick reaction time and quick speed. These skills combined make him very effective against the run as he can quickly read the running back and come flying up field to stop the play.

His playmaking ability also made him a monster in zone coverage. He could drop back into a deeper zone and read the field in front of him. Even when he was playing well off the line of scrimmage he still had the speed and reaction time necessary to come upfield and blow up plays in shallower zones. This allowed his linebackers a greater margin for error and made route concepts that would punish teams by running routes underneath coverage less effective.

Hyde’s reaction time and high football IQ were also responsible for what was the arguably the most impressive play that he made last season.

The safety dominated that game against the Atlanta Falcons, one of the major upsets the team pulled off last season that were crucial to their eventual playoff bid. He was great against both the pass and the run. His excellent processing skills and great decision making mean that the Bills can trust him playing single high like he was in the above play.

Don’t let the narratives dictate your opinion of Dak Prescott

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The jury is still out on Dak Prescott. The second year quarterback was oft-maligned towards the end of last season and as the Cowboys derailed towards the end of 2017 much of the blame was put upon his shoulders. While many remember that Prescott was without 2016 rushing champion Ezekiel Elliot, who was suspended for 6 games in the latter half of the season, the narrative surrounding him seems to ignore the absence of future hall of fame offensive tackle Tyron Smith.

The quarterback ranked fourth in the league in passer rating in 2017. His numbers seemed to get worse as the season went on and his play declined without his best two teammates in the lineup.

The Dallas offense is devoid of talent in the skill positions when Elliot is out, leaving Prescott in a situation to fail. His offensive line was awful at times, as I highlighted in a breakdown from late last season.

One of the biggest criticisms regarding Prescott is that he is a “dink and dunk” quarterback. He has a reputation for taking easy check downs instead of taking more aggressive options downfield, similar to that of Alex Smith. His reputation is born out of some truth but the conservative nature of the Cowboys offense can be more attributed to play calling rather than the quarterback himself.

Dallas loved running concepts that would scheme their receivers open on shorter routes such as flats, quick outs, digs and curls.  In the play above, the vertical route the outside receiver runs on the play side is used only to screen out the defensive back in front of him. Prescott got a majority of his completions on shorter routes because that’s what the play calling usually gave him.

The quarterback did seem overly eager to take easy check downs rather than spend an extra second in the pocket and find another man a little more open downfield as things break down. He occasionally will check down a pass ignoring receivers who either are or just are about to break open for a bigger gain.

It’s hard to faults the Cowboys for being so conservative, though. Dallas’s receivers were awful at getting open downfield last season. Dez Bryant, who may not be on an NFL roster in 2018, is an awful route runner. Slot receiver Cole Beasley rarely finds himself more than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage and the rest of the Cowboys 2017 receiving corps were a who’s who of the NFL’s bottom feeders.

None of the Cowboys receivers were great route runners, and even when the Cowboys put Prescott in motion to help make a difference it wouldn’t be enough.

Prescott’s accuracy could have helped his receivers make more plays, though. Some of his back shoulder passes, balls used to help free a smothered receiver, could have been much better last season.

He badly missed a lot of shorter, routine, passes as well.

The quarterback’s inconsistency and occasional missed passes became an issue at times. He seemed to lose confidence in himself late in the season. As the team around him seemed to break down Prescott saw his play decline and made mistakes you would rarely expect him to make early in the year.

While he has the occasional bad game, Prescott looks like a star at times. Early on in the season he was one of the better quarterbacks in the league. When the Cowboys had their full supporting cast he was an incredible playmaker and made many of the tight window throws that you’d expect from the best of quarterbacks.

Prescott is also incredibly mobile, and when he is locked into the game can pull off great escape acts to avoid the pocket pressure he was often under late last season.

He is not scared to test defenses downfield and is an exceptional playmaker. Many of the issues he suffered with towards the end of last season can be attributed to the little help around him. Prescott is inconsistent at times, and in certain games last year (Broncos, Falcons, Eagles) he seemed to get off to a slow start and was mentally never able to recover. His confidence seemed to be shot late in 2017 and there were definitely a few mental hurdles he had trouble getting over. With another season of experience and an offseason to put the woes of last year behind him, there is no reason to believe that Prescott can’t bounce back with a strong 2018.

Dallas may not have done enough to help him this offseason, though. They should return a top tier offensive line, but the receiving corps still provides many questions. Allen Hurns was brought it from Jacksonville to replace Bryant. They also added rookie Michael Gallup out of Colorado State, but neither seems to be enough of an upgrade to really fix an awful unit. Long time tight end Jason Witten retired, leaving Prescott and Elliot with the responsibility to carry the offense once again.

 

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Sam Darnold: The next NFL product out of QBU

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NCAA Football, NFL Draft

Mansur Shaheen

Sam Darnold fits the old school mold for an ideal college quarterback perfectly. Went to USC, won a Rose Bowl, has a big arm that he uses with confidence and has had absolutely zero off-field incidents during his college career.

But how good is he?

Darnold completed 64% of his passes last season, along with 26 touchdowns and over 4,000 yards. He also threw a whopping 13 interceptions and was a dud in a few high profile games.

While he did have a few flops on the big stage, Darnold’s numbers against some of the top teams in college football are similar to how he performed against some of the bottom teams.

His 8.6 yards per attempt was 11th in the country last season which makes him an exciting prospect for any team looking for a quarterback. He was fourth among power five quarterbacks in interceptions, which may make teams scared to take him on at the next level.

So what can we expect from Darnold?

USC runs one of the more interesting offenses in the country. It is a run first offense where repeated runs between the tackles are used to pull the defense into the box. The defense is forced to account for the run, which opens the horizontal passing game. It is an interesting version of the spread offense that you see so often in college football. Unlike a majority of other college QB’s, though, Darnold had to regularly take snaps from under center rather than just lining up in shotgun.

This offense would not be deemed “pro-style” but it does draw some similarities to how the Philadelphia Eagles ran their offense when Nick Foles replaced an injured Carson Wentz.

Darnold as rarely expected to properly make a read of the defense in front of him, and his decision making when he had to struggled. He made a terrible read on what was arguably his worst play of the 2017 season, throwing a pick 6 against Ohio State.

*Off of an RPO, Darnold’s read is an Ohio State linebacker that shows a blitz on the play. The linebacker leaves an area free behind him, and a safety creeps into it. Darnold keeps the ball to pass and there is a miscommunication between the quarterback and the receiver and the ball is thrown right into the path of the defensive back who snatches it for a pick 6.*

Darnold failing to make a proper read of the defense hindered him all year. Even when the quarterback had a clean pocket he would still throw terrible passes into coverage. He seemed to lock on to a receiver, stare him down, and lob passes to the receiver he was pre-determined to throw to. The coverage or the number of defensive backs draping the receiver did not matter, he was still going to throw the pass he wanted.

This is legitimately troubling. HE doesn’t take care of the ball as well as you’d hope from an NFL quarterback, and has a lot to learn before he is ready to start at the next level.

Darnold had a clean pocket on all of those plays. When he was put under pressure he was even worse.

The quarterback seems to panic at the first sign of pressure. He often walks himself into sacks stepping up into the pocket when he doesn’t need to. When he drops back further, he goes way too far back and puts himself in an inescapable position.  His eyes drop, and he gives up on looking downfield for an open man even when he still has a chance to make a pass before the pressure gets him. He is not willing to stand strong in the pocket and release the ball right before he takes a hit. When he does manage to escape the pressure, some of the issues he has when throwing from a clean pocket show up again. Darnold usually just throws a pass to whichever receiver he see’s first, no matter how well he is covered.

Even when the quarterback does make a proper read, his accuracy can be anywhere. He misses open receivers long and short. Ball placement often fails him when throwing to open teammates.

So why are teams so high on Darnold? Despite some of his failures reading defenses, and occasional missed pass, the passes he does hit are incredible.

He can put touch on balls to float them into a spot right between two defenders. He can put passes on a rope and get them to his receiver before the defense can even react. The quarterback can make throws on the run and can hit passes off balance. The arm talent is there, he just needs to learn how to reign it in. At his peak, Darnold has potential to be one of the best passers in the NFL.

The quarterback is also great on the move. While he does occasionally panic and make bad decisions while under pressure when the defense opens a chasm in front of him he is not scared to take off on his feet.

He isn’t a tree in the pocket and does have a high level of athleticism. Darnold isn’t the fastest guy but he’s fast enough to make plays. The quarterback is a smart runner and knows how to avoid hits and when not to risk his body for an extra yard.

The USC quarterback isn’t the best player today, but his ceiling is extremely high. He has a lot of natural talent and a strong arm. Darnold should not be a starter day one but if he is properly developed he has potential to be a star.

Rumors link him to the Cleveland Browns as the first overall pick, and at worst within the top three. I believe that may be a little high for him as he will need time and a great coaching staff in order to be ready to lead an NFL offense. I would love to see him sit behind Sam Bradford in Arizona for the first half of the season at pick 15, or maybe even a long-term replacement to Tom Brady in New England at pick 31.

No matter where he goes, Darnold will need time and a coaching staff willing to properly develop him in order for him to succeed. They should not just throw him into the fire unprepared (like the Browns did last season to DeShone Kizer) as it could have terrible long-term effects on his play.

*corrected: initial paragraph seemed to absolve blame from the receiver on the play*

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Baker Mayfield: The quarterback with fire, fury and the talent to back it up

Lamar Jackson; the most dynamic QB in the NFL draft

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Baker Mayfield: The quarterback with fire, fury and the talent to back it up

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NCAA Football, NFL Draft

Mansur Shaheen

From walk-on at Texas Tech to Heisman winner and potential top 5 draft pick at Oklahoma, the Baker Mayfield story may be one of the best from the 2018 draft. The protagonist of the story also happens to be an incredible football player. The fiery quarterback terrorized the Big 12 last season as he lead his team to a conference title and an appearance in the college football playoff. He threw for over 4,600 yards and 43 touchdowns in his senior year, both career highs, and was only picked off six times, a career low. He was one of the most efficient quarterbacks ever in college football and his huge numbers weren’t just a product of beating up on bad teams either.

Mayfield was just as efficient against some of the best teams in the country as he was against the bottom feeders. He rose up to every challenge in front of him and could be depended on to make huge plays in huge games.

Some of his huge numbers can be attributed to the offense he played in, though. The Sooners deployed a spread offense focused around the incredible athletes they had populating every skill position on the roster. They forced defenses to devote resources towards the outside by running a variety of deep passing concepts and screen passes, then took advantage of the soft spots they left in the middle.

One play Oklahoma loved to run that took advantage of this was a quick toss over the middle off of an RPO.

These holes open for the Sooners offense because of how overwhelming they can be. Opposing defenses are willing to give up an easy first down over the middle if it means they won’t get torched for 60 yards and a touchdown instead.  Mayfield plays “toss and catch” football really well and was comfortable making a quick read and taking the easy pass underneath. Oklahoma forced teams to play bend, don’t break, defense all year and it created an offensive goliath.

This will not be the case for Mayfield at the NFL level, though. NFL corners are just as good as NFL receivers, and middle linebackers aren’t just going to leave gaping holes in the middle of the field on a regular basis.

While these plays inflated his stats a bit, he was still an incredible passer throwing downfield. He can put virtually every pass on a rope, and his quick release combined with the velocity of his passes made them extremely hard to defend.

While Mayfield is not the biggest quarterback, measuring in at 6’1, his ability to get the ball away to quickly and with such speed quells some of the concerns around balls being batted down at the line. Getting the ball over the first level was never an issue for him as a Sooner, and despite his size, he rarely had to sail passes just to get them over people.

When forced out of the pocket, whether it was due to pressure or designed rollouts, Mayfield still managed to deliver great balls. He doesn’t lose much accuracy or power when his feet aren’t set, and still manages to spot open men downfield and make plays.

Mayfield has a Russel Wilson-esque ability to improvise and make plays on the run. He’s slippery in the pocket and always has an escape plan once things start to get dangerous for him. His abilities do come with their faults, though. The quarterback seems over-eager to try to make a play at times and will hold the ball too long. When he was pressured he would usually abandon his progressions and bolt. This would often work out, as his receivers were good enough to usually get open for him to find downfield even when out of the pocket. Needless extension of plays can lead to your team surrendering big gains, though, as receivers are forced to come back towards the ball to get open. Mayfield also hated to throw the ball away and seemed much more willing to take a sack rather than just take the easy way out.

One knock on Mayfield is his willingness to throw off of his back foot. When your base isn’t fully set it is very easy to have passes sail on you, and they can become easy interceptions for a free safety playing center field. An NFL coach will probably work with him to reduce the amount of times he only throws off his back foot, but in his defense, he did throw off of his back foot extremely well in college.

Mayfield is a great passer, but his ability as a runner can truly unlock defenses. As mentioned earlier the Sooners run a lot of RPO plays and the quarterback was not afraid to keep the ball and make plays with his feet. While he is not as fast or athletic as a player like Lamar Jackson he has enough burst to find the edge and take off downfield. He never runs scared but also manages to protect his body and get out of bounds.

He is a smart runner and can beat teams whether the run is designed or not. When looking downfield to pass if he notices there is no spy on the defense he can force them to pay by quickly bolting on his feet. He near perfectly fits the mold of a modern dual-threat quarterback.

While the Sooner is a great runner and an even better passer there are still many questions surrounding him entering the draft. The biggest has to be whether or not he can function in a pro-style offense. Much of Mayfield’s job at Oklahoma was to quickly scan the defense, find which one of his receivers were wide open by nearly ten yards and just get him the ball. He did not have to worry much about hitting his receivers in their hands, leading them or placing the pass in an area where they could avoid danger. He would still have to deliver a pass on target, which he regularly did, but was not the best at hitting them in stride. Completing 71% of your passes in your senior season is incredible, but he was not challenged as much as many of the other quarterbacks in the draft.

Mayfield rarely had to throw into tight windows, and when he did it rarely ended well.

Throws like those are ones he will have to make on a regular basis at the next level and he still hasn’t shown he can make them. While there is no reason to believe that he will not be able to quickly learn a new offense, make reads against a pro defense and complete tight window throws, we have no proof that he can yet and he is less experienced at doing so than the likes of Josh Rosen or Jackson.


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Whichever team drafts Mayfield will be getting a great player with a lot of talent. They will also have to find a way to refine his game without hurting his creativity. Teach him how to play like a disciplined NFL quarterback, while also not extinguishing the fire within him that makes him such a great player. Mayfield’s ceiling may not be as high as Rosen, Josh Allen or Sam Darnold, but he has the tools necessary to be a great NFL quarterback today.

He is definitely going to be selected within the top 20, and he will most likely end up in New York playing for either the Jets or Giants. My favorite landing spot for him is a little later in the draft, going to the Arizona Cardinals at pick 15, where he can spend the early parts of the season sitting behind Sam Bradford before fully taking over the offense later in the year.

 

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All 24 of Jimmy Grahams 2017 Redzone targets

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Lamar Jackson; the most dynamic QB in the NFL draft

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NCAA Football, NFL, NFL Draft

Lamar Jackson is the most exciting player in college football. The Louisville Cardinals quarterback and 2016 Heisman winner threw for 3660 yards, a career high, and 27 touchdowns in 2017. He added 1600 yards, also a career high, and 18 touchdowns on the ground in his third season. While the Cardinals struggles in 2017 caused Jackson to take a step out of the spotlight, the quarterback may have been even better last year than he was in 2016.

Before we continue I am dispelling any talk the Jackson should switch to wide receiver. No. He is a quarterback and a damn good one.

The most remarkable skill in Lamar Jackson’s toolbox is his incredible speed, agility, athleticism and overall ability as a runner. Read options were a significant part of the Cardinals offense and Jackson’s running prowess may have been the most important aspect of Louisville’s attack last season.


Related: Josh Allen might be the most interesting prospect in the draft


In last years meeting against the Clemson Tigers, arguably the biggest game of the team’s season, the Cardinals offense was entirely stagnant until Jackson gave them a jump start with his feet.

The second the Tigers defensive end took a step inside Jackson took off. Just that slight bit of space is all he needed, and his explosiveness helped him get to the second level before the defense could react.

Jackson mastered these plays. He rarely ran himself into trouble and did a good job handing the ball off when an opportunity for him to run didn’t open. He is a quick thinker and he is even faster on his feet. If the edge defender even bites a bit on the read, Jackson keeps the ball for himself. Give him even the slightest crease and he’s suddenly gone.

Even when the plays weren’t designed for Jackson to keep the ball for himself he still often made plays on his feet. The Cardinals poor offensive line, combined with Louisville’s receivers having trouble getting open, left the quarterback having to improvise on a regular basis.

Jackson has incredible pocket presence. He manages to avoid pressure with ease while still keeping his eyes downfield. The quarterback does not seem to get spooked by the slightest bit of pressure and goes through his progressions and still manages to make great decisions. Many athletic passers have the tendency to drop all focus on their receivers and bolt when they’re in hot water, Jackson does not. His speed allows him to avoid the rush and turn upfield to make huge gains out of plays that shouldn’t gain anything.

The quarterback doesn’t totally abandon the pass once he takes off, though. He can complete passes on the move and does not fully need to set his feet to deliver a great ball.

Being able to throw on the run keeps the defense honest, and even open more opportunity to take off on your feet. Defenses sprinting forward to contain Jackson when he bolts out of the pocket opens up receivers downfield. If the deeper defenders do not come forward, though, they are susceptible to giving up huge yardage.


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Everyone knows that Jackson can run, though. Majority of the highlights of his you see on the likes of SportsCenter and Twitter are plays the dynamic player makes with his feet. This leads many to believe that he is a run first quarterback.

That notion is false.

Jackson is an incredible pocket passer, and arguably one of the best pocket passers in all of college football.

Louisville runs a pro-style passing offense. Coach Bobby Petrino’s offense focused on quick passes and the receivers ran a variety of quick in, quick out and curl routes. This offense forced Jackson to quickly process the defense, spot the open receiver and make a quick and accurate pass as soon as the receiver breaks on their route. These passes need to be accurate not only to get to the receiver but also to hit his man in stride to maximize the yards run for after the catch.

The quarterback thrived in this offense. He was able to release the ball quickly and safely and rarely threw troublesome passes on these shorter routes.

Throws like these should have offensive coordinators around the league salivating. Quicker shorter passes keep the defenses on their toes and the offense on schedule. These plays punish a team in they drop too far into zone coverage and if the defense is caught off guard occasionally they can bust for a huge gain.

Jackson can do more than just throw these shallow routes, though. He has an amazing arm and is not scared to test defenses downfield. When given a clean pocket and room to step into throws the quarterback can absolutely torch teams downfield.

His arm talent his severely underrated, and occasionally overshadowed by all of the work he does with his legs. Even if Jackson was not an athletic freak of nature, he would still be a great quarterback prospect based on his arm alone.


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The biggest mark against Jackson, though, was his 60% accuracy in his final year at Louisville. Some of his poor accuracy can be attributed to the failures of the talent around him. His offensive line was atrocious last season and his receivers had trouble bringing in routine passes.

Not all of his struggles can be on his team, though. Jackson’s deep ball failed him on occasion and he missed a few throws really badly. Throws would float on him at times, and overthrowing receivers over the middle can be low hanging fruit for an interception to an attentive free safety. Majority of his interceptions last season came on balls that were overthrown.

These types of throws happen often when a quarterback tries to throw off of his backfoot without properly stepping through his passes. This is a coachable flaw, though, and one that many college QBs carry entering the NFL.

Jackson is one of the best quarterbacks in the draft and is definitely a first-round talent. The player he is today is a quality starter in the NFL. His combination of arm talent and his ability as a runner give him an extremely high ceiling. The quarterback is 6’3, but at 205 lbs he will definitely need to learn how to protect his body well when finishing runs, as he tends to fall into hits often when he could instead slide to protect his body, but that is also a coachable skill. He is not the biggest or strongest option at quarterback in the draft, but definitely the most dynamic of the bunch.

The New York Giants provide an ideal fit for Jackson at #2. They already run a similar offense to Louisville. Weapons like Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Sheppard could thrive with Jackson at QB and with Eli Manning’s career coming to a close this is probably their best chance to find an adequate long-term replacement.

Other good options for Jackson include the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills. No matter where he lands, the team that drafts Jackson may be getting a special talent that could take over the league.

 

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Josh Allen is the most interesting prospect in the 2018 draft

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Josh Allen is the most interesting prospect in the 2018 draft

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NCAA Football, NFL, NFL Draft

Mansur Shaheen

Josh Allen is the most polarizing prospect in the 2018 NFL draft. The Wyoming quarterback is being mocked by ESPN’s Mel Kiper to be the #1 pick, while many others believe he shouldn’t even be selected in the top 10. He measured at 6’5, 233 lbs at the NFL combine and that combination of size and his athleticism make him a scouts dream. On the other hand, the quarterback was statistically awful last season in a weak Mountain West conference. Allen completed 56% of his passes and threw 16 touchdowns compared to six interceptions. His best games all came against lower level teams, such as Gardner Webb and Texas State. He only played against 2 power five teams in 2017 and combined for a 50% completion rate, a touchdown and three interceptions in his teams biggest games.

When looking at his game splits you can see how badly Allen struggled when playing against quality opponents. Outside of a great bowl game performance against Central Michigan, he was awful against winning teams. One thing to consider, though, is how bad the rest of the Wyoming roster is. Allen sat out the last game of the Cowboys regular season against a terrible San Jose St. team and a 7 win Wyoming team fell to their lesser foes.

Allen notably told reporters “stats are for losers” at a senior bowl press conference referring to his poor numbers not matching up to his draft stock. While I do not agree, stats can be misleading especially in college football where the talent discrepancy between teams is larger than ever.

And that’s why we are here.

Stats can lie to us, film can’t.


Related: Patrick Mahomes is ready to take over the Chiefs offense


Allen can do things that no other quarterback in this draft can. He has a cannon for an arm and the confidence that he can make every throw.

Even when he is off balance he can manage to draw enough power to let it rip for a huge gain. His form at times fails him and he does not properly step into passes, but he can still gather enough power to get the ball where he needs. Allen is coming out of college as a similar prospect to Patrick Mahomes out of Texas Tech last season. The Wyoming quarterback just happens to be bigger, faster, stronger and have an even bigger cannon for an arm.

Poor form and his over-willingness to throw off of his backfoot cost him at times. He doesn’t step into his throws as well as he should even when he has space too. This leads to passes often sailing on him or falling at the feet of his receivers.

As much as many would love to blame Allen’s teammates for his low completion percentage, the main reason he couldn’t complete passes in college was because of his own inaccuracy. Bad form leads to bad passes and it is legitimately concerning how often he overthrows receivers.

Beyond just incompletions, some of Allen’s completions are also passes that he could do much better on. Wyoming’s offensive scheme focuses mainly on their receivers running a lot of comeback and curl routes. Majority of passes that Allen threw last season were on those routes where his target would have their back facing the end zone. The proper way to throw these passes is to either place it towards the receiver’s stomach, so they can secure the pass while they potentially get hit from behind, or just in front of them, so they can step up into the catch and quickly whip around to run after the catch. Placing passes high and above a receiver’s chest area forces them to expose their body to a hit they can not see as they try to make the grab.

He also at times throws the pass to far in front of his target, forcing them to come to far forward for the catch. This can cause a 10 yard route to only gain 6 yards and put the receiver in a tricky spot after they make a catch.


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Allen’s confidence sometimes gets the best of him as well. He throws terrible passes at times when he really does not need to. The quarterback does not always go all the way through his progressions and can get in trouble passing to a blanketed receiver despite having no pressure in the pocket. He zeroes in on guys and stares them down at times. Occasionally he will just rip the ball towards a receivers feet for absolutely no reason.

Another knock on Allen comes before he even releases the ball. While he is mobile and can take a hit, his pocket awareness is lacking. Occasionally as rushers close in on him he will not even notice their presence until it is too late.

Allowing rushers to get with him so easily allows unnecessary sacks, and also leaves him more vulnerable to being strip-sacked as he is not tucking the ball away to brace for impact.

Allen often gets put into motion in the Wyoming offense. They run a variety of read option plays and bootleg’s that roll him out of the pocket. His awareness will fail him in some of these situations as well. The quarterback often runs himself into defenders, taking an unneeded sack when he can either throw the ball away or just run in a different direction.

The quarterback does not give himself up often either. He allows himself to take unnecessary hits instead of surrendering himself at the end of runs. While this does speak to his immense toughness and confidence, it leaves him extremely vulnerable to big hits and fumbles.

Wyoming did not have the greatest offensive line last season. Allen was under pressure often and had the terrible habit of trying to escape the pocket backward. This leaves him less of an escape route, costs him more yardage in case he gets sacked and leaves him more vulnerable to an intentional grounding call.

While he does occasionally run himself into bad situations, Allen is still an exceptional runner. Wyoming relied on his ability as a runner a lot last season. He never looked scared to keep the ball himself, put his shoulder down and become a power runner similar to Cam Newton. He has decent speed and agility for his size as well and can beat teams running off the edge.

His ability to run combined with his size can also lead to some wild plays, like this (eventual) sack against Iowa.

It can also lead to some spectacular, hard to believe passes. This touchdown against Boise State shows how special of a player he truly is.


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So what can we expect from Allen at the next level?

Of the top five QB prospects, Allen possibly has the highest ceiling. He is the biggest, strongest and probably has the best arm of the group. At his peak, I could see him be a better Matthew Stafford.

Unfortunately, he also has the lowest floor. He is currently the least accurate of the group. His football instincts are lacking, and he seems to rely way too much on his physical gifts rather than proper football form. I could say that this works on a college level but won’t in the NFL, but it didn’t even work at the college level.

Allen did not play on a very good team but he did not seem like he was enough to tip the scales against mid-tier opposition. He was awful against both Oregon and Iowa, and Boise State managed to keep him uncomfortable all night when they met. It would be hard to argue that Wyoming had any quality wins last season. His floor is lower than any of the other prospects, and there is a very real chance that he just never picks up on some of the mental skills needed to play quarterback in the NFL.

I would grade him as a day two pick. Based on positional value alone, though, he will most likely be picked in the top 20. Whoever drafts him will have to be patient and realize that he may need a few years to really get up to speed. Within the top 20, I believe the Baltimore Ravens are the ideal landing spot. Baltimore is still stuck in an awful Joe Flacco contract for at least two more years. Their offense is in rebuilding mode and John Harbaugh can begin to groom the successor to Flacco.

Wherever he goes, the team that selects Allen might hit on a future hall of fame, but it also can prove to be a costly investment.

 

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Robby Anderson made his presence in the NFL known in 2017

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Robby Anderson was a revelation for the New York Jets in 2017. New York was pegged to be the worst team in the leagues entering last season. Some even believed that they would end up 0-16. When Quincy Enunwa went down before the season started, many feared that the Jets had lost the only play maker on their roster. Enter Robby Anderson.

Anderson went undrafted out of Temple in 2016. He earned a roster spot after an impressive training camp for the Jets, and played in all 16 games his rookie year. He was surprisingly productive in his first season, topping 500 yards and 40 receptions.

He was still overlooked for the most part entering 2017, and was not on the national radar at all. Enunwa going down would end up opening the door for him, though. Anderson caught 63 passes on 114 targets for 941 yards, all career highs. He had 17 receptions that went for over 20 yards last season, and three catches for over 40 yards. Six of his seven touchdowns came from more than 20 yards out as well.


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Anderson is an incredible deep threat. He is most efficient on vertical routes, and as expected his incredible speed is his greatest asset.

Every time he is on the field Anderson brings the threat that he can scorch a defense for a huge gain. He has attracted the attention of some of the best CB’s in the league and even been able to leave them in his dust.

On this play Anderson is lined up against AJ Bouye, arguably the best cornerback in the NFL. Bouye is known for is incredible technique and footwork, but still gets caught flat footed by Anderson here. Anderson comes off of the snap and takes his first step inside. He stabs in after a few yards, then gets his hips low and quickly changes direction to break his route downfield. Bouye is quick to recover after falling behind for a moment but is still way behind is man. The ball is slightly underthrown, which allows the corner back into the play and keeps the receiver out of the end zone.


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Even when given a cushion defensive backs have trouble keeping up with Anderson when he takes off with his blazing speed.

The Dolphins give Anderson a 7 yard cushion on this play and drop into cover 3 zone. Anderson takes off on a hitch route off of the snap, and before the safety or the corner can even react he manages to split their zones and find himself wide open for a touchdown. This play was way to easy for the Jets but plays like these can happen when a defense falls asleep for a split second against a player with this kind of speed.

While a majority of his highlight plays are on deeper routes downfield, the Jets use Anderson in a variety of ways. One of the best ways to attack a team that is playing off coverage on your deep receiver is to run deep curls and comeback routes. These types of routes keep the opposing corner on their heels, as if they leave to much space for the receiver upfield then the other team can get a quick 10 yard gain. If you don’t leave a cushion, though, you are liable to getting torched downfield for even more.

New York took advantage of that concept on this play.

Anderson is split wide to the right on this play against the Cleveland Browns. It looks at first as though Anderson was just running a go route to keep the CB across from him out of the play. An extended play breaks out though, as Josh McCown is forced out of the pocket. The defensive back still left the cushion on Anderson intact, so he wouldn’t get lost in the commotion and beat them deep. The receiver instead runs a comeback and makes an easy wide-open catch with no one anywhere near him.


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While majority of deep threats in the NFL mainly focus on longer routes, and the occasional comeback or curl to throw the defense off (notably Kenny Stills) the Jets used Anderson in a variety of ways in 2017.

Even when not running downfield Anderson’s ability as a route runner combined with the always existing threat of him beating teams deep allows him to throw defenses off of his trail with ease. On this play against the Falcons he slips through man coverage to get wide open.

Anderson is lined up in the slot here. The corner covering him has given him nearly 10 yards of cushion pre-snap. The receiver runs a slant route, while the other receivers run routes that divert the attention of the other defenders away from where Anderson will go. This leaves the corner on Anderson a lot of ground to cover in little time with absolutely no help. The receiver makes a simple catch in the flat and bursts up field into open space for a huge gain on the play. Plays like these are impossible if Anderson isn’t a threat for a deep touchdown on every play and will draw the defense in closer on subsequent plays opening more opportunities to beat them deep.

The Jets receiver thrives against one on one man coverage just as he does against zone. On this play against the Patriots, he embarrasses his opponent for a big gain.

Anderson is split wide to the right here. He takes off after the snap and angles his run inside. This pulls the corner, who gave him a huge cushion in man coverage, inside with him. He gets low and dips his hips inside, before flipping his body and breaking on his route outside. The defender gets lost on the play, and does a full spin to reorient himself and find Anderson again. It is too late, though, and the receiver gets wide open for a simple catch near the sideline for a big gain.

The Jets should be a better team in 2018. Enunwa should be back, they are one of the final teams in the race for Kirk Cousins and they have a top ten pick in the draft. There still are many holes on the roster, and they did slightly overperform in 2017, though.

Anderson should be a part of their long-term rebuild, and as the remainder of the AFC East begin to put together teams that will hopefully become contenders once the Tom Brady era comes to an end. The receiver does have some off the field issues, though. A bad run in with the police at the beginning of the offseason was the beginning of what has turned into a tumultuous offseason for him. It would be unwise for the Jets to release him, as the offenses were minor, but much of the fanbase and maybe even some in the front office have turned their back on the receiver.

Despite all of his talent, Anderson may not be a Jet in 2018. It would be a huge loss for New York, though, and if he can clean up his act Anderson has the potential to be a scary weapon for any team.

 

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Marlon Mack is legit

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Marlon Mack makes your Saquon Barkley to the Colts mock draft look bad

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL, NFL Draft

Mansur Shaheen

Turmoil, heavy roster turnover and front office malpractice have haunted the Indianapolis Colts in the post Peyton Manning era. With all these distractions around, many may be forgetting about one of the young gems on their roster, Marlon Mack.

The Colts enter the NFL draft with the third overall pick after a tumultuous 2016. Quarterback Andrew Luck ended up missing the entire season after a long drawn out injury saga. Their offensive line remains one of the worst in the league and despite flashes from back up Jacoby Brisset, who they acquired from New England right before the season, their offense was still lackluster.

The public still doesn’t really know the status of Luck’s shoulder, and whether he will start week 1 in 2018. Luck is still a special talent at QB when he is on the field, and despite a deep QB draft class, the Colts will be looking elsewhere at #3.

Veteran Frank Gore has been a small bright spot for the Colts, but he is a free agent this offseason and the oldest running back in the league is not expected to return. Saquon Barkley, a human highlight reel out of Penn State, has been a hot name in mock drafts for Indianapolis. With so many needs for the Colts on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the front seven, picking Barkley may be a waste.

Especially when they have a player like Mack already on the roster.

Mack was drafted by the Colts in the fourth round of the 2017 draft coming from South Florida. He was drafted to be a perfect compliment to Gore. While Gore does much of his running grinding his way between the tackles, Mack excels bouncing runs to the outside.

The rookie running back had a career day week 5 against the San Francisco 49ers. He accrued 91 yards on 9 carries and scored a touchdown. When he was given adequate room to operate off the edge he can torch a defense for huge plays downfield. He had a few big runs this game off the edge, and they accounted for the bulk of his yardage.

His lone touchdown on the day is a good example of the danger he brings running horizontally.

Mack takes the hand off out of the backfield and initially angles towards his left. A defender comes flying through the gap, and he quickly switches to the right where there is another gap. Once he gets into open space the race is on. He has great vision, and sees another defender coming towards him around midfield. The running back swings his run out wide, around a blocker on the edge. Two defenders end up crashing into each other as he perfectly uses the block to his advantage and finds the sideline and then the end zone for a touchdown.

While that run is the one that shows up on the scoreboard, his preceding rush may be even more impressive.

Mack takes the hand off and instantly runs horizontally towards the right side. The blocking in front of him helps seal the edge and allow him to stretch outside, but the 49ers still have a corner back playing run contain that he must beat. He head fakes as if he is going to turn upfield, but instead swings the run outside, impressively beating a man in space. Mack gets to the second level before being run out of bounds for an 11 yard gain.

The South Florida product works extremely well in open space. He has great open field vision and anticipation, and the agility and burst to take advantage of the opportunities he sees.

While his open field running his great, he is a liability running between the tackles.

On this play Mack had a hole open in front of him and failed to take advantage. He takes the hand off and should have tried to run through the play side A gap that was opening in front of him. Instead, he dances around in the backfield for a second hesitating and most likely looking for an opportunity to bounce the run outside. The hole is quickly closed, and he is swallowed up in the back field for a loss on the play.

Mack seems almost scared of contact at times. Even in the open field, he does not finish runs well and instead is content with getting shoved easily out of bounds or shoved over rather than powering through hits. He measures in at 5’11, 213 lbs, similar to between the tackles back Frank Gore. He is a little slimmer, but he is not small enough to be so hesitant to take hits.