Lamar Jackson was not at his best in preseason debut but it’s to early to start worrying

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL, NFL Preseason

Mansur Shaheen

The NFL’s annual Hall of Fame game is a glitzy, glamorous, event where many of the leagues’ past stars congregate to celebrate the game we all love. For many fans, though, the main attraction this year was someone stepping on to an NFL field for the first time.

When the Baltimore Ravens selected Lamar Jackson with the final pick in the first round of last Springs draft speculation around whether or not he would start this season started immediately. The 2016 Heisman winner was the most exciting player in college football the past two seasons and with Joe Flacco coming off of yet another below average season the table was set for a changing of the guard in the Charm City.

Jackson played the entire second half for the Ravens and left a bit to be desired. He completed 4 of 10 passes for 33 yards and linked up with fellow first round pick Hayden Hurst for a touchdown. Jackson also threw an interception in the third quarter. The quarterback ran the ball 8 times for 25 yards.

The rookie never seemed to settle into the game and had many jitters in his first NFL contest. On his first dropback of the game, he panicked and took off to run before ever really scanning the field to find an open man.

The play was a designed roll out to Jackson’s left. He never really set his feet to pass and looked as if he had decided to run from the start. Chicago did a great job stretching the defense in order to contain Jackson, but he tried his luck to run through them anyways and barely picked up anything on the play.

When Jackson was throwing his accuracy wasn’t quite there yet. He let passes float on him and his ball placement was not the best. His passes also did not seem to have the zip on them needed to beat NFL defenders.

Even the touchdown pass Jackson threw could have been placed better.

This pass should have been placed in front of Hurst instead of behind him. Had he thrown it in front of his tight end Hurst would have had a simple walk into the end zone after making the catch. By throwing it behind him, Jackson forced Hurst to expose his body to contact and make an unneeded adjustment to catch the ball.

His footwork needs a little work as well. Jackson spent a lot of time on his toes dancing around the pocket when he dropped back. The Ravens third string offensive line was awful and the consistent pressure the quarterback was under forced him to be on his heels all night. Even when he did have space and time to set his feet and step into his throws he didn’t, though, and it led to a few awkward releases and wobbly passes.

These are kinks that you’d expect for a first time quarterback, and ones that will probably be worked out of his game over the next month as he practices more and gets more live game action in preseason. He should get a better feel for the offense and playing football at NFL speed. He will also develop better timing with his receivers and they will eventually be on the same page.

Lamar Jackson NFL Draft scouting report

While he had a rough game, the rookie did show flashes of the player he was back in Louisville.

On this play, Jackson went into his drop back and scanned the field. When nothing opened up downfield and the pass rush began to breathe down his neck he took off to run. He deke’d by the first rusher, slipped by another and then got to work in open space. His mix of speed, agility and open field vision is rare for a quarterback at this level and should create many highlight plays for the Ravens this season.

Jackson did struggle to get his feet sorted out when he was on the move Thursday night, but when he managed to properly balance himself he showed the types of great throws he can make on the run as well.

It’s impossible to make any judgments after half of a preseason game played alongside the third team offense against a third team defense. Jackson still has to grow a lot as a player before he will reach the level the Ravens expect to reach as a first round pick. It is clear that Flacco is still the teams best quarterback and will probably be listed as the teams’ starter when they take the field against the Rams next week.

Jackson’s NFL debut may not have been the exciting affair we expected, but it’s way too early to begin worrying about his NFL future.


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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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Mitch Trubisky shows his potential in first NFL victory

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The Chicago Bears made an interesting choice last spring when they traded multiple draft picks to move up one spot in the NFL draft and select quarterback Mitch Trubisky out of North Carolina second overall. The rookie sat behind Mike Glennon to open the season in Chicago, but was finally given the nod to start in week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings. Chicago lost in what was a sloppy game on Monday Night Football, but Trubisky actually looked in control of the offense. In his second game in week six against the Baltimore Ravens, he won his first career NFL game as the Bears pulled off an upset in overtime.

John Fox and the Bears coaching staff have put a leash on Trubisky. They are limiting his pass attempts for the most part and putting the load on the stellar, young, running back duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. He threw the ball 16 times on Sunday, completing 8 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Bears fans would obviously love to see their rookie unleashed more often in the Bears offense, but he is being limited for a reason.

Only two games into his career he still makes many of the errors that you would expect from a rookie quarterback. His decision making is questionable sometimes and he sometimes shows a lack of confidence in himself to make throws. His accuracy also fails him at times.

His lack of awareness led to a costly strip sack on this play in the fourth quarter against the Ravens.

Trubisky takes the snap and drops back to pass. He should see the blitz coming as a free Ravens rusher comes in from the secondary. He does not seem to react though. The Bears guard could have done a much better job picking up the blitz but Trubisky cannot be rooted in place if he see’s someone coming towards him. He had a receiver in space on each side of the field, and he was staring at his running back who ran an out route on the play as the hit came in.

The rookie should have maneuvered in the pocket to avoid the rush. If he did not feel like he had space then he should have thrown the ball to his man, open in space, who is breaking off on his route. At worst, he should at least have thrown the ball at his receivers feet to live to fight another down. He held onto the ball for too long and it almost let the Ravens take the lead on the other end.

On this play in overtime, he did throw away the pass, but he made the play more dangerous then he should have.

He rolled out of the pocket to set up a dump off pass to his tight end but it did not develop fast enough and the rushers began to chase him down. Trubisky throws the pass over his receivers head just to get rid of it. When throwing away a pass you want it to either get out of bounds or hit the ground as fast as possible. He lobs it over the top where a Ravens defender can potentially get to it, and return it for a game ending score. It is a minor error, but one that could have cost the Bears everything.

Trubisky had the tendency to hit the panic button under pressure on Sunday. He would usually just run to an open spot and then toss the ball out of bounds even if he had an open receiver. The rookie showed a lack of confidence in his arm to make throws to open receivers throughout the game and preferred to either dump it off short or just throw it away.

He did manage to make some impressive plays in his limited opportunities, though. Including a few ridiculous off balance throws downfield.

This third quarter play was his lone touchdown of the game and it was one to remember. Trubisky rolls out of the pocket immediately after the snap and his offensive line breaks down in front of him. As the pass rush reaches him he lobs a pass off of on foot towards an open receiver in the end zone. He gets smacked after throwing the ball but still gets it away.

Another impressive pass in overtime ended up winning the game for the Bears.

Trubisky grabs the snap and drops into the pocket. Baltimore’s edge rushers come flying around the pocket and close in on the quarterback. He does a good job stepping into the pocket to dodge them, but the interior rush is on its way as well. He quickly cuts outside but he is out of time as the rush has reached him. Instead of just taking the sack, he delivers a beautiful off balance pass over the middle. It was a risky pass the sailed near two receivers. The ball was overthrown but still in range of his man.

His feet can use some work but these are the highlight plays that get Bears fans excited for their new man under center. They will make his quarterback coach cringe for a moment and it will definitely be something the Bears will work on in film study this week but these are the types of ridiculous passes franchise quarterbacks have to make at times.

Eli Manning won a few Super Bowls throwing these ridiculous passes.

While a majority of his struggles come while under pressure, Trubisky looks great when he has a clean pocket.

The Bears run a vertical/deep cross combo to help break the Ravens zone coverage. This is a play that is known to work extremely well against cover 3. Receiver Kendall Wright slips between zones and through the Ravens defense and is wide open. Trubisky turns around, points him out and delivers an absolute strike to his man. The pass is a little low and if he had led him forward with it Wright would have earned a decent amount of yards after the catch as well.

While Trubisky’s arm talent is what earned him that high draft slot, his ability to make plays with his feet is always an appreciated skill.

On this third down play the Ravens rush is yet again coming around the pocket towards Trubisky. Baltimore has overloaded the right side of the line, and Trubisky darts towards his left into open space. The Ravens man coverage has left the quarterback unaccounted for and free to run on third down. He takes off downfield and gains 19 yards to get the first down and a little more to move the chains for Chicago.

Trubisky has only played two games so many of his issues are expected. His confidence is still lacking a bit but he should only gain more as he gets more comfortable in an NFL offense. As he gets more familiar reading NFL defenses, his decision making will only get better as well. His accuracy struggles a bit while under pressure, but the great passes he manages to throw while clean in the pocket show that he has the ability needed to grow as a passer.

Chicago won’t win many games this year and they have holes all over their roster which will take a few years to fill. Quarterback is the biggest role on every NFL team, though, and the Bears may have found their franchise guy with Mitch Trubisky.


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Jordan Howard is Next Up for the Chicago Bears

Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

With all the hype around Rookie of the Year front runner Ezekiel Elliot, the accomplishments of Bears rookie back Jordan Howard were widely overlooked. After taking over as the full time starter, the Bears 5th round draftee carried a struggling offense on his own. Howard rushed for just over 1,300 yards, second to only Elliot in the NFL, and ranked in the top five among NFL running backs in both rushing yards per attempt (4th), and rushing yards per game (3rd).

After losing Matt Forte last off-season, the Bears looked for younger options at running back to help rebuild what has been a struggling offense for years now. Jeremy Langford, who the Bears drafted in 2015, was the projected RB1 coming into the year, but after struggling with injuries the door opened for Howard and he made the job his own.

Howard’s break out game came in week four against division rival Detroit. With Langford out, Howard took majority of carries for the team, and made the most of it rushing for 111 yards on 23 carries as the Bears won their first game of the season.

The Lions had the worst defense in 2016, as ranked by FootballOutsiders, and many of Howards rushed looked a little something like this:

He still was impressive, though, and showed some skills that rookies may at first lack while adjusting to the NFL. On this second quarter play, Howard shows his vision and patience, and slips through a small gap before turning up field for a decent gain.

Although a hole opens up down the middle, Howard sees the Lions defenders closing in, and instead of trying to power his way for minimal gain, cuts to his left. Howard balances himself and almost comes to a complete stop and waits for space to open up in front of him. He shoves himself through the initial defensive wall then turns up field. This play could have easily resulted in a 2 or 3 yard gain, but Howard’s vision and ability to read the play in front of him gained a few extra yards.

It wasn’t a game breaking play, but small plays like this help keep the Bears ahead of the chains, and helps keep a struggling offense moving.

His ability to find holes and hit them for big gains can lead to big plays when a huge opening does open up on the first level.

A week after the Lions game the Bears met the Indianapolis Colts, another awful defense, and took full advantage of the space his offensive line gave him.

On this second quarter play, Howard takes a hand off out of the backfield and has two options. He can either slip through the middle and turn up field, or break towards the sideline and turn the corner. Colts Cornerback Patrick Robinson (#25) makes a crucial mistake on the play, and begins to cheat up towards the line after the hand off. Robinson covers the edge, and Howard reads this then turns up field. With no one on the second level, Howard rumbles down field for 57 yards.

This play, though, does show Howards lack of speed. Some of the faster NFL backs may have been able to break this play for a touchdown, but the Colts deep safety catches up to him and drags him down inside the 15.

What Howard may lack in speed, though, he does somewhat make up with some of his other open field skills.

On this play, earlier in the same game, Howard uses his open field vision and agility combined with his strength in staying on his feet, for a decent pick up.

Howard catches a screen out of the backfield, then quickly cuts around a block. By getting around the block, it allows him to get towards the sideline faster and gives him more open space. He cuts it very close though, and gets within tackle range of a Colts linebacker who spins off of a block. He manages to shake off an arm tackle, the breaks another on his way towards the sideline before being pushed out of bounds for an 18 yard gain. If Howard had been able to beat the safety who eventually tackled him, he had two good blocks up field and could have turned this play for a huge gain.

What Howard does lack in speed, though, he makes up for in power.

His best opportunity to show off his strength came in week 13 during a snowy game against the San Francisco 49ers. He scored three of his six touchdowns on the year during this game, and all of them from within the 5 yard line.

He scored his first touchdown right at the end of the second half, powering his way for the final yard on a touchdown drive. He’s met just after crossing the line of scrimmage by three 49ers, then pushes himself forward to fall into the end zone for a touchdown.

His third touchdown was themost impressive of the day. He takes the hand off out of the backfield, then forces his way through the pile for a five yard touchdown. He miraculously stays on his feet the entire way, even confusing the camera man for the score.

Jordan Howard is strong. He’s a gritty runner who forces his way forward, and can sometimes just push his way through multiple defenders turning minimal gain into much more. On almost every play covered during this breakdown he manages to either push his way through someone, either outright shake off a tackle or gains a few extra yards at the end of a play before being dragged down. Weighing in at 225 pounds, he is hard to stop once he gets going, and is a little too much to handle for your average defender.

His vision combined with his strength in breaking tackles and just being able to fall forward always can pile on yards and can wear down a defense over the course of a game.

Howard displayed this early in the Colts game, as he combined these skills for a decent gain.

The rookie takes a pitch out of the backfield, the treads towards his right. No space opens for him on the edge, so he cuts back towards the inside and turns up field. As two defenders close down on him, he manages to find space to stretch the play for a bit more, and even propels himself further forward as he is gang tackled.

During the Bears upset victory over the Vikings in week 8, Howard broke the game open on one of these runs.

He takes a hand off out of the pistol, and slips through a small hole in the first level of the Vikings defense. Howard splits two defenders caught flat footed on the second level, then rumbles down field for a huge 69 yard gain, his longest of the season. His lack of speed leads catches up to him as he gets chased down by a defensive back from the opposite side of the field.

Jordan Howard will not win rookie of the year, but an impressive rookie campaign definitely has caught some attention around the league. His stats, even compared to Ezekiel Elliot, are impressive.

2016 Season Stats

Player Games Yards TDs Yards/Carry Yards/Game
Howard 13 1246 6 5.2 95.8
Elliot 12 1357 13 5.4 113.1

Over the course of the season, Elliot is clearly the better runner, but since week 4, when Howard took over as full time RB1, Howard did close the gap:

2016 Stats (Since week 4)

Player Games Yards TDs Yards/Carry Yards/Game
Howard 13 1246 6 5.2 95.8
Elliot 12 1357 13 5.4 113.1


Elliot and Howard both saw their numbers go up as they adjusted to the speed and overall change of play style in the NFL. There is a notable disparity in touchdown count, which can be attributed to Howard’s lack of down field running ability in the open field, compared to Elliot.

Howard, though, is playing on a significantly worse team then Elliot, and with a worse offensive line. The Cowboys are better than the Bears at pretty much every position group which opens up the running game even more for the Cowboys rookie. Elliot is still the better back, clearly, but Howard also has potential to be an elite back in the future.

The Bears are rebuilding pretty much everywhere this season, and after drafting a running back two straight years and letting go of Matt Forte last off season, it is obvious the direction Bears are going on offense. With much speculation around potentially drafting a new quarterback in the first round this year, and a young, but struggling, receiving corps, Howard emerging as a potential franchise piece allows the Bears to focus on many of the other positions they need help at.


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