Zach Wilson: Receiver Bail-Out

In today’s article, we look at plays where Wilson made a bad throw or read, but the receiver bailed him out.  The BYU receivers are better than what many people credit them for, and two of them should be drafted into the NFL at some point.  This article goes with the theory that Wilson was helped by his surrounding cast to a certain degree.  

1)

On this play, Boise State sends a blitz and Wilson makes the correct hot read.  Once the LB commits to the blitz, the RB out of the backfield is going to be open, and Wilson makes the correct read.  The blitz opens up the right side of the field for a quick pass, because the slot defender is too far back.  In terms of reading the coverage, the safety of the slot defender will be tasked with covering the RB on this play.  If it is the safety, he’s going to be too far inside, thus the running back has an advantage to turn up the field after the catch.  If the slot defender is switching to the RB, then he is going to be too far back to make a play, allowing for an easy catch and one on one match up to break free.  In essence, this is a perfectly fine read by Wilson.

The problem with the play is that Wilson throws this behind the receiver, forcing him to adjust for the ball.  The bad throw impedes any momentum built up, and the running back gets tackled.  He does a good job of falling forward for a couple of yards.  This is a play that had potential, and it is a great read by Wilson, but his arm fails him here.  This might be one of the problems that plague strong arm QBs in college, in that they do not know how to lead short passes, rather going with fastballs.  This is a play where Wilson needs to lead the running back to his outside shoulder, so the momentum isn’t broken, and he can turn up the field.  

2)

The ball is on the far hash, so Wilson’s first read is towards the field side outside receiver, which is a continuation of the pattern.  You can see him move his shoulders, but decides not to pull the trigger because there is a linebacker in the passing lane.  While I am criticizing Wilson for his consistent pattern of looking at the field side outside receiver from the far hash mark, he does a good job in this case to refrain from the throw.  He moves on to his second read, which is a mesh route that looks like it is supposed to sit down in the middle of the field.  It is a wrinkle to the opposing crossing routes in mesh concept, because linebackers may tend to break in front of these crossers.  Therefore, the wrinkle would be for the route to stop short of the linebacker, thus creating an opening.

 Wilson correctly reads the play, moving on from his first outside read, and diagnosing the crossing route as the desired option.  However, he makes a terrible throw, but the receiver bails him out with a one-handed catch.  This looks like a baseball catch as he is completely turned around and just snags it with one hand, and then turns up field for a couple of extra yards. 

This is one of those plays where the WR is the star, and Wilson is doing his Hackenberg impression.  I do not want this to be completely negative on Wilson, because moving on from his first read, and going to his second read is a good progression.  Progression reads are a big challenge for all QBs coming out of college, so this is a positive sign in at least that aspect. 

3)

This is a 4th and 1 play against Houston, and in this case the referee bails out Wilson.  BYU calls essentially a trick play as they fake a fumble, only to have Wilson come up ready to throw.  Unfortunately for the offense, the defense takes away the initial read, which leads to a jump ball situation.   

The positive aspect of this play is that Wilson recognizes that his initial read is covered and moves onto his second (and only other) read down the field.  Once again, going through his progressions quickly is definitely a good attribute, and he showcases it here as well.  Wilson quickly realizes his only option is to his left and gets the pass off before the pressure can get to him. 

The negative aspect of this play deals with the fact that the receiver has at least 2-3 steps on the defender, which should be considered wide open, and Wilson turns it into a jump ball.  He needs to lead the receiver down the field, rather than underthrowing this pass.   The receiver does a good job of coming back for the ball, and draws enough contact to get a penalty.  This is a terrible throw, and certainly a pass that could be intercepted in the NFL. 

Side note:  The Houston safety seems to be a Jamal Adams fan, starts celebrating the play by screaming into the air, only to realize the flag is coming in. 

Overall, it needs to be noted that Wilson did play with some talented receivers that helped him out at times.  We focus a lot on the level of competition for the defense, and why it made Wilson’s life easier, but the talent surrounding Wilson helped him out immensely as well.  When you see a lot of back shoulder passes or jump balls, the receivers need to be talented enough to adjust to them as well, even if more of the credit goes towards the QB.   I think in the Wilson hype it gets lost that he had a very good offensive line, and two receivers that should go in the mid rounds. 

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