Zach Wilson Scouting: Tennessee (2019) Part 3

This is Part 3, please check out Part 1 and 2.


Now back to the negative play again in the rollercoaster article.

This is hesitancy from Wilson that blows up this play.  He has the tight end wide open down the seam, and he’s looking right at that route but doesn’t pull the trigger.  The issue here is that he has pressure in the pocket quickly, but still has plenty of room to make this throw.  I’m not sure why he doesn’t make this throw because the lane is clear, the defenders aren’t close, and this is pretty much the only route he is looking at. 

Once he escapes the pocket  he still has the chance to hit the outlet pass for some free yards, but takes too much time as he looks towards his well covered receivers one more time.  This is just a terrible play all around from Wilson, because he missed a wide open target while looking directly at him.  Then he delays the outlet pass long enough for the defense to recover and tackle it for minimal gain. 

This is a terrible play to watch as a Jets fan because it is reminiscent of recent QB play for the Jets, where quick pressure leads to panic and missing open targets.  This looks like one of those scenarios where the consistent pressure in this game caused Wilson to became a bit more hesitant and eager to try and escape the pocket.  There are two big mental errors on this play. 


Did the coaching staff bet the over on corner blitzes in this game?

While this play looks like a bad one from Wilson, it’s not terrible, although he doesn’t help matters.  The play is actually blown up by the left guard because he gets fooled on a stunt from the defender, which leaves the C gap wide open for the blitzing cornerback.  Wilson confirms the blitz and rolls out of the pocket into more pressure, and wisely throws this ball away. 

The main culprit on this play is the offensive line, because with this amount of pressure, Wilson doesn’t have many choices.  Once he rolls out of the pocket, into more pressure, there aren’t any good choices left as he just throws it away on a 3rd down in a 6 point game.  However, it’s another example where Wilson isn’t Mahomes in the Super Bowl making crazy throws while falling down in the pocket because those kinds of throws require a certain amount of confidence that your guys are better than the defense.  Facing a good defense, Wilson doesn’t display that confidence which is why I question his high-end statistics in 2020.  I think in 2020, Wilson probably at least attempts a shot down the field in this situation because he knows his guys are better than the competition. 


This play is a bit confusing to me because I’m not sure if this is a bad throw or a bad read on the part of Wilson.  I’d love to hear from you, it is one or the other, if not both. 

The case for bad read:  Receivers running the go vertical route are taught to stack their defenders, which means once they get past them, they are to get directly in front of them.  On this play, watch the receiver have to cut to the inside of the defender to get past him.  He’s in the process of stacking his defender, when Wilson throws the ball to the inside.  If the receiver stays inside and runs up the field, he has a chance of catching the ball.   In this case, Wilson doesn’t read the route correctly, and assumes the receiver would not stack his defender. 

The case for bad throw:  Wilson saw that the receiver was stacking his defender, but with pressure in the pocket, he makes an inaccurate throw.  He does throw this ball sidearm to get it past a defensive lineman, and that may cause accuracy issues this far down the field. 

I think it’s a bad read, but I would love to hear your opinion on this. 


To set the stage, this is a 3rd down and 4, with BYU down 3 in the 4th quarter.  The target line should be right around the 40 yard line. 

Once again, Wilson doesn’t process the quick route, even though he’s looking exactly in that direction.  There is no explanation as to why Wilson doesn’t pull the trigger here.  He’s looking in that direction, the slot receiver is open for the easy pass, and it’s a 3rd down conversion.  Once again, Wilson panics in the pocket when he’s perfectly protected, and rolls out right into defenders.  To make matters worse, he makes an off-balance throw to the same slot receiver he previously ignored for the safe pass, and leaves this one behind him, falling incomplete. 

First issue is Wilson not displaying the fabled fast processor, he is missing quick and easy reads.  Every QB will miss reads in college, but a big part of the Wilson allure has been his processing speed, which just hasn’t shown up on tape for me.  He has the easy read conversion here and moves on for no apparent reason. 

The lack of confidence in the pocket looks very familiar as a Jets fan, as Tennessee sent all kinds of blitzes in this game.  I’m not saying he’s seeing ghosts, but this isn’t the clean pocket, sit back all day games that Wilson had in 2020.  Pockets are going to be tight in the NFL, and Wilson doesn’t show his moxie in tight pockets, but reacts very similar to Darnold or Geno before him. 

Once again, he’s not this off-platform master when under pressure.  This is a dangerous throw that is behind the receiver and very close to the defender getting a hand on the ball.  Yes, he can make the off-platform throws but unless they are from wide open pockets (when he doesn’t need to make those throws) he’s not nearly as consistent.  I get the style comparisons to Rodgers/Mahomes but those guys make on line throws while under pressure, which is just not the case with Wilson consistently. 


There isn’t much to breakdown here, but pointing out the issue of floating back in the pocket.  The defender speed rushes the outside and bends the corner, putting pressure on Wilson before most of the routes reach their steam.  I know I pointed this out consistently in the 2020 film, but the competition wasn’t good enough to make BYU pay consistently.  Wilson needs to do a better job of maintaining pocket integrity as he graduates to the NFL. 

This is actually a play where he gets sacked on a 3 man rush, and flushed out of the pocket before his routes reach their stem.  If he’s able to stay in the pocket, they actually have options down the field.  On this play, Wilson doesn’t float back as much as usual, but the offensive linemen can’t tell for sure because they are facing away from him.  In normal instance, the lineman would assume the QB would be staying in the pocket and prevent the speed rusher from breaking back towards the QB.  In this instance, the right tackle can’t be sure, so he tries his best to push the lineman away, losing his angle to defend the bending from the defensive end.  This is part of what I’m saying is a blocking scheme issue with Wilson’s propensity to float back in the pocket because it impacts the angles that can be used by the linemen, even when Wilson isn’t committing errors.


To set the situation, BYU is down by 3, with under a minute left in the 4th quarter, and it’s first down deep in their own territory. 

This play baffles me, and I think it plays into Wilson’s issue with predetermining his throws, albeit that is just a theory.  Wilson starts out looking at the safety, which once again is a great skill to have.  He’s trying to hold the safety in the middle of the field.  I think his primary choice on this play is the boundary side post route, but he needs the safety to sit in the middle of the field or come towards the tight end.   However, the safety sees the post route and moves towards that route, which forces Wilson to change course, since his preferred route is now double teamed.  Up until this point, this play makes complete sense from Wilson’s standpoint, he’s trying to manipulate the safety to open up the post route. 

Once the safety moves to the post route, thus throwing off Wilson’s initial read, this play becomes an example of Wilson’s processing issues.  Wilson correctly looks to the field side, right as the scissors concept reaches their stem, making one receiver wide open for the pass.  He has at least 2-3 steps on his defender, and the safety is on the other side of the field.  This is the perfect situation you can ask for, almost an assured long completion (possible touchdown if the guy is fast enough) with very little time left in the game.  They need a big play here, which is why I’m fine with ignoring the quick outlet route in this situation.  Wilson looks at it, right at the stem, and then inexplicably passes on the option.  I understand that sometimes progressions lead you away from open receivers, but he’s looking directly at the stem of that scissors concept, and then looks away when he’s perfectly protected in the pocket. 

All right, maybe he feels like that’s a dangerous throw against a good defense (although you can bet. he takes that shot against 2020 competition) and moves onto safer options.  He has a throwing window to the tight end down the middle from the pocket for a relatively safe completion.  He’s not in danger of being sacked, can sit in the pocket and drive this ball to the tight end.  However, Wilson decides to scramble out of the pocket, then makes the much more difficult throw to the same exact tight end, while he’s off-balance.  While throwing off-balance is impressive and he does have velocity on this ball, he doesn’t drive this pass, which allows the defender to undercut this pass.  This is a possible interception (the guy drops it) on a play where Wilson was perfectly protected in the pocket, and they had a wide open route down the sideline, and an open route down the middle that Wilson could hit from the pocket. 

I’ve said it over and over again, I like Wilson’s arm talent as the best in this class.  He’ll make throws that are great, but his processing capabilities are wildly overrated.  A good chunk of his 2020 tape is just going up against defenses that can’t handle a QB with an NFL level arm, so it’s easier to make those reads.  In 2020, the safety stays in the middle of the field and Wilson takes the post route, or has the patience to see the field side outside receiver break free for a long touchdown. 


I’m not pointing out this play because Wilson didn’t pull the trigger on the quick crossing route, given the situation (2nd and 18, under a minute in your own end zone), you need to look for a big play as your primary read.  In this case, Wilson once again tries to hold the safety in the middle, but the field side routes are just well covered.  

I want you to notice the boundary side route on this play.  How many times did Wilson throw that pass along the sidelines for a back shoulder pass in 2020?  Or at least take that shot down the sideline because his receiver was even with the defensive back?  That’s a very common play from the 2020 tape where Wilson would stay in the pocket, direct the WR to run the comeback route, and make a great throw.  In this case, he looks that way, and then tucks the ball and runs.

Wilson does a good job of gaining some yards on this play, which falls in line with his scrambling abilities.  He has enough athleticism to scramble from the pocket and gain decent yards if the defense is playing back.  Although, he really needs to slide here because he’s not breaking tackles with his frame.  I understand trying to make juke moves or spin moves, but trying to just run through a defender while lowering your shoulder is a terrible idea. 


Just when you are ready to write him off, they pull off a play like this. 

It’s basically under 30 seconds now, and BYU needs to move about 50 yards to get into field goal zone.  I don’t quite understand what the boundary side outside cornerback is doing here, because without safety help, he completely bites into a relatively short out route.  He completely misses situational awareness on this play, allowing a deep route when he should be fine with allowing the short yard out routes.  

This is not a great play from Wilson, although the end result is great.  Wilson doesn’t really hold the safety on this play, although part of the reason is because the safety starts out on the other side of the field.  Wilson is locked in to the boundary side options, so either the wide receiver or tight end is going to get this pass.  The throw is well underthrown, but given the situation, Wilson can’t afford to miss this pass.  He has to make sure the receiver at least catches this pass.  Ideally, you want to lead the receiver down the field  for the touchdown, but Wilson needs this completion to get into field goal range.  It’s not a great throw by any means because it’s underthrown, but it’s an understandable situation where Wilson doesn’t want to try and make the perfect throw, only to fail. 

The play is basically made because of the defense, the cornerback absolutely made a terrible decision, and Wilson does a good job of allowing the receiver to make the catch.  It should also be noted that Wilson knows the safety is not as big of a concern because he’s on the other side.  The receiver does the rest, but gets tackled short of a touchdown. 


  This is the play right after, they spike the ball.  I just want you to notice No. 2 near the sideline hitting his head because he’s the cornerback that just made that mistake.  At this point, he knows it. 


This is a great throw by Wilson under pressure.  He knows he has a one on one matchup to the boundary side, and takes a shot on first down in overtime.  This is an excellent set up, where Wilson takes the play action, then sets his feet and throws an absolutely perfect pass.  The pass hits the receiver right in the hands, away from the defender, which is exactly what you want when your receiver has inside position on a slant route.  This is what I wish Wilson would do more, where he would clean up his mechanics and use his arm strength as a weapon, rather use his off-platform throws as a weapon when it’s unnecessary. 

On a side note, the cornerback burned on this play is the one that gave up the long pass play on a mistake previously.  I’m assuming he didn’t sleep well that night.  BYU would go on to win this game in the second overtime, strictly on running plays. 

Overall, Wilson doesn’t stand out as the No. 2 type pick in this game as well.  He didn’t make nearly as much mistakes as the Utah game, but he doesn’t make those wow throws either.  I still have major concerns about his processing skills, because in this game, he looked timid about taking chances.  Once again, it’s my opinion that his 2020 tape looks a lot better because he’s taking chances against inferior competition.  There are some throws in this game that I love, but it’s not enough for me to say I see the potential there as the No. 2 pick.  Now, you can argue that he improved in the 2020 season for sure, and I agree with you.  There’s definitely an improvement, but it remains to be seen how much of that deals with the competition being inferior in a Covid season. 

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