Zach Wilson Scouting: Utah (2019) Part 2

This is Part 2, so please check out Part 1 prior to reading this article.

11)

Once again, we see the far hash mark to field side boundary throw, albeit this is defended really well.  We see Utah playing shell games again, showing man coverage, and switching to zone at the last second. 

Now watch how Utah plays zone coverage here on the field side boundary, because I pointed out the issues with the 2020 competition, which I presume you have checked out at this point.  The defender takes outside leverage, with his hips turned towards the field.  He can see the QB, and in his peripheral vision, he can see the receiver.  When the receiver cuts outside and Wilson starts to throw, the defender uses his outside leverage to close the gap and defend this play.  This pales in comparison to the defenses in 2020 running 5 yards down the field because they can’t even see the receiver.  The defender played this route extremely well.

Given how well the defender on the outside played this ball, Wilson makes a better throw.  This is placed perfectly to the outside shoulder of the receiver, thus the defender doesn’t have any shot at it.  This is a perfect throw in this situation. 

12)

On this play, it’s important to remember the shell games played by Utah earlier in the game, where they showed man coverage and switched to zone.  In this case, they showed man coverage and stayed in zone.  However, Wilson seems to be expect zone coverage because he’s locked in on this scissors concept to the boundary side.  If it’s zone, the slot defender is going to be too far back for this in-breaking route from the outside defender, which is why Wilson is making this the primary read.  However, once this is man coverage with the players running into each other, this concept is dead.  However, Wilson looks at this concept for an extra second, which means he misses an opportunity to hit the running back coming out of the backfield. 

There is once again pressure in the pocket, and I want to point to an issue that came up in the 2020 tape.  Wilson tends to float back in the pocket, even from shotgun, which cause protection issues for the offensive lineman.  In this case, watch the left tackle and the defensive end, as the defender speed rushes the outside and bends behind the QB, creating pressure.  Wilson didn’t float back as much as he did at times in 2020, but this is the exact rushing issue that will plague Wilson if he keeps moving backwards in the pocket. 

Wilson moves a tick late in the pocket, to try and escape to the left side of the pocket.  However, the defender is chasing him down, and instead of taking a sack, he decides to throw the ball, which is promptly intercepted.  Rest assured, they run it back for a touchdown, I cut it off to save some space on memory.  Please tell me this is not a Jets QB throw.  The other aspect to notice here is once again, the quality of the defense.  In 2020, far too many times we saw linebackers basically run around like they didn’t know what they were doing.  In this case, the linebacker ran up the field to cut off the throwing lane, so the only way for Wilson to make this throw was to lob it over his head.  That’s NFL level smarts on defense, and it pays off when the pass comes directly to him. 

Wilson needs to take this sack, and just move on.  The problem started with not recognizing the coverage post snap quickly enough, then moving on too late, then playing hero ball, which led to disaster. 

13)

The first issue with this play is that Wilson doesn’t actually adjust to this blitz.  Unfortunately, this is an issue with most QBs in college, because their audibles and adjustments usually come from the sideline.  It’s one of the reasons why I have Lawrence as QB1, because he had more autonomy at the line to make adjustments.  In this instance, the safety is lined up right over the slot corner, which is a good indication of a slot blitz.  However, Wilson doesn’t adjust the route here for hot reads, because they usually don’t do that in college, it’s one of the bigger learning steps when you get to the NFL.  In the NFL, you will see a QB call out the blitz and possibly make an audible (unless your coach is Adam Gase).  Wilson doesn’t even see this pressure, until it’s in his face, as he’s going through his progressions. 

However, Wilson makes a great escape outside of the pocket, and shows off his athleticism to run down the field.  Notice Wilson pointing to go deep on the play, as it’s a decoy to get one of the defenders to run back as if there is a receiver in the area.  It’s a sly move and shows off Wilson’s improvisation skills.  He runs down the field, albeit he needs to learn to take a slide. 

The unsung hero on this play is the running back, because without the running back, this is going to be a disaster.  Wilson is going to get blindsided by the blitz if the running back doesn’t act quickly.  In most protections, whoever is picking up the blitz is taught to block the inside defender, because theoretically, the outside defender has to run further to get to the QB.  In this case, the running back takes the outside defender, presumably with the idea of driving him off the path enough that Wilson can step to the side.  The block doesn’t go well, but it makes enough of an impact to throw off the balance of the defender.  BYU gets completely lucky here because the defenders run into each other because of that block, which allows Wilson to escape outside.  Our unsung hero blocker actually gets up, and then runs down the field to block another defender so Wilson can run for about 15 more yards. 

The play is a very good testament to Wilson’s scrambling abilities, and shows off his skills in the open field.  He’s not going to be a speedster, but he can survive one on one match ups in space.  However, the overall takeaway from this play is negative because Wilson is completely unaware of this blitz, which was pretty obvious from the formation.  If not for a defender being slightly off-balance from a block, this is going to be a direct hit by two defenders on Wilson with very short notice. 

14)

I’m not the biggest fan of this read, but I can see wanting to take a shot at the endzone.  It doesn’t matter in context of this ball being dropped because the receiver would have been out of bounds, but wow, this is a great throw.  It’s placed perfectly for the wide receiver to make a play on the ball.  The defender plays this route perfectly, yet he doesn’t have a shot at this ball.  The receiver drops the ball, and lands out of bounds but we aren’t looking at his scouting report.  As far as Wilson is concerned, this is a great throw in terms of ball placement. 

15)

Over and over again, we’ve been talking about floating back in the pocket, which will cause protection issues for the offensive lineman.  Watch both tackles on this play, because they both end up on islands.  The right tackle gets beat with a speed rush, and the defender bends, pushing Wilson up the pocket.  The left tackle does a better job, but has the defender perform a spin move to clog up any chance of Wilson escaping the pocket.  This isn’t a big problem against 2020 competition because they just weren’t talented enough, but against a good defense, floating back in the pocket is a major concern. 

The route combination on this play is negligible, as the entire defense is set up for the short crossing route to No. 21.  The tight end to the boundary side is essentially running a pick route, trying to pick off the defender for that crossing route, but the middle linebacker picks up that route.  It’s all a moot point because Wilson faces pressure in the pocket and gets sacked. 

Once again, notice the difference in communication between the defenses.  Far too many times in 2020, you saw defenses that were clueless in picking up responsibilities.  In this case, the primary defender gets picked off, but the middle linebacker seamlessly takes over, effectively taking away that route option. 

16)

If I broke down the 2019 film into categories like the 2020 film, this would fall under the baffling decisions one.  Wilson seems to have his mind made up on the throw from the start because he’s trying to manipulate the safety at the start.  He’s trying to hold the safety in the middle, but he’s making a terrible read on this throw.  The defender is in perfect position to cover this pass, and has inside leverage.  Wilson throws this pass directly to the defender, and the tight end does a good job to just knock it away. 

The decision is baffling because Wilson has a clean pocket, with a running back outlet route that is going to be wide open for easy yards.  Instead, Wilson forces this pass directly into the defender, and is lucky this is an incomplete pass.  So far in this game, this is the possible 3rd pass that he’s thrown that could have easily turned into an interception (which one of them did). 

17)

Wilson stares down this route from the start, and the defender is right there with the receiver.  However, this is just a dime of a throw with great anticipation.  He releases the ball before the receiver gets out of his break, and puts it exactly out of reach for the defender. 

I have various concerns about Wilson’s processing ability, how he reacts to pressure, and a tendency to play hero ball, but one thing you cannot question is his ball placement.  If given time with one-on-one matchups, he has impeccable ball placement.  The positive is the ball placement here, the negative is the stare down.

18)

The very next pass play, and disaster strikes for another pick 6.  At this point, Wilson has thrown 0 touchdowns, 2 pick 6’s to the defense, and this is the 4th pass that could have easily been intercepted. 

The issue here is a collaboration of Wilson’s processing issues.  The first issue is Wilson is staring down his receiver, which is what the defender is reading.  Wilson tends to pre-determine throws at times, where he is just looking at the one on one matchup for the defender.  The second issue that plagues Wilson at times ties into the first problem, where he completely misses backside defenders.  In this instance, the outside cornerback peels off coverage from the out route and jumps the passing lane.  In this case, Wilson needs to confirm the defender’s intentions before throwing this dangerous pass, but Wilson completely misses the backside defender.  Wilson is assuming the backside defender is going to follow the out route, and take himself out of the passing lane, but because he’s looking at his receiver the entire time, the defender just jumps the route. 

There isn’t much to analyze here, this is a processing error from Wilson. 

19)

The first issue you should notice with this play is once again Wilson floating backwards in the pocket, which causes protection issues.  Watch the left tackle and the defensive end, because the defender just speed rushes the outside and bends the corner right towards Wilson, because the QB is too far back in the pocket.  In this case, it doesn’t matter because the blitz is coming through the C gap, so Wilson has to escape out the backside anyway.  However, it’s another example where the defense can create easy pressure on Wilson because he has a tendency to float back in the pocket. 

The second aspect of this throw is Wilson’s penchant for takings risks, because this would arguably be the 5th pass that could have been intercepted in this game.  He essentially throws this ball into double coverage, and almost picked off.  Wilson does have an outlet option as he’s scrambling, but is locked in on the deep receiver. 

I can’t blame Wilson for not throwing the ball quicker because the pressure got to him before the routes had reached their stem.  Although, take out the blitzing defender from this play, and the defense would have put pressure on Wilson, just because he was floating back. 

20)

This is the part that is confusing to me, and why I think Wilson has these Ryan Fitzpatrick moments within him.  This is an NFL pass, as he fits it in perfectly in the zone for the slot receiver.  Notice the decision point for Wilson, because he has started his motion before the receiver clears the defender in between him and the QB.  Wilson makes a great anticipatory throw here, and delivers a perfect pass. 

Wilson tends to show flashes where he really should be QB1 in this draft, because his arm talent is special.  There are times, such as this, where he shows very good mental processing skills, but there are plenty of errors as well. 

21)

This is going to be the final breakdown from this game, even though there were a few more plays that I thought were at least worth showing.  However, nearing 5000 words on this game alone, have to cut it off at some point. 

We’ll leave on a positive note because Wilson once again shows off his ability to throw on the run, without setting his feet.  You can watch his front foot here never really touches the ground as he’s running, which is an amazing feat to have this level of torque.  As we saw with other examples in the 2020 film, he doesn’t do this all that well when pressure is closing in around him, which begets questioning the value of this skill.  He has time to set his feet here, but doesn’t, but how many times can he do this in the NFL?  While I like the skill, I don’t think it goes as far in negating pressure as much as it should.  This would be a lot better if, like Mahomes, Wilson could accomplish this while under more pressure, but he tends to struggle with the off-platform throws at that point. 

The arm strength and ball location are great on this play.  He gets it by the defender, and at an angle where only his receiver can make a play on the ball.  

————————————————————————————————————

Overall, this is a very scary game if you are a Jets fan.  This reminds me very much of Jets QBs past, those tantalizing displays of talent where everyone dreams on, only to be squashed by the sheer number of terrible decisions.  Wilson contributed directly to two pick 6’s in this game, without throwing a touchdown, and with some bad luck could have had 5 interceptions.  However, his pocket integrity is better in 2019 than in 2020, as he’s staying in the pocket better.  It’s not great by any means, but it does highlight the issues with his 2020 tape. 

You can clearly see the improvement in the defense, which leads to huge problems for Wilson.  I don’t have the Coastal Carolina tape, but the games that were highlighted in previous articles show major communication issues with the defenses faced by Wilson.  Now, Utah is a very good defense and they seem to have great communication, so it might be slightly unfair, but Wilson is going to face opponents with even better communication. 

This was a terrible game for Wilson’s prospect.  In this game, he’s not a first round prospect.  However, the million dollar question is, how much did he improve from this game to the end of 2020, and where does it place him? 

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