Zach Wilson: Scouting Report Summary

Now that you read through all of those game film breakdowns, let’s get down to the scouting report.  Once again, just reminding folks, this is my opinion, and there is no guarantee that I’m right.  Also, when mentioning the Jets offense, it is based on the presumption it will be run similar to the Shanahan offense.

Positive Traits:

Eye Manipulation:  Once Wilson decides on a route (we will get to that part later), he shows numerous examples of eye manipulation is regards to the defenders in the vicinity.  You will see plenty of examples of him holding the safety or linebackers to make sure they don’t interfere with his intended passing lane.  This ability shows up in both 2019 and 2020 games, and in terms of his mental processing capabilities, would be his biggest asset. 

The Jets offense would fit in really well because eye manipulation causes confusion for down field defenders, and a good part of the offense relies on misdirection or disguised diversity.  The offense tends to run vastly different plays from the same offensive formation (if we go more towards the McVay offense) or misdirection to move defenders.  Wilson’s ability to manipulate defenses with his eyes, his ability to understand that X defender is key to a route fits in extremely well because it adds another layer of deception. 

Although I do want to add, it’s really helmet manipulation, a safety 20 yards down the field isn’t really looking at the QB’s eyes.  However, helmet manipulation seems nefarious, so let’s stick with eye manipulation as it conveys the message better. 

Arm Strength:  Wilson’s pure arm talent is probably the best in this class because he has relatively easy velocity without needing a full windup.  It might be easier to think of it as a third basemen in baseball, Wilson can make the throw across the diamond while being off-balance.  Other QBs may need to correct their stance to make the throw across the diamond with velocity.  This is helpful on short drop sets where Wilson needs to throw a fade or slant without the time to set up.  However, I do want to add, this is not Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes level strength, they are a notch better. 

While watching the college tape, you will see a ton of field side outside throws, which is basically from one end of the hash mark to a target on the other far side of the field (in terms of width).  This is usually seen as a good measure of arm strength because that pass is dangerous if your arm is weak, since defenders can undercut that pass.  Wilson shows good ability to make those quick outside throws, that will catch defenders off-guard.  However, the hash marks in the NFL are not nearly as wide, so don’t expect to see those type of throws consistently working because there isn’t as much space.  In college, most defenses play a bit further back because most college QBs don’t have arm strength like Wilson. 

In terms of the Jets offense, the arm strength fits in two different methods.  One, quick passing arm strength means the defense has to play a step closer to the line of scrimmage, which is advantageous for setting up longer passes, especially go routes.  It depends heavily on route running, but for receivers, one of their goals is to have the defender commit their hips one way or another as quickly as possible, and then play off that.  The closer they are to the receiver, the quicker they have to reach that point.  You will see this often with guys like Robert Woods or Aamari Cooper where they get bigger cushions at the line of scrimmage because they are so adept at manipulating hips once they get close to the defender.  In this case, Wilson’s quick arm strength allows the receivers to reach that point slightly earlier if teams respect arm strength.  If they don’t, Wilson has the arm to hit quick passes until they change their game.  

The second aspect of arm strength deals with the misdirection we already talked, because the system is designed to make you think the offense is doing X again, when Y is being employed.  Arm strength is key in this aspect because you need someone that can make a laser throw when the defense is confused.  This isn’t like the defense sees something and completely forgets their assignment, it’s momentary confusion that will be corrected quickly, at which point you need a QB that has arm strength to take advantage. 

Hypothetically, think of a linebacker that bites on play action, with a back side jet sweep.  He takes one step in for the play action, and one step in either direction for the jet sweep.  By design, that defender is now two steps away from his ideal positioning for a passing play, so it’s not a large window that can’t be erased.  Having a strong arm helps you have more wiggle room because you have the ability to take advantage before the defender can recover. 

Theoretically, this is true for every single offense.  Having a strong arm is obviously better than a weak arm, and would benefit every single offense.  However, Shanahan’s system relies more on setting up the pass with the outside zone run (and rushing in general, even inside zone), and that works better if you have a strong arm (with other factors).   The additional arm strength when the defense is deciphering the play adds another element to the game. 

The arm strength comes through in both years, although it does look like his arm got better in 2020 in terms of sheer strength. 

Ball Placement:  Wilson is probably the best in class in terms of ball placement as well, especially in contested situations.  Wilson has a knack for placing the ball exactly where his receiver can make a play on it, while putting it out of the reach of a defender.  

There are numerous examples where the play was well covered, but Wilson placed the ball so perfectly that the defender just didn’t have a chance to do anything.  Part of the credit should go to the receivers, but Wilson’s ball placement is elite for this class.  I highlighted a few of them where he makes NFL style throws with excellent ball placement in some of the previous articles. 

While ball placement is universally a positive trait across any system, I think it’ll fit well with Corey Davis and Denzel Mims because they have the size to box out defenders, even if they are covered.  If Wilson can consistently throw balls allowing his receivers to make those catches, it fits the personnel. 

Scrambling Ability: Wilson isn’t going to set the world on fire with his feet, but he does have the ability to scramble given space.  He fits into the Sam Darnold mode of scrambling where it’s probably not a good idea to call QB rushes specifically, but if the defense allows for some free space, he’ll chew up more yards than you expect. 

This is a very important skill in the modern NFL (ideally you would want an elite runner if you could) because offenses are leaning more and more towards college football’s affinity to incorporate a running QB as a weapon.  We’ve seen Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Kyler Murray come into the league recently, and succeed, because defenses can’t ignore their ability to run.  If a QB has great arm skill, then the requirement for scrambling ability decreases while still maintaining effectiveness.  It’s probably why Josh Allen will most likely be a perennial MVP candidate as long as he’s healthy because he has running ability (above scrambling) while having arm talent in spades. 

Wilson’s ability actually falls short of Allen or Jackson, but the ideal hope is to have Mahomes level scrambling ability.  The idea that your arm is good enough to keep defenses in check, that you can buy time by scrambling or picking up easy first downs.  

In terms of fit, it’s once again universal. 

Off-Platform Throwing Ability: Wilson has the ability to make off-platform throws that is once again, best in this class.  He seems to generate an insane amount of torque from his hips, as I’ve seen him throw fastballs without even planting his lead foot.  He’s essentially throwing fastballs at times on jump throws because his hip rotation generates so much torque. 

There’s this particular throw where Wilson has the ability to roll to his left, then make a throw without planting his foot, to an out route which is absolutely amazing in ability.  I know he did something similar at his pro-day, where he rolled to his left and then threw an off-balance deep pass, although that’s more to demonstrate his ability than in-game performance. 

This is the particular skill that I believe is generating the Mahomes/Rodgers comparisons because those two do an excellent job with off-platform throws.  It’s a rare talent because most people generate torque by rotating your hips with your lead foot planted.  Think of a baseball pitcher and how they land their lead foot, and then the hips rotate on that foot.  In Wilson’s case (and Mahomes), the lead foot isn’t necessary to create enough torque to make throws down the field.  In terms of baseball, think of the pitcher hopping off the mound as he throws, rather than planting his foot.  It doesn’t mean that he’s right to use it consistently, but the availability of that tool is great. 

In terms of fit, again pretty much universal.  The one thing it would add to the offense is the ability to roll out to either side (rather than just a QB’s strong side) without compromising much in terms of route combinations. 


Off-Platform Throwing Tendency:  I know this goes against everything I wrote in the last paragraph, but Wilson doesn’t use his abilities correctly consistently.  On tape, there’s far too many examples of him throwing off balance when he has enough space to plant his lead foot.  You’ll see unnecessary jump throws, which will work against his 2020 competition, but doesn’t translate over to the NFL. 

The tool in the toolbox is great, but Wilson struggles with off-balance throws when he’s under pressure, which is the exact situation for which off-balance throws are the most beneficial.  It’s like being a great driver, but not on a winding road.  Due to his usage preferences, I think his off-platform throwing ability gets overrated.  

Progression Reads:  This is probably the biggest worry in terms of Wilson’s transition to the NFL because he doesn’t seem to do all that well with progression reads.  He has a tendency to lock in on receivers or pre-determine targets without going through his progressions. 

Numerous times you’ll see Wilson locked in on the longest developing route, ignoring first reads and easy progressions because he has his mind made up at the line of scrimmage.  Far too often, Wilson is pre-occupied with eye manipulation (again a great trait in itself) to read progressions, which place him in tough spots because if his desired route isn’t open, it’s already too late for the other routes.  I don’t think he goes through progressions as much, because there are examples of him staring in the vicinity of open receivers, only to choose a more difficult (and sometimes less beneficial) target. 

This also becomes a major issue with backside defenders, because Wilson’s interceptions or intercept able passes seem to have an issue with backside defenders. 

Hero-Ball: This one pertains more towards the 2020 film than 2019, but Wilson has a tendency to play hero ball, where he takes chances down the field when the receiver is covered at the point of decision.  The aggressiveness is a great trait, but it makes you wonder the source of this aggression.  In 2019, he played more within the system, which didn’t yield the best results.  In 2020, he played outside the system more, and got great results, but was it because the competition wasn’t good?  Did he take those 50/50 shots because the talent disparity made them 90/10 shots? 

The situation is hard to decipher because the loss of confidence can be devastating to a QB, as the Jets have witnessed for years now.  Will Wilson maintain this level of confidence in the NFL when his supporting cast would be lucky to match up even with the defense?  If he loses this confidence to push the ball down the field, what happens to his potential? 

Pocket Integrity: Wilson has a tendency to float back in the pocket often, which creates problems for the offensive line.  End rushers can speed rush the outside and turn at an angle to where Wilson floats back towards, which force the tackles to move up quickly up the field, leaving them on an island.  This in turn creates more problems for the guards as well, because now they are on islands as well. 

On an offensive line that would once again be happy to be rated average, this will be a problem.  This doesn’t show up much in the 2020 tape, but in 2019 it is a consistent issue with rushers isolating the tackles. 

2020 Competition: Wilson’s best year comes against mediocre to worse competition, that just couldn’t handle a QB of his talent.  I provided numerous examples of the defense failing to communicate with late movement, lack of ability cover certain parts of the field, and fundamental issues with covering their assignments as well. 

I tried my best to point out the difference in the competition from 2020 to 2019, and how it’s not all just athletic ability.  You can see plenty of examples in 2019 where the defense reacts correctly to late movement or tricks pulled by BYU, yet in 2020, it’s utter chaos at times. 

The competition aspect reminds me of the last rap battle in 8 mile where Eminem addresses it early, and thus it’s somehow unmentionable now.  I see statistics that state the competition level faced by Wilson was far worse than the other QBs while having a better supporting cast (relative to the competition) yet it’s waived off.  There is a big difference from 2020 to 2019 for Wilson, and at some points, he doesn’t even look like the same QB. 

Injury History: Any QB can get hurt on the next play, so this is more about odds.  His shoulder injury is a concerning factor, given his play style.  There is an element of “fighting for the last yard” in his scrambling ability, that lends itself to possible injuries.  I have the same concern for Trevor Lawrence, who tries to be a power rusher, and could backfire in the NFL with injuries. 

A shoulder injury to a QB is always concerning, as the Jets found out with Chad Pennington.  Now Wilson isn’t as injury prone as Pennington, but if the arm talent reduces by even 10%, Wilson’s potential takes a tumble.  For someone who’s main calling card is his right arm and shoulder, Wilson runs into defenders without much of a second thought.  

Offensive Line: This isn’t a direct weakness of Wilson, but he had some of the cleanest pockets in all of college football last year.  A decent amount of his pressure numbers seemed to come from waiting around for plays to develop down the field, rather than surprise pressures.  He faced more surprise pressure in 2019 and struggled in the films that I watched.  A transition from an immaculately clean pocket to the Jets is going to be a major transition. 

Unanswered Questions:

How much of his improvement in 2020 is due to competition?  This is probably the biggest question hounding anyone that is scouting Wilson.  How much did he improve?  Is this a Joe Burrow level breakout? Or is this because the defenses just couldn’t handle BYU?  I think the answer is somewhere in the middle, but no one can answer with definition. 

Between 2020 and 2019, there are vast differences with Wilson.  He’s much more aggressive in 2020 than 2019, which begets the question if he derived that confidence from his level of skill or his level of competition?  2019 Wilson is not a first round prospect, but he plays within the system much better.  He makes mistakes but has enough talent to overcome it.  2020 Wilson plays like the easy setting on Madden, knowing the defenders aren’t going to make you pay. 

The big question for the Jets (or anyone else drafting him) should be if Wilson’s improvements are because he understands the system better while simultaneously improving his physical ability, or if the lack of competition factors in. 


Jordan Love mixed with Ryan Fitzpatrick:

Much like Love, if you look at pure arm talent and throws, Wilson will absolutely wow you.  There are throws that Wilson can make that seem like bad ideas until the receiver catches it.  Now this also relies on my theory that Wilson’s 2020 season should be a moderate improvement on his 2019 season with regular competition, rather than the amazing stat sheet he put together.  Much like Love, Wilson will wow you with throws, but then make bad decisions that derail a drive. 

I added Fitzpatrick, because he tends to do half field read at times (at least in his days with the Jets).  Chan Gailey used to run a lot of mirror concepts where Fitzpatrick picked one side of the field at the snap and just focused on the route combinations there.  Wilson tends to fixate on routes pre-snap and tends to manipulate the defense around that route.  When things are clicking in terms of pre-snap routes, this works great.  If pre-snap reads are off, then this ends in disaster. 

Love and Fitzpatrick display the ability to scramble (Love might be a better runner), and that is true for Wilson as well.  Wilson tends to have Fitzpatrick’s tenacity with runs, refusing to go down easily, which can get your teammates to rally around you. 

Upside:  Zach Wilson has the upside to be a Mahomes/Rodgers level QB, because the tools are there.  The arm is very good, with excellent ball placement as well.  He has the ability to scramble, as well as throw on the run.  His eye manipulation is already advanced for the college game.  

To reach his upside, the Jets have to make some drastic changes.  A lot of folks bring up Mahomes as the best case scenario, while omitting the environment in which Mahomes thrives.  He has an elite line, which means defenses aren’t getting to him without blitzing.  He has an elite playmaker in Hill that forces two deep safety looks, with complimentary speed all around him.  He has an elite tight end that is a match up nightmare in the intermediate area.  He also has an offensive genius as a head coach.   They’ve even added a dynamic running back to the rotation to make that offense even better. 

In terms of the system, Kansas City is perfect for a QB of Mahomes skill.  If you have an elite tight end, defenses can’t afford to leave the intermediate area open.  If you have an elite deep threat weapon like Hill, defenses can’t afford to go with single high safeties.  In this situation, the defense is constantly choosing between intermediate and deep coverage, but a guy like Mahomes can make the throw to any part of the field.  If the defense even thinks for a split second to cover the intermediate, Mahomes can hit the deep pass across the field.  Having an elite offensive line means that if the defense is committed to both the intermediate and deep passing game, he can sit there for much longer until a play opens up.  That whole system is based on elite level offensive line, which is why they traded for Orlando Brown today.  I wrote the other articles earlier, in which I mentioned the Chiefs would be very active in trying to add an offensive lineman in the draft. 

The Jets would need to add a deep threat to have that two deep safety requirement, plus additional offensive line help to help them at least be average. 

In terms of development, Wilson’s stardom doesn’t necessarily just depend on Wilson’s skills, but surrounding him with talent that matches his playing style.  They would have to get him to play within the system. 

Downside:  This is the tricky part, because I think there is some considerable downside to his playing style as well, because he tends to take way too much risk at times.  The injuries could catch up to him, and a shoulder injury is always worrisome. 

I’m not sure the roster fits Wilson as well, because he needs the deep threat to exist for his game to be top notch.  The Jets have Davis/Mims but they are not established deep threats that would require two deep safety looks.  The offensive line is a mess, which worries me in the same fashion as Darnold, where Wilson has the chance to lose confidence when facing constant pressure.  Ideally, a QB that is mobile fits the roster better to alleviate some of the pressure on the offensive line.  

The progression reads are also a concern, because NFL defenses tend to have much better communication on late movement, and Wilson’s tendency to lock in on receivers can get him in some major trouble.


I would not draft Zach Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick, because there is just too much risk involved.  His shoulder injury, his progression reads, and his 2020 competition are all major concerns.  I do think he improved from 2019 to 2020 but the overall numbers for 2020 are inflated because some teams just could not handle the talent displayed at BYU.   

I think Justin Fields is a better option for the Jets, fits the offense better and has much less questions marks.  If we go by pure arm talent, Wilson is better, but the overall package is better with Fields.  I wish I had the time to break down Justin Fields in-depth but since this isn’t my livelihood, I don’t have the time to do so. 

This isn’t to say I’m not a Zach Wilson fan, because he certainly has upside, and the moment the Jets draft him, I’m a fan of his.  However, there is some considerable risk involved with the pick, and isn’t this slam dunk choice that many make it out to be, at least in my opinion.  I think Wilson poses too much risk for the No. 2 pick.  There is also the caveat that I, nor you, know much about the behind-the-scenes approach to these team meetings.  I don’t know if Justin Fields is horrible at the whiteboard or if Zach Wilson is knocking them out of the park, so that aspect is unknown.  I’m just basing my opinion on the film review scouting and known information. 

Zach Wilson Scouting: USC (2019) Part 3

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


This article is already getting too long, so I’m going to try to keep this short. 

He just yanks this ball; this is a terrible pass.  Wilson does stare down this pass from the start, but this looks like a half field read as the stems break around the same time over the field, so Wilson is instructed to just read half the field.  He seems to be attempting a back shoulder pass, but basically throws this into the ground. 


There is a previous play where I thought Wilson did a lot of things wrong, and was lucky to have the ball tipped.  On this play, he did a lot of things right, and was unlucky to have the ball tipped. 

Wilson goes through his progressions here, which set up this pass.  Once again, this is a half field read, but Wilson is really reading the right side of the formation, even though he starts out looking at the left side.  Notice how Wilson looks at the left side, but moves on before the routes reach their stem.  This is one of Wilson’s best qualities because he’s really just trying to manipulate the middle linebacker on this play.  He wants the linebacker crew in the middle to stay towards the middle, so he has the deep in breaking route and the quick outlet route to the running back available. 

Wilson’s plan works like a charm, as the outside linebacker follows the tight end towards to the middle for a split second, opening up a wide area for the receiver to sit in.  This is a pretty good example of manipulating the defense to open up routes, and Wilson has very advanced control of this aspect of the game.  Like the best laid plans, this one is derailed by bad luck as a defensive lineman gets his hands on the ball and tips it for an incompletion.  Even though the end result of this play is negative, the functions of this play is very positive as far as scouting Wilson is concerned. 


This might as well be a stare down, but a great play none the less.

Wilson catches USC late to line up on this play, and then rolls out to the right.  Once he rolls out, given the route structure of the play call, this is a one route play.  The only feasible play here is the deep curl/back shoulder route. 

Wilson makes a very good throw, and the receiver makes an even better catch, even though the defender was called for pass interference on the play.  This is a very good throw on the run, and pretty much the only realistic play here because all the routes are really well covered for a defense that was late to set up.

The only downside I want to point out here is that this is the return of Wilson not planting his lead foot on this throw.  He throws this pass off his back foot, which is a great skill.  However, he has ample space to plant his foot on this play, as he’s not under pressure at all.  That is probably one of the bigger issues I have with Wilson’s off-platform throws because he can make these great off-platform throws when there isn’t much need.  However, under heavy pressure he struggles with these throws. 

However, I don’t want to rain too much on this play, because this is a great throw and a great catch.  The ball placement on this is also perfect.  


This is a good throw from Wilson, showing patience.

Wilson seems to be ready to throw the ball quicker on this play, but pulled it back because the defender might have been in the way.  However, the defender gets confused on the play, and decides to release his assignment and double team the outlet route for some unforeseen reason, making this an easy pass. 

There’s a slight chance that Wilson was looking at the seam tight end on this play, and moved on from the progression, but I can’t really seem to confirm it.  He seems to be looking towards the sideline tight end on the play when he executes his pump fake.  Nevertheless, I do like the ability to restrain himself on throwing this ball and early and waiting for the opening. 

On a side note, I want to discuss how pre-snap movement created this open pass.  Notice at the start of the play, there is a receiver lined up outside, a tight end in a wingback position, and then an in-line tight end.  The wingback and receiver both have a defender lined up with them at different depths, but in what looks like man-to-man coverage, they both have clearly assigned defenders.  When the receiver goes in motion, the defense switches, at which point the linebacker in charge of taking the in-line tight end moves one step over towards the middle of the field.  When the defense switched, his responsibility changed, because in man-to-man coverage, there isn’t a third receiver there to worry about.  You can see the linebacker rush towards the line of scrimmage before realizing the problem.  This motion is targeted towards that linebacker.  If he’s covering the in-line tight end, the linebacker is going to be rushing the line of scrimmage while the tight end runs right by him on the seam route, easy pass.  If the cornerback picks up the linebacker (as is the case here), then that linebacker is now having a possible one of two assignments, the wingback or the receiver coming back in motion.  Both of those routes are much further out than the linebacker, making them easier throws.  If the second defensive back picks up the wingback, then the outlet pass to the receiver and see if he can beat the linebacker down the field.  If the second defensive back picks up the receiver, as was his assignment before, then the wingback is curving away from the linebacker, offering a passing lane.  On the outset, this looks like the motion is designed to confuse the defensive backs, but it’s really targeting the linebacker on the play.  I think Wilson intended to put touch on this pass over the linebacker’s head at first, but realized he had a clear lane and readjusted the throw. 


This is great play by Wilson 

The defense comes with a slot blitz on this play, but they add a wrinkle to it, in which they drop the defensive end into the passing lane.  However, Wilson goes through his progressions correctly here, reading the tight end first, and then moving onto the slot curl route.  It’s very impressive to see Wilson move up in the pocket when the speed rusher was bending the corner from the other side, and hit this target perfectly.  I’ve shown plenty of examples where Wilson doesn’t seem to go through his progressions, but this is a case where he did it correctly.  In this case, Wilson looking at the tight end caused the defensive end to read his eyes and move.  Notice how the defensive end is directly in the eventual passing lane, but looking at the tight end causes him to move out of that lane. 

All around, this is a just a great play by Wilson, as he goes through his progressions, steps up in the pocket, and makes a great throw.  


This play has some good and bad for Wilson. 

The bad aspect of this play is that Wilson is locked in on the go route to his left, and stares it down for too long.  This plays into the pre-determined routes aspect of his game, because he misses an open receiver cutting across the middle.  The read seems to be go route and then outlet route, when he had the chance to look at the crossing route as well. 

The good part of this play is that Wilson actually takes the safe throw here.  This was a major problem for him in 2020 when he kept bypassing easy conversions on outlet passes for hero ball deep passes down the field.  While I don’t like the progression quite so much, I do like that Wilson didn’t just lock in on the go route, and realized that he had the outlet pass open.  The receiver makes a great run after the catch and almost breaks it down the field. 


This play is a very good example of the issue I have with Wilson’s off-platform throws.

The first part of this play is great, because this is unexpected pressure as the defensive tackle basically just throws the guard to the ground.  Wilson didn’t have much time to go through his progressions as most of the routes were deeper developing ones down the field.  Wilson does a magnificent job of escaping pressure here, albeit there is some luck involved with the second defender being pushed in the back, but that’s very good vision while scrambling in the pocket.  As far as escaping pressure, Wilson does really well here, taking advantage of his change of direction skills against slower defensive linemen. 

This throw is absolutely terrible and the big reason why I think the off-platform throws are a detriment to him.  He’s free and clear of the defenders on this play, he has every bit of time to step into this throw properly.  He doesn’t need to slow to a crawl and tap the ball 5 times, but he can easily throw this pass with proper mechanics.  Instead, Wilson does his back foot throw without planting his lead foot.  This is as easy of a touchdown as you will get, his receiver has almost 10 yards separation horizontally from the closest defender, and about 20 yards vertically from another defender.  If Wilson throws this pass with any semblance of proper mechanics, this is a touchdown.  Instead, because Wilson throws this off his back foot, the ball sails to the right like a 2-seam fastball.  The receiver must not only wait but turn around and leap for the pass.  This was a receiver that was wide open, who had to make a leaping catch while being tackled.  This looks great on the highlight film, but this is a terrible play from Wilson. 

The off-platform throws are great tool to have when you need them, but Wilson has a tendency to use them liberally.  There are plenty of examples where he’s free to step into throws properly, where he makes off-balance throws unnecessarily.


I don’t think this is a designed run play, but Wilson shows off his athleticism.

Wilson does show an ability to scramble with the ball, if given the chance.  He reminds me a good amount of Sam Darnold’s ability to run with the ball, where if you give him enough space, he will gain some yards.  I don’t think he’s mobile in the level of running QBs, but he can catch a defense by surprise. 

On this play, the middle of the line just opens right up, and Wilson runs it in for a touchdown.  I don’t think this is a designed run play because the receivers all ran their routes as if it was a passing play.  Wilson shows off his quickness here and gets touchdown as this put them in the lead.  I think this was one of those instances where he recognized the opening and took advantage, which fits in with his scrambling skills.


Great escape but he doesn’t look down the field. 

The first part of this play is great, as Wilson escapes the pocket once again, although I don’t like scrambling backwards like this.  It’s especially bad considering this is 3rd down with about a minute left in a tied game.  However, Wilson does make it work and he escapes free to some green space. 

Look down the field in the middle, there is a tight end behind the defense with his hands up, and about 10 yards of space vertically and horizontally.  If we’re going to compare Wilson to Mahomes/Rodgers. he has to make that throw, even if it’s off-platform in this situation.   Instead, Wilson is telling another receiver to run down the field to create running space, which lands him just short of the first, which forces them to punt the ball.  This is a big play that could have possibly ended the game, but Wilson just didn’t see it while he was scrambling. 

He made a great play to get away from the pressure, and he almost gets a first down, but USC handed this pass to him on a platter and he just didn’t see it. 


This is going to be another example of Wilson’s predetermined throws that may not look obvious. 

This is a play in overtime, and Wilson starts off looking towards his left, the field side.  This is the correct read here because the outside receivers on both ends are running go routes.  However, Wilson pulls off the slot in route before he even reaches his stem, because Wilson seems intent on throwing the go route to the boundary side.  Notice how Wilson looks to the field side, but breaks away before the slot receiver reaches his stem to be open for this pass, and whips around to the boundary side ready to make the pass.  This seems like Wilson predetermined the passing option, and the only reason he was looking at the slot was to hold the safety. 

As we’ve discussed so many times before, his ability to hold the safety is a great talent.  He does eye manipulation as good as anyone in this class.  However, he doesn’t go through his progressions correctly, but rather has already made up his mind at the line of scrimmage.  The progression here is set up so Wilson can read the slot and then pick which go route he wants to target, but he doesn’t wait for it to develop. 


Overall, Zach Wilson performed well in this game, but the scouting on him remains the same.  He made some great throws, especially the back shoulder passes, but also made his usual mistakes with progressions and pre-determined throws.  He left a lot of plays on the field, especially late in the game, which brings back the question from the 2020 film, “How much of his confidence is derived from the inferior opponents?” Wilson shows good scrambling ability, and his pocket integrity in this game was better than any 2020 game that I’ve watched.  As usual, he had his highs and lows, which fits his scouting profile. 

Zach Wilson Scouting: USC (2019) Part 2

This is Part 2, please check out Part 1.


This is the issue with trying to write a scouting report on Wilson, just when you think he’s not great, he makes a perfect throw.   This is probably the best throw I’ve seen Wilson make in the 2019 tape so far. 

It’s 3rd and short, and USC lines up with a single high safety with man cover across the board.  They are essentially selling out for the run here.  Notice Wilson holding the safety at the snap on this ball, which is a great trait.  If the safety holds in the middle, then there is no backside defender to worry about.  Furthermore, this is a great progression read as well, because once he sees the safety, he’s going to read high/low to the field side.  If the receiver on the go route doesn’t have separation, then hit the tight end gaining separation in the slot.  If the receiver on the go route does get separation (as was the case here), take a shot down the field. 

The throw is great here, leading away from the defender.  It’s not completely perfect because the receiver does slow down a bit, but that’s minimal.  The ball location on this pass is absolutely great, the defender has to resort to flailing his hands in hopes of hitting the ball.  One thing I do worry about a bit here is Wilson’s footwork seems a bit off.  If you watch closely, he plants his front foot too early it seems, and then almost throws it off his backfoot.  You usually see this sometimes when you are aiming for a certain target but don’t want to go through the full motion, mostly in baseball.  It doesn’t matter here because this pass is great, but it is a bit concerning. 


This one is a surprising throw, because Wilson usually doesn’t have any problems making this pass. 

The read looks pre-determined because Wilson first looks at the middle of the field for the mesh concept from his left side, which is open, but moves on to the second read.  I can’t really blame him much for pre-determining this throw because based on the defense, this route was likely going to be open.  USC has the defender playing well off the line, and the safety is on the other side of the field, thus no help over the top.  Wilson should be commended for understanding the defensive shell again, and knowing this route has a good shot at being open. 

The downside of this play is just a terrible throw.  The ball just doesn’t get there, and I’m not sure why.  Wilson can make this exact throw all day long as we’ve seen in the film breakdowns.  He has a clean pocket, and his mechanics seemed fine on the play.  He just pulls the ball, and it lands as an incomplete pass.  This would have been in the “Good Read, Bad Throw” article for 2020. 

This play was added mainly to show that he did make the right read here and shouldn’t be penalized for the predetermined route selection. 


I’m not sure how to breakdown this play, so once again, would love to hear some feedback. 

The first issue is the blocking scheme, because watch the right tackle on this play.  The right tackle gets put on an island, which leaves a big cut back lane for the defensive end.  Part of the issue stems from Wilson’s tendency to float back in the pocket, which forces the offensive line to adjust their protections, so the defender doesn’t speed rush and bend around the corner.  The other part of the problem is that this right tackle isn’t that good.  I didn’t see much issues in 2020 (although considering the competition, I’m not surprised) but there’s certainly more than a few plays in 2019 where this guy struggles. 

The second aspect is that Wilson does a great job of avoiding the free runner in the pocket and stepping up.  He doesn’t panic and keeps his eyes down the field.  He steps up in the pocket perfectly, sees the open receiver, but the ball gets tipped at the line.  I believe this was ruled an interception at first but was over-turned.  This wouldn’t be in the interception article because it’s a tipped ball, at which point it’s dependent on luck. 

The issue I have with this play is discerning the trajectory of the pass.  I don’t think Wilson sees the safety moving over to the receiver on the play, because the safety moves right when Wilson is maneuvering in the pocket.   The trajectory of the ball turns towards the field side when tipped, so I can’t tell the intended target.  If the ball is aimed directly at the receiver moving down the field, this might be a bad throw because the safety can probably undercut it.  If the ball is to the back shoulder, then this is a great throw.  Ideally you want Wilson to throw this ball before he takes his last hop, but it’s hard to judge the trajectory of the ball because it was tipped at the line. 

The movement in the pocket is great on this play, and there is a possibility this would have been a great throw.  What do you think?


If not for the earlier touchdown in this game, this might have been the best throw I’ve seen so far in 2019, and very reminiscent of his 2020 tape. 

Wilson does a good job of holding the safety on this play, as he looks at the boundary side receiver first and the safety.  You can see the safety shade towards the boundary side in the end zone angle.  I do think Wilson skipped a progression for the middle of the field with the tight end, because the tight end comes open as Wilson moves from his first read, but that’s nitpicking because the timing is a bit off. 

This throw is just one of those “Wow, can’t believe he made that” throws for a back shoulder pass to the field side outside receiver 30 yards down the field.  I believe the defensive back got called for pass interference on this play, but the ball was caught anyway.  This is just a perfect pass for the back shoulder, and he puts it precisely where it needs to be.  The point of a back shoulder pass is to defeat the perfect coverage because your receiver will look for the ball before the defender, thus has more time to adjust.  In this case, the defender is running stride for stride (if not half a step behind) which means most defensive backs won’t look back for the ball because that will cause their speed to drop and create more separation.  Yes, there are guys like Ramsey or prime Patrick Peterson that may do so without losing separation, but it’s rare.  Wilson makes a very good read, but more importantly a great throw.  Throwing with this form of precision across the field is certainly impressive. 


This is a 2 read play for Wilson, but in a clean pocket he should have moved on. 

The read progression on this play is quite simple, Wilson reads the field side outside receiver for the quick curl route, and then the slot receiver for the deep fade out/fade route.  The problem with the play is that USC is in perfect position to defend this exact play, which should have told Wilson to move on with the progression. 

Notice the slot cornerback on this play, because he has outside leverage on the receiver.  He is willing to funnel the receiver towards the middle with the linebackers or safety.  Wilson knows the route called, and as soon as the defender moves further outside for leverage, this route is covered.  Wilson should have moved onto his third read across the field, especially considering he has a clean pocket.  Instead, Wilson sticks to his second read and makes a bad pass.  The defender is in great position to make a play, and only a perfect pass will suffice here. 

On this play, Wilson needs to understand that the post snap change in leverage kills the likelihood of this play succeeding, and move on because he knows the route that has been called.  Hypothetically if this was a quick in route, then the situation is perfect for Wilson, or even a curl route to the inside. 

This isn’t a big issue because every single QB in this draft class will have this issue about staring down their reads when the leverage has shifted, but it is a point that Wilson doesn’t have this extraordinary processing skill that has been touted. 


This is more of a bad timing play than a bad pass. 

Wilson is going to be staring down his read here, right after checking the safety at the snap.  It’s a fairly quick pass and this is his first read so there isn’t much problem with staring down the receiver.  The progression is set up for this read to be first. 

The issue with this play is the timing, because this ball needs to be thrown when the receiver has reached his route stem.  Wilson needs to be ready to throw this pass right when the receiver crosses the 0 on the 20 yard line.  However, Wilson takes one extra step up before making this pass, which allows the safety to come up on the play.  This was a major issue for Sam Darnold with the Jets where he seemed slightly behind in his timing at times, making open throws morph into tight window throws. 

The throw itself is actually very good because he gets velocity on the ball and places it low where only his receiver could make a play on the ball.  While Wilson was delayed in the timing, he does realize the safety is in play here and tries to protect the ball as much as possible. 


This is just a bad read from Wilson, which makes me wonder about pre-determined throws again.

The read on this play is very simple, it’s a high low read with the 2 receiver route combination to the right side of the field.  Wilson isn’t even concerned about the safety here because this play is supposed to go away from the safety, as both are out routes.  Wilson is reading the two defenders and picking the best option.  If the outside defender goes down the field with the receiver, the pass to the tight end will be open because he has inside leverage on the route.  If the slot defender goes down the field, then the receiver will be open because he has inside leverage on the route. 

However, the problem here is that Wilson is expecting the tight end to be open, when that route is essentially double covered.  USC is defending this play as if there is an in-breaking route, as the slot defender and the safety both take inside leverage.  In this case, the deeper out route is not going to be well covered at all, because the defense is hedging against it.  Wilson already knows the route that is called, so once the defenders release the receiver down the field, this is an easy pass.  Unfortunately, Wilson is completely expecting the tight end to be open, pump fakes towards him, and then doesn’t pull the trigger towards the open out route.  This is an issue because this looks like Wilson predetermined his read before reading the defense, as you can see him turn his shoulders before the receiver breaks past the defenders. 

Once that read is gone, this is just a broken play.  Wilson sticks to the right side, and doesn’t turn his eyes to the left, where he has a decent shot at completing a pass in the middle of the field.  Wilson sticks to the right side, and then correctly throws the ball away when under pressure, the latter of which was the right decision. 

This is just a terrible read from Wilson, as he didn’t wait, which cost him this play.  He needed to read the defenders on this play before making his decision.  If you watch the play again, notice the tight end is releasing slower than the receiver because his stem has to match up with the receiver clearing the defenders.  It’s at that point Wilson needs to read the defense and pick one or the other, and he picks wrong. 


This is a play where Wilson is probably lucky this ball was batted down. 

This is a play that would have gone into the stare down article for the 2020 games, because he’s absolutely locked in on the outside slot receiver to the field side.  The mesh concept is wide open in front of him, but he completely ignores it because once again, this is a predetermined read.  This is another aspect of not going through his progressions correctly, which leads to trouble.  The major issue on this play is that the defensive tackle breaks through the offensive line unexpectedly, leading to pressure when Wilson was expecting to be protected.  If Wilson had gone through his reads correctly at this point, when he faces the pressure, he has a quick option to either of the crossing routes in the mesh concept. 

Wilson stares down the deep in route from the start, which is not a terrible read based on pre-snap look.  If the receiver can get behind the linebacker and then cut back in, he will be open.  However, the pressure comes right before the stem of the route, which means Wilson can’t fire a quick pass, but needs to buy time by side stepping the defender.  In the time it takes Wilson to sidestep the defender, this route is now perilously close to being defended.   The issue on this play would be the backside safety if Wilson is leading the receiver on this play.  If you notice the horizontal trajectory of this ball, it’s going to be very close to the safety, so it’s a matter of if the defender can drive on the ball in time.  There’s a decent chance that the defender can at least get a hand on the ball, which speaks to Wilson’s issues with backside defenders. 

The passing trajectory doesn’t matter because the ball is knocked down anyway.  However, this is another notch in the pre-determined routes theory’s belt.  The more important takeaway here is that because Wilson is locked in on the slower developing route, he doesn’t have a quick option when there is unexpected pressure, leading to a dangerous throw. 


I can pretty much copy and paste the last play description (this is the very next play in the game as well). 

On this play, Wilson once again locks onto the deeper developing route, ignoring the quick outlet route.  This isn’t an advocacy to always hit that short route, but reading that route gives him an outlet in the face of unexpected pressure, such as the case here.  The second aspect is that it actually may help your primary target as well.  On this play, notice the middle linebacker because he’s the one that seems to be covering the quick out route to the field side.  The linebacker moves towards that route, but then reads Wilson and lingers in the middle.  The linebacker lingering in the middle cuts off the passing lane to the tight end on the deeper in route.  On this play, it doesn’t matter because the tight end is well covered anyway. 

Wilson is so focused on the in-breaking route that he’s not ready for the consequence when that route is well covered.  Unfortunately for Wilson, a defensive player breaks through the offensive line, and leaves him extraordinarily little time to make any other read.  This would have been a good time to know the quick out route was wide open, but Wilson didn’tt read that route here. 

To make matters worse, Wilson fumbles on this play, although it isn’t clear who recovered the ball.  These are the types of plays in 2020 where Wilson could stand in the pocket longer, and see where the defense breaks down. 


I cut off the play for the end zone angle because it was already too big of a file. 

The first part of this play is baffling to me because I’m not sure what Wilson is reading.  The timing of this is completely off, as Wilson is moving from one progression to another before the route reaches their stem.  Wilson starts off the play looking at the middle linebacker covering the quick crossing route, which is exactly the right move.  However, Wilson moves to the field side outside receiver on an out route, but doesn’t pull the trigger.  The route is NFL open, but I’m not sure I blame him too much for being reluctant to throw that pass.  However, as Wilson crosses back to the middle of the field, he has a wide open receiver in the middle that Wilson completely misses.  Instead, Wilson bounces around looking back and forth between two covered options, while ignoring this receiver.  I’m baffled as to how he missed the receiver while he was scanning. 

The second part of this play is Wilson escaping from the pocket and showing good athleticism.  He runs down the sideline and gains significant yards, albeit he really needs to learn to slide in these situations. 

The start of this play is fine in terms of reads, as Wilson goes through his progressions well.  However, once the field side out route isn’t appealing enough to him, Wilson completely panics and misses the wide open receiver in front of him for some unknown reason. 

This is the end of Part 2, please check back for Part 3.

Zach Wilson Scouting: USC (2019) Part 1

In this article, we are going to break down Zach Wilson’s game against USC in 2019, and see how well he did. 


The first pass of the game, and the breakdown is simple, this is just a bad pass. 

The read on this play is simple, USC shows single high safety that is lined up closer to the line of scrimmage than normal, and Wilson has a go route for the field side outside receiver.  This is essentially a one-on-one matchup, and Wilson locks in from the start.  I’m not a big fan of Wilson’s tendency to lock in on receivers from the start when it’s long developing plays.  Wilson could have read the two slot routes easily and then moved to the go route with perfect timing.  However, BYU tends to show a tendency to take some deep shots on the first drive at times, so this might be a pre-determined call.

Wilson sees the wide receiver as even with the defender, and pulls the trigger.  The receiver gains separation down the field, but Wilson just overthrows this pass.  There isn’t much to discuss here, this pass is overthrown. 


This is a 3rd and 3 play, and Wilson panics in a perfectly fine pocket, when there are about 4 options open to him. 

I’m not sure why Wilson moves on from the running back in the flat so quickly, because they have a high low read set up there.  Watch the field side outside cornerback on this play, because he’s about to be caught in the middle.  If he runs down the field with his receiver, easy pass out in the flat to the running back who most likely converts.  If the cornerback stays to defend the flat (which is what happens here) the field side receiver is going to be open, and someone with Wilson’s arm strength can get the ball to him before the safety comes into play. 

However, Wilson doesn’t wait for that read, even though the offensive line is doing a good job protecting him.  Once he moves on to the boundary side, he has a very similar decision to make there as well.  Would Wilson be able hit the running back in the flat or see if the outside cornerback releases the receiver down the field for an easy pass.  Instead, Wilson chooses option 3 which is trying to scramble away from a protected pocket, and gets stopped short of the first down. 

This play is concerning because Wilson doesn’t let the play develop from the pocket.  He needs to get used to sitting in a pocket where the defenders are near him, but still protected.  In this instance, Wilson panics in the pocket, and doesn’t wait for either side of the play to develop when he had plenty of time.  Once again, this begets the question of his pocket presence, and how he will handle a tight pocket in the NFL behind an average at best offensive line. 


This one doesn’t really have to do with passing, but rather Wilson catching the ball.  This is a trick play with a wide receiver pass, but Wilson shows good burst down the field.  The most impressive aspect of this play is Wilson adjusting to the pass being thrown behind him, making the catch and still retaining his balance to try and fight down the field.  This does show off his athleticism to a point, although this is going to be a pretty rare play.  I was mostly impressed with his ability to adjust to this pass. 


This is a missed touchdown, but I don’t think this is a terrible play overall. 

The play call here seems to call for a designed roll out, which limits the pass options to 2 here for Wilson.  He is locked in towards the end zone comeback route, which the correct read on this play.  Notice how Wilson throws this ball before the receiver gets out of his break, this is a very good anticipatory throw.  The defender doesn’t have a chance at the ball because Wilson makes this throw before the defender can react. 

The downside of the play is that it sails wide of the receiver.  Wilson has this great ability to create torque without planting his foot, and retain velocity on the pass.  He technically throws this ball off of his backfoot because his lead foot doesn’t get planted on this pass.  Unfortunately, that opens up his hips a bit too much, which leads the ball away from the receiver.  This is a situation where Wilson needs to plant his foot to create more velocity to make up for the split second gained by not planting his foot.  He will be more accurate on his throws, especially in tight windows.  The ability to do is great, but I think it needs to be reserved for special occasions where he’s completely under pressure, rather than situations where he has time to plant his foot and not compromise on accuracy.  

Overall, the traits on this play are positive because I love the anticipation on the throw, and the velocity generated without planting his foot.  The accuracy is off on this play, but there is more good, than bad here. 


You will see this play a few times from BYU, as this is a no read pass to the shallow crossing route.  Everyone else down the field is in automatic blocking mode, so Wilson is just waiting for the crossing route to come across.  In a way, you can think of it as a long developing screen pass. 

The issue here starts with Wilson floating back in the pocket, which allows the defender to speed rush the right tackle and bend around the corner.  This is a case where all Wilson has to do is move up in the pocket and that pressure is neutralized.  However, Wilson floats back in the pocket and then stays there, putting him directly in line with the defender that is bending around the right tackle.  Pocket integrity is an issue for Wilson, and it impacts the blocking schemes.  

The throw is terrible and it just sails on him.  Wilson throws this pass without really stepping into it, because of the pressure.  However, had Wilson moved up in the pocket, he had a perfect throwing window for the pass, which is the only read Wilson has on the play.  This isn’t a play where he might be distracted trying to read the defenses down the field, because he doesn’t have any other reads. 

If you go back to the 2020 film (which I hope you already read by this point), you will see that speed rushing off the edge wasn’t a big concern.  The offensive line was just too good against the competition.  However, with 2019 film you can see how defenses are attacking Wilson, and how the rise in defensive talent creates instant pressure if you float back in the pocket. 


I really love what Wilson did on this play, even if I buy into the theory that this throw is pre-determined. 

This is a simple mesh concept and Wilson hits a shallow crossing route, which shouldn’t warrant enough attention to be included in many articles.  However, watch the shoulder fake by Wilson when he’s staring at the running back coming out of the backfield.  The running back is fairly well covered by the defender, especially knowing the route was going to lead him directly to the defender anyway.  However, Wilson executes the pump fake because the defender has his hips turned towards the field, which allows him to drive on the shallow crossing route.  He won’t be in position to break up the pass, but he would be in a much better position to tackle the runner.  As soon as Wilson makes the pump fake, the defender flips his hips around, at which point Wilson moves onto the mesh concept.  He hits the receiver in stride, who fights for some yards.  This is a great maneuver by Wilson, as he consistently shows the ability to manipulate defenders to open up opportunities for the receivers.

On the negative side, Wilson tends to pre-determine throws, which can be a bad thing against good defenses.  In this example, everything Wilson is doing is to set up the shallow crossing route.  He’s not reading the progressions or the defense, he’s trying to manipulate an open area for the crossing route.  This practice can be problematic because it depends heavily on the pre-snap read.  If the mesh concept was well covered here, then Wilson would be in trouble because he hasn’t gone through the progressions. 


For all the complaining about Wilson not going through progressions enough, he actually does a beautiful job of reading across the field on this play. 

Wilson starts off this 3rd and 15 play looking at the deep post route, but it’s well covered.  Wilson gets away from that read to see the running back has slipped out of the backfield into wide open territory, and makes the quick read.  It does help that the defense essentially only rushes 2 on the play, and there has to be some form of miscommunication here.  The linebacker and the defensive tackle are essentially just standing in the same place, as if they expect Wilson to run, and completely ignore the running back. 

However, you have to give credit to Wilson to go through his progressions and not panic.  Far too many times Wilson has panicked in the pocket, but he stays calm here and finds the open outlet.  It also warrants mentioning that Wilson did not make the wild hero ball here for the post route, but stayed within the system. 


This is just a very good read and understanding leverage on the route. 

USC brings a blitz up the middle, and Wilson locks in on the tight end from the start.  The defender is playing press man coverage with inside leverage, and Wilson just throws a great back shoulder pass because the defender is facing away from the QB.  This play looks very easy on tape, but Wilson needs to read the defender post snap as a free blitzer is coming right up the middle.  However, this is an excellent read post snap, plus a very good throw. 

You might be able to argue the better option were to the field side of the play, but with the blitz Wilson doesn’t have time to read progressions.  He needs to pick a hot route and get rid of the ball as soon as possible, so I don’t think it’s fair to complain about Wilson missing open options to the field side on this play.  It was this great throw or possibly get sacked. 


On this play, Wilson recognizes the blitz, and shows a good understanding of the defensive shell in relation to the routes that have been called, albeit this is not a great throw. 

USC shows blitz on this play from the boundary side, which leaves two defenders on two receivers, with a linebacker lined up against the running back.  One of the defenders is playing about 6-7 yards off the line of scrimmage, and the slot defender is only about 3 yards off.  The read on this play is the slot defender, because Wilson’s progression is to go towards whoever the slot defender doesn’t pick up.  Hypothetically, if the slot defender went with the wide receiver on this play (as opposed to the tight end), then Wilson would hit the tight end for the quick pass.  The middle linebacker isn’t a concern because he correctly assumes that defender is solely there to protect against the running outlet route.  This isn’t a complicated read though, and a good amount of spread offenses are based on the one defender read.  If defender X does 1, then go to 2, if he does Y, then go to 1 type reads that aren’t quite as prevalent in the NFL.  However, I’m impressed with Wilson on this play because that read was possible only after USC showed blitz, which shows an understanding of the defensive shell, because he recognized it right away. 

The wide receiver gets into open space, and Wilson makes the correct read.  However, this throw is towards the wrong shoulder, forcing the receiver to adjust to the ball and make a great catch.  It also leads him vulnerable to the big hit.  Wilson needs to lead him on this throw, rather than this back shoulder type throw, especially because he has time in the pocket to step up perfectly.  The offensive line picked up the blitz, so Wilson should make sure this is perfectly in line with the receiver.  Although I’m not going to put all the blame on Wilson here because the receiver does take an extra step to the inside after Wilson releases the ball.  I’m presuming the receiver was supposed to run a post route, but with how open he was in the middle of the filed, Wilson wanted to throw the ball away from the safety. 

Overall, this is a very good play because Wilson shows a good understanding of the defensive shell, maintains his mechanics, and has good velocity on the ball.  The throw is to the wrong shoulder, but I can’t confirm one way or another the exact route that was called on the play.  


Believe it or not, part of this is actually a good read, but it quickly falls apart before and after that. 

The first problem with this play is the progression read because Wilson locks in on the late developing route.  The receiver outlet route should be the first read on this play, to see if it’s open, but more importantly it impacts the defense down the field.  If Wilson looks at the receiver outlet pass, it holds the defender near that receiver.  However, Wilson doesn’t look at the outlet pass, which means the defender is reading his eyes and floating down the field.  When the receiver running a post or deep crossing route runs open, the defender that was on the quick outlet pass has now floated back to be a danger for the now otherwise wide-open pass.  This is a major issue for Wilson because he doesn’t seem to go through his progressions in order, but relies very heavily on his primary read being open even if it’s the longest developing route called.  He does a decent job of moving through his progressions afterwards, but by then the play is broken. 

The good read on this play is not throwing that deep pass to that post (or deep crosser) route because Wilson has a tendency to not pick up the backside defender, as we covered in the interception article.  Wilson is about ready to pull the trigger when he notices the defender, and pulls it back.

After that point, I have no idea what Wilson is trying to do here.  He has that deep crosser route receiver wide open for a throw, with a wide open passing lane.  He can step into the pass,  or throw it off-balance, but for some reason Wilson motions for the receiver to run deep, right back into the defender that was well behind him.  Nevertheless, the initial outlet route is also wide open when Wilson runs out of the pocket, the guy is basically jumping up and down for the ball, yet Wilson ignores the receiver.  Instead, Wilson keeps running towards the sidelines, allowing the defense to recover and limit this play to a minimal gain.  These are the type of plays in 2020 when Wilson takes the shot, but once again, that begets the question of how competition impacts his confidence. 

Overall, this is a terrible play by Wilson because he doesn’t read through his progressions right, which ends up costing him a wide open receiver.  He does recover to see the backside defender on the play, but then makes baffling decisions to not hit wide open options down the field. 

This is the end of Part 1, please check back for Part 2.

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. 

Zach Wilson Scouting: Tennessee (2019) Part 2

This is Part 2, please check out Part 1.


There is some good and bad to this play, so we will go through them both.

The bad aspect of this play is that Wilson stares down this route from the get go, which is a bit concerning because it once again plays into the idea of him pre-determining the throw.  At the snap of the ball, he could see that it’s a one-on-one match up, albeit with a safety over the top, this is a risky throw to make it your only read.  

The good aspect of it is the decision to throw and timing.  Wilson releases the ball before the receiver makes his break, and makes a great anticipatory throw right to where the receiver should be on the route.  This is a great pass, one of those “throwing the receiver open” passes that’s raved about in the scouting process.  It goes wrong for Wilson because the defender basically pulls the receiver out of the way, and almost intercepts this pass.  I’m not sure how this is not a penalty, because even I can see the jersey being pulled on the All-22 camera angle, yet it’s not called here.  This should be a great pass on behalf of Wilson, not an almost intercepted pass. 


There isn’t much special here, but I put this here because I wanted to point out that Wilson actually reads the blitz and makes the quick hot read here.  I harped on him before not going to the hot read, so I wanted to point out an instance where he does make the correct read on the blitz.  I know this series is seen mostly negative on Wilson, which isn’t true.  I think he has the potential to be great, I just personally think Fields is the better play.  However, I am trying to point out all the positives I see in Wilson as well, as we watch the tape. 

Also, I’m not sure I’ve seen as many corner blitzes from a team as Tennessee in this game. 


This play is a mediocre decision by Wilson, it’s somewhat prudent to just try and escape the pocket.  You could make an argument about maybe hitting the outlet route to the receiver in motion there as a choice, but Wilson ignores the read. 

The first thing I wanted to point out here is the defensive adjustments.  Numerous times on the 2020 tape, late movement from the receiver meant a communication breakdown with the defense leading to wide open guys.   In this example, the safety comes down as soon as the receiver goes in motion, which is an instant adjustment by the defense.  Far too many times you would see the safety and linebacker adjust to the receiver in motion, leaving wide open guys down the field.   I just wanted to point out an instance where Tennessee is able to communicate much better than the 2020 competition, which makes Wilson much less likely to take risks. 

The other aspect of this play is the lack of risk taking by Wilson, which was a question I posed in the 2020 scouting tapes.  How much of his “live life on the edge” playing style is derived from knowing him, and his team are just that much better than the competition?  In this exact situation, I feel Wilson takes the back shoulder throw to the boundary side outside receiver in 2020, because the defender has his back turned to the QB.  In this case, the quality of the defender is better so Wilson doesn’t take the chance, and ends up getting sacked. 

This route combination is basically dead the moment the safety adjusts, at which point Wilson does make a decent decision to try and escape the pocket.  He could possibly hit the outlet pass, which would have been the best-case scenario on this situation, but that falls back into Wilson not really going through his progressions as much as people would believe.  Once the deep route and the wheel route is covered, Wilson should have passed it off to the outlet route.  However, Wilson decides to try and escape the pocket, only to get sacked.  This is a concern in the NFL because Wilson is a scrambling QB, but not a mobile QB.  He can rarely create runs of his own, when open land isn’t in front of him, thus he needed to try and make sure all his options were exhausted. 


I feel like this play was drawn up by Adam Gase, because this is a 3rd and 1 play after BYU started running right through Tennessee’s defense on the ground.  I believe the last 4 or 5 plays have been runs with one going for a touchdown. 

The problem with this play is quite simple, Wilson doesn’t pull the trigger, and pays for it with an incompletion.  Once again, Tennessee sends a slot blitz, but the safety moves up the field to cut off the short pass.  It looks like Wilson was expecting the safety to play back, because he doesn’t take this shot to the quick read in the slot.  Once Wilson hesitates on the throw, this play is essentially over. 

Once again, I want to reiterate, Wilson can throw from different angles and off-balance, but he keeps having trouble doing so when under pressure.  This is an off-balance throw where we’ve seen him throw for plenty of yards, but this one doesn’t even reach the receiver on the short route.  Once under pressure, Wilson’s ability to throw from off-balance angles takes a hit, which contradicts a few popular opinions about him being able to negate pressure with his off-platform throwing skills.  He does it very well when pressure isn’t quite around him, which allows him time to set it up, but not so much when pressure is around him. 

Once Wilson didn’t throw this short pass, this play was in trouble. 


This play basically encapsulates the prospect that is Zach Wilson.  I’m not completely sure this play stands, because there is a flag on the play, which I presume is holding on the offense.

He locks onto his first read, which is an in route that he expects to come open over the middle, but the Tennessee coverage disguises their shell.  In this instance, Wilson expects the linebacker lined up over the right tackle to rush the passer, and the linebacker behind him to follow the running back on the out route.  When the linebacker in the middle follows the out route to the running back, the passing lane to the in route will be open.  However, the linebacker that was lined up over the right tackle gets out in coverage for the running back, leaving the middle linebacker to occupy the passing lane.  This is an instance where Wilson got fooled by the defensive shell, because he most likely read the play differently pre-snap.  This happens to pretty much every college QB at some time, and even a good amount of NFL QBs.  However, it’s also to show that Wilson is slow to move from this progression, which is an issue touted as a problem for Justin Fields, but a strength for Wilson. 

The almost sack is not an issue with Wilson, it’s a 3 man rush, the offensive line should be able to hold the rusher.    

The good side of this play is Wilson improvising, running to his left, and making this great throw.  Now, I do want you to notice that he plants his foot on this throw.  This isn’t one of his patented jump throws that I highlighted before.  This throw is very similar to one that Justin Fields threw at his pro-day where he moved to his left, planted the lead foot, and made the throw.  As much as the jump throws were impressive, this is the right form to make this throw in this situation.  He has just enough space to plant his left foot to generate torque, and make this throw to the sideline.  The pass itself has impressive velocity and ball placement.  I’m not 100% sure the guy was inbounds, but it is ruled a catch at first, but probably negated by the penalty. 

I think this is a good play to highlight the issues that I see with Wilson, processing problem and locking in on receivers in contrast to improvisation and great arm talent. 


This is another play where I think there is some evidence of predetermining his throw, but making a progression look to manipulate the defense.  As I mentioned before, manipulating the defense is a great skill to have, but his tendency to pre-determine the throw is a problem. 

On this play, Wilson seems to prefer the post route to the boundary side at the snap.  He’s looking dead center at the start, trying to hold the safety.  You can see him basically looking right down the middle at first, which is to take the safety out of the play.  However, in the same frame you can see the tight end starting to come open right in the lane, but Wilson ignores that option, because he doesn’t seem to be reading that route.  The tight end has a step on his defender, and the other linebacker in the area is facing the wrong direction, which should mean the tight end will clear him for an easy target in the middle.  However, Wilson moves on to the post route, which is well covered, thus forcing him to scramble.  The main issue here is that Wilson doesn’t go through his progressions, but locks onto the longest developing play as his main read, thus when that route is covered, he doesn’t have secondary options.  He had a quick out route open for easy yards as the first read, he had the tight end in the middle coming open with a NFL level read, but he ignored them both for the post route.  This is probably my biggest issue with Wilson, he has a tendency to lock into his receivers at times, especially for deeper throws.  It works out fine in 2020 because the competition level can’t handle those plays most of the time anyway, giving him ample time in the pocket for those routes to open up.  However, with good competition, it can be a trap. 

Wilson tries to scramble up the middle, but gets tripped and sacked by a defensive lineman.  The ideal throw here is to the tight end in the middle, because that’s understanding the defensive leverage of the linebacker in the middle post snap.  The easy throw is the quick out to the left of the formation, but Wilson ignores both of them. 

Another thing I want you to notice in the 2019 film vs the 2020 films are the lack of throws to the field side outside receiver.  You can make that throw over and over again, when the competition isn’t up to par because they are not used to playing a QB that has a great arm.  However, in 2019 those field side outside throws are few and far in-between with Wilson, and much more towards the normal level.  


I’m not sure I have ever seen this many corner blitzes from one defense, Rex would be proud. 

Anyway, I wanted to point a couple of things out.  One, this is a bad route by the receiver, because he slants inward on an in-route from the start, which makes this coverage better from the defensive viewpoint.  He needs to run this route to the outside hip of the defender to create hip rotation, and then cut inside. 

The read on a blitz is the hot read, so there is no issue with locking in on this route. It’s either throw this pass or get sacked. 

I put the end zone angle in because what makes this throw great is actually the arm angle at which he gets it off, to get under the defensive lineman’s hand.  If you have a short route that is in tight coverage, you either have to throw it within a passing lane, or get it by a defensive lineman that might try to knock it down.  Ideally you throw it over them, but then trajectory becomes an issue on short routes because the ball needs to descend to the point that it can be caught by the receiver.  A good workaround is to follow Wilson here, and almost sidearm the ball so he goes below the arms of the defender, and is already on a catchable level in terms of vertical elevation.  While the overall play seems mediocre, the adjustment of the arm angle on the fly here in a crowded pocket shows very good awareness. 


Just as I said Wilson wasn’t throwing the field side outside receiver throw as much, he threw two so far on this drive (I omitted the first because there wasn’t anything special to it).

So, the main thing here is Wilson’s ability to recognize the audible from Tennessee and understand the consequences.  I harp on Wilson for not understanding defensive shells at times, but this is pretty good recognition.  The outside defender starts out in what looks like press coverage, as he’s lined up right next to the receiver.  However, the defense calls an audible, at which point that defender backs up a few yards, in what looks to be into zone coverage.  However, the same issue that we saw in the “Explain This Defense” article pops up, where he has inside leverage while simultaneously turning his hips towards the field.  We already know this puts him at a major disadvantage for an out route because he’s going to be further from the target zone, while taking more time to rotate his hips towards that zone.  You can see the coach at the end probably lecturing the defender about his mistake.

Wilson recognizes the change in shell, and makes a very good throw to the receiver.  The throw is something we’ve seen from Wilson numerous times, I don’t need to point it out over and over again to show that he can make this throw.  However, I wanted to show him understanding the audible, and how it works to his advantage because he already knows the route.  While the throw is impressive, it’s actually the mental aptitude that deserves some praise. 

This is the end of Part 2, please check back for Part 3.

Zach Wilson Scouting: Tennessee (2019) Part 1

In this article, we are going to be breaking down the BYU game against the University of Tennessee.   The Vols had a relatively decent defense, and they are playing at home. 


The first pass of the game, and all kinds of things to break down.  First of all, Tennessee is basically screaming slot blitz here, as the safety is lined up right over the slot cornerback.  It’s hard to tell from this angle, but Wilson’s first read (and also hot read) is the quick in route from the field side outside receiver.  However, Wilson gets lucky because the blitzing defender absolutely believes the running back got the ball, and goes to tackle him, giving Wilson a perfect opportunity to throw an 80-yard touchdown. 

However, Wilson just sails this ball and it’s not even close.  Although, this warrants a bit more of a deep dive.  On this play, Wilson has an immaculate pocket because the blitzing defender went after the runner, but that player will turn around at some point without a blocker in between him and the QB.  Therefore, this is the case where Wilson doesn’t have all the time in the world, although he has very good space for the time being.  Wilson starts the decision point of this throw as the slot receiver is cutting to the inside of the safety, with the assumption that it’ll be a clean cut.  However, the safety slows down the receiver, but Wilson doesn’t adjust for it.  In college, most QBs refrain from making anticipatory throws because of this exact reason, they have the time to wait and make sure.  In this instance, Wilson needs to wait, even if in the NFL, because the momentum of the receiver and defender are going in opposite directions.  If Wilson waits for one more step, he will have a wide open target for a long completion and possible touchdown.  Instead, Wilson starts the throw as the receiver is cutting inside of the defender, without factoring in any change to the route.  It doesn’t work here, but the trait of throwing a pass as the receiver is making a cut is commendable, and will translate over to the NFL. 

The issue here is really, the ball is just overthrown.  This would have shown up on the good read, bad throw article from the 2020 tape.  Even if you factor in the slowdown, this ball would still not be catchable.  This is just a terrible throw, but I think the idea of throwing a pass at the point of a route stem is something that is positive. 


This is a sack that is almost entirely the fault of Wilson, because he doesn’t pick up the blitz.  The blitzing defender does not get the sack, but Wilson misses the hot read.  Tennessee shows every sign of a slot blitz with the safety right over the slot defender in terms of horizontal positioning on the field. 

Wilson on this play needs to confirm the blitz before moving to the other side, because the blitz is going to be coming from his blindside.  However, Wilson seems to have pre-determined his read for the go route, on the boundary side. 

The first issue is not recognizing the threat of a blitz, because he doesn’t even look that way to confirm.  The play call has a blitz beater, which is reading the linebacker on the play.  The play action keeps the middle linebacker planted, so it’s a high low read on the linebacker for this hot read.  If the linebacker comes down too much for the running back from the backfield, hit the tight end on the crossing route.  If the linebacker stays with the tight end, hit the running back.  BYU is in a great call to beat this exact blitz, but Wilson doesn’t take advantage. 

The second issue is the read timing, because he immediately locks in on the most late developing route here.  Watch the tight end at his route stem, and watch the running back out of the backfield because those will break well before the go route receiver turns around to look for the ball, which is right around the time Wilson gets sacked.  In terms of timing, Wilson needs to look at the faster breaking routes first, especially in a blitz situation, and then move on to the progressions.  Locking onto the deepest route from the start is counter-productive because you’ve locked yourself into that route, but have to wait for the receiver to reach the route stem.  If Wilson reads this blitz correctly, he will look to his right first for the hot read, and then move on with his progressions.  This is another example, where I don’t see the fast processor, I see a QB that made up his mind pre-snap as to which route he was going to target.

The third, and quite possibly the worst trait that will transfer over is floating back in the pocket.  Wilson floats back about 8-9 yards in the pocket, which causes a big issue for the offensive line.  In this case, watch the right tackle and right guard on the play.  The right tackle has to block the blitzing defender and moves further up the field because Wilson has a tendency to float back in the pocket, which leaves him on an island.  He takes care of the defender because this is basically a cornerback trying to get past the tackle.  However, the tackle being so far out wide meant the right guard is now on an island as well.  The defensive end hits the guard with a jab step swim move, and gets right past the guard, because the guard must protect both C and B gaps here.  The jab step throws off his balance slightly, at which point the swim move ends the fight.  Ideally, if the QB stays in the pocket, the offensive lineman can block closer to each other, which creates less space for defenders to make moves.  This is a major issue that will pop up in the NFL if Wilson doesn’t fix it soon.  You can get away with it behind an elite OL because they are good enough to work angles.  On the Jets offensive line, floating back is going to be a major issue, one Sam Darnold had trouble with as well. 

This is just a terrible play from Wilson, he’s compounding mistakes from the start, and it leads to a sack.


This one is going to be good and bad, and the bad is mostly my extrapolation.  Overall, this is a good play.

The good for this play is that Wilson recognizes the safety over the top of the defender look, and confirms the blitz.  He doesn’t go into a hot read, but it’s good that he recognized the blitz and then confirmed the blitz. 

The bad is once again floating back in the pocket, which causes the right guard to be on an island, and he gets beat eventually.  This time it doesn’t end in a sack, but this is an issue. 

The gray area on this play deals with the progression reads.  It’s my theory that Wilson makes up his mind about routes, and then tries to manipulate the defense to make that route open.  In a vacuum, this is a great trait, knowing how to manipulate safeties and linebackers in college is an amazing skill, that very few QBs possess.  Aside from his arm, this is probably the biggest mental attribute I love about him, he’s very advanced in manipulating defenses to open up a route. 

The downside of this theory is that, I don’t think he goes through his progressions when he has his mind made up.  I think he commits to a route early far too often and then works to make sure that route is open.  On this play, he confirms the blitz and with knowledge of the route surmises that the safety won’t impact the receiver.  Immediately, he turns to the right side to clear out the area by looking at the running back, tight end, and the crossing route in the opposite direction to form the mesh concept.  Here’s the issue, the second read on this end is the tight end that is wide open at a greater depth than the crossing route that eventually gets the ball.  If he’s going through his reads properly, that route has to be the one he throws because it opens up faster and is located further down the field.  This is just a theory, but Wilson seems to have predetermined this pass, which works out fine in this case.  However, it might be an issue in the future.  He has an amazing skill to look off defenders at times, but there should be some worry if he’s not going through his progressions.  This play works out fine, but this is something that I think could be a concern. 


This is an incomplete pass, but it’s a great read by Wilson that ends up being incomplete by sheer chance. 

Once again, Tennessee is bringing the slot blitz and at this point I’m sure you can see it before they blitz as well.  This time Wilson doesn’t check the blitz, but I can’t blame him because he knows he’s about to have a wide open receiver here.  The receivers run a scissor concept, but there is only one defender in the vicinity.  You can see the middle linebacker trying to communicate the lack of coverage on that side as the ball is snapped. 

The big miscommunication happens because Wilson is under pressure and makes an anticipatory throw.  The ball is out of his hands before the receiver even makes a move, because most likely this is a go route.  However, the aforementioned middle linebacker makes a great recovery on this play, which causes the receiver to suspect zone coverage.  He slows to sit down in coverage, when Wilson can see it’s man coverage and has already thrown the ball according to the read.  It’s really a miscommunication, but this is a great read by Wilson.  He stays strong in the pocket, makes the right read, and makes a good anticipation throw.  Maybe you can argue it’s a bit on the low trajectory for the throw but that’s nitpicking. 

I do want to point out the right guard again.  In this case, it’s not Wilson’s fault but a product of the blitz.  Due to the blitz, the right tackle gets on an island, but so does the right guard, and once again, the guard gets beat.  This isn’t the case on this play, but there would a similar effect if you float back in the pocket creating openings in the line.  Again, this isn’t an example of floating backwards, but just pointing out an example of having tackles on islands, and the impact for the rest of the offensive line. 


I go on and on about Wilson not picking up the blitz quite as well, so here is a quick example of him going to the hot read because there is once again, a slot blitz.  Tennessee seems to love this slot blitz. 

This play isn’t anything special to breakdown, but Wilson stays in the pocket, finds his hot read crossing route and throws the pass right before he gets hit. 


We see one of Wilson’s favorite throws again, the field side outside receiver from the far hash mark.  However, I’m not going to complain about this throw because this isn’t a much of a repeated pattern in this game, at least so far.  The defensive back is playing well off the line, so with someone like Wilson’s arm strength, this is an easy pass.  As long as Wilson doesn’t fall in love with this throw to the 2020 levels, this is a great pass. 


This is another example of where I think Wilson’s game will transfer to the NFL.  He has this quick read throw that actually is reminiscent of Aaron Rodgers on this play.  Far too many times, I hear the Rodgers/Mahomes comparison, and I don’t think it fits because both of them are much better at the mental processing aspect of the game.  However, the ability to make these quick hit throws reminds me of Rodgers. 

On this play, it’s just a quick read to see the tight end open down the field, and making the quick pass.  It is a bit risky because it goes right by the defender’s arm at the line of scrimmage.  I think this is going to be his biggest strength because he does have a good release with very good arm strength, and these quick throws take away the processing issues.  


Here comes the processing issues here, because this is a quick pass option, basically set up like screen pass.  The play is set up to have a quick pass to the receiver, but Wilson doesn’t pull the trigger.  This is a fatal decision for the play, because the blocking is set up for the quick pass.  The issue here is that Wilson is waiting for the running back out of the backfield, because it’s a screen pass for the running back as well.  However, with the blitz and pressure, Wilson needs to throw the hot route in this instance. 

Notice the right tackle on this play, as he releases his block quickly, because they are setting up the screen pass.  The running back also doesn’t stay in to block, because his responsibility is to be ready for the screen pass. 

This whole play goes back to the processing issue where Wilson is determined to set up the screen, which is why he’s looking at the wide open quick out route and doesn’t pull the trigger.  He’s trying to get the defenders cleared from the middle, rather than going through his hot read on this blitz.  The pace of the defender is too quick for the screen pass, thus this play is dead.  Once again, I feel like Wilson pre-determined this pass from the line of scrimmage, and his progressions are meant to create a lane for that pass, rather than reading the actual progressions.  Otherwise, on a blitz with a free runner (albeit he isn’t the one that gets the sack), Wilson needs to take the hot route because he stares right at it.  Also, a case where Wilson’s juke move to escape the rusher doesn’t get him anywhere.

This is the end of Part 1, please check back for Part 2.

Zach Wilson Scouting: Utah (2019) Part 2

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


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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). 


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.


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. 


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. 


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. 


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? 

Zach Wilson Scouting: Utah (2019) Part 1

In this article, we break down the game Wilson had vs. Utah in 2019.  It’s not broken down into categories, because the 2019 film is going to be a game-by-game analysis.  BYU faced good competition in 2019, so it should serve as an indicator of how well Wilson performs vs. good defenses.  The examples are in chronological order of the game, and that is the only pattern it follows.


In the grand scheme of things, this is not a major play.  However, I put this here to show one very specific action from the defense.  You have seen this late motion numerous times in the previous articles, and it’s been pointed out with examples on how the defenses fail to communicate, thus committing two or three defenders to it.   You can review them in the articles, but it’s a constant theme, where late motion causes these defenses to be confused at that level.  Watch this play, against a good defense, where Utah immediately switches at the motion, and they cover the receiver in motion, without missing a beat anywhere else.  That is the drop off in competition I keep harping about because the lower-level colleges just aren’t as good with these switches. 

This article will be published after all of the 2020 BYU articles, and what’s perplexing is Wilson isn’t nearly as reckless in the pocket as in the 2020 tapes.  This is actually a good read by him, as he checks his primary receiver running what looks like a post route.  That area is his passing lane read for this play here.  If this is zone coverage, then hit the inside for the post route (it’s not in this case).  The second defender to notice here is the linebacker that follows the running back on this play.  If that linebacker stays put in the middle of the field, the check down option to the running back.  If the linebacker clears, then the crossing route to the tight end (as was the case here), and Wilson makes a good pass.  This is just a bad drop from the linebacker. 

Wilson maintains pocket integrity, goes through his progressions even if he’s looking in the same area, and makes a good throw.  It doesn’t last the whole game, but this particular play should give hope to the main concerns with Wilson, which is processing capability, and floating back in the pocket. 


This pass would be a bit of a stare-down, as Wilson locks in on the tight end, albeit I think it’s the pre-snap read.  Initially, the safety is playing back, which is what Wilson sees as he’s surveying from the pocket.  However, the safety moves up, which now changes the situation, but Wilson is ready to snap the ball. 

I would guess this was an option route for the tight end, which might be why Wilson is reading him first.  I base this guess on where the route eventually leads him, because it’s rare to have two guys running so closely with each other on a route combination.  You run the risk of the outside cornerback undercutting this pass.  You can even see the outside receiver extending his arms, thinking the pass might be coming to him.  Therefore, this was most likely an option route where the tight end had a choice based on the defense.  At the start, both him and Wilson probably assumed a quicker route, but the late movement changed it to one further down the field, which got pushed near the outside receiver’s route. 

Wilson once again maintains pocket integrity, stands in the pocket, and makes a great throw.  The outside shoulder throw is placed perfectly, and there is pressure on this play from up the middle.  Go back to some of the other examples from 2020, and notice how much he bounces backwards after play action, and then watch these two plays.  It’s a night and day difference.  Yeah, you can say he stared down his first option here, but he made a great pass.  Overall, this is a very encouraging play from him.  


Just when you’re ready to pull out from the negativity, they drag you back in.  This is collection of issues Wilson displayed in 2020 throughout the games, coming up again. 

The first one as pattern, from the far hash mark, Wilson locks in on the field side outside receiver.  The play design has a built-in hot route combination with the mesh route.  As soon as the corner blitzes, Wilson needs to realize that he doesn’t have the time to execute the out route.  He needs to hit the mesh route coming from the field side. 

Notice the inside tight end on this play, and the route, because it’s supposed to work as a pick route.  When the outside receiver goes in motion, the defensive backs switch responsibility.  Now that slot receiver is going to run a crossing route as part of mesh, but the defense requires communication with the linebacker.   The defense switched the defensive backs flawlessly, but they didn’t switch assignments with the linebacker in time.  The defensive back falls back with the tight end, which was the responsibility of the linebacker (and you can see the defensive back trying to communicate during the play).  Let’s pretend the defensive back just followed the receiver as in man coverage, then the route by the tight end is supposed to impede his path and slow him down.  It’s essentially a pick play to a mesh concept, and almost assuredly open because of play design. 

Wilson needs to adjust to the blitz by moving on from his first read, because he doesn’t have the time nor angle to make this throw.  As soon as he sees blitz, it has to be checkdown to the crossing routes.  Instead, Wilson fixates on the outside out route, tries to evade the pressure by floating backwards, and then ends up throwing the ball away. 


On the outset, it looks like Wilson is staring down his receiver, but I don’t think that’s the case.  The slot receiver has a free release with a safety not in position.  It looks like that is Wilson’s first read, but the safety basically hugs and stops the receiver in his tracks down the field.  I’m not sure how this is not a penalty. 

Wilson in this case, doesn’t come off his half field read and just floats a ball to a well covered go route down the sideline, which goes out of bounds.  The main issue with this play is Wilson’s footwork.  He doesn’t step into this throw at all, when he has the chance in the pocket, as this is thrown off-balance going sideways.  He has more than enough space to step into this throw properly, and the time to do so, but releases it across his body, which floats it down the field. 

The pocket is relatively clean, and probably the best he could hope for in an NFL situation, where he had ample time to get off the read, once the receiver was held, move to the middle of the field.  This is still a progression read, but once it’s covered, he needs to move to the third option when the pocket is clean. 

Side note: It doesn’t count, but that’s a great catch by the receiver.


Remember Play 3?  Well this is pretty much the exact same call to the field side by BYU.  Watch how Wilson learns from it, although it’s very well covered. 

The same mesh concept with the inside route acting as the pick route happens here, but the linebackers stay home on the mesh concept.  Watch Wilson look to the outside receiver again as last time, but quickly corrects the issue we saw in Play 3, by looking at the mesh concept.  Unfortunately for Wilson, the linebackers are staying back on this 3rd and 6, so he doesn’t have any options. 

Wilson uses his athleticism to get to the edge, turn the corner, and covert a first down here.  Once again, the mental side of his game seems so much better than 2020, as he even runs out of bounds to play it safe, rather than try to break tackles.  Mentally he does everything right, especially with pressure up the middle, tried to go through his progressions, and extend the play.  A subtle point to run down the field to clear out blocking is also a good sign of situational awareness. 

The play didn’t count, they were called for holding.


There isn’t much to breakdown here, this just a bad throw.  Wilson checks the right side of the field first, which is clearly intended to hold the safety because both those routes aren’t anywhere near the stem when Wilson moves on.  This is just a case where the receiver was even, but he wasn’t leaving.  This is very good coverage from the defensive back, and Wilson is probably lucky he overthrew this ball because the defensive back was in a better position to catch it than the receiver.  Ideally, Wilson moves away from the go route and checks out the middle of the field for the tight end, but given the rush, I can’t blame him too much for thinking his receiver might have been able to get a step. 


This play doesn’t count either, the defender was called offsides. 

This isn’t a bad read, the pre-snap movement showed man coverage, at which point Wilson just picks a side to focus on, as you can see the stems of the two outside routes occur simultaneously.  The boundary side outside receiver has a slight opening, but it’s a tight throw, and Wilson doesn’t pull the trigger.  Once that window is closed, this play is doomed. 

This is where Wilson being a scrambling QB and not a true mobile QB really hurts, because this is one of those situations where the defense locked up all the routes.  A QB like Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen may get to the outside on this play and turn the corner, but Wilson was not able to this time. 

The other aspect that needs to be noted for this game as a whole is you need to notice the drastic difference in competition.  This is an excellent defense, that communicates well, covers well, and is disciplined.  Far too many times in 2020, we saw multiple guys just running around free, whereas this is a good example of Wilson having to work against a good defense.  This game should highlight the level of incompetence of defenses on the 2020 tape. 

The last tidbit here is this very careless throw away pass, that almost gets intercepted.  Wilson just flicks it out there, much to the surprise of the defender.  Yes, he’s out of bounds and it’s not an interception even if he catches it, but this is careless. 


This play was interesting because I wanted to bring up the shell games on defense.  Notice the defender when the tight end goes in motion, as he follows him across the formation.  This is usually a good indicator of man coverage, so Wilson has to be reading man cover here at first.  However, Utah reverts to a zone cover shell, and the call that BYU had catches them off-guard. 

Once more, field side outside receiver is the first read, although the first read is a bit worrisome because Wilson is likely assuming man coverage at the start of this play.  The outside defender is establishing outside leverage at the start, which in a man cover situation should dissuade Wilson from thinking this out route will be open.  If he read man coverage at first, then this would be the wrong first progression.  It works out because Utah switched to zone coverage, leading to a wide-open receiver. 

The throw is to the wrong shoulder, but he’s wide open, so Wilson should get some leeway. 


I’m not exactly sure what Wilson is throwing at on this play, but it’s all kinds of wrongs, with a couple of good qualities sprinkled in. 

The first part of this play is the lack of progression reads, which I mention over and over again.  The first set of routes that break are the quick out routes, but Wilson ignores them completely, thus they are now out of the picture.  I want you to watch the play again from the first angle.  Watch the running back out of the backfield, right before he stems the route.  Is he open?  Yes, he is, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume he’s not.  You move to the middle of the field, right when the TE should be reaching the stem of his route.  Is he open?  Probably not.  Move to the left, with the cutback route, is he open?  Yes.  You see how the route combination is set up, so Wilson has time to read the routes?  If we even go to the other side, watch the quick out route, is he open?  Yes, but let’s imagine he’s not.  Move to the middle of the field, right when there is the cutback, and you have a guy that is open. 

The positive aspect of this is that Wilson is trying to manipulate the safety on the play.  He’s looking at the middle of the field with the tight end, and hoping to get the safety to move away from the middle of the field.  He succeeds minimally, but the idea of manipulating the defense with his eyes is great.  However, the cutback route is not wide open, but rather the receiver only has a step or two on the defender, and Wilson doesn’t pull the trigger.  This also goes back to the issue of confidence, where 2020 Wilson may pull the trigger because he knows the safety at low level competition might not make the play.  At this point, this play is dead in the water because all the routes have reached their stem.  It should now be a broken play, where he has to reach open space to make the defense react.  The best way to resurrect this play is either waiting for someone to run open, or try to scramble out to find an opening, forcing the defense down the field to abandon their responsibilities. 

Wilson on this play, decides to throw it directly to the defender.  I’m not quite sure how this ball isn’t intercepted, it goes right to the guy, hits him in the chest.  I don’t understand the reward of this throw, there isn’t anyone close to the ball for BYU.  This is one of those instances where there is pressure, albeit it’s from sitting in the pocket for too long, and Wilson makes a terrible decision.  This is a horrendous decision and throw. 


This is the very next throw, and it’s a beauty.  The throw is simple and the read is just the primary one.  Wilson sees the defender well off the line of scrimmage, and makes a quick throw.  The aspect that makes this a great throw is really the anticipation, because Wilson reaches the decision point two steps before the receiver turns around.  The ball leaves his hand before the receiver fully turns around, and takes one more step.  It’s just a great anticipatory throw from Wilson. 

So naturally, the guy drops it. 

This is the end of Part 1. Please check back for Part 2.

Zach Wilson: Explain This Defense

In this article, we are going to explore some baffling decisions by the defenders that BYU faced this year.  Part of the negative outlook on Wilson from my viewpoint stems from the level of competition he faced in 2020, which props up his stats.  The main reason for the disparity in talent stemmed from the pandemic, which forced BYU to change their schedule drastically, but it also allowed for Wilson to face some sub-standard opponents. 


The first problem that arises consistently on tape are defenses that don’t adjust for late movement because they have communication issues.  On this play, the right side of the formation starts off with two receivers, plus a tight end that is in-line.  The defense has three defenders in the area, with the cornerback having outside leverage.  Notice the linebacker on the other side of the formation, when the receiver goes in motion, because he takes over coverage for that receiver.  That aspect is well executed here, the linebacker took over for the receiver.  The miscommunication occurs when the right side is now unbalanced, where there is one receiver, and a possible route from the in-line receiver.  Thus, either the linebacker or the outside cornerback now has the responsibility to move with the receiver because it’s 3 on 1 (with the possibility of 2).  Instead, the linebacker stays static and monitors the tight end, while the cornerback floats backwards, and then tried to communicate with the safety while the safety is looking away.  Therefore, the defense lets a relatively simple deep crossing route run free right down the middle, for an easy completion.  To make matters worse, the defense got called for a penalty as well for holding, which was declined. 

The issue of late motion miscommunication comes up frequently with defenses this year, and this is for the most part well executed apart from the linebacker (or outside cornerback) that didn’t change their responsibility with the motion.  Once the receiver went in motion, and the linebacker on the other side took coverage, one of those two defenders should have altered their coverage responsibility to monitor the receiver.  Instead, they led him right to an open spot.  

On the positive side, Wilson moves around in the pocket, and doesn’t pull the trigger on the deep post route that was double covered, and gladly took the easy crossing route.  As far as Wilson is concerned, he did everything well here.   I mention this particular play in the article because it robs us of an opportunity to watch Wilson on a play where the defense actually communicated well.  The other aspect I want you to notice is the linebacker that switched into coverage, and how that was the right move on his part. 


I don’t even know how to describe this one, because everyone but the safety (and field side corner) bites on the play action. 

1: The boundary side outside corner, what exactly is he doing? He’s in press cover with inside leverage, and jumps at the play action, and then basically waves goodbye to the receiver. 

2. The linebacker on the tight end also runs up to stop the run and completely ignores the tight end running right by him.  What’s his responsibility there?

The worst part of this is that, they basically dedicated 9 players to possibly stop the running back, yet the running back will be wide open for an outlet pass if Wilson waits.  Navy got beat like a drum on defense but they seemed completely outmatched. 

Let’s focus on the tight end that actually caught the ball.  The linebacker in that area comes up for the run, comes right into the passing lane.  He’s exactly where he needs to be to either stop this pass, or tackle the receiver immediately.  Instead, he literally runs away from the receiver he is responsible for defending, so Wilson gets some space to complete the throw.  Why run away?  What exactly is the goal to run away from the guy you are covering?  He comes back to miss the tackle as well, and then his teammate gets hurdled. 

A lot of the examples I show deal with communication issues, bad form, or an individual guy that just can’t play, where you can understand at least part of the issue.  I’m not sure how to even break this down. 


This isn’t the article to focus on Wilson throwing this into double coverage, or missing an open crossing route that still is open after he runs into the official, because we’ve covered bad reads and bad throws plenty already.  If you do not see the issue with his processing at this point, I don’t think another example is going to sway you. 

Instead, we are focusing on the individual bad player here because what exactly is the safety doing here?  He’s going full blown Kyle Wilson here, and not even looking for the ball.  He’s just shoving the receiver with his arms extended right into his other teammate, basically throwing him to the ground. 

I love the reaction afterwards, where he cannot believe it’s a penalty.  Spent most of the route trying to push the guy into the ground, did not even bother looking for the ball that lands behind him, right in front of the refs, yet can’t believe it’s a flag. 

Now this happens to pretty much every team at some point because there will be always be some player that just can’t seem to avoid penalties.  We went through it with Kyle Wilson but I merely wanted to point out that defensive players not playing the ball was an issue for  Zach Wilson as well.  I didn’t want to focus solely on idiotic plays and communication issues.  


If we pointed out an issue with Wilson on the last one, this is the opposite.  Wilson makes a great throw, stays strong in the pocket, and throws a perfect pass here.  A part of me thinks he expected the safety out of the play because he puts a lot of air on this pass making the play closer, but the read is perfect.  The placement is great, so it’s an elite throw by him.  

Saying all that, let’s focus on the defense because it’s another one where late movement causes a major miscommunication.  When the receiver goes in motion, the linebacker to the bottom of the screen (17) takes over as the primary coverage on that receiver.  You can see the change in positioning as the receiver goes in motion, pretty much as you would expect.  The issue here is that the safety to that side has no clue what he’s doing.  When that late motion occurred, the balance of the receivers shifted, at which point one safety moves to the middle of the field, while the second safety needs to move closer to the sideline.  Instead, the safety (4) is still under the impression that the linebacker (17) is going to take the tight end, when in reality, the linebacker has now switched his responsibility to the receiver in motion.  In this case, the safety (4) is now responsible for the tight end that eventually catches the ball, rather than the tight end running the seam route.  This miscommunication means the tight end is wide open down the sideline, for a relatively easy pass.  I think the only reason this is even remotely close is Wilson put air under it, because he has the arm to throw it on a much straighter line. 

This is probably the biggest issue I’ve seen on film with defenses, where they just don’t communicate well enough on late movement, leading to a breakdown in coverage. 


This one is a bit more complicated, because the defense reverts to zone cover at the snap, and end up pretty much leaving everyone but one receiver wide open. 

First of all, I’ve pointed out this chip release routes by the tight end and running back consistently in BYU’s offense, and they are once again wide open again.  You will see this in every single game for BYU numerous times, they will run chip release outlets to both sides.  Yet, in every game you will find them completely wide open as well most of the time.  The issue stems from the level of competition and complexity faced by these defenses, where if they a player blocks first, the defenders react by abandoning that responsibility assuming they are staying in to block. 

The second aspect of this play is the safety in the middle of the field because he’s completely lost playing centerfield.  He has one route that is going to cross him, but he does not drive on that route.  Instead, he floats further to the sideline on the off-chance the outside receiver is running a post route.  On one hand, he has a confirmed receiver crossing him in front of him that is going to be open in the zone.  On the other hand, there is a slim chance the outside receiver may run a post or deep crosser, and he decides to take that chance.  He realizes it too late, at which point he is not covering anyone.  This is an example where there isn’t much discipline involved, it’s mainly just reacting, rather than playing proactively within the defense.  In this case, the safety has zero shot at most of the possible routes from the outside receiver, and that guy has two defenders dedicated to him, at which point he needs to engage on the crossing route. 

The third, and probably most egregious mistake is the outside cornerback to the top of the screen.  It’s zone coverage so he has outside contain on this play, but why is he running down the field here?  His receiver cuts off his route, yet he just jogs down the field for no reason.  The crossing route should be the first responsibility of the safety.  If you notice both cornerbacks end up doing the same thing, which is float about 10 yards away from the closest receiver, effectively taking them out of the play.  If they actually stayed relatively close to the receiver while still maintaining outside leverage, then it makes sense.  Instead, both of them run out of the play. 

The issue is exasperated when the chip releases are now out in the flats, at which point the linebacker has to react to that easy pass.  The linebacker runs to the running back outlet, and because the cornerback is floating 12 yards down the field, the receiver is wide open.  This is undisciplined defense where they aren’t reacting as much towards what is happening on the field, but rather the principle of the coverage they are in.  Yes, the defensive backs should be behind the receivers to cover their zones, but not running 12 yards down the field when the receivers ran curl routes. 

This is also a nice high low read from Wilson, where he recognized the linebacker abandoning the receiver for the outlet pass, thus it’s a good post snap read.


Another example where late movement basically leaves the defense in shambles, and an easy pitch and catch, after which the receiver runs through about half the defense as well.

The first part where the linebacker switches to the receiver in motion works once again, as you can see him shift his coverage.  It bears to mention that this is a good way they get matchups on linebackers covering receivers with late movement.  That’s about the only thing that the defense does on this play. 

Once the receiver goes in motion, the responsibilities of either the boundary side cornerback or safety should change because there are less players on that side.  The safety (or defensive back) needs to rotate more towards the middle of the field and take the crossing route with the tight end.  Instead, both the safety and cornerback stay in the same area, bite on the play action, and take themselves out of the play. 

The linebacker on this play tries to cover the crossing route by actually taking away the deeper option.  It may look like he’s running away from the eventual receiver, but he’s trying to take away the bigger play, which is commendable.  Wilson completes the short pass, and then the tight end (or fullback) does the rest. 

A simple late motion (something Adam Gase seemed allergic to) created a wide receiver on linebacker match up, and took the safety and cornerback out of the play.  These are the types of plays where NFL defenses are going to be much more disciplined, and I worry about the transition for Wilson.  BYU was just on another level than the defenses, thus they were able to set themselves into much more favorable situations, simply because the defenses weren’t disciplined. 

7 & 8)

For this one, we’re going to focus on one player, #26, on UTSA here.  He is the field side outside cornerback on both plays, and the receiver makes the catch in both instances.  I’m not even looking at the rest of the defense, just focus on this guy. 

Can someone explain his defense here?  I understand having your hips turned to the inside on a play, as you will often see this in zone defense, where they want the ability to drive inside on any routes that move in.  However, almost always they have outside leverage so they can keep everything in front of them. 

In this case, the defender is lined up with inside leverage, and then turns his hips to the inside, which is redundant.  In cases where defenders turn their hips in, they maintain outside leverage because the receiver needs to turn 90 degrees for an in route, while the defender is already facing in that direction, thus allowing them to save time and make up the difference.  If you already have inside leverage, you don’t need to turn your hips inward because you don’t need that extra advantage because you are already in the inside position.  If you maintain outside leverage, you can see the receiver make an out cut, but you have a slight advantage in positioning, thus when the receiver turns 90 degrees, and you turn 180 degrees, that outside leverage helps ensure you are still close. 

However, what it does accomplish is putting the receiver in your blind spot.  The receiver is essentially running in your blind spot, and leaves you wide open for the out route.  On the first play, the defender runs 5 yards down the field AFTER the receiver cut outside.  There’s just no way he can defend this because he’s at a complete disadvantage.  Earlier, we mentioned why you maintain outside leverage because the receiver has to turn 90 degrees and the defender is already in position to drive inside, thus helping to shorten the gap.  In this case, the receiver still needs to turn 90 degrees, but the defender needs to turn 180 degrees, and then top of that, because he had inside leverage, he’s even further away from the intended direction of the play.  He’s losing leverage and momentum by taking this stance.  On the second play, the same guy runs about 7 yards down the field AFTER the receiver made his cut outside. 

This happens a few times in this game, and at times with different players, albeit BYU didn’t always go to it.  This is a major indication of the level of competition faced by the defense.  Notice that in both instances, the ball is snapped at the far hash mark, thus making both of them field side outside throws.  Therefore, the defense is essentially saying we don’t think the QB can make the far hash mark throw for an out route.  Most of the QBs they face likely can’t make that throw, thus they employ this defense.  In essence, they are using the limited abilities of the opposing QBs as a defense because they are crossing off the out-route here as an option to even defend.  Think of it as similar to playing off-ball defense against a basketball player that can’t shoot the three, because you know their own limitation acts as the defense.  You get so comfortable at that defense, that when you do face a 3-point shooter, you give up wide open looks. 

This brings back to the constant harping on Wilson for field side outside receiver throws as being a pattern.  How much of that derives from the defense not being ready to handle that pass at this competition level?  I don’t think the other teams were quite on the UTSA level of bad, but how much does it impact them, if they also don’t face QBs that can make that throw? 

Overall, the level of competition faced by BYU this year is a major concern.  BYU not only had better players, but their system completely overmatches some of these defenses with late movements.  You have to wonder how much of Wilson’s production comes from the defense just not being qualified to handle someone with a strong arm, which allows him to get away with risky throws more often than not.