Zach Wilson: Concerns Under Pressure

One of my main concerns with Wilson is his transition to the NFL is his ability to adjust to pressure.  His OL was legitimately great in comparison to the competition, which meant he had clean pockets far more often that any other prospect I remember.  Of course, that is subjective but it is just an anecdotal observation.  These are a series of plays where I’m concerned about Wilson’s decision making under pressure and how he will translate to the NFL because he’s going to face these kinds of pressures on a regular basis playing behind the Jets’ offensive line.  In terms of pressure, I am really only looking for pressure that isn’t intended, so if he needs to throw a screen pass and the line lets the defenders move up the field, it’s not counted. I’ve also tried to discount pressure where he has 5 seconds to throw, and then eventually someone comes close to him for a pressure.  Also, as mentioned in the other articles, there are good examples of him performing under pressure as well.  This one deals with some of the negatives that I noticed.  


The first one we are looking at here is essentially a throw-away pass against Boise State, where the linebackers run a stunt on the blitz.  There is one tight end there to block the C gap, but two defenders rush it, thus allowing for a free runner at the QB.  Wilson sees the rush, looks outside, and throws away the pass.  This is a great decision by Wilson, I’m not complaining about this decision at all. 

Here’s why I wanted to highlight it, because this is the exact type of situation where there seems to be this idea that Wilson’s quick release, quick processor will find the quick hot throw, or escape the pocket.  There seems to be a narrative that his ability to make off-platform throws, various arm angles, and improvisation helps him transition to the NFL and facing pressure.  It is a very good skill to have, but it’s masked by lack of consistent exposure to quick pressure.  First of all, if you watch Jets film, blitz stunts, blown assignments are very common for the offensive line we employ, and QBs going back to Geno Smith were constantly under quick pressure. 

In a normal pocket, let’s presume only one linebacker blitzes, this will most likely be a back shoulder pass to the field side outside receiver.  The defender is in the perfect position for it, the receiver is already looking at the ball, and there is no one else in the vicinity.  However, in a clean pocket, making that throw is a great pass, but it does not mean he can do it under pressure.  I wanted to dispel this notion that because he does not need to plant his foot as much, and can make throws off-balance, that it doesn’t translate as much as I’ve seen with the hype under pressure.  It’s similar to the Darnold draft as well, when one of the talking points revolved around his off-platform ability, how he didn’t need a clean pocket to function.  Fast forward three years, and yeah, he needs a clean pocket to function, regardless of his improvisation skills in college. 

This is where I think Justin Fields is a better fit on the Jets, or any team that has a bad offensive line because his running threat gives pause to overload blitzes, or he could avoid the first rusher on himself.  It doesn’t happen all the time, but he has a better chance of using his athleticism to regulate pressure or wriggle free than Wilson.  It is not always, and it’s not saying Wilson won’t be able to do it, but I’m saying he has a better chance.  Pure arm wise, the better fit is Wilson, but I think overall athletic fit for the Jets is Fields (if we pick him, I will break down his film as to why).  Now, if we argue that we are going to build a green wall as the offensive line, then that changes the equation.  If we are dealing with the notion that the offensive line is going to be top 5, you can probably make a better argument for Mac Jones over the rest.  

Once again, the throw away is the right choice here.  I’m just laying the base for the hype to be contained on Wilson’s quick release/improvisation skills negating pressure.  It’s a major concern because I don’t think he faced pressure quite as often as others (asides from Mac Jones).  He’s done well under pressure (I’ve seen the PFF stats too), but I think part of that deals with pressure before a throw which may have taken 4 seconds to formulate.  I do not have the stat, but I would love to know his stats on quick pressure and how he fared. 


This is a bizarre play, and in retrospect, I should have put this in the baffling decisions article.  On the outset, this seems like a throw away, or a bad pass.  The bizarre aspect is that this is a play at the end of the half, and there is 4 seconds left on the clock when the ball is snapped.  Pretty much all of the choices in this route combination don’t work because none of them could be completed with enough time remaining for another play.  I’m presuming the call was either a quick pass, or take the deep shot down the boundary sideline, but pressure got to Wilson before he could pull the trigger. 

Here is what concerns me about the pressure, and it deals with the situation as well.  Wilson has more than enough space to step up in the pocket, buy time, and possibly set up a throw down the field.  Instead, he sees the pressure and throws the ball away, which also allowed him to be hit directly, when he could have avoided it by moving up in the pocket.  I don’t understand this play call nor decision making here, because it was just a bizarre play.  I even went back and forth with the tape to see if this was the end of the second quarter or not, and it is indeed the end of the half. 

This is one of the more long developing pressures, but I put it here because it was more about situational awareness being thrown out during pressure.  Although this could be just a bad call on the sideline from the coaches.  My presumption is that they were trying to set up the play where everyone is focused to the field side, and then sneaking the boundary side go route in as a one on one match up.  I don’t quite understand the defense here as well, as they aren’t playing further back. 


I’ll say this is a bad, great, bad play in terms of emotions as you watch it unfold. 

The first bad:  Wilson floats back in the pocket as he is wont to do, which leads the defensive end right up the field.  In this case the defensive end does not quite take advantage, but unless you have an amazing OL (or playing against the Jet’s pass rush), defensive ends will make you pay if you do this consistently.  Speed rushers will move up the field and have the tackle on an island, vulnerable to a various sets of moves.  If Wilson maintains pocket integrity, he will be protected far better.  This is a major issue with Wilson (others do it too, not to this extent) and something he has to work on before starting in the NFL. 

The great: Wilson steps up and moves up in the pocket, which is exactly what he should do if the defender is parallel to you or behind you.  It allows him to buy some time, build momentum towards a throw, which is exactly what he should be doing.  This is a great sight to see because Wilson does have a tendency to float backwards against pressure and throw off balance at times.  This is also a major concern for Trevor Lawrence as well. 

The second bad:  He throws this into double coverage.  As I talked about in the interceptions article, Wilson seems to have an issue with blindside defenders.  He seems to get fixated on one-on-one match ups and completely neglect the blindside defender.  In this instance, Wilson doesn’t see the safety on the play, and throws what could have been an interception if the safety picked up the ball faster. 

Wilson has the easy outlet pass for some relatively small yards but takes the risk down the field.  The play ends up being a positive because a defensive lineman hit Wilson after the throw to draw a penalty. 


This is a play where there is unexpected pressure because the left tackle basically gets pushed right into Wilson.

The main aspect of this play is Wilson’s progression issues, and how he does not play within the structure.  I included the end zone view here to show Wilson’s head turned towards the field side outside receiver.  Notice the timing of the stems for the routes all over the field.  The tight end in the middle breaks first along side the tight end emerging from the middle to run the quick out route.  Behind the tight end in the middle, there is an in breaking wide receiver route.  The go route to the field side is the last one, because the receiver turns his head after all the other routes have already gotten to their stems. 

Wilson starts off this play looking directly at the field side outside receiver, when his progression should have led him elsewhere first.  If he follows the normal progression, he will see the tight end is open on this play as he’s getting pressured.  It does not serve any purpose to stare down the outside receiver when he doesn’t reach the stem of his route (or the point where he looks for the ball) after the other routes.  You can notice Wilson gets away from that route right before the pressure because it’s well covered, and he needs to move on.  However, the pressure comes at an unexpected moment because the left tackle gets pushed into him.  

Once the tackle is pushed onto him, this is just a broken play and he is running around trying to find an angle.  The other aspect of this one is the low throw, as it is ruled an incomplete pass.  I can’t tell if it’s too low to catch, skips, or if it goes through the receiver’s hands.  However, notice that Wilson throws this pass of his back foot, and it does not quite get there.  It is great to see off balance jump throws that seem great when defenders aren’t around, but it doesn’t always translate to throws under pressure.  This example reiterates the issue I was talking about in Play 1, where his ability to throw off platform does not mean it always translates pressure situations.  A lot of the hype seem to be centered around Mahomes/Rodgers type capability, but those guys are on another level.  No one says “Oh I hope he’s risky like Johnny Manziel” because that’s the negative side jump throws and arm angles.  Do not get me wrong, Wilson’s ability to release the ball quickly is a great asset, and so is his ability to make off-platform throws.  I’m saying those assets are limited when under pressure, which he will likely face in the NFL, and a lot of fans seem to think he will make Mahomes in the Super Bowl type throws because of those skills. 


This is a simple play action roll out with a flood concept, where he must pick from four options.  The pressure comes from the chip release where the defender overpowers the tight end, leading to a slightly early decision point. 

As soon as that defender clears the chip block, Wilson needs to make a decision.  He has the outlet pass to the running back open.  He has the tight open in front of him as well, which he eventually tries and fails.  He also has a deep crossing route that is coming open, which once again would be a magical throw off balance.  However, because there is pressure Wilson does not attempt this pass, but rather does a decent job of eluding the first rusher. 

The big problem with the throw is that Wilson short arms the pass, because he is afraid of his own throwing motion with a defender in his blind spot.  That is the worst part of this play, because for as much as he can throw off balance or improvise, he will need to learn how to deal with a crowded pocket where guys might be behind him.  This issue stems from the clean pockets he’s used to, and you somewhat see the same issues in Darnold.  At times he speeds up his delivery because he sees ghosts behind him, because the pressure takes a toll. 

This is another play where the unexpected pressure causes him to have issues with decision making, because he has open guys on the play.  This isn’t the Jets situation where pressure is combined with covered receivers, and the QB is scrambling to find any option.  He has 3 clearly open guys on the play, but he does not pull the trigger.  One thing I do want to add is the play action against thin air again.


This pressure comes from the defensive tackle basically just beating the center, who does get called for a holding call as well on the play.  This is an errant throw from a busy pocket. 

The good:  Once again, Wilson shows good mobility by stepping up in the pocket, which is exactly the right move here.  The defensive tackle has him to his right, so he needs to step up in the pocket.  Part of the issue here is created by Wilson’s propensity to float back in the pocket, which allowed the defensive end to rush up the field, and block off an outside escape route. 

The bad:  Wilson starts off looking at the outside receiver because there is a corner blitz from that side.  Therefore, it’s actually a good sign that Wilson notices that side before because he knows the receiver has a good chance of being open against a safety, especially considering the route.  However, once again, he throws off balance from the pocket and it just sails.  Again, having the ability to throw off balance doesn’t mean he’s perfectly fine throwing off balance under pressure. 


Overall, I like most of this play, as the unexpected pressure is created by a linebacker just blowing up a block. 

I’m not the biggest fan of rolling out to the left by taking a loop, but Wilson escapes the pocket away from the linebacker to buy some time.  He is pretty much locked into the field side outside receiver here, but that is also partially because he needs to escape the pocket.  Once the linebacker breaks through, his only viable option is the outside curl route, thus we cannot blame him for staring him down. 

I love the anticipation on the throw, because Wilson reaches his decision point (partially forced there by the defender) right before the receiver makes his cut.  That is exceptional anticipation for the college level.  However, with a defender near his blind spot, Wilson short arms the ball once again.  This is a concern if Wilson alters his throwing motion to the point that he cannot be nearly as accurate.  In the NFL, he’s going to have defenders in his blind spot more often, and he needs to adjust to being in a pocket where he doesn’t have all the room. 


This is a similar C gap stunt we saw earlier in the article, and Wilson fixated on the field side outside receiver.  There is not much to dissect here, this is another example of him speeding up his process and making an errant throw.  The good aspect is that once again, the decision point of this throw comes right before the receiver makes a break, but the throw is off-line. 

Overall, the main point of this article is to point out that he does have exceptional improvisation skills, but that does not make him immune to pressure.  It’s a major concern for his transition to the NFL because he’s not going to have the ability to escape the pocket as much in the NFL.  It’s concerning that he short arms a few balls when he has defenders in his blind spot.  At one point, I was going to skip this article, but saw folks saying his improvisation will help negate initial offensive line struggles, and I disagree.  He does not showcase the athleticism to be high end mobile in the NFL, but rather a scrambling QB.  He needs to adjust to throwing passes with defenders in his blind spot more often.  It is not to say that other QBs don’t have to make that adjustment as well, but they faced pressure more often than Wilson (except Mac Jones), thus have more experience. 

Zach Wilson: Interceptions/Possible Interceptions

As fans we do have a tendency to play box score scouting, which is to essentially let the final results dictate our perception of a player.  Generally, numbers do paint a true picture, but can omit outlying factors that may have contributed to the statistics.  Look no further than Sam Darnold and his statistics if we want to see a discord between stats and reality.  An offensive system that does not cater to QB development combined with an offensive roster designed to lower the ceiling, and we have an enigma.  The need to evaluate subjective circumstances to objective stats was the task of determining Darnold’s value this off-season. 

In Darnold, we see the objective stats devalue him, but in Wilson’s case, it is artificially raising him.  As far as interceptions count, there should be only two against Wilson (the third was on an end of the half Hail Mary against Coastal Carolina), but the subjective circumstances paint a bleaker picture.  His stats belie his propensity for risky throws, which often succeeded beyond the norm.  Wilson shows a tendency to throw 50/50 balls that rarely get intercepted because the defenses he faced this year could barely match up with BYU.  In the other articles, we have covered a plethora of examples where the defense showed the lack of ability to communicate against late movement, plus the inability to adequately cover the field side receivers.   In today’s article, we are going to look at examples where Wilson threw, or nearly threw, an interception. 


I’m going to say which play this reminded me off.  (*Trigger Warning: Please don’t watch if you suffer from Jets PTSD.  Please alert a loved one before reading on)


I’m sorry. 

There’s a few things wrong with the play, the least of which is the play action to the wrong side.  The running seems to recognize the slot blitz, but Wilson doesn’t adjust the protection, or forgets the adjustment.  Wilson moves on with the play action as if the running back is not in pass protection, which leads to an empty play action.  The running back reads this blitz correctly, and blocks off the slot defender. 

The bigger issue here is that Wilson is locked in on his receiver from the start, and doesn’t see the defender dropping back into the zone.  The one on one read on this throw is perfectly fine from Wilson’s perspective.  The defensive back has his hips open to the field, while the route called is an out route, thus it will be instant separation.  There is absolutely no way the defensive back makes a play on this ball.  The issue is that Wilson is locked in on that combination to the point that he misses the defender floating back and throws it without regard.  It doesn’t cost him here because this is a tough pass to intercept one handed, but the lack of ability here to see the defensive shell changing as the play is unfolding is worrisome. 

From the defensive perspective, they are trying to bait Wilson into this exact throw.  They cover the field side outside receiver in press coverage, and move a safety over without much disguise.  They want the field side outside receiver out of this play.  They want Wilson to see the quick out route as the safe option, and be hurried by the blitz.  Look at the defense from the boundary side here, because they are essentially doubling both of them for a quick pass.  The tight end over the middle has a linebacker in front, and a safety in the back.  The targeted receiver has a defensive back behind him, and the floating lineman (or linebacker) in front of him.  The whole idea is to have Wilson throw the ball quickly, which is the trap that he falls into.  If he trusted his offensive line a bit more, Wilson would have the middle of the field wide open for a sizeable gain, or even a quick outlet pass to the tight end to the left side. 

The difficulty of this pass being intercepted is fairly high, however, it’s falling into the trap that should be more concerning.  There are going to be more defenses in the NFL that will try to play shell games, and it’s important that any young QB recognizes the type of traps that are being presented. 

I’m not sure I will have enough time to break down Justin Fields, but watch the Indiana game, because they are running complex shell games there.  In a few instances, the lineman (or linebacker) drop off to the quick passing outlet, and Fields doesn’t make that throw.  However, I do not want to make this about Fields, so I’ll save it for another time, but if you can, watch that game and notice how often the ends drop back into coverage on those A gap blitzes. 


*Trigger Warning*


I’m sorry, I’ll stop. 

Once again, Wilson is locked on the receiver, but misses the backside defender making a run at the play.  He absolutely doesn’t see the guy, because he essentially floats this ball over the middle trying to make it an easy catch. 

In Wilson’s case this is mostly a high low read based on the defender (safety?) that eventually drives on the ball.  The problem once again is that the defense is baiting this exact combination.  We all see the safety doesn’t go with the high crossing route, and eventually drives on the ball.  On the other hand, watch the high crossing route as well, because they have a safety waiting on the other side to drive on the ball.  Essentially they are double teaming the middle of the field, and letting the outside routes be one on one.  They are letting their cornerbacks handle the deep go routes, baiting Wilson into this throw and he falls right into the trap. 

The other issue with this throw is that Wilson is perfectly protected in the pocket.  He doesn’t even float back like he tends to do at times, yet rushes this throw.  This is a good instance where he should have used his mobility to create time, rather than taking this risky option.  However, since Wilson doesn’t see the blindside defender, this throw wasn’t a risky option as far as his mental processing told him at the time. 

Wilson showcases this aspect a few times on tape, where the backside defender surprises him over the middle.  He’s much more apt at taking advantage near the sidelines, where it’s likely to be one on one matchups.  It might explain his tendency to make sideline throws at a far greater rate than throws over the middle, because backside defenders aren’t as much of an issue near the sideline.


This is an interception, albeit I don’t put the full blame on Wilson here.  This should have been a penalty on the linebacker, he basically bumps into the receiver throwing him off the route. 

Contrary to the result, this is a good read by Wilson, because he is presuming the WR breaks around the linebacker, at which point he will have inside position on the safety.   He makes the throw quickly because there is a late blitz coming in through the C gap.  Once the wide receiver trips, this play was going to end in a negative fashion, and the safety picked it off. 

The only negative for Wilson on this play is that the ball is a bit behind where I presume the target should be given his route.  However, it’s nearly impossible to tell because the receiver trips, and lunges forward. 

 The whole play is a bit odd because Navy actually does a good job of disguising the defense, and Wilson plays it safe.  Navy is showing a possible blitz from the field side (safety lined up over slot corner), but sends a blitz from the boundary side safety instead.  With Wilson’s first read also to the boundary side on a go route, it is a bit surprising that he didn’t take the go route option without a safety in play.  Instead, Wilson opts for what should be a safer throw, and ends up with an interception.  This is an interception where the blame falls mostly away from Wilson.  


This is an almost interception against Navy, on 2nd and 1.  The main issue here is a miscommunication that I think partially highlights their offense. 

The positive from this play, is the inverse of the first play we highlighted in this article.  The defensive tackle is performing a stunt when he sees the tight end run after a chip release, and occupies the lane.  Wilson isn’t quite looking at that route, but it does bear mentioning that Wilson didn’t take that bait on this play.  Wilson is looking at the field side outside receiver from the start, but the defender is playing it well.  They established inside position, and up until the moment of decision is looking at the QB, before running step for step with the receiver.  If Wilson throws this ball, the defender knows it is coming, and is in good position to make a play on it.  Wilson moves away from that position and goes to his other reads.

The negative on this play is a miscommunication between Wilson and the receiver.  The defender on the boundary side receiver is step for step with him, if not ahead, so the receiver uses the option for a back shoulder opportunity.  Wilson however is facing pressure and throws the ball assuming it’s a go route.  The receiver does a great job to get a hand on the ball and prevent an interception.  This is a timing issue where Wilson doesn’t confirm the route before throwing, partially because he’s coming off his primary read and rushes the process a bit. 

The big issue here is the timing of the decision point for Wilson.  He should have read the in route as being covered, and moved to the boundary side receiver one step quicker, to avoid this confusion.  That extra step caused enough delay that his receiver had to take a different option, at which point it was too late.  Since they are joined at the hip in comparison, this play in terms of delay, reminds me of Justin Fields interception against Clemson to effectively lose the semifinal game against Clemson a year ago.  The delay in moving from read to read, caused the wide receiver to assume a different option, only for the QB to make the decision at exactly the wrong moment. 

One thing to add, watch the right tackle on this play, as a testament to BYU’s offensive line power.  He takes on a defender, and while still engaged to him, just takes that defender and throws him into the blitzer to tackle both of them down.  This is like big brother playing against younger brother and their friend level play. 


I’m not going to bother finding a Geno Smith throw for this, but you know this is a Jets QB throw from the past decade. 

This play is fairly simple to diagnose, Wilson doesn’t account for the backside defender at all.  His first option is the tight end and he’s reading the middle field linebacker, as he bites on the play action.  Once Wilson sees he bit on the play action, he assumes the tight end will easily get by this guy and just throws up a floater.  The linebacker recovers in time to bump the receiver and possibly even qualify for a penalty. 

The egregious error here is once again Wilson not accounting for the backside defender on the play, which leads to an almost interception.  If the middle field linebacker doesn’t bump his own safety on this play, this probably is an interception.  Wilson is locked in on the matchup between the linebacker and the tight end, and makes this throw in that vacuum.  As much as the linebacker bit on the play action, Wilson bit on the linebacker running too far in, and just lobs the throw.  You will see these types of throws when the offense has an offensive lineman in as an eligible receiver, and the whole defense forgets about them only for the QB to lob a pass in for the TD.  Yes, the Jumbo Elliot TD. 

At this point, there should be a small pattern with Wilson and backside defenders in the middle of the field.  Once he’s locked in, he seems to have trouble accounting for them at times.  This isn’t an issue on every single play over the middle, but it props up over the middle more so than sideline plays.  Mixed with his propensity to throw sideline balls, one has to wonder about his ability to make reads in the middle of the field at times.  

This should have been intercepted. 


This is another pass that barely escapes being intercepted, as it falls out of the defender’s hands.  There isn’t too much to dissect here, Wilson faces pressure and tries to throw a screen pass over a jumping defender.  The pass sails too high, the running back barely touches it, and the defender drops an interception. 

One of the issues with Wilson has been his tendency to float back in the pocket at times in the face of pressure.  He does it again on this play, albeit it doesn’t quite matter because the blocking on this play seemed doomed from the start.  The center hands off the defensive tackle expecting the right guard to slide over, but the guard is late, thus a tackle runs through the middle.  The fullback (or tight end) to the right of the right tackle basically just ignores the blitzing linebacker as well. 

However, the possible interception falls on an errant throw from Wilson as he just floats it too high.  This isn’t an issue of missing the backside defender or taking risks, this is just a bad throw.  


This is another almost interception, although part of the problem was being hit while he was about to throw. 

The main concerning aspect of this is the empty play action here, which again raises the question of Wilson recognizing the blitz and setting protection.  The running back recognizes the blitz and moves directly to the spot, while Wilson still goes through the play action causing a slight delay.  Most QBs in college do not do well with setting protections at the line, but it’s concerning to see the running back realize it, yet Wilson performing as if the play action is still in on.  

A linebacker gets through the offensive line (looks like a tight end that was blocking), and hits Wilson as he’s throwing.  Wilson tries to release the ball quickly, but doesn’t have that much zip on it, and is almost intercepted twice.  The main issue is the play action may have caused a slight delay in processing time, which may have led to this pass. 

The secondary issue is Wilson not moving around in the pocket on this play, because this is an excellent opportunity to step to the side and then find a passing lane.  It’s this aspect of pocket maneuverability that remains a question mark because he’s very much used to having clean pockets.  He shows flashes of being able to maneuver in the pocket, but having the ability to sidestep defenders is key for playing in the NFL.  It’s especially true playing for the Jets, behind guards (*checks notes*) to be determined and to be determined. 


If you play with your friends in your backyard, chances are you will try to emulate some of your sport’s best players.  In this instance, Wilson tries to emulate a no look shovel pass from Patrick Mahomes, and almost turns the ball over. 

This play is a run call from the start, as you can see everyone else gets into a blocking position down the field.  However, the defense is draped all over the running back, at which point Wilson should just hold onto the ball and try to get however many yards he can manage on his own.  Instead, Wilson tries a no look pass without any real benefit deep in his own side of the field.  Wilson has more than ample space to run to the outside and get a few yards, but bypasses that option for this shovel pass. 

This is just a terrible decision. 


I’ve seen this exact play dissected by about 4 different people, yet I still don’t understand it.  Wilson looks in the vicinity of a wide open route, and somehow moves on for a route that is perfectly covered.  It is once again far hash mark to the field side outside receiver, albeit this is just a terrible throw.  There’s not much to make sense of this play, he looks at open area, moves away from it, in a clean pocket, to throw a terrible interception.  The defender is looking back at Wilson, while being right next to the receiver, thus a back shoulder pass is the worst decision here. 

This is just a theory, and just something that I feel might be happening with Wilson.  He reminds me a bit of Ryan Fitzpatrick (with a better arm) where his mind is somewhat made up at the line of scrimmage, and the actions he takes are designed with that play in mind.  For example, in this instance his main priority would be holding the safety away from the outside receiver, thus he looks him off.  This could explain why he’s looking at a wide open area and moves on, because his intention for this play is the outside receiver as the first read.  Fitzpatrick had a tendency to pre-determine targets at the line, to the point where Gailey ran a bunch of mirror concepts so he could just pick a side.  The good part of this theory is that Wilson learns how to manipulate defenders because he realizes the actions necessary to set up those passes.  The downside is of course he pre-determines the throws which means he may not be as apt in going through the progressions, and be vulnerable to be baited in the NFL, much like Fitzpatrick. 

This isn’t a deeply analyzed theory because it’s hard to tell progressions without actually knowing the play call.  This is just a thought I had while watching some of his 2020 tapes, because there are a few throws (some good, some bad) where he seems to have reached his decision point before turning fully towards the receiver. 

Overall, Wilson shows a tendency to miss the backside defender, especially over the middle.  As much as the Geno Smith clips might be traumatic, Wilson does not stoop to that level.  However, it is concerning because with better competition, those interception numbers could have been much higher.  The stats make him look like a safe passer with a cannon of an arm, but he takes much more risks than those stats would lead you to believe.  Wilson’s ability to detect the backside defenders (especially ones that peel off coverage) is going to be crucial in his development.  

Zach Wilson: Bad Read – Good Throw

This article deals with decisions made by Zach Wilson, which could be considered bad reads, but he still makes a great throw to compensate for it.  The title of it, and the fact that he does make bad reads here, does sound negative, but I see this as a positive quality to an extent.  There aren’t any QBs out there making perfect reads all the time, so having the arm talent to correct that mistake is vital at times.  However, consistently bad reads can be a red flag moving onto the NFL because the mental aspect of college football is supposed to be much easier, especially in a power spread offense that BYU runs.  

Wilson in general showcases a wonderful arm that will absolutely translate to the NFL.  The moment he gets drafted, his arm becomes a top 10 arm in the game.  However, his processing skills and decision making should give pause to the Jets, because there certainly are red flags that pop up.  He tends to play hero ball, instead of taking the easier throws, which reminds me of Mark Sanchez’s and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s tenure.  He can get away with those throws this year, because his competition is just not ready to deal with an arm that good.  


This is a play that I’ve seen some folks highlight as well, so most people should be familiar with it.  The throw is an out route that Wilson is looking at from the start, almost to the point of stare down.   This is a terrible read from Wilson because if you notice at the time of his windup, the defender is partially in the passing lane.  This is the type of throw pick 6’s are made off in the NFL if the defensive back reacts a hair quicker.  Wilson has about three other options that are open on this play, with an immaculately clean pocket, yet forces the throw into the receiver that might be covered the best.  

Saying all that, Wilson displays great arm strength to get it past the diving defender, albeit barely.  He hits the receiver in the chest before the sidelines, so it’s a perfectly thrown pass.  The main downside is that, it’s an unnecessary risk when the receiver is covered, and you don’t need to take a chance on first down. 

Notice the tight end and running back on this play, with their delayed releases up the middle before turning into opposing out routes.  This is a staple of this offense, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a staple at Baylor (the OC was hired there) because it’s nearly impossible to defend.  In one scenario, the tight end acts as a full back and blocks up the middle for the running back.  This forces the linebackers to move up to stop the run beyond the play action.  In the second scenario, they both release to opposite ends forcing linebackers to be closer to the middle of the field.  If the linebackers are too spread out, then the power running game wins.  If the linebackers are closer to the middle, the outside defenders don’t have nearly as much help.  The added dimension being that if the linebackers don’t react quickly, both of them become easy outlet passes. 

One last thing to note is the outside boundary side cornerback on this play.  It looks like he’s supposed to have outside leverage because he opens up his hips to the field after backpedaling.  However, his backpedal slants him towards the middle of the field, which leaves him in the dark with the receiver.  Being off course gets him completely lost on this play because he’s essentially blind to the receiver, and turns the wrong way, assuming an out or go route.  It’s not a terrible mistake, but it doesn’t quell questions about the quality of the competition. 


This is the first play of the game vs. Northern Alabama, and BYU shows a tendency to take downfield shots to start the game.  This is a bad read because Wilson essentially throws up a jump ball to a guy that is double covered.  It’s a great throw, and the receiver makes a great catch, but this is a recipe for disaster testing double coverage. I can’t tell for sure if Wilson is staring down the receiver because both deep routes cross paths at a certain point, but this is a situation where Wilson attempts a dangerous pass into double coverage. 

A play like this begets the question if BYU or Wilson would take such a chance against a quality opponent, where there is a chance of a close game.  The risk on this play is obviously an interception, but how much does BYU respect Northern Alabama to make them pay for the mistake?  It’s a philosophical question, but does Wilson’s cavalier nature of being a gun slinger come innately, or on the basis of inferior competition?  How much would it transfer over to the NFL? 

In this case, Wilson was better served to tuck the ball and run to the left side because he has plenty of space to get down the field.  However, the play call and their general aggressiveness suggests that this deep pass was going to be the first shot regardless. 

I want to point something out about the defense here, and what made it infuriating to not see late motion on the Jets’ offense with Adam Gase.  Watch the receiver go in motion, because the defensive backs switch with the motion.  The outside defensive back takes over for the slot defender because the slot receiver now becomes the outside receiver.  The slot defender then runs across the field (albeit slowly) to chase after the receiver in motion.  The defense starts out in a two safety look, which has a primary goal of preventing the exact type of pass that just occurred.  The issue starts when the second safety, to the field side, moves down to cover the receiver in motion, even though the slot cornerback from the other side is also running towards that defender.  In an ideal defense, this is a switch in terms of defense, where the field side safety comes down to the receiver in motion.  The boundary side safety moves over the field side safety’s position, and the slot defender back pedals into the boundary side safety’s position.  If they are strictly in man coverage, then the slot defender moves quicker with the motion, and the safety stays in his zone.  Instead, with late motion, the defense is essentially sending two defenders to cover a receiver in motion running down the line of scrimmage, clearing them out of the way.  This is a perfect example of using motion to manipulate defenses, and another example of how the Adam Gase struggled last year.   


This one is very close to just being a bad play all around, because it’s a missed opportunity.   While this ball falls incomplete, I think this throw translates well to the NFL, therefore deemed a good throw. 

The first thing to notice here is that Wilson, once again, looks to the field side outside receiver as his first read when he is at the far hash mark.  This is a consistent theme with Wilson, which is a testament to the belief in his arm.  However, at this level of competition, the defenders just are not good at defending it when BYU can pair it with go routes.  The defensive backs are going to play off coverage on it because most QBs at that level can’t make that throw consistently in time.  

Wilson looks at the outside receiver, who is open, but hesitates to pull the trigger.  He has a quick out route running open as well for a high low read, but decides to take the fade route to the one guy that might be best covered on this play.  In terms of progression, Wilson has the outside receiver on the curl, and the slot receiver on the out route both as open options.  This is another example of taking risk down the field, and not adhering to what the defense will give you. 

Saying all that, this is a beautiful throw that is placed precisely where it needs to be, at the corner of the end zone.  The receiver slows down a bit, and is held up by the defender, thus it falls incomplete.  If the receiver maintained his speed or if the defender wasn’t impeding his path quite as much, this is a beautiful touchdown.  This shows great anticipation as well as accuracy down the field, and something that will absolutely translate to the NFL.  I love the trajectory of the pass as well, because this ball can’t be touched by the defender.  A QB can arch the throws to avoid defenders can wreak havoc for a defense because even the perfect design can be beat.  In this instance, the defender played this route as well as he could have, and it’s one slow step from the receiver away from being a touchdown.  

One more positive thing to note, Wilson doesn’t float back in the pocket as much, and allows for the offensive line to form a wall around him. 


This play is going to look similar to a heavily criticized play from Justin Fields in the semi-final game this year against Clemson, in which he threw a touchdown to a tight end, while another one was wide open in the middle. 

This is a first-down play in the red zone, and Wilson is locked in on the tight end from the start.  He does a very good job of avoiding the rush, but still stares down his receiver, and makes a throw to the endzone which isn’t caught.  The main issue from the progression read is that Wilson isn’t even looking at the other options here, where a receiver comes wide open in the middle of the end zone.  Wilson decides to throw the pass into double coverage instead, when he should have looked for other options, or tried to move up the field. 

On the other hand, this is another great throw that only his guy has a chance to catch.  The pass isn’t caught, but this is one of those receiver highlight reel opportunities where they snag it at the high point and get their feet inbounds like Santonio Holmes.  He places it right at the edge of the end zone, while evading the rusher.  The accuracy of this throw has to be commended, because he negates the double coverage with his ball placement.  I didn’t criticize Fields for the touchdown because his ball placement on the touchdown was good as well, so that needs to be commended here as well. 

Now, let’s look at the defense, because I found the slot defensive back to be a little down on his morale here.  I can’t tell the number from this angle, but at the start of this play, he’s lined right over the far hash mark, covering the receiver that eventually goes in motion.  Once the receiver goes in motion, our defensive stalwart is late to respond in what looks like man coverage.  Notice how he puts his head down and runs to the other side to follow the receiver.  Unfortunately for him, the receiver reverses course, which the defensive back realizes too late, and then to make matters worse, slips on the turn.  He is now well behind the motion receiver, and there’s no chance he makes a play if this ball is a quick screen to that receiver.  The other slot defender notices this issue, and moves over, motioning to switch with the lagging defensive back.  Unfortunately, the lagging defensive back doesn’t heed this advice until it’s too late, at which point he pats a tight end on the back to see if that’ll distract him.  Eventually he just rolls back into the end zone, covering no one.  If it wasn’t for the throw, this would have been in the article complaining about the competition.  This is another example where the level of competition just doesn’t stack up. 


This is a 3rd and 8 play against UTSA, in a surprisingly close game (8 point lead for BYU) in the 4th quarter.  The defense brings a blitz against Wilson, and he throws a jump ball prayer to his receiver, who makes a good adjustment and makes the catch. 

The read on this reminds me very much of Bryce Petty’s first action against the Colts, where he kept throwing up lobs to Robby Anderson because that was the Baylor system.  Essentially, if facing blitz, find the one-on-one matchup on a go route.  Well, it’s not really a go route here, but there is no hot read from Wilson.  He has his quick outlet pass to the running back wide open, as well a mesh concept that provides some opportunity as well.  However, as soon as Wilson sees the pressure, he takes this lob pass off of his back foot. 

The pass itself is good because the function of it is give your offensive player a chance to make a play on the ball.  He’s very well covered on the play, so this acts as a back shoulder pass, where the onus is on the receiver to adjust to the pass better than the defender.  Therefore, for the intended functionality of the play, this is a great throw. 

Once again, this harkens back to the conversation about where Wilson derives his confidence from.  Is it belief in his superior ability, or belief in the inferior ability of the defense?  Does he take this chance in the NFL?  That’s not an easy question to answer, try as anyone might.  He needs to learn to throw to his hot read or understand the weakness of a defense in such a blitz situation, given the route combinations. 


This one is a tricky play to diagnose, because at first glance, this play looks like it should belong in the article with bad throws, rather than bad reads.  However, this is a misread at the line of scrimmage from Wilson, which is why this pass is incomplete.  

At the line of scrimmage, Navy actually disguises their defense, and fools Wilson.  Look at the field side defenders, especially the slot defender.  The safety over the top the slot corner is a pretty good indication of a blitz, thus they are showing a possible blitz with two defenders to cover two receivers.  Furthermore, the defensive back on the boundary side moves up to receiver to show press coverage, thus Wilson is reading man coverage here.  It’s further exasperated because when the running back goes in motion, the linebacker moves with him, which may indicate man coverage as well. 

However, the Navy defense is actually in zone coverage, which Wilson doesn’t realize when making his post snap read.  He looks at the linebacker moving with the running back, which to him confirms man coverage.  He snaps his head the other way, and throws to a spot he expects his receiver to be at in man coverage.  Against man coverage, the receivers are taught to run through the spot because theoretically you have the defender chasing you.  In zone coverage, the receivers are taught to find a soft spot in the defense and slow down because you are essentially in the zone gap.  Wilson assumes man coverage and leads this throw up field, while the receiver recognizes zone cover and slows down in the zone. 

The throw is actually fine here, because this would have connected with the receiver had he been running through the play, as if it was man coverage.  This is just a bad read, that caused the throw to be off-line. 

The bigger issue here is the understanding of defensive shells and shell games, which tie into the level of competition.  Navy is horrible for most of this game on defense, but it does present a challenge here.  If Wilson is going to play against NFL defenses, especially Bill Belichick, they are going to play shell games with him all day long.  It’s paramount for a QB to understand that pre-snap reads don’t necessarily mean the post snap read is going to reveal the same result.  The concerning aspect of this decision making here is that Wilson commits to this throw prior to understanding the post snap read.  While the defense does bring a blitz, Wilson isn’t under pressure at all, thus there shouldn’t be an absolute urgency to get this pass out before confirmation.  Furthermore, defenses play shell games where half the field is zone, while the other half plays man coverage at times.  Wilson can’t rely on making assumption throws without confirming coverage to one side or another, because that’s going to lead to a number of risky throws. 

Overall, the theme holds that Wilson has one of the best arms in the draft.  If we judge by pure arm talent, which is velocity, accuracy, and ball placement, he might be QB1 in this draft.  He has the arm talent to erase his mistakes with processing.  The issue with processing plagues every QB coming out of college, but Wilson’s issues are compounded by the question marks about the competition.  The concerns about complicated shell games are also prevalent and would need to be coached up.  We’ve seen plenty of evidence where the defenses just don’t measure up, and that is a concern in his transition. 

Zach Wilson: Good Read – Bad Throw

We talked about some of the processing issues with Zach Wilson, so in this article, the focus is going to be on situations where he does make the right read, but a bad throw accompanies it.  I have my doubts about Wilson’s transition to the NFL and how he will adjust to the competition, but his arm is absolutely one of (if not the) best weapons in the draft.  However, that does not mean he’s immune to bad throws, so we’ll examine what went wrong in a few of these situations. 


This is a 2nd and goal play against Northern Alabama, that goes as an incomplete pass.  BYU runs a series of motions to decipher the defense and catch them in a communication breakdown.  The series of shifts are designed to create confusion for the defense in adjusting or show a major weakness (at which point audible to run).  In this case, Wilson sees the linebacker (or safety, I cannot tell the position) is adjusting the play call, leaving him just enough time to make this quick pass. 

The whole concept of the play is a 3 step drop and throw, as every route is designed to be at stem by then.  Wilson sees the tight end open cutting to the outside, and all he needs to do is put this ball on the outside shoulder.  It is a good pre-snap read because it is based on the distance of the linebacker (or safety) to the receiver.  The best way to defend this pass would be if the defense could switch assignments, where the linebacker would take over the slot receiver, and the slot defender would move to the receiver in motion.  However, the timing of the movement does not allow for this form of communication, thus they catch them in a situation for the easy TD. 

There can’t be much said about the pass, he just yanks it to the inside.  It’s a terrible throw, and I’m not even sure I see the reason why.  He is a bit under pressure and Wilson does seem to struggle in those situations.  However, this is about as easy a throw that you can make for someone of his caliber.  This is a Hackenberg level throw, albeit my point is not to color his arm as questionable.  His arm is one of the best in the draft, but recent hype (especially after his pro day) seems to have elevated it into the Mahomes/Rodgers stratosphere, which is premature.  He still makes mistakes with his throws, and this article is more to serve as a reminder that he can be fallible. 


This is a fairly simple play to break down, with Wilson throwing an incomplete pass against Houston.  The positive aspect of this throw is definitely the read, as Wilson rolls out to this right side and throws on the run.  Notice the positioning of the defensive back in this play, as he’s right beside (if not a step ahead) of the receiver, which makes it the ideal situation for a back shoulder pass.  Wilson reads the situation correctly, and attempts the back shoulder pass.  As far as recognizing the situation, Wilson does everything correctly here. 

The throw is just simply off, as Wilson sends it out of bounds.  It just looks like a bad throw, as the accuracy seems off here.  The more concerning parts of the play is Wilson floating backwards in the pocket once again, and throwing this pass without really planting his foot.  He has a tendency to throw jump passes while in motion, which might impact his velocity on such throws.  The line of scrimmage on this play is 10 yards ahead of where Wilson releases this pass, albeit it would have been a lot better if he could plant his foot and put more velocity behind the throw. 


This is another simple play, where the breakdown is simple, as this is just a bad throw.  The read on this play is not overly complicated, which is surprising given that it is 3rd and 10, with BYU only up by 3 points late in the game. 

There is no progression to read here, this is a WR screen and Wilson quickly gets the pass out there.  There is an issue I have with the design of this play, which is the RPO built into it.  I do not understand the point of an RPO here because Wilson doesn’t read it at all.  Ideally, the RPO is designed to read a defensive player who is unblocked, and based on their reaction, choose your action.  In this case, the defensive end (or linebacker) is unblocked, thus would most likely be the focal point of the RPO.  However, the defensive end does not bite fully on the run, but rather is hesitant to fully commit.  Wilson reads him, and then throws the ball.  Nevertheless, the timing of this throw should make the RPO a moot point, because if Wilson catches this ball and releases it immediately, it does not matter what the defensive end is doing on this play.  The quick nature of this throw negates the defensive end, thus the RPO is redundant, and probably throws off the timing. 

The throw itself is just yanked and terrible.  There is not much else I can write about it.  I only put this play in because I wanted to delve into the offensive scheme a bit, where they seemed to run a lot of RPO/play action when some of them worked to their detriment. 


The play is a good read, but it is a singular read, as Wilson hits the crossing route.  The play is essentially designed to only go to the shallow cross, because every single receiver down the field moves towards blocking.  The other receivers do not even look back for the ball down the field, and just engage in blocks.  Therefore, from the onset, there is only one read here, which is the shallow crossing route.  The reason why I put it in good reads is because Wilson does not stare at the shallow cross from the start, even though we know that is his only option.  He looks at the linebacker and to his right (as the shallow cross starts to his left) so the defense can move backwards.  This is a great job of manipulating the defense, knowing it will help his only read run free.  The whole idea was to set up enough free space for the receiver to turn up field, and gain some yards. 

Unfortunately, Wilson makes a bad throw to the wrong shoulder, which forces the receiver to reach behind him to make the catch.  This maneuver robs the receiver of momentum, and by the time he fully recovers, the defender is right on top of him.  Wilson needs to lead the receiver here and allow him to run freely, so there is a chance of turning the corner.

The positive aspect of this play is the mental acumen of Wilson on this play, which is hard to dissect on film, without knowing the called progressions.  It’s simple in this case, because there is only one progression, and it takes time to develop.  The fact that Wilson starts out looking at the linebackers to his right is exceptional, showing great ability to control the defense with his eyes.  The end result of this play is bad because of the throw, but the overall takeaway from it should be much more positive.  This display is just as good as seeing one of those long throws down the field go for a touchdown, because this can absolutely translate to the NFL. 


This is essentially the exact same concept as last time, and pretty much the exact same process and result.  There is a good chance this should have been called a penalty because the receivers started blocking well prior to the pass being thrown. 

The good read aspect once again comes with the knowledge that he only has one read on the play, which is the shallow crossing route.  However, much like the last play, Wilson starts off looking away from the origin of the crossing route to clear as much space as possible for the receiver to turn the corner.  The linebacker that eventually switches to cover the crossing route isn’t a concern, because by nature of the route combination (pick route), the receiver will be open for the crossing route.  The whole idea is to clear out the right side by having defenders run further down the field, so the crossing route receiver has ample space to turn the corner.  Wilson executes that aspect perfectly, as he starts off gazing to the right side, before picking up on the crossing route.  

The downside of this play of course is that the throw is just too high.  This is an exceptional catch by the receiver with one hand, but a terrible throw.  Wilson played this about as perfect as you could up until the throwing point.  It turns a beautiful set up into a minimal gain. 

Once again, it should be reiterated that the eye manipulation on this play would absolutely transfer over to the NFL.  Overall this is a positive play because the eye manipulation is of greater importance than the occasional missed throw. 

Overall, the point of this article is to show that Wilson does possess good processing skills at times, albeit you probably wouldn’t get that impression from the series of articles at first.  It’s certainly not the best out there and needs improvement in certain areas to transition into the NFL.  This article was to flip the axis on my own scouting report for Wilson, showing that while I have my doubts about his processing power (and little doubt about his arm), there are instances where his arm fails him even when his processing capability is exceptional. 

Zach Wilson: Elite NFL Throws – Part 2

This is Part 2 of the article on Elite Throws from Zach Wilson.


This is just a beautiful play all around, and Wilson absolutely looks like a stud QB on the play.   The most impressive aspect of the play is the eye manipulation towards the middle field safety, until his receiver gets behind him.  The safety is in a precarious spot because there are two deep routes, and Wilson holds him until his primary route clears.   This form of manipulation is great to see in a QB at the college level because it’s not a passive read of the defense, but rather an active read where he’s changing the defense while the play develops.  Far too many times in simple offenses, you have a “If defender does X, do Y, if defender does Z, do W” reads where the play design functions as the active read.  In this case, Wilson elevates the play design with his eye manipulation.  

The throw is great, and once again showing off his excellent arm.  He leads it past the safety and to the inside, so the defender cannot undercut it.  You do have to give some props to the wide receiver for making this leaping catch as well.  


This is a 1st and 10 throw against Northern Alabama, and BYU is blowing them out at this point by 28.  This is a simple read, the offense sets up the look for a WR run or quick screen, as the field side receivers pretend to set up blocking down the field. 

The first part of this is going to be more talking about the play design, because it is set up to create communication issues.  Northern Alabama does a horrible job at switching here, when the receiver goes in motion, which is going to cause confusion for the slot defender.  The boundary side receiver starts off with a defensive back over him, and then goes in motion.  There should be instant switch because the motion comes in late, but the field side safety does not react until the boundary side safety points it out.  By the time he reacts, this play is dead as far as the defense is concerned.  The WR screen is wide open, but more importantly the slot defender is not sure of his assignment now.  Instead of attacking his receiver, he is looking at the QB to make sure the WR screen isn’t being thrown here.  This is a great play design, but it begets the question of the competition.  You can clearly see the delay in communication here, and how it opens up a wide-open pass for easy yards.  Wilson does tend to play hero ball at times, because he passes up easy yards here for the shot at the end zone, but I cannot blame him, given that they are absolutely blowing the doors off Northern Alabama. 

The positive on the play is the throw, the touch and ball placement.  I think one of the hardest aspects to learn as a QB is knowing the angle to which you can attack a defense.  If you see guys like Paxton Lynch struggle in the NFL, it is because they are used to sending in the fastball at every chance.  You have to learn that the ball might need to arrive over the defender, rather than through the defender.  A good testament to this would be fade throws, where the QB has to place the ball over the defender but get it down before the pylon.  Considering the far hash mark, this is a long fade route to the side of the end zone, and Wilson places this ball perfectly.  By the end of this play, the defender is in good position to defend every other type of pass here.  Notice the ball placement here, because it does not even matter if the defensive back has eyes on the back of his head, because there isn’t anything he can do at this point.  The ball is placed perfectly, and this is one of the best throws from Wilson, because it relies more on ball placement than anything else.  I do not think you could hand this ball off in a better place than this ball placement.  We can go back and forth about hero ball, or the fact that he bypassed an easy option, but the throw here is just special. 


This is a great throw, albeit not the reason this one needs to be highlighted, it is the pocket movement.  All throughout this series, I’ve harped on Wilson’s tendency to float back in the pocket, leading to concerns about pocket integrity.  I wanted to highlight this play, because it’s not all that often that he does step up in the pocket and make throws with defenders by him, or behind him.  In the NFL, Wilson needs to be comfortable with defenders behind him, where he can step up and make the throw, as he does here.  As much as I lament about him floating back in the pocket, he corrects the issue on this play, steps up in the pocket, and makes a great throw.  The pass might be a tad overthrown, as the receiver needs to stretch, and thereby lose his balance, to catch the ball.  However, since this is a 58-yard throw in the air, people will forgive Wilson here. 

There was a part of me that wanted to put this clip in the article questioning competition, because you can make an argument that every single route is open.  Who exactly did Northern Alabama cover on this one?  We can also talk about far harsh mark, targeting field side outside receiver again as well.  However, this is clearly a blowout at this point, so I can see why the team is basically just flexing now.  Although the point of this one was to highlight Wilson stepping up in the pocket more than anything else, hence why it is here.  


As you might be sensing a theme here at this point, the prime importance of the play here is not the throw, it’s the set up.  This is one of the rare examples of a game in 2020 where BYU is trailing in the game in the 3rd quarter. 

I extended the clip to show the end zone clip, because the most impressive part of this play is Wilson checking off the safety before pulling the trigger on this deep pass.  Watch the timing of this pump fake because it’s designed to get the slot defender to bite into thinking this is a slant route.  The secondary aspect of the pump fake is to get the safety to step in thinking this pass is going to be over the middle.  In this case, the second aspect does not work because the safety isn’t looking at Wilson, thus the QB needed to check the safety’s positioning before pulling the trigger.  This shows great awareness of his responsibilities while reading the defense.  

Once the safety is confirmed to be far away from the passing lane, Wilson makes a great throw to the receiver.  You can make an argument about the throw being slightly underthrown because the receiver had to slow down to catch it, but it is of minor importance.  The wide receiver is wide open in this case, so Wilson has some leeway to be careful to make sure of the completion. 


This throw is great as well, but the biggest reason this is here is just the clutch nature of this throw.  The situation is 3rd and 15, with BYU is up by 3 late in the 4th quarter.  This throw is basically a dagger shot and shows some of his mentality to be aggressive.   

Once again, we can notice far hash mark and the field side outside receiver being the target.  The throw is simply great, as Wilson holds the safety and then just connects on a perfect throw in the end zone.  This type of throw can be made by a good amount of QBs because it’s a one-on-one matchup with the defender having his back turned to the play.  However, it takes some extreme confidence to pull it off with a game possibly hanging in the balance.  In essence, I appreciate the mental aspect of this throw in regard to his mindset, more than the actual throw.   This one reminds me of a Baker Mayfield/Ryan Fitzpatrick type play where they are just going for that dagger. 


This breakdown is going to be a short one because I just wanted to highlight a common criticism of Wilson, which is that he does not throw with anticipation as much.  This ball is thrown before the receiver makes his break, showing good anticipation.  I believe the biggest issue with Wilson is not anticipation, but rather his ability to read defenses that are actually good.  On this play, the defensive back is giving up 10 yards on the play to the receiver, and yet somehow trying to maintain that 10-yard cushion down the field.  This is the type of play where there really is not a need to read the defense because they are giving up free yards.  

The other things to notice as usual, far hash mark, targeting the field side outside receiver.  He locks in on the receiver from the start, and the defender is trying to maintain a safe distance for Covid.  Overall, this play does not alleviate the main concerns with Wilson, but it’s in there to show that he can actually throw with anticipation.  You are not going to see too many throws with anticipation in college because it isn’t necessary, thus looking for situations where they do flash the ability is key.   Wilson can make throws with anticipation, it’s more of a worry if he can do it while defenses are closer to the defender. 


Unlike the main theme of this article, this is going to be a bit more negative, and it doesn’t have much to do with Wilson.  After the play action, Wilson spots a wide-open post route down the field and makes a perfect throw for what should be a touchdown (I believe they ruled it down at the 1 or 2 yard line).  The throw is great, to a wide-open receiver, and there isn’t much else you can say about it.  He leads him away from his primary defender, thus leaving no chance of a pass breakup. 

However, there are some issues with this play that I think should be addressed.  The first one as usual deals with far hash mark, targeting field side outside receiver.  This has been hammered on and on, because the defenses at this level just aren’t able to deal with QBs that have strong but accurate arms.  Notice the defensive back on this play because I think it gives insight to the issue.  He does not have safety help over the middle so he’s playing with extra cushion on this play.  He turns his hips to the inside, essentially meaning there is no way he is defending an out route.  If the receiver runs an out route, the defense can do absolutely nothing about it because the defensive back is completely out of position to make a play.   This is a major indication that defenses just are not used to seeing a QB make that field side outside throw, because they consistently leave it open. If you watch high end draft defensive backs, they are more likely to backpedal in this situation so both sides of the field are open to be defended.  Since the defensive back has his hips turned, this now causes a need to react faster at the stem of the receiver’s route.  Notice how the defender takes a step backwards before the receiver breaks inside, with about 5 yards of space, because the defender is caught in no man’s land.  He essentially gave up the in route he was positioned to defend here because he gave away his intentions too early.   While the throw is great, it’s the competition allowing for easy throws (impressive throws nonetheless) that should concern teams. 

The other aspect to check out here is that Wilson bypasses the easy WR screen for the deep throw down the field.  It is not a bad read, because the deep post is as open as you can expect on this play, but also plays into the level of competition.  The defense rushed 4 pass rushers, and effectively covered one receiver well on this play.  The WR screen and deep post is wide open, while 5 defenders run around aimlessly in the middle. 


The same positives and negatives that show up consistently come up here as well.  The positive is once again the trajectory of this throw, which is just excellent.  I believe it is ruled incomplete, but that’s inconsequential for our purposes.  Wilson takes a throw from the far hash mark, and places it perfectly over the shoulder on the field side about 45 yards down the field.  As much as I harp on the defense in these clips, the defensive back could not have played this much better.  He has inside leverage so any in cutting routes give him an advantage, and he’s a step behind which should discourage a back shoulder pass and still allows him to be within range on a long pass.  However, Wilson places this ball perfectly, especially with the trajectory.  This pass is far more impressive than the last pass, even if it might be a shorter distance because he throws the guy open.  You can argue that he had a step and maybe Wilson should have led him further up the field, but with 45 yards down the field, this should have been a major completion.  While I love the strong arm, my biggest checkbox for a QB’s arm is his ability to place a ball where only his guy has a shot at it.  The ability to see a defender’s position and make it useless because he can deliver it at an angle that puts it out of reach.  This is a prime example of that type of play, one of those “Oh wow, he made that throw” moments. 

The negative as usual, far hash mark, targeting the field side outside receiver, and floating back more into the pocket.  He’s making this throw longer than it needs to be because he moves so far back in the pocket, but he has the arm strength to make it up against these defenses.  However, I do not want to rain on this party too much, because this throw is just special. 


This one is a very interesting play, that goes all over the place. 

The main positive aspect here is Wilson moving up in the pocket, and then throwing on the run.  On this play watch the defender attacking the right tackle, because that is going to be a play that is repeated often in the NFL.  The defensive end charges further up the field and tries to bend around the corner as Wilson floats back a bit in the pocket.  This is the type of speed rush to the outside that Wilson is vulnerable to because he won’t have the BYU offensive line advantage against NFL caliber defenders.  Wilson does a good job of realizing the situation, and correctly moves up in the pocket.  He keeps his head up and down the field, and finds a deep crossing/post route for a large gain.  The throw can be made by many QBs, but demonstrating the ability to step up in the pocket and fire the ball down the field. 

The first one as usual, far hash mark, targets the field side outside receiver.  However, in this case the initial target was not the outside receiver, so it’s not quite as blatant.  Wilson does however eschew easier options with screens to both sides and opts for the down field throw. 

The bigger issue here is the defense, and this defense is one of the worst in all of the Wilson tapes.  The first issue is miscommunication with the late movement.  Once the receiver goes in motion, the defense needs to shift responsibilities to the other side.  Instead, three different players move to that side and at point or another are only guarding that receiver in motion.  If and when the receiver does go in motion, there should be a protocol as to which defender moves or switches responsibility, which rarely seems to exist.  In this case, the linebacker charges that route, while the safety needs to fall back into coverage.  Instead, two linebackers and the safety charge the route and get hung out to dry.  The second aspect is to look at the linebacker to the top of the screen, once the receiver goes in motion.  At this point, he seems to have outside contain on a run, and therefore also a screen responsibility towards the running back.  However, he just runs by the running back without regard, thus leaving the running back wide open for an easy screen.  I’m not even sure they account for the rushing possibility at the initial set on this play because there doesn’t seem to be anyone with contain responsibilities. 

The final issue is the defensive back that gets toasted on this play, because they make repeat appearances on the questionable competition article.  This exact issue shows up so many times on tape that I find it baffling that UTSA did not try a different approach.  The defensive back is running with his hips open to the field, which is not all that unusual because they want to be able to drive on in breaking routes.  The unusual aspect is that he’s running to the inside of the defender, which means an out breaking route is in his blind spot.  If a runner breaks to the outside, this defender is completely left in the dark.  Usually on these routes, the defender takes outside leverage thus the route is in front of them, so they can always see the receiver.  They have outside leverage, and hip position to drive on anything inside.  Instead, this defender is running with inside leverage, straining his neck backwards to look at the receiver, thus slowing himself down.  Once the receiver eats up the cushion, the defender has to abandon his positioning because the receiver is now in his blind spot.  Notice how the receiver is just running straight, yet the defender needs to completely turn around because he can no longer see him well.  The timing works out poorly, and he’s left in the dust for this crossing/post route.  This exact issue happens numerous times in this game.  This is another testament to the big issue with competition.  They are not used to playing QBs that can make the field side throw from the far hash mark.  They can get away with this if it’s a normal average armed QB because the throw is long enough that it allows time to recover.  Therefore I keep harping on the tendency to throw to the field side outside receiver so often from the hash, because most of these defenses just can’t handle it.  They are hedging their bets that 25% width of the field is off-limits because most QBs at that level can’t make them pay. 


The final play we’re going to look at in this article.  This is another anticipation throw from Wilson, as he reaches the decision point right before the receiver breaks his stride.  This play is highlighted because this is what arm strength gives you as an advantage, an easy play.  The defense for the most part played this perfectly, yet this is a downfield completed pass.  The single high safety means the defender has to guard against the go route in this situation, which makes this pass basically impossible to defend if the receivers are talented around you.  Watch the receiver here make a great cut on the curl route, and then come back for the ball.  With a receiver that can come back for a pass, and the arm strength of Wilson, this play is basically perfect.  The big takeaway form this is that arm strength down the field allows you for these types of passes because the defense just has to defend against the go route.  The only way this play would fail is if Revis is back there, or if the receiver makes his cut and stands there for the ball, allowing the defender to recover. 

The concerning parts of this play is once again, far hash mark to the field side outside receiver, plus how far back Wilson floats in the pocket. 

Overall, Wilson’s arm talent is the best in this class, and it’s not just fastballs.  He shows exceptional touch on the ball and his downfield accuracy is the best in the draft class.  Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, or Mac Jones can’t match his down the field accuracy combined with arm strength, and if we are judging by pure arm talent, he should be the first pick in the draft.  He makes all kinds of throws, and he can hit every part of the field.  The big issue arises from the fact that opposing defenses just aren’t prepared for this level of talent, at which point how much do you attribute success and confidence to the level of competition? 

Zach Wilson: Elite NFL Throws – Part 1

The series of articles might present a negative light towards Zach Wilson, mainly because the hype on him is insane right now.  One of the main purposes of this series is to point out that Zach Wilson is not a perfect prospect, and he has many concerning flaws.  It’s not to say that he doesn’t have potential, and couldn’t be a star one day, but there are far too many concerns if you are the Jets.   However, one thing that can’t be denied is that his arm is truly elite.  In this article, we are going to look at the numerous examples of NFL caliber arm strength and break down the film. 


The first one we are looking at is against Boise State on first down.  Wilson has a tendency to make jump throws, which I think impacts his ability to drive the ball down the field.  This is especially true when he rolls to the right at times, but he still generates exceptional velocity on those passes.  The upside is that he’s very good at off-platform throws (as we saw at his pro-day) which should translate well into the NFL, because Wilson seems to generate a high amount of torque from his hips.  This translates exceptionally well when Wilson rolls out to the left, because this is a weak spot for many right-handed QBs. 

If we are talking about traditional sets and starting with a set base, a right-handed QB needs to plant his left foot towards the receiver, and then rotate his hips based on that leverage to create torque.   If he plants his foot too wide, his hips open too much, leading to off-target throws (a main issue with Hackenberg).  If he plants his foot too far inside, he will be throwing across his body, which also leads to off-target throws.  In Wilson’s case, he has the exceptional ability to generate torque in the air, without losing much velocity or accuracy.  If you watch closely on this play, Wilson is actually starting his throwing motion from the back foot, and his lead foot isn’t even touching the ground when he releases the ball. 

This throw does not look great on the outset, it’s an out route that Wilson hits well after the receiver makes the cut and slightly pushes off the defender.  If Wilson does this from the pocket, this play would not even be included.  However, this is an exceptional play because of the way Wilson torques his hips to create velocity on the play.   The sheer ability to make this type of throw with velocity and accuracy is extremely impressive.  We can argue about the need for this type of throw because he has plenty of space to actually put his foot down and throw correctly here.  However, if we are talking about projection this is extremely useful is a defensive end or linebacker chasing him, and he doesn’t have the time to make a planted throw.  It’s not going to happen every time, but the ability to do so is rare.   


This play against Boise highlights both good and bad about Wilson.  

The good part about this play is just the throw, and when you look at college scouting tape, this is the type of throws that you are looking for.  The hash marks are wider in the college game, so throwing to the field side from the far hash mark is a sign of good arm strength.  You cannot lob the ball there all the time because it gives the defense a chance to drive on the pass, so it’s a fastball call in most cases.  Wilson sees the free rusher and takes the quick throw across the field for the quick slant route.  This isn’t a major gain by any means, but it’s the velocity and quick release that is impressive.  He does this throw better than anyone in this class, bar none. 

The bad part about this play really stems from something we have talked about extensively in this series.  Wilson tends to favor the field side outside receiver far too often when he is on one side of the hashmark.  He has a tendency to rely on these passes, which might be a problem, because he won’t have that easy advantage in the NFL.  The other possible disadvantage is the defensive line formation, because the defensive end is spread out wide.  They essentially get a free runner at the QB because the end is split out wide, and the tackles run a stunt to confuse the right tackle.  Wilson’s tendency to float back in the pocket might cause a rise in spread out formations so defenses can attack at an angle up the field in the NFL.  It is not a concern on this play, but it is a tendency that can be taken advantage of. 


If you want to draw up a great college film on throwing the back shoulder pass, this should be one of the clips.  This throw is about as perfect as you can get for throwing a back shoulder pass.  The defender is even with the receiver, as Wilson releases this ball, and it lands perfectly.  Part of the credit does need to go to the receiver as well, because he doesn’t slow down his stride until the ball is halfway down the field.  Far too many times inexperienced receivers may slow down prematurely because they want to be lined up for the pass, but this receiver pushes down the field, then comes back for the last yard.  As with the previous throw, the ability to throw from the far hash mark is a great testament to arm strength, and accuracy. 

The downside of this play is two-fold.  One, we have that pattern again of being on the far hash mark and targeting the field side outside receiver.  The other downside on the play is that he floats back in the pocket again, instead of staying near the line of scrimmage.  This changes the protection capabilities of the offensive line, and gives them added challenges.  It can work if you have a great offensive line, such as the one Wilson has at BYU, or Mahomes in KC, but it’s going to be trouble with the Jets. 


This throw reminds me a lot of the deep touchdown pass from Justin Fields to Chis Olave against Clemson, with a deep post route.  This pass is not quite as far, but it’s still a great throw.  The best thing about this pass is actually the post snap eye manipulation, because Wilson starts out looking off the safety.  Once he confirms the safety has been held long enough, he looks for the deep post route and makes a great throw.  Much like the Field’s throw, the ball hangs up a touch, allowing for the defender to get closer to the receiver.  I praised the Fields throw, and I have the same reaction to this one as well, this is an absolute dime.  The eye manipulation, the distance, and ball placement are all great here.  

The negative aspect once again deals with far hash mark and field side outside receiver being the primary target.  You can make an argument for the ball being slightly underthrown, but this far down the field, it is nitpicking.   


This is just a great improvised throw, the kind that should remind people of Mahomes/Rodgers.  Initially, it might seem like far hash mark, field side outside receiver again, but he is not the first read.  The first read is deep curl route, but the Boise State defense played it well, so Wilson moves on from that read.  He directs the receiver to turn outside and puts a very good throw to the sideline for a large gain. 

At first, this looks like the pass didn’t make it quite far enough, but I think it’s on purpose.  In a way, I see this almost as a front shoulder type back shoulder pass.  I will explain a bit more in detail.  If Wilson puts this ball on level with the receiver in the end zone, the defender has a chance to undercut the pass based on the angle of origination.  The only real way for Wilson to complete this pass is if he can control it over the defender into the arms of the receiver.  If Wilson throws the ball short and towards the sideline, the receiver has more area to track back to the ball, leaving no space for the defender to undercut the ball.  I think the throw being up the field is likely by design. 

There really is not anything negative with the play, BYU is up big at this point, late in the game so Wilson may have been more likely to take risks down the field.  It is interesting to see that Wilson could probably stand in that pocket for a good 10 seconds before anyone could even get close to him. 


I’m 95% sure, this play was scripted because it’s the first play on offense for them, and Wilson doesn’t even look anywhere else.   There are positives and negatives to this play, however.

The positive on this play is the throw, which shows great accuracy down the field.  At first it looks like the throw is a bit to the inside because the receiver has to work back towards it, but it’s the result of the defensive back pushing the receiver towards the sideline.  When Wilson throws the ball, the receiver is running right on the numbers, but gets pushed further outside, which makes him reach inside to attempt the catch.  The ball hits him right in the stomach, thus this should have been a catch.  It’s hard to tell if the defender tipped it at the end from this angle, so I’m not 100% sure.  However, the pure throw is great, shows great anticipation and accuracy. 

This is one of those plays where the negatives outweigh the positives though.  The first one is that Wilson is locked in on the go route from the start, especially when he has 3 easier avenues for sure fire gains on first down.  He does not even go through his progressions, but rather locks in on the receiver.  The only reservation here is if the play call just wants to establish the deep passing threat to start the game, and the rest of the routes on this play didn’t matter. As we noted several times, far side of the hash mark, Wilson locks in on the field side outside receiver once more. 

At the point of release for Wilson, the defender is at least 2 yards ahead of the receiver, which should be a concern in terms of reading the play.  The defender is in a very good position to defend this exact pass call, yet Wilson pulls the trigger anyway.   Once again, this brings back the question of the competition, and if his aggressiveness stems from the fact that his receivers are just more talented than the defenders here.  Usually on go routes with similar talent matchups, you look for the receiver to be even with the assumption that he will widen the gap as they run down the field.  On this play, Wilson is assuming not only a widening gap, but negating the negative gap that exists at the point of decision. 

The throw is great, and this should have been a catch (unless it was tipped at the last second).  However, everything that led up to the point of decision for this throw is worrisome.  


This isn’t going to be a big breakdown, mostly just an example of good touch and read.  This essentially just works as a Sail concept, and Wilson is making the high low read on the out cutting routes.  Once the tight end starts his route after a chip release, this is just waiting out the flat defender.  If the flat defender floats back, check down to the tight end.  If the flat defender drives on the tight end (as was the case here), throw it over the top.  I just wanted to show an example of Wilson showing touch, combined with a good read, and accuracy.  Too many times, when discussing good NFL throws, we look at fastball throws, hash mark throws, or go routes.  It’s important to look at instances where Wilson made a good read, and then showed off an accurate arm that wasn’t just a fastball. 

Please check back for Part 2.

Zach Wilson: Receiver Bail-Out

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Zach Wilson: Improvisation

When looking at prospects, a good measure of abilities is focusing in on situations where they are under pressure, and they improvise.  Today, we are going to look at some of the good characteristics from Wilson in terms of improvising on the field. 

Improvisation in general is not all equal, because the risk and results dictate the judgement.  Geno Smith trying to exchange the ball behind his back, only to fumble would be on the bad side of improvisation.  Brett Farve shoving the ball with his left hand to get a completion would be on the good side.  It’s important to see the risk involved with each case, and the final outcome to show that it’s good improvisation, rather than recklessness. 


On the outset, this is a good example of Wilson’s weakness within the pocket.  Once again, Wilson is floating backwards in the pocket, which creates pressure out of thin air.  He floats back about 10 yards, and at his apex, is about 14 yards away from the line of scrimmage.  Notice the RT on this play, and the edge defender.  If Wilson stays in the pocket, he’s perfectly protected, and the right tackle could wall off the defender.  Wilson floats back in the pocket, thus the defender can just push up the field, leading right to Wilson.  This is a situation where Wilson’s tendency to float created pressure from a 3-man rush, when pretty much all of his options are covered down the field. 

I added this play in improvisation because, once we remove the reason for the pressure, this is a wonderful form of improvisation.  Forget everything that happened up to the point of him rolling out, and just focus on the point of Wilson escaping the pocket.  He has a crossing route coming across the field, but there is a defender trailing, with the risk of him jumping the pass.  In terms of throws, it would be a risky proposition.  There is a running back outlet that turns into a wheel route, that is very well covered, even after the running back breaks off the route.  Then there is a deep out route, where the receiver turns up the field into a go route once the play broke down, and that is the one we’re going to look at. 

When Zach Wilson is out of the pocket, he may or may not fully see that the first two options we mentioned, are not open.  However, he does notice the receiver now running the go route down the sideline, with a defender one step behind him, and the safety is too far away, thus he can probably assume this is man coverage.  He throws a magnificent back shoulder pass that is placed perfectly, allowing for his receiver to make a play on the ball.  This play could not have been defended any better by the CB, yet Wilson throws his receiver open.  This is the type of arm talent that should excite anyone picking Wilson because that is not a throw many QBs can make. 


At this point, you should all be noticing the first problem with this play, and Wilson floating backwards.  The line of scrimmage is at the 30-yard line, and Wilson floats back a good 10 yards, before reaching an apex of 14 yards, prior to scrambling.  Floating backwards to avoid pressure can work at BYU because he had one of the best offensive lines in college.  In this case, he did not create the pressure by floating backwards, so there is some positive. 

The play breaks down because the primary receiver stumbles.  It is somewhat hard to see in this angle, but Wilson actually starts out by looking at the linebacker/safety combination in the middle, because he wants to hold them.   The idea being that the boundary side outside receiver would be the target as soon as he breaks in.  The timing of the play is thrown off when the receiver stumbles (or gets pushed by the defender) because the crossing route is bringing the safety into the passing lane.  The whole idea was to have the initial read occur before the middle linebacker crossed into the passing lane.  Therefore, while this play looks to have indecisiveness from Wilson, it is a great post snap read from him to not throw the pass to the initial read.

The improvisation comes from when Wilson looks to escape the pocket and finding open space.  Once he has space to see down the field, he sees his receiver split defenders, and throws a nice touch pass.  The risk on this throw was fairly low because it split between the defenders.  The first defender (further up the field and towards the sideline) is negated because the ball is thrown behind him, thus he would have to spin 180 degrees to make a play on the ball away from him.  The second defender is trailing the receiver, and this pass is leading the receiver away from him, thus that defender does not have a chance at this ball.  This is a very good pass under the circumstances, as he kept his eyes down the field while scrambling.   This is the type of mobility that Wilson thrives in, which is to buy enough time to make plays down the field. 


This one is not a bad snap, it hits Wilson right in the hands, yet he drops it.  However, he recovers in time to make a very good read and throw down the field.  One thing Wilson does exceptionally well is throw on the run, because he seems to generate a large amount of torque without planting his feet.  In fact, he loves to do this jump throw when running to his right, rather than planting his foot. 

Wilson keeps his eyes down the field on this play, and does take a risky cross body throw.  However, some of the risk was negated by the fact that the only defender that could have possibly made a play on the ball was moving in the wrong direction.  It was a clear path to the receiver, so while the throw in general was risky, it is a good choice here. 

The one thing that I do not understand, is the middle field safety and the angle he takes at the end of this play.  As Wilson is rolling out, the safety is converging on the receiver that eventually catches this pass.  However, as Wilson starts his throwing motion, the safety adjusts his angle to move up the field, allowing the receiver ample time to catch the ball.  Why did the safety adjust?  His lone target is right in front of him, so why move away from him?  He is too far to be relevant if the pass is going towards the receiver on the sideline.  This is part of the issue when evaluating Wilson because there is a distinct lack of quality for some of these defenses.  I have another article that highlights some of these issues, but there are small things that make you wonder how much the competition played a part in the gaudy stats. 


Yes, I extended the gif so you can watch the hurdle.  There are a few things to note on this play, the primary being Wilson escaping the pocket to his left and making a good read.  The play is blown up by the defensive tackle, who gets by the guard and gets in Wilson’s face before the play fully develops. 

Wilson does a great job of escaping the pressure by moving to his left, and finding some open space.  Once again, this is the type of mobility that Wilson displays on tape, in which he can scramble to open space if needed, under pressure.  He is not going to juke defenders out of their shoes, but he can buy some extra time, which is crucial in today’s NFL.  I know it sounds negative as it is constantly compared negatively to the athleticism of a Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray, but I do think it’s positive that he possesses at least some semblance of mobility.  The ability to avoid the pass rush at times does have a lot of value in the NFL, so it needs to be pointed out as a positive trait.  It is not a weapon like the other guys, but it can be helpful in the right situation. 

Wilson makes a simple throw to the receiver, who makes the catch and runs down the field.  It needs to be pointed out that Wilson’s initial read at the far hash mark is once again, field side outside receiver.  He does not get through the reads, because of the pressure, but it’s definitely a pattern.  On this play, the tight end (and eventual receiver) and running back both perform chip releases, which seems to be a staple of the BYU offense, a form of delayed release.  In this case, the delayed release confuses the middle linebacker, who tries to go towards the QB instead of chasing down the tight end. 

Now, can someone explain what the field side safety is doing on this play?  There is an out and up route on the sideline, and a post route in the middle, and he’s running away from both of them.  What exactly is this guy defending as the safety?  He has downfield responsibilities, but he cannot defend either of those receivers if Wilson had the chance to throw to them.  In the end, he gets hurdled on the play as well to rub salt in the wound. 

Overall, Wilson does a good job at improvising when things break down, albeit part of those breakdowns are caused by him.  He’s mobile enough to scramble away from defensive ends, and find some open space to operate.  He shows good ability to keep his eyes down the field when scrambling and seems to have an innate ability to make jump throws while running to his right side.  He’s not going to set the world on fire with his speed, but he has enough mobility to fit in with the current generation of NFL QBs. 

Zach Wilson: Scrambling

There have been glimpses of the issues facing Wilson in terms of his NFL stardom, so it’s time to look at the positive aspects.  In this article, we’re diving into his athleticism and how he fits the mold of the evolving landscape of QBs in the league.

First of all, there needs to a discussion on the changing landscape itself, because pure pocket passers are becoming few and far in between.  Look no further than the varying reports on Mac Jones in this draft.  Lately, we’ve seen an influx of uber athletes like Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, and Josh Allen enter the league and succeed.  Their success derives from arm talent mixed in with mobility, which causes a dilemma for opposing defenses. 

Take for example, a simple mesh concept, that is prevalent in college (and making it’s way to the NFL).  The route is fairly simple, two opposing crossing routes, and the idea is to have one LB or CB lag behind (or slow down to get through traffic) and then a routine pass with minimal risk.  You will see this in almost every college playbook at this point.  The reason why it’s so effective in college is because QBs are given more freedom to be mobile so the linebackers in the middle can’t be overly aggressive to jump the route.  If you have a QB with mobility, you have to protect the edges, thus your rushers would have an added responsibility of outside contain.  If the rushers don’t adhere to outside contain, you’ll see the ultra-athletic QBs run outside into green space.  This places an importance of linebackers up the middle being vigilant of the mobile QB moving up in the pocket for a run.  Therefore, if you run a mesh concept, the linebacker has to discern whether they want to jump the passing lane, or hold back for a possible rushing lane.  The end result of this is a play that gets receivers being open consistently. 

There are a few reasons why the play hasn’t taken off to quite the same level in the NFL.  The primary reason is the financial investment in the QB for these franchises, whereas in college, you can always recruit the next prospect to fit the system.  If a QB is drafted, and produces good results, the team is financially invested in that player for a decade, and replacement options aren’t readily available (as Jets fans should know).  You don’t want to risk your franchise QB running up the middle and getting lit up by defensive lineman or linebackers.  The second reason is the defense is just too fast where the linebackers can jump the passing lane without completely compromising the running lane.  This is what plagues a QB who can be mobile like Sam Darnold, because he’s not fast enough to the point where linebackers can’t recover.  He’s a scrambling QB, that can run down the field if there is open space (especially if it’s man coverage across the board and defenders aren’t facing him).  This is a very useful tool when plays break down, and the occasional surprise QB run.  The QBs that can take advantage of almost any situation are exceptional runners like Jackson/Murray/Allen who can either outmaneuver linebackers or in Allen’s case overpower them, thus they can have these transitions. 

A good example of how the NFL adjusts to these guys can be seen with Lamar Jackson, who had an MVP year when he first broke out.  Defenses couldn’t adjust to his running ability combined with his passing ability.  However, with more tape on Jackson, defenses realized he wasn’t very good at throwing outside the numbers, that his passing chart focused more on the middle of the field.  Defenses adjusted by crowding the middle of the field, simultaneously impacting his running lane, and preferred passing destination.  Lamar Jackson needs to readjust now and show an ability to throw passes outside the numbers consistently to achieve the same level of success as his MVP year.  Therefore, it’s vital that you combine athleticism with arm talent.  

While we’re here, also want to touch up on Patrick Mahomes, because he’s someone that gets mentioned in the same range as Wilson.  The Chiefs expertly crafted their roster to fit his talent, which is why he’s an All-Pro QB.   One, they built a very good OL to protect him from standard rushes, thus it took a blitz to put pressure on him.  The regular season match up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a good example, where the defense blitzed Mahomes with single high safety look and got absolutely torched.  They pair the good offensive line with top tier speed down the field, creating a vertical stretch.  It’s nearly impossible to play with single high safety against the team because they have guys that can run by any defender.  The vertical stretch and necessity for two middle field safeties causes the intermediate part of the field to be less guarded, which allows an elite TE like Travis Kelce to feast.  Furthermore, they added a dynamic receiving threat in Clyde Edwards-Helaire because their roster construction is focused on spacing.  Their receivers occupy the safeties and corners down the field, Kelce occupies linebackers in the short to intermediate area, and their running backs occupy defenders in the short area.  This is where Mahomes being mobile like Darnold comes into play, because he can now buy time with his legs until a receiver becomes open.  The defense is stretched thin vertically AND horizontally because of the specific talent on the roster.  So, if Mahomes can buy an extra second, chances are one of the receiving options can wiggle open down the field.  If the defense is clamping down on them, chances are Mahomes can scramble up the field.  This is where his elite arm talent comes into play because it almost doesn’t matter where the defense becomes weak, because he can get the ball to that spot.  The only way to effectively shut it down is to bring a pass rush without compromising downfield integrity, which is exactly what the Buccaneers did in the Super Bowl.  They kept their safeties back, and got pressure on Mahomes (partially through a great defensive line, and partially because the Chiefs were hurting on the offensive line), throwing off the entire system.  It’s the biggest reason why the Chiefs went ultra-aggressive on offensive lineman in free agency, because it’s vital for their system to protect Mahomes when there isn’t a blitz.  I expect them to pick an OL in the draft as well with their first pick.   They know how to maximize his talent, and build a roster around it.

How does this relate to Zach Wilson? The Jets aren’t set up in the same fashion as the Chiefs, so it presents a problem for roster fit.  The Jets receivers aren’t world class burners, but rather fast guys that are good at route running.  The offensive line is a major question mark, aside from LT, which creates the issue of pressure without blitzing.  The tight end position is also a question mark, because Chris Herndon looked lost for most parts of the year.  In essence, if we think Wilson’s physical traits compare close to Mahomes, the situation that he will be put into for the NFL certainly does not.  If the Jets believe Wilson is the answer, they should have targeted faster wide receivers (Curtis Samuel/Will Fuller) in free agency so the field can be stretched vertically. 

Nevertheless, I want to highlight a few plays from Wilson that show off his athletic ability, and how he fits into the mold of scrambling QBs that are becoming the norm in the NFL. 


This is a play against Boise State the results from a communication breakdown for protection.  Notice the RB on this play, he expects the right tackle to engage with the defensive end on the blitz, which is why he runs outside to block the linebacker.  However, the right tackle doesn’t engage with the defensive end, which causes mayhem.  The RB reacts too late, at which point Wilson is facing a direct rusher, when the numbers should have matched in terms of blocking. 

Wilson does a very good job of escaping the first rusher, and this is going to be very similar to the film on Darnold or Mahomes in terms of escaping the pocket.  The big issue here is the second defender because this is Geno Smith territory of scrambling backwards.  This would have been a good time to throw the ball away, but Wilson escapes the tackle.  This is a good example of college scrambling vs. NFL scrambling because it’s very likely Wilson gets sacked for a large loss here by the linebacker.  The ability to make the first rusher miss in this instance will still translate over, but making a linebacker miss while running backwards will not.  In this case, I want you to just notice the ability to make the first person miss because it shows his ability to scramble from pressure, which can help elongate plays. 

The second aspect of the play is both impressive and concerning.  This throw is absolutely amazing, because it’s a jump throw 35 yards down the field to the spot for the receiver.  There is a bit of miscommunication here as well, as the receiver turns up field, and the throw is made with the assumption he was going to float down the field.  The pass goes right over the guy’s head as he falls down.  The throw is great, very good velocity and if we are assuming the miscommunication, then good ball placement.  The decision making is terrible, and plays into the hero ball aspect of his game.  This is a broken situation, where he should stay in field goal range on 3rd down. 

The athleticism is great, to escape the pocket, and then make that throw down the field, but the decision making is suspect on the play.  If the defensive player looks back, there is a chance he can make a play on the ball.  It’s great to see the ability, but the riskiness of the play is concerning. 


This is a first down play against Northern Alabama.  This play is a myriad of bad decisions, that gets bailed out with his scrambling skills. 

The first issue here deals with the play call, because the blocking scheme seems off with the timing.  Often times, BYU uses a chip release up the middle with their tight ends, full backs, and running backs.  Notice No. 13 on the play look to make a block up the middle, and then release.  It’s up for speculation if he’s supposed to chip block the defender, or release into the route.  Check out the timing of the slant route towards that side because they are going for a high-low read on the slot defender.  If the defender goes up with the slant receiver, then the quick out to the tight end will be open.  If the defender peels off to the tight end, the slant, go, in route will be open.  Unfortunately, Wilson doesn’t pull the trigger at all, and keeps backpedaling into the end zone.  For a blitz, this has to be the hot read and the options are right there for him to take advantage.  Instead, Wilson doesn’t take the hot read, and then faces major trouble. 

This play highlights one of the biggest issues regarding Wilson, which is his tendency to float back in the pocket.  The line of scrimmage for this play is the 9 yard line, and he ends up about 2 yards deep in the end zone before running out.  If the defender is a better tackler, this is a safety on a play where there was an easy hot route, 9 yards away from the end zone.  In the NFL, this makes the lives of offensive lineman harder because they can’t push the defenders away from the pocket because the pocket is moving backwards.  Often you will see tackles with their back towards the play because they are walling off the defense from circling around them to the QB, but that’s only achieved if the QB stays in the pocket.  Wilson shows a distinctive tendency to float backwards at the sight of pressure, which is going to be a major issue in the NFL.  

The next aspect of the play is the actual scrambling ability, which is the athletic trait we were talking about earlier in the article.  He has the ability to chew up yardage in the open field because he’s Darnold level mobile.  Wilson runs about 40 yards on the play and shows that if the defense breaks down, he can take advantage.  This is not Lamar Jackson mobility, but there are other plays that show he can run a QB scramble as well.  He didn’t run at his pro-day, probably because he wouldn’t have timed well, but he shows enough speed to make Josh Rosen jealous.  

The final aspect of this play is absolute stupidity, as he decides to break a tackle here while leading with his throwing shoulder.  The defender goes lower, so the shoulder isn’t hit, but that’s his No. 1 asset, and he puts it in danger in a no-win situation.  This goes back to the hero ball tendencies as times, because he needs to learn to slide here.  He’s not a frail athlete, but also needs to know that these hits will increase his chances of getting injured, which is already a problem for him.  This is also an issue that plagues Trevor Lawrence in this draft, and where he acts like a power rusher rather than a QB. 

Overall, the main point of this article was to highlight his ability to escape trouble, even if some of that originates from processing issues.  He has the mobility to be a scrambling QB in the NFL, but not a mobile QB, and reminds me very much of Darnold’s scrambling prowess.  He’s not going to be running a read option, but has the ability to move around in the pocket to buy some time. 

Circling back to the Patrick Mahomes comparison for mobility, they are similar.  Both of them can buy time, but they both require very specific systems in terms of talent, especially a very good OL to function properly.  Both of them can take advantage of defenses and scramble for yards, but neither of them will be a threat with their feet alone. 

Zach Wilson: Why This Decision?

We are further diving into concerns about Zach Wilson, and today the focus is upon a few baffling decisions.  I wanted to highlight a couple of the issues that do pop up on film, and paint a larger picture of the consistent problems in terms of pocket presence and decision making.  This is just a part of the scouting report, as we’ll dive in deeper into most aspects of his game, but once again, I’m not a fan of picking Wilson for the Jets at pick 2.   


This is a first down play against Boise State, and Wilson executes a roll out to his right, and throws this ball out of bounds.  One of the underlying issues with Wilson on tape is that he focuses on the outside receiver to the field side, especially if the defense is not playing press coverage.  You see this often with him, and once again, he turns to field side.  These defenses are not used to playing a QB that can make those field side outside throws, thus Wilson looks to exploit them often.  There should be some worry about how this translates to the NFL, because the defensive backs can react much faster on these passes. 

The baffling aspect of this play is the timing of this throw.  Why throw it?  He has an absolutely pristine pocket.  He might even have some room to run.   If Wilson waits a tad longer, the angle to the crossing route becomes open, yet Wilson throws this away.  I didn’t include this play in the stare down article, but this is another example of Wilson staring down his receiver.  He does a good job at trying to hold the safety at the start of the play (His first look is towards the middle of the field), but once he sees bracket coverage, he needs to move onto his next progression.  The timing of this throw doesn’t compute, he could have held onto the ball for the crossing route to be open, or tried to use his mobility. 

At the end of this series, I’ll present my scouting report but this play does highlight one of my concerns in that Wilson mobility is more for scrambling than running.  Given the opportunity, he can run with an open field, but he’s not going to create much as a runner if a play breaks down. 


You can legitimately make an argument that every single one of his receivers were open on this play, yet it ends up in a sack.  The first issue with this play is Wilson’s pocket stretching because he’s essentially 9 yards away from the line of scrimmage when he reaches the top of his drop back.  This issue presents a problem for offensive tackles, because speed rushers can go further up the field to get a better angle towards the QB.  Wilson has a tendency to float backwards in the pocket with his drops, which would need to be corrected. 

It’s not clear if this is a stare down because Wilson is looking to his left, which has a scissors release, thus it’s not clear which receiver he might be locked on.  However, the out route is wide open yet he doesn’t pull the trigger, thus it’s probably safe to assume he’s looking at essentially the seam route from the start.  Wilson decides not to pass, even though the receiver does have inside position, so there is an opening for the QB to lead him towards the end zone.  Otherwise on this play, Wilson has the tight end and running back open for easy checkdowns, the aforementioned out route wide open, a slight opening on the seam route, and an initial opening for the outside route to his right (it gets bracketed at the end), yet this ends up being a sack.  In this instance, Wilson doesn’t display quick processing speeds, but rather is indecisive with the target, and eventually gets chased down for a sack.  Even the All-22 camera guy thought he was going to throw the ball. 

This is unrelated to the issues on this play, but this chip block release by the tight end and running back should become more popular.  BYU called this play quite often, and it certainly was effective.  Essentially the offense is based off power run formations, and they use a full back regularly.  The full back (or tight end in this case) will block up the middle, with the running back following them, as per most power inside schemes.  The wrinkle that is added with the RPO deals with the QB pulling the ball, and checking his receiving options.  While the QB makes the initial read, both the full back (or tight end) and running back act as extra blockers up the middle, theoretically creating 7 blockers.  Once enough time has passed for the initial read, they release in opposite directions, which create issues for linebackers because they are out of position for defending the passing angle.  Just on this particular play, notice the linebacker to the right side of the offensive formation, because he has outside contain on a running play here.  When it looks like there might be a run, he moves towards the line of scrimmage.  The running back cuts back inside, and the linebacker turns his hips towards the running back.  Once the running back isn’t blocking anymore, and cuts to the outside, that linebacker is facing the wrong way, and out of position now to defend an outlet pass.  From what I’ve read, BYU runs an offense that thrives on power spread, and this is a great example of how they use power running techniques to open up easy passing lanes.  The OC was hired at Baylor recently, so it’ll be interesting to see if their offense incorporates these aspects. 


This is a first down play against Houston, and was in consideration to be added to the Stare Down article as well.  The first issue to be pointed again is how he floats in the back in the pocketing, reaching a depth of 9 yards.  Aside from elongating any type of pass with unnecessary yardage, it’s an issue for blocking schemes.  On this play, watch the left tackle and the defensive end.  The left tackle opens up more up the field because Wilson tends to float back, which leaves him wide open for a cutback to the inside.  The defensive end takes advantage with the cutback, and eventually chases down Wilson for a sack.  Hypothetically, if Wilson maintained pocket integrity more often, the left tackle wouldn’t have to move up the field quite as much, and the QB can be protected within the pocket.  This is an issue that would need to be corrected because NFL defensive ends will rush up the field with better efficiency, causing major problems. 

On this play, Wilson stares down the easy out route to his tight end, and doesn’t make the pass.  He might have been tempted by the seam route of the running back, which is going to be wide open with a bit more time.  However, he has to pull the trigger here because the play call and his initial read both are correct in getting the out route open, but he doesn’t make the pass.  This habit has its ups and downs, but Wilson tends to be a gunslinger at times, refusing the easy yardage.  He has a tendency to push it down the field, but it’s not going to translate nearly as well, because those throws tend to be riskier. 

Finally, once again, Wilson can scramble when there is open field ahead of him, or even when it’s a called running play.  However, he’s not very adept at creating running lanes on his own and getting away from the clutches of the first defender.  The NFL seems to be progressing more and more towards QB mobility, and Wilson isn’t a Josh Rosen statue in the pocket.  He fits more into the Sam Darnold school of mobility, which is useful in emergencies, but can’t be utilized as a weapon. 


As usual, we have a few things to discuss on the play, which is a first and goal play.  The first issue is once again, Wilson bailing out of a perfectly fine pocket, thus limiting his progressions.  We already talked about his penchant for drifting backwards, and at the height of his drop back, he’s about 9 yards away from the line of scrimmage.  He would be in a much better position to throw if he drifted towards the field side, rather than spinning around and throwing off-balance.  I don’t quite understand the line of thinking here for the path of this rollout, especially given the WR route.  It would make sense if this was a play action to the QB’s right side, but it seems like a predetermined roll out.  If he stays in the pocket, he’d be absolutely protected, while keeping all of the passing options open

The bigger issue on the play is that, once again, Wilson locks in on the field side outside receiver from the other hash.  The moment Wilson takes the roundabout path to this rollout, he’s limited himself to that outside receiver being the only viable option, aside from running down the field himself.  He takes advantage of this quite often in college, which speaks to his confidence over the mediocre defenses that he faced this year. 

The throw is terrible, and mostly caused by being off-balance.  However, I do like the anticipation of this pass, as you can see Wilson release the ball before his receiver makes a break.  This is an aspect that is hard to scout, because throwing with anticipation requires confidence in oneself, trust in your receivers, and most of all a superiority complex over your opponents.  Essentially you are saying “I’m going to throw it to this vacated area right here, and I’m confident only my guy can go get it, because we’re just that much better than you”.  The fashion in which you arrive at that trio of confidence can be vastly different.  The great unknown here is, does Wilson keep this level of confidence in the NFL?  As Jets fans, you’ve seen first hand the lack of confidence from someone like Darnold, who had a good amount of moxie in college to make anticipatory throws.  Nowadays in the NFL, without confidence, Darnold seems reluctant to throw it with anticipation, rather waiting for confirmation.  The sheer lack of competition that Wilson faced this year, makes me worried about this confidence translating. 


This is really not an RPO, essentially a read option because all of the receivers are blocking down the field.  The concept behind an RPO or read option is about matching up numbers, which normally favors the defense.  An RPO (or read option) in spread works by leaving one player completely unblocked (usually a defensive end) and then using the read option as the key deciding factor.  If the defender goes too far towards the running back, then the QB keeps the ball.  If the defender stays with the QB, then the RB keeps the ball, but that edge defender is basically out of the play now.  Therefore, without wasting a valuable offensive blocker, you have taken out a defender, thus you can match numbers.  Side note, if you go on YouTube, there are a bunch of videos from Urban Meyer talking about the spread RPO and the basics.  

In this case, all we are watching is the defensive end (or linebacker) lined up to Wilson’s right side.  He doesn’t get blocked, so now we are fully in the read option area.  The defensive player stays right there with Wilson, yet the QB keeps the ball, and tries to run to the edge.  The defender recovers and essentially chases down Wilson by the time he gets to the edge.  I don’t understand the point of this read aspect of the read option, because it’s clearly a case where the RB needs to keep the ball.

This play was added to this article because there are plays where the play action/RPO aspect seems off with Wilson and BYU.  You’ll see some bad plays actions which include turning to the wrong side or RPOs where there aren’t any real reads.  This aspect is hard to determine because an RPO might act as a possible play action from the shotgun, but it is concerning at times to see the miscues.  This play was a good microcosm of the play being called within the structure of the offense, but Wilson freelancing a bit to their detriment. 

Overall, the intention of highlighting these plays is to focus on some of the more baffling tendencies that Zach Wilson displays on tape.  He has a lot of good qualities (especially the arm), but the level of competition and processing issues are definitely concerning.  There are too many red flags that show on film for Wilson be locked in at the #2 pick for the Jets.