NFL Quarterback Rundown: Week 10
Cam Newton Roller Coaster
Cam Newton’s season has been anything but boring. Every week is a new adventure. Sometimes he scores four touchdowns, other times he is intercepted three times. Newton is a mystery bag of quarterback play this season, but his highs are still as high as ever. The Miami Dolphins were unlucky enough for Newton to have his best game of the season against them on Monday Night Football.
What stood out in this game is how confident and decisive Newton was. Accuracy often starts with decision making. For Newton to be throwing with conviction enables him to better prepare for and finish throws. Newton was quick to trigger on Monday night and, in turn, was as accurate as he has been all year.
Carolina is running a Y-sail/flood concept here. The outside receiver clears vertically, giving room for the Y-receiver to cut under and find room near the sideline. Running back Christian McCaffrey leaks out to the flat and the slot receiver cuts across to the strong side of the field to help “flood” it.
Newton is waiting on the sail route. More specifically, Newton is keying the outside cornerback to make sure he is carrying vertical, rather than peel off to cover the sail route. As soon as Newton sees the cornerback flip his hips inside to cover the vertical, he throws the sail route. Newton leaves the ball well within the field of play and gives his receiver a clean chance at the ball before a linebacker has a chance to float up.
Newton flashes the same confidence and accuracy on this one. To the left of the formation, wide receiver Devin Funchess is running a simple go route. As the play develop, Newton sees that Funchess does not gain vertical separation. Throwing over the top is almost a certain incompletion. Newton instead rifles in a throw behind the cornerback, giving Funchess a chance to easily work back to the ball. To throw a back shoulder throw with such velocity that the receiver can turn around, catch the ball, and begin to run without the cornerback even being aware is a special talent.
And of course, Newton did his thing on the ground. Newton is one of the best rushing threats to ever play quarterback. He made sure to remind the Dolphins of that.
This is a zone-read that Miami played horribly. Given how the defensive end flows to the running back immediately, it should be linebacker Kiko Alonso’s job to scrape over the top and contain the edge. Alonso is slow to work down, then gets bullied off of his position by the offensive tackle. In the meantime, Miami’s free safety should have filled down to help stop Newton, but he sprinted over to stop the running back, like most of the defense. The aqua and orange sea had been parted, and Newton torched the Dolphins defense for a nice 69-yard gain.
When Cam Newton is clicking, he is indefensible. His athleticism, arm talent, and confidence is too overwhelming to stop. Over the course of the year, Newton has had trouble reigning in that arm talent and conjuring confidence, but he was on this week. Newton, and the entire Carolina Panthers team, needed this kind of performance to kickstart their end-of-year tirade.
Mike McCarthy Finally Helps Brett Hundley
The first two starts of Brett Hundley’s career were disappointing. Mike McCarthy’s offense was bland and unfit for Hundley. Aaron Rodgers could mask the lack of creativity McCarthy has long gotten away with, but Hundley could not. McCarthy had to adjust, and he did this week in Hundley’s third start.
Green Bay leaned on shotgun and pistol formations versus the Chicago Bears. The pistol is America’s offense, and McCarthy realized that this week. Pistol puts the quarterback in a shotgun alignment, but rather than have the running back next by his side, the running back is behind the quarterback. It blends the advantages of passing from the shotgun, while creating the same under-center angles for the running back. America’s offense.
2-back pistol. America's offense. pic.twitter.com/k5VbilqreQ
— Derrik Klassen (@QBKlass) November 13, 2017
Forgot to pause Fullcast while recording this one, but Pistol with H-back motion across formation. America's offense. pic.twitter.com/IANNZvilID
— Derrik Klassen (@QBKlass) November 13, 2017
In addition to better tailoring of formations, McCarthy opened up the offense for Hundley. Hundley was asked to run a quick-pass, West Coast offense in his first two starts, but McCarthy gave him longer developing plays this week. McCarthy allowed Hundley to test the intermediate and deeper portions of the field.
The Packers were trying to put the game away on this drive. At the time, they were leading 16-13 and knew that another touchdown would probably be too much for the Bears to overcome. On this play, Hundley is executing a play-action dagger concept out of pistol formation. The outside receiver to the strong (right) side runs a 10-yard in, while the slot receiver runs a vertical route to create a pocket of space underneath. With the vertical clear from the slot and the play-fake to open the play, the second and third levels of the defense are stretched vertically. Hundley knows the 10-yard in should be open and delivers a strike, pushing beyond the sticks to keep the Packers on the field.
Later in the same drive, Hundley made his best play of the game. Hundley begins to read the left side of the field, but there is nothing there. He decides to take off. Often times, this can get Hundley in trouble, but it works out for him here. Hundley is able to escape to his right and find a receiver break free toward the front right pylon. Hundley’s throw is placed over the trailing cornerback and away from the safety making his way over. Had Hundley led the receiver up the field, he would have gotten clobbered by the safety. For Hundley to have the awareness to keep this ball away from the safety is an encouraging sign for him moving forward.
Career-day aside, Hundley was still far from perfect. The young quarterback held the ball far too long on a few occasions and froze when presented with blitzes. On a number of occasions, he threw passes into tight windows he should not have tested. Hundley was lucky to have not thrown an interception on the day.
Nevertheless, it appears McCarthy now understands what it takes to win with Hundley. He must be creative, lean on the ground game, and give Hundley the freedom to make plays downfield. Hopefully McCarthy sticks to this game plan moving forward.
DeShone Kizer Provides Reason For Hope
It has been a doom-and-gloom rookie season for DeShone Kizer. He has thrown 12 interceptions to just four touchdowns. The dearth of talent in Cleveland has played a part in that lopsided production, but Kizer deserves plenty of blame, as well. Kizer came alive a little bit this week, flashing some of the traits that got him drafted in the top-60.
Throwing deep has always been Kizer’s calling card. For most of this season, it has been the only thing he has been consistent with. Kizer ripped this deep pass on the first play of the game to strike some fear into Detroit’s secondary. He hit this same throw later in the game, but the receiver did not come down with it the second time.
This throw highlights some of the development Kizer has undergone since his first start. Earlier this season, Kizer struggled to throw with anticipation. He was waiting on route breaks too often, rather than anticipating them. Kizer showed excellent anticipation here. With pressure bearing down on him, Kizer knew he could not hold the ball. Kizer had to throw well before the receiver’s route break. Doing so is often risky, but Kizer protected the ball from risk by placing the ball as high and wide as he could. Only the receiver had a chance at the ball by the time it got there. Kizer needs to more consistently do that throughout the remainder of this season.
Kizer is nowhere near where he needs to be. Inconsistent accuracy and a few bonehead mistakes plagued him this Sunday, even despite it being his best performance of the year. That type of inconsistency is to be expected of such a young player, though. The goal for Kizer must now be minimizing his mistakes. Kizer’s peaks are as good as any rookie in recent years, but he far too often makes mistakes and throws poor passes, and it is outweighing the positive play he brings. This week, and even last week versus the Minnesota Vikings, provided hope, but Kizer’s future is still very much up in the air.
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