NFL Quarterback Rundown: Week 2
Quarterback play is becoming increasingly more frustrating to watch. All across the league, quarterbacks are either incompetent or dealing with nagging injury due to egregious offensive line play. There are very few quarterbacks from year-to-year who remain competent and healthy. As a result, offenses are being watered down to try to counteract poor quarterback and offensive line play. The ball is out quicker and the ball is not traveling as far through the air. It is an epidemic. Below are a few other quarterback takeaways from the week that was…
Russell Wilson Is Not Himself
Russell Wilson has never missed a game in his six-year career. Considering the Seattle Seahawks have not provided him with a decent offensive line since 2013, it’s amazing Wilson has never been seriously injured. He plays every game like a chicken with its head cut off because that is the style of football his offensive line forces upon him.
Last season, Wilson played on one leg. He injured his ankle early in the season, but trudged on and played through it. Wilson’s mobility was limited and the offensive line became even more of a problem because Wilson could no longer counteract it. In late October, Wilson tore his pectoral, but again decided to play through it. The Seahawks still managed to finish the season strong and win a playoff game despite their broken quarterback. The long-lasting effects of playing Wilson through injury have now come back to haunt them.
Wilson’s throwing motion is different this season. There has always been a noticeable dip in his throwing motion, but it was not inhibiting. It was only a slight dip and Wilson had the arm quickness to still bring the ball around in time. In fact, Wilson had a fast throwing motion in spite of his slight dip. This year, though, the dip in Wilson’s throwing motion is much lower and he isn’t bringing the ball around in time anymore. Wilson’s entire throwing motion is out of sync and his accuracy has taken a toll.
Both of these throws are slowed down to more clearly see the mechanical issue. Wilson is dropping the ball to hip-level and is not pulling it up in time to get the ball out on time. The ball is coming around later than Wilson’s hips and chest are, disrupting the release point and putting more stress on Wilson’s arm. With a less controllable release point, Wilson’s accuracy has been all over the place, and was especially bad this week versus the San Francisco 49ers.
Fortunately, Wilson summoned enough good throws to squeak out a win. The throw above looks like a normal play for Wilson. For at least that one play, he was able to do the things he normally does and give the Seahawks the boost they needed to gain the lead. As expected, the Seahawks defense held onto the lead for the rest of the game.
Wilson needs to sort out the new kink in his throwing motion. The Seahawks will crumble if Wilson can not regain his accuracy and rally the offense. Wilson won’t be so fortunate to have his opponents score just nine points throughout the rest of the schedule.
Carson Wentz is Both the Problem and the Victim
Carson Wentz threw 46 passes against the Kansas City Chiefs this week. The Eagles ran the ball just 13 times, not including Wentz’s four carries. A run-pass ratio of that magnitude would be a problem for any quarterback.
Early in the game, head coach Doug Pederson’s game plan was somewhat balanced. Pederson still leaned on Wentz’s quick passing in favor of the ground game, but Wentz was sharp on quick passes and made a few accurate passes in the intermediate range. Wentz was doing his part and giving the offense a chance, they just couldn’t quite string together a good drive through the first half. Luckily the Eagles defense was playing well and the team went into the locker room down 6-3.
Midway through the third quarter, the Eagles finally put together a touchdown drive. Wentz was accurate and the entire offense avoided negative plays. Four throws, then two runs were capped off by a 16-yard touchdown to Alshon Jeffery.
As he had throughout the game, Wentz picked on cornerback Phillip Gaines on this play. Gaines was struggling to cover everyone he went up against and Wentz knew Jeffery could out-muscle him. Wentz deliberately left the ball outside for Jeffrey, and the receiver made an excellent play to snag the pass and dive for the touchdown.
The Chiefs responded with a touchdown of their own on the next drive, putting the game at 13-10 in favor of the Chiefs. The Eagles then kicked a field goal on their next possession to tie the game back up. Wentz proceeded to collapse on the next two drives.
Pederson called four straight passing plays on the next drive, despite the game being tied. Wentz became increasingly less comfortable with the workload and grew skittish in the pocket. Faced with a 3rd-and-12, the Eagles called a screen pass and Wentz threw the ball right at a Chiefs pass rusher. The ball flew up into the air and was picked off by defensive tackle Chris Jones at the Eagles’ 31-yard line. It took the Chiefs five plays to find the end zone and regain a 20-13 lead.
On the next drive, Wentz crumbled again. He took a sack on first down due to a poor read off of play-action, nearly threw an interception on second down, and was collapsed upon by a blitz on third down, leading to an Eagles three-and-out. The Chiefs scored another touchdown and put the game out of reach.
By game’s end, Wentz’s stat line read as such: 25/46 (54.35%), 333 yards (7.2 yards per attempt), 2 touchdowns, 1 interception. Not too bad on the surface. However, 53 of Wentz’s yards came from a fluke catch by Zach Ertz.
Even without theoretically making this throw the interception it should have been; subtracting the yardage from that reception would put Wentz at 280 yards over 46 attempts, good for just 6.09 yards per attempt. The catch boosted his yards per attempt by an entire yard. To be fair, Eagles receivers dropped a couple passes that may have countered that loss of yardage, but they did not drop many passes relative to the volume of passing attempts.
In all, Wentz played fine until he was forced to do it all. He crumbled when the Eagles needed him most, even if he wasn’t exactly set up very well to succeed. Wentz needed to be better and so did Pederson. Against defenses of Kansas City’s quality, Philadelphia’s offense may continue to stall.
Week 1 stats are always wonky. Matthew Stafford threw four touchdowns to one interception on 7.12 yards per attempt versus the Arizona Cardinals on opening weekend. He played a good game against a defense that clearly did not have themselves pieced together. This week, on Monday Night Football against the New York Giants, Stafford played the most lackluster football game imaginable and was rewarded for it with a win.
Stafford threw 21 passes for 122 yards — a clip of 5.8 yards per attempt. His two passing touchdowns were a 27-yard jump ball to Marvin Jones and a roll-out toss to Eric Ebron near the goal line. Both plays were good, and credit to Stafford for avoiding interceptions, but the rest of his performance was terribly uninspiring.
Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter treats Stafford like Alex Smith. The Lions offense is cornerstoned upon screens, slants, checkdowns, and everything in that category of conservative passing. And it’s probably what is best for Safford. While he is an exciting player on the move and has an explosive arm, Stafford isn’t consistently accurate down the field and his decision making when confined in the pocket for too long can be disastrous. The offense is designed to hide him.
As a result, the Lions offense has been fairly efficient over the past couple seasons and Stafford has been elevated for it. To some degree, it’s warranted. Stafford has played well within the offense and done what it’s asked of him. The issue is what it’s asking of him could be done by someone much cheaper than $27 million dollars per year. Stafford isn’t making many of the explosive and exciting plays that his skill set gives the illusion of. He is playing a fraudulent brand of football.
None of this is to say Stafford is bad. He’s a solid quarterback who has the potential to make devastating plays. But the Lions are paying him to run a backup quarterback game plan and it is a strategy that will run them into trouble versus legitimate teams, like it did when they faced the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs last season.
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