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Jake Locker Film Study #2 - Oregon State - 2nd Half

Part one can be viewed here.

Today we'll continue with our analysis of Jake Locker's play in the Oregon State game this past year.  As noted in the previous post, and supported by the readers, I will only include plays that I find noteworthy.  If there are any plays missed that you think should have been discussed, let me know in the comments, and I'll be sure to add it.

Onward with the analysis....

(6:58) Pre-Snap:  "10" Personnel, Shotgun formation with four receivers spread out.   Pre-Snap shows what appears to be a 4-3 zone shell.  Neither of the outside backers show man coverage on the slot recievers, nor has either safety dropped into the box to show man.

The Play:   It's hard to tell everything going on in this one from a route perspective.  The important point is that Locker correctly finds his outside receiver when he sits down in the zone coverage.

(7:05) Pre-Snap:  "10" Personnel, Shotgun formation with four receivers spread out.  Pre-Snap shows five down rushers (LB has moved up), and a possible sixth extra backer coming.  Safety is single high.  Other safety has rotated down into man.  This is what a blitz looks like, and Locker should have this picked up every time.

The Play:  Unfortunately, the play doesn't go so well.  The "read" is right in the sense that the extra backer that comes on the blitz was responsible for the running back.  However, Locker should have had this play called out from the beginning and audibled to a blitz beater like a slant play.   Sark and Locker have both said that Jake had the capability to audible out of plays.  If true, I can't see any reason that this play was run as called.  Even if he can't audible out of this play, he's probably better off taking a shot down field to his outside receiver running a go route. These are the sort of things that concern me about Locker coming into the NFL.  It's the football IQ and preparedness that separate the elite from the average at the professional level, and I hope he has what it takes to get there.

(7:11)  Pre-Snap:  "11" Personnel, Shotgun formation with two receivers spread out to the strong side with the tight end on the left.  Receiver on the right goes in motion from the right side to the left slot.  Oregon State is showing another blitz that's easy to pick up.  Look at how far the outside backer (possibly nickel...can't tell) is shading the slot receiver to the inside.  He's clearly showing blitz, as the safety is over the top of him "covering" his man.  As the receiver is set in motion, he doesn't budge out of his position, further reinforcing that he's coming on a blitz.

The Play:  It's a bubble screen that's right behind the blitzer.  Locker places the ball on the money.  I highlight the play not because it's particularly impressive, but it shows how movement can make reads a little easier on a quarterback.

(8:00)  Pre-Snap:  "11" Personnel, Pro Style formation.  Tight end to the right.  Two receivers bunched to the left. Receiver split out wide to the left motions to the bunch.  Defense is showing blitz with at least five defenders.  Bunch formation allows 8 defenders to get in the box.

The Play:  You'd like to see Locker check to a quicker play here.  Then again, it's a mixed bag.  His tight end just completely whiffs the blitzing linebacker, so I suppose you could say Locker had the blitzer accounted for.  This is where watching "tape" can get a little tricky because I don't know everything about the play called, and what Locker can and can't check to here.  Moreover, if the tight end picks up the defender, this could potentially be a big play for the Huskies.

(8:09)  Pre-Snap:  "10" Personnel, Shotgun formation.  Three receivers split out to the right.  One receiver isolated to the left.  Look at the open foot position of the weakside corner.

The Play:  Slant flat pattern that the Huskies seem to run quite a bit.  The halfback runs the flat and the weakside receiver runs a slant.  The corner tries to square his hips at the snap as he jams the receiver, but he's still open to the inside of the field.  This allows an easy release for the receiver.  Jake sees this the whole way and makes a perfect, albeit simple, throw.

(8:23)  Pre-Snap:  Empty Package, Shotgun formation.  Three receivers bunched right.  Two receivers split out left.

The Play:  Left tackle blows his assignment here.  It's inexcusable.  You'd like to see Jake hold on to the ball here, but the rush comes quickly and unexpectedly.  It's not like this was a man unaccounted for, or an uncovered blitzer.  Moreover, it appears that Jake is trying to get down, and a flukey hit jars the ball loose.

(9:16)  Pre-Snap:  "11" Personnel, Pro Style formation.  Two receivers to the left.  TE and FL to the right.

The Play:  Slant-flat combo to both sides.  The place he goes with the ball is fine.  It's his footwork that's the issue. Watch his feet.  He wants to throw the ball sooner.  Locker has a tendency to open up his feet when he throws.  In this case, that would mean that he steps a little to the left of the target.  That's OK.  The problem here is that he can't make the early throw, and has to wait.  As a result, his feet are out of position.  When you throw a football, you want the body to rotate over the top of your leading foot.  With the left leg no longer pointing to the target, it's harder to maintain accuracy.  Because of this, the pass is a bit outside.  Not much, but enough to result in an incompletion.  The contrast to this would be Peyton Manning who is constantly shuffling his feet and directing them at the intended target.

(9:49)  Pre-Snap:  "11" Personnel, Shotgun formation.  Two receivers to the left.  TE and FL to the right.

The Play:  Locker identifies single coverage on his outside receiver who's running a go.  Jake's movement in the pocket is perfect and the ball is an absolute strike.  50 yard, precise throw that's made under pressure.  The receiver can't make a play, but that doesn't change the fact that this is a great play by Locker and one that will translate well to the NFL.  Kenny Britt makes that catch 9 times out of 10.

(10:38)  Pre-Snap:  "11" Personnel, Shotgun formation.  Two receivers to the left.  TE and FL to the right.

The Play:   Locker's got to do better here.  There's room to slide in the pocket.  He's got his receiver in single coverage on the outside.  Given the situation, he needs to let this ball fly.  Watch the replay for a better view.

(11:13)  Pre-Snap:  "12" Personnel, Pro Style formation.  Two receivers left.  Two TE's right.  Back motions to empty.

The Play:  The slot receiver is the read the whole way.  His defender is in man and the receiver has inside leverage. He runs a great post route that's inside his defender, but keeps distance from the opposing safety.  Despite throwing off his back foot, Locker makes an accurate throw here.  While you can't blame Jake considering the atrocious line play, he needs to be aware that this throw cannot be made at the NFL level.  

(11:57)  Pre-Snap:  Empty Package, Shotgun formation.  Three receivers bunched right.  Two receivers split out left. Five guys are on the line of scrimmage.  Seven total in the box.  It appears that at least five are rushing, possibly six. Strong side safety could be helping over the top, but he's far enough over that he has eliminated himself from the weakside of the play.  

The Play:  Six blitzers come.  The blitz pick up is absolutely horrid, with the offensive line double teaming two defenders and basically allowing two others to come as free rushers.  The weakside receivers are running a smash concept.  This route combination (outside receiver hitches, inside receiver runs a corner route) is usually used against Cover 2 as it basically makes the underneath corner commit to a receiver.  As we've seen, Sark loves the two man game.  In this case, though, the defense isn't in Cover 2.  They are in heads up man defense on the weak side, with no help over the top.  The slot receiver, Kearse, runs a great route.  The rush beats down on Locker quickly.

They talk about this specific play with Gruden:

Gruden:  I guess you guys don't have hots, huh?

Locker:  If I felt like I needed a hot outlet up here, I could give him a signal hot.  But, Coach said if you feel like he's coming from depth, and you get retreat and get the ball off to the corner, do it.

Locker does just that.  A nitpicker would say he should have signaled hot, but it's hard to argue with the result.  This is a big time throw in a pressure situation.  Even off his back foot, this ball is accurate and with good velocity.

This game was certainly a fun one to watch as a Locker fan.  He makes some great throws and his athleticism is on display, front and center. From that perspective, this game tells me that Locker has the physical tools to do everything required of him at the NFL level, and then some.  

Still, he appears to still be a work in progress on the mental side of things.  He's not making many bone headed mistakes, which is obviously a positive.  But, you're also not seeing many hots and audibles at the line of scrimmage. I also didn't see any throws where he was manipulating the defense with his eyes and then throwing elsewhere. Generally, he's going to a first or second read as called in the huddle.  Still, I can't beat him up too much.  The line play doesn't give much time to get to a third progression, and most of the plays are shorter routes that don't require defensive manipulation.  

All in all, this is a game that should encourage Titans fans.  The "rawness" of Locker is expected given his inexperience in a traditional passing offense.  While that probably means that he's going to be limited in his command of the offense early on, it also means that a seasoned coach like Palmer shouldn't have to spend too much time coaching out bad habits.  For better or worse, he's Palmer's to mold.  And, given our offensive coordinator's history, that's something to be excited about.