As we move forward with our analysis of Jake Locker (Part 1 here, and Part 2 here), we'll examine what I would call "the details" of the quarterback position. With accuracy and physical skillset covered, this is basically just another way of saying "the other nuances we haven't yet discussed". Not surprisingly, there's quite a bit of overlap between some of these things and the plays reviewed in the previous posts - in particular, accuracy. In many ways, the plays discussed here are leftovers of things that just didn't quite fit into the other posts, yet I still found relevant to the topic.
Under Pressure and Pocket Presence
Two different things, but many times these tendencies/situations are married. The ability to manipulate the pocket under pressure is one of the more important nuances of the QB position. In this study, I didn't find an overwhelming number of instances where this tendency showed relevance. That is, there weren't many plays where a bad throw or play was made, that could have been otherwise taken advantage of through better pocket presence. Also, for better or worse, Locker generally got the ball out fairly quickly, and to a primary read, which didn't give many situations where manipulating the pocket became relevant.
As we'll see, there are cases where Jake leaves some things to be desired from within the pocket, but I wouldn't call it a recurring theme. He does, however, show a willingness to look down the barrel, and throw strikes knowing full well that he's going to take a hit.
Onward with the examples...
The Jets dial up a great delayed blitz here. Despite knowing that a big hit is coming, Jake sets his feet and throws a great ball to Wright.
Again, pressure comes. Jake steps into the pressure and throws a completion. Worth noting, that there's a chance to slide in the pocket here, but doing so would disrupt the timing of the initial read.
I left this one in here mainly just to show that it's not always the QB's fault. The Rams bring a nickel blitz here. Finnegan crosses the face of Damian Williams on the blitz. Jake is looking to Williams the whole way for the hot throw, but Williams takes too long to get his head around. Result is a sack.
Obviously not a bright spot here. As interior pressure comes up the middle, there's an opportunity for Jake to slide up and to the left. In doing so, he'd either find a throwing lane to outlet to the flat, or find a new platform to throw the post to Hunter. Instead, he takes a sack.
This play may be my favorite example of the bunch. I think in many ways it's a microcosm of where we are with Jake in the process. The play itself looks like an absolute train wreck. When the QB's body gets parallel to the LOS, and he's still in the pocket, you know something has gone terribly wrong. At least worth pointing out, one of his primary reads basically gets tackled at the top of the screen. No less, there is an opportunity to step up into the pocket and re access things. Yet, all things considered, it's probably the right play to make, just not handled the correct way. For most QBs, getting parallel to the LOS here would mean a sack. Jake's athleticism affords him the ability to make this mistake, and then turn it into a first down. Other QBs don't have that luxury as they develop.
In my opinion, this is one of Jake's two worst throws of the season (the other we'll see below). In general, my analysis of Locker's plays didn't show injury influence. He seemed more than capable physically post-injury. But, plays like this make me wonder if he's apprehensive about stepping into hits like he did earlier in the year.
Whatever the reasons, Jake doesn't step into this throw after a defensive tackle abuses Warmack up the middle. Ball sails and it's an easy interception. There's an opportunity here to either slide in the pocket and find a new platform, or to step into the pressure and throw a strike. Jake does neither.
This category might be the toughest to evaluate, because it's so dependent on coaching and the playbook. Moreover, a QB might not get through a ton of reads, because he's finding the first read correctly the majority of the time. I say these things, to point out that these judgements are made with limited information.
All that said, I do think Jake sometimes has a tendency to not get off the initial read quick enough. When he does, he's shown accuracy problems with the second and third reads. We saw that in the second post in this series. Becoming more fluid with these progressions will be an important step for Jake if he hopes to mature into a franchise quarterback.
Appears to be a hi-lo read combined with a backside crossing route. Greene runs a flat route. Nate runs a curl. Wright runs a backside crosser.
Good example of what I was talking about above. The top of the screen is a simple hi-lo combination. Bind the flat defender. If he sinks, throw the flat. If he takes the flat, throw the curl.
On the backside, looks like Wright is on an option route. Cross and settle into the zone. When he sees Jake begins the read to one side of the field, he then begins to cross. Point being, his route may not have been a part of that original read.
In a perfect world, Jake finds Wright on this backside crosser, but without knowing the play called, I can only speculate if that was truly a mistake within the context of what he was being asked to do.
Easily my favorite throw of the season. If Jake can consistently make these kinds of throws, he could turn out to be something special. What's interesting is that in terms of difficulty, this is no where near the top of the list. He's made plenty of deep throws that are far more impressive.
It's working through reads, settling in the pocket, and delivering the ball in clutter when the first read is covered that have been Jake's major hurdles. In a generic way, the game doesn't appear to have slowed down for him yet. But, you watch plays like this, and it appears that he may be making strides.
First read is covered. He quickly (an important distinction) gets off the first read and cycles to the other side of the field. The feet are calm, and in sync with the eyes. As he gets to the opposite side of the field, feet are in line and ready to deliver the ball. Ball is placed well enough. TD.
Another great play that captures Jake's ability if the he can begin to make these sorts of progression plays with consistency. Initial read is covered. Pocket breaks down. He slides, keeps eyes down field, and throws a great ball to Washington.
These plays were difficult to categorize. After waffling over the subject title, I arrived at risk throws. These are throws where a receiver is not clearly open, Jake appears to understand the read, and the ball is cut loose anyways. The intent here is to show the fine line between giving your teammate an opportunity to make a play, and making a poor decision. Many times these could be interpreted as results driven criticism or praise based on the outcome. But, I think these plays do a fairly good job of showing when the good and the bad of "pulling the trigger".
Let's start with the bad throws first. To be fair there weren't many of these. Even if Jake's 0% INT figure through the first four games wasn't sustainable, it speaks to the risk averse philosophy from last year.
Jake breaks the pocket as interior pressure is generated by the Texans. Smart play here is just to dump it off to Walker. Instead, Jake throws up a jump ball to Kendall Wright. Ball ends up as an incompletion, but these kinds of risk throws from the 10 yard line don't have nearly enough reward to warrant cutting loose.
I mentioned above that the STL Interception was the second to worst throw of the year. This is Jake's worst throw of the year. Unclear what he's seeing here, but there's more than enough time to verify things post snap. Pocket is totally clean. Ball is forced into triple coverage. Result is an interception.
Nate Washington runs a stutter and go here. You can see Jake pump fake. Corner's not buying it. At this point, Jake needs to cycle and take the check down. Instead, he throws into a matchup where the corner has superior leverage. Ball is intercepted.
Cover 4 here. Titans run verticals, which bind the safeties. Jake sees his big target, Justin Hunter, in one on one coverage. Ball is thrown outside, away from leverage. Hunter uses his physicality to catch the touchdown.
The polarity between this throw and the one above shows why all throws to one on one matchups are not created equal. Receiving skillset matters. Leverage matters.
Single high look here. Hunter is isolated on the outside running a vertical route. Result is an incompletion, but this is a low risk throw based on where it's placed. If Hunter uses his hands right, this goes for a touchdown.
This throw is harder to evaluate. The result is great. The decision itself is questionable, though. Corner has superior leverage, especially given the ball placement. Nate just happens to take a good angle, and make a solid catch.
Like most things with Locker, there needs to be some more consistency in his playing. A lot of that only comes with playing time, in my opinion. I think one of the largest takeaways I had is that there doesn't appear to be anything that can't be over come. The fundamental traits that need to be in place for a franchise QB have been displayed at one time or another. It just appears that the game needs to slow down some. But, I'll leave that sort of speculation for Part 4, which will be the final article in this series.