The Colts are enemies of the Titans. Ok, not so much these days with Andrew Luck’s health constantly being an issue, but nevertheless, division rivals. It’s not going to surprise you that Indianapolis has one of the least talented teams in the NFL, but the hiring of Philadelphia offensive coordinator Frank Reich gives them a head coach that could turn the offense around.
So, when Luck missed the start of 2017 with a shoulder injury, the Colts had to act fast to get a competent quarterback. They responded by trading for New England backup Jacoby Brissett in exchange for former first round wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. Not many people were fond of this trade (myself included), but Brissett actually turned out to be a pleasant surprise in the end.
The Colts went 4-11 in games Brissett started, but there’s really not much for me to harp about. As aforementioned, the Colts offense was lacking in talent, and the receivers were extremely inefficient, dropping passes like it was a job. The offensive line kept giving up pressure and sacks, and, as expected, the scheme did little to help matters.
Brissett, like Luck, is at his best as a vertical passer. Doing this requires holding the ball and letting the routes develop, we know this. When you have an inadequate scheme and offensive line, however, there’s very little you can do aside from taking a sack, throwing the ball away, or trying to make something happen. Luck made miracles doing the exact same thing in his career as a starter, and last year—while it wasn’t quite as suffocating—Brissett also did it to an extent.
And speaking of downfield passing, Jacoby Brissett was actually most accurate on the deep ball according to the 2017-18 Deep Ball Project. He was extremely efficient, showing fantastic precision while minimizing the mistakes.
So, suppose there’s a scenario where Andrew Luck does not play at all in 2018 and Brissett is once again the starter. It’s a slim chance that Luck misses out on the year, but with Reich having worked with Doug Pederson in Philadelphia, Brissett would likely face a more quarterback friendly environment.
But if Luck does start, Brissett should be heavily targeted by quarterback needy teams, because not only do I think he’s a starting caliber passer, but he’s also a threat to the Titans if he stays in his division.
For a third round draft pick that was under the radar, Brissett handles pressure and tight windows really well. Like I said, he’s exceptionally accurate downfield, and isn’t afraid to take shots even when receivers aren’t initially open.
On this play, the defensive end gets pressure on Brissett, who tucks the ball in, climbs up and runs out of the pocket, keeping his eyes downfield. He spots a potential opening with Hilton and fits a beautifully placed tight window strike to the sideline for a huge first down conversion.
Brissett looks natural as a pocket passer. He’s not someone who will drop his eyes and focus on getting himself away from pressure first. Instead, he understands he’ll get hit, he’ll need to be in spots where he’ll have to take hits and sacrifice himself in favor of maximizing the play result. (No, it’s not as twisted as I’m making it out to be.)
He had 13 touchdowns to 7 interceptions last year, but those pedestrian numbers are indicative of the quality Brissett brings to the table. In addition to playing with an unfriendly scheme, Brissett’s receivers were among the least efficient in the league.
Brissett threw 19 accurate downfield passes that could not be hauled in by his receivers, tied with Cam Newton for the most in 2017. Truth be told, the Colts receivers aren’t nearly as good as their reputation is. True, they’re not hailed as the absolute best receiving corps, but this is a group that leaves loads of plays on the field, something people aren’t aware of.
Take Donte Moncrief (ironically against his current team—the Jaguars) on this play. He’s been a mediocre at best vertical threat at this point in his career. Brissett has little margin for error on this play. The coverage and route combinations demand perfection on his drop back, and that’s exactly what he gives.
Moncrief doesn’t return the favor, though, only getting one foot in bounds as the pass is incomplete. It’s as far away from the defensive back as possible and yet is placed perfect enough for Moncrief to make a play. That doesn’t happen. This is an accurate pass, though, and it’s something I constantly exploit in my research for the Deep Ball Project.
T.Y. Hilton’s reputation as a monster receiver exceeds the reality of who he really is. He’s not a terrible receiver—He has the speed to create separation and is fine on routine catches. When it comes to winning in tight coverage, however, his quality of play takes a significant drop.
Brissett’s precision is once again on target. I can’t even begin to comprehend how this is dropped. The ball lands right in his breadbasket, and yet Hilton loses the ball. Hilton’s ability to create separation is not the problem. It’s his small catch radius and small playing ability that makes him a flawed player. Even while he’s racking up big yards, he’s still leaving plays on the field.
Again, Brissett makes a perfect throw to Hilton. He’s able to progress through his reads, roll out of the pocket and delivers a strike to his receiver. Hilton loses control of the ball as he hits the ground, wasting another accurate throw. This is why I don’t think that highly of Hilton as a WR1. His limited catch radius puts him behind the pack in comparison to other heavily targeted receivers.
Back to Brissett. Despite constantly being let down by his receivers, it was still a lot of fun to watch him as a playmaker, and there was one such throw against the Bills in Week 14 that blew my mind.
This throw is remarkable. At the top of his drop back, Brissett pump fakes and ducks to avoid the sack, pump fakes again to stall the secondary, and fires this insane throw to the end zone. Considering the receiver tried catching this in the middle of a blizzard, he is forgiven for not keeping two feet in bounds. Still, I’m really bummed this didn’t count because it was a perfect throw and play form the quarterback.
Finally, Brissett’s ridiculous vertical accuracy allows him to make all sorts of these throws from any angle he chooses. He’s running for his life on this play, but manages to keep his eyes downfield. Then, he jump passes an absolute bomb to Hilton, who hauls it in this time. This is one of the best throws Brissett made last season. Not only does he make the perfect adjustment to release the ball, but the massive amount of yardage this ball travels just so it can be an accurate pass is awesome.
Jacoby Brissett is not flawless. His decision making isn’t quite as polished as a veteran level starter, but really, when you’re in your first full season as a starter, it’s not surprising. Besides, Brissett’s strengths largely offset his weaknesses, and while he’s not a top 10 quarterback, he strays in the average/above average territory. That’s sensational value for a backup quarterback who has two years left on his rookie contract.
So, as long as Brissett is in the AFC South, and if Luck goes down, Titans fans should fear him. Give him good coaching and he could go places. Brissett deserves to be a starting quarterback somewhere else, and for the Colts to have him behind Luck is insane because he’s arguably the best back quarterback in the league.