The performance of California Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff vs Texas has NFL Draft scouts excited ‒ with good reason. Goff has showed why he was #1 on Mark Schofield‘s preseason rankings. Even though it’s early and much football has yet to be played, Goff is demonstrating he can maintain aggressiveness while learning from his mistakes.
Football is an emotional game ‒ a game that, at its core, involves imposing your will on the player or team across from you. At the quarterback position, this is a unique challenge, because of the need to strike a balance. The QB must protect the football, and the QB must be aggressive, to make big plays in the passing game. The difference between the good and the great quarterbacks, is the ability to maintain aggression, even in the face of pressure – or previous mistakes.
In their second game of the season the Cal Bears hosted the San Diego State Aztecs. On 1st and 10, Cal quarterback Jared Goff stands in the shotgun with 11 offensive personnel on the field. The football is on the left hashmark and the offense lines up with slot formations to each side. The Aztec defense has 4-2-5 personnel in the game and show Tampa 2 coverage in the secondary, using the fifth defensive back as the middle linebacker:
Junior wide receiver Kenny Lawler (#4) runs the vertical route along the sideline ‒ and has been Goff’s favorite target so far in 2015. Freshman WR Justin Dunn (#84) releases up the seam from his slot alignment, and running back Daniel Lasco (#2) executes a swing route into the flat.
In this coverage scheme, cornerback J.J. Whittaker (#7) is taught to sink (or gain depth) against vertical releases, protecting the deep outside area of the field against streak or corner routes. Against Tampa 2 or Cover 2 coverage schemes, an offense looks to use those patterns to attack soft spots. On this passing play, the goal is to try and attack that area:
Goff reads this play to the right side of the formation immediately after the snap. His first read is likely the inside receiver Dunn, running the seam route. This is the shorter, quicker throw and must be executed before the slot WR begins to approach the deep safety. On this play, the underneath coverage does a good job cutting off this route, with the linebacker running in the throwing lane of the seam route, before passing the WR off to the nickelback deep in the middle zone.
With the seam route covered, Goff works his progressions, and moves to Lawler on the vertical route outside. However, the play-side safety has begun rotating to cover this route, and Whittaker is still sinking on the outside, under Lawer’s vertical release. The throwing window is very narrow, and Goff cannot squeeze this throw into his target:
This angle provides a good view of how the defense tightens this throwing window ‒ and how Goff might have been better served by working to his third read: the running back Lasco, running the swing route in the flat.
After likely hearing from his coaches on the sidelines after the throw ‒ and again in Monday’s film sessions ‒ it would be interesting to see how the quarterback handled a similar situation later in the season. California fans and draft analysts did not have to wait long.
In Week 3, the Golden Bears traveled to Austin for a prime-time showdown with the Texas Longhorns. Late in the first half California trails by 10 following a strip-sack that led to a Texas touchdown. But Goff has shaken off the fumble and has the Golden Bears driving, facing a 1st and 10 at the Longhorn 26-yard line. The quarterback is in the shotgun with 10 offensive personnel on the field, with Lawler a single receiver split wide to the right. Texas has their 4-2-5 sub package on the field, showing Cover 2 in the secondary.
The play-side cornerback sinks under the vertical route and the safety rotates over, constricting the throwing window once more. But Goff takes his shot, and fits this throw between the two defenders for the touchdown.
Now some quarterbacks ‒ including the writer ‒ might have reacted differently in this scenario given the mistake from a week ago, and having already fumbled away a score to the opposition. Perhaps they might have handed the ball off to the running back at the mesh point. Perhaps they might have found a safer throw.
But not Goff. He trusted his receiver. He trusted what his eyes were seeing in the coverage and what his brain was processing as the play developed. He trusted his arm. And he maintained aggression.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
Video courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com & FOX Sports.