On Two: Jared Goff’s Pocket Presence

Cal Bears quarterback Jared Goff is considered the #1 quarterback prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft, and for good reason. Mark Schofield looks at his Goff’s pocket presence in this installment of On Two.

Pocket presence is one of those football terms you hear during draft season, as it relates generally to the ability of a quarterback to remain composed while organized chaos explodes around him in the pocket. Matt Waldman, in a piece from 2014 on Chuckie Keeton, described this trait thusly: “A quarterback’s pocket presence, like vision for a running back, requires the ability to use his tools in a balance[d], mature way. It requires knowing one’s limits, the context of the down, distance, and series within the game, and what his teammates and opponents are likely to do based on his knowledge of scheme.”

On these two plays from 2015, California quarterback Jared Goff puts that language to film.

Play One

Against Washington State, the Golden Bears face 3rd and 13 late in the first quarter, trailing by 7. With the football on their own 31-yard line and near the right hashmark, California sets Goff up in the shotgun and 10 offensive personnel, with the trips alignment set to the right – short – side of the field. The Cougars have their 4-2-5 sub package in the game, and show Cover 4 in the secondary before the play, with the nickel cornerback splitting the difference between the inner two trips receivers:GoffOT1Play1Still1On the weakside, the single receiver runs a vertical route while the running back runs a flat route. Strongside, the inside two receivers run deep curls while the outside receiver runs a go route:GoffOT1Play1Still2

Washington State rolls into Cover 6 at the snap:GoffOT1Play1Still3

On the weakside, the cornerback drops into the deep quarter zone while the linebacker rotates to the flat. Strongside, the two safeties drop into quarter-half zones, while the cornerback settles in a flat zone even with the two linebackers. Given the down and distance, the underneath defenders plant their feet at the first down marker. Thus, the defense has four defenders to cover three receivers.

Goff has five linemen to handle the four rushers. But a twist is coming, literally and figuratively:GoffOT1Play1Still4

The right defensive tackle aims his rush at the inside shoulder of the left tackle, while the right defensive end loops behind the DT aiming for the left guard. On the other side, the left DE cuts inside for the A Gap while the left DT loops behind him, aiming for the RT.

As Goff drops, he can see the cross stunt in front of him, and he can feel the pressure start to mount on the right edge, as the LDE has cut between the RT and RG and poses a threat:GoffOT1Play1Still5Given the down and distance, the QB knows he needs to buy a few more seconds so this play can develop. Watch as Goff slides and glides in the pocket before delivering this throw:

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If you want to know how comfortable a quarterback is, watch the feet. On this play Goff demonstrates supreme confidence in the blocking around him, useing quick bounce steps to glide deftly in the pocket, then slightly to the side as the LDE comes around the corner, and then forward toward the line of scrimmage and his eventual target.

On the end zone angle you get a clear view of his mental process, illustrated by the feet:

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Goff recognizes the dual cross stunts – the right end crashing inside and the left end knifing between the right guard and tackle. The QB slides just a bit toward his LT, before gliding forward in his pocket, trusting that his left tackle will hold protection, and firing the ball into a very narrow throwing window for a first down.

Two final points to mention are Goff’s left hand, and vision. His eyes remain trained downfield the entire play, as he feels the rush and trusts his sense of the game, and uses his vision to find a target. Meanwhile, his left hand remains glued to the football, sound mechanics reminiscent of another Pac-12 QB currently making his home in Indianapolis.

Play Two

In putting this piece together I reviewed notes on the Goff tape that I have watched to date, and found the following phrase written (yes, I take notes by hand) time and time again: “Slide, glide and fire.” I almost picture Gus Johnson saying that each time I write it out. But it describes perfectly how some quarterbacks, like Goff, demonstrate poise in the pocket in the face of slight, or severe, pressure.

Against San Diego State, the Golden Bears face 2nd and 10 at the Aztecs’ 34-yard line. Goff is in the shotgun with 12 offensive personnel in the game in dual slot formations. On the right tight end Stephen Anderson (#89) is in the slot while WR Maurice Harris (#3) is to the outside. TE Raymond Hudson (#11) is in the slot to the left while WR Kanawai Noa (#81) aligns outside. The defense has 3-3-5 personnel in the game, using radar alignment up front and showing Tampa 2 coverage in the secondary, using the fifth defensive back in the deep LB drop zone in that scheme:GoffOT1Play2Still1

California uses two passing concepts on this play. To the right Anderson executes a deep in-cut while Harris runs a short in-route. On the left they run a triangle concept, with Hudson running a corner route while Noa runs an in-route, and the running back swings into the left flat:GoffOT1Play2Still2

Before the play, the Aztecs show blitz:GoffOT1Play2GIF1

The QB does something prior to the snap, perhaps resetting the protection or even just making a dummy call. But at the snap, the defense  rotates to Cover 1, sending two linemen and two linebackers after the quarterback. The two linebackers attack the left edge of the offense, with the first crashing inside on the guard while the second delays, before aiming for the inside shoulder of the LT:GoffOT1Play2Still3

Goff takes the snap and executes a three-step drop while reading the coverage against the triangle concept. He initially wants to throw the underneath in cut to Noa, but decides against it. Then he slides and glides ever so slightly to his left:

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Goff sees the slot TE breaking open on a deep corner route against man coverage. He also felt the stunt up front that was stressing the B Gap between the LT and the LG. The QB slides and glides ever so slightly to the outside, seconds before the delaying blitzer steamrolls the left tackle deep into the backfield. Had Goff climbed the pocket in this instance, California might have a Butt Fumble 2 on their hands. Instead, they have first and goal. Again, Goff shows an understanding of the coverage, the blitz scheme and the protection up front as he slides, glides and then fires.

If a quarterback’s footwork truly is a window into his mind, on these two plays Jared Goff demonstrates to scouts and evaluators his confidence and his knowledge and understanding of the game, defense and protection schemes. Goff’s pocket presence is one of his more impressive traits. On these two plays, he looks every bit the part of the top quarterback in the draft.

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.

All video and images courtesy Pac 12 Network.

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