Mark Schofield is a crazy person. Quarterbacks are the most sought after assets by NFL Draft evaluators, and prospects are analyzed from every angle. Mark Schofield looks at two prospects ‒ Christian Hackenberg and Carson Wentz ‒ executing the same play, with different results.
What if I told you that two of the top quarterbacks in this class faced the same coverage ‒ on the same play ‒ and there were two different results? Wildly different results? Enter North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, and the weak side defensive end drop.
Penn State dropped their season-opener against Temple 27-10. After establishing a 10-0 lead, the Nittany Lions gave up 27 unanswered points. Hackenberg was sacked 10 times in the game. Before those started to pile up, he and the Penn State offense faced a 3rd and 2 on their own 28-yard line late in the 3rd quarter. The quarterback is in the shotgun with 11 offensive personnel in the game, in a 2X2 alignment with tight end Mike Gesicki (#88) in a wing alignment:
The Owls have their 4-2-5 nickel in the game, and show Cover 1 in the secondary with the defensive backs using off-man alignment. At the snap of this play, Hackenberg is looking right all the way, for wide receiver Chris Godwin on a quick hitch route:
Temple has one surprise in store for the offense here, in the form of Sharif Finch (#56). He is lined up as a defensive end, and at the snap he drops into zone coverage. Rather than pressure the quarterback, he widens towards the sideline, sliding underneath the hitch route:
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Hackenberg never sees him. Finch makes a tremendous play on the football, and returns this interception for a touchdown.
Last year, the FCS powerhouse North Dakota State Bison opened up their season on the road, traveling to Ames to take on and FBS opponent, Big-12 conference participant, the Iowa State Cyclones. The Bison pulled off the upset in this game, 34-14, thanks to a solid debut from Wentz. The QB completed 18 of 28 passes for 204 yards, and added 38 yards on the ground.
Midway through the second quarter the Bison trail 14-7, facing a 2nd and 10 near midfield. Wentz is under center with 11 personnel on the field, and the defense has their base 4-3 in the game showing Cover 3 in the secondary:
The Bison have trips to the left, and run a stick concept to this side. The tight end and middle trips receiver run quick outs, while the outside receiver runs a streak. On the weak-side, the single receiver runs a short curl:
As the play begins, Wentz is looking weak-side from the snap. Facing Cover 3, and with the football on the right-hashmark, the short curl route on the weak-side is a very nice option, and a shorter, easier throw. The defensive back will gain depth at the start of the play, and this easy throw has potential for a nice gain. But there is a hitch: the weak-side defensive end drops into coverage from the line of scrimmage:
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However, Wentz sees it. Before he releasing the throw he pulls the football down, reconsiders, and then works back to the strong side of the formation. He eventually makes a nice throw to his TE on the quick out route, resulting in a nine-yard gain.
Two different quarterbacks, running the same play, facing the same twist in coverage. One quarterback sees the twist, the other misses it.
Now, this does not mean that Wentz is a better quarterback ‒ or prospect ‒ than Hackenberg. It is merely one play, a snapshot, of these two players. But it gives a sense of the vision, awareness, mindset and recognition that both players possess. Traits to keep an eye on as this season, and draft season, rolls on.
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 Images and Videos Courtesy of DraftBreakdowns.