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2019 Jaguars NFL Draft Profile: Oregon QB Justin Herbert

Zach Goodall

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Nov 23, 2018; Corvallis, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert (10) walks onto the field during the first half against the Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft world crowned Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert as this year’s QB1 before the true junior’s third starting campaign began this year.

While there’s certainly room for arguing that take as true, I’m not in that camp of analysts.

Justin Herbert is going to be, barring injury, a first round quarterback, and deservingly so. Whether it be in the 2019 NFL Draft if he chooses to declare, or in 2020 if he decides to stick in Eugene, Oregon for his senior season, there is little doubt that Herbert could ever fall out of top-quarterback conversation.

But despite Herbert’s ability to make almost any throw, his ideal frame of 6-6, 233 lbs., his excellent mobility for his size, and so on – Herbert has weaknesses, like any QB prospect, that hold him back from being the “perfect” QB mold.

His three-year statistics, a time frame in which the Eugene native has started 27 games (he missed five games in 2017 due to a broken collarbone), are relatively appealing: 522-832 (62.7%), 6904 yards, 62 touchdowns and only 17 interceptions. Herbert has also recorded 517 rushing yards on 169 attempts and nine touchdowns.

But there’s been some underlying regression to Herbert’s numbers this year, let alone some issues that pop up on film that will be broken down as this report goes on. In his first entire season as a starter, Herbert’s completion percentage has dropped from his previous 16 game average of 65.5% to 59.6% in 2018. In the month of September (5 games), Herbert completed 64.7% of his passes for 1411 yards. Since (7 games), he’s completed 56.75% for only 1574 yards, in two more contests.

Let’s breakdown some of Herbert’s 2018 film. There’s certainly some traits on tape that make evaluators drool, but there are evident negative traits as well that must be noted.

Making the throws

The tight end rounds the top of his route break into the corner, creating no separation from his coverage defender and making the necessary placement on this throw much more difficult for Herbert than it needed to be. But Herbert, who is totally unpressured on this toss, puts this ball where it needs to be with pin-point accuracy down the field, keeping it out of reach of the hip-to-hip coverage linebacker.

Herbert picks up on the corner route opening as the outside post crosser over the slot and let’s it rip. He puts 39 air yards on this ball and hits #30 on the outside, away from the enclosing safety, from the opposite hash. The level of difficulty on this throw is pretty high, but Herbert can routinely make tosses like this so long as he has a clean pocket to scan the field from and step into as he releases the ball.

On a run-pass option, Herbert displays clean throwing mechanics on a quick release as the receiver breaks into his slant route. He squeezes the ball between the dropping backer and the closing cornerback to convert a first down. Is a slant route a hard throw to complete on a normal basis? No, but this one in particular is a solid display of Herbert’s natural quick release and ability to make tight throws.

With poise, Herbert steps into this perfectly placed corner route after scanning right to left on play-action. He puts the perfect amount of juice and touch on thsis ball to prevent the nearby defender from jumping the pass.

This throw just takes confidence, especially in less than ideal field position, and Herbert is poised enough to provide that. He releases this pass at the top of his drop and places it perfectly for the receiver to go up and get without slowing down. Herbert’s ability to put touch on his passes across the entire field is extraordinary.

Herbert’s eye maturity is put on display with a rocket into the deep middle of the field. Hackett keeps his eyes split with a slight bias towards the left outside receiver who shoots the seam, but never keeps his top-right WR out of his peripheral vision. Herbert baits the middle linebacker to stay home with his eyes and releases this pass as the top receiver, running a post, breaks out of his double move.

When he’s given a clean pocket and isn’t “hearing ghosts”, per se, Herbert makes quick and mature progressions across the entire field. Oregon runs a relatively spread out offense, and it speaks to how mature of a QB Herbert is to see him positively read the field at the pace he does. The open flat tight end is his third read after scanning from the top receiver to the seam route from the bottom outside WR.

Clutch plays

At the top of the screen is an open flats receiver at the goalline that you want to see Herbert recognize with no interior pressure interfering with his throwing pocket, but we can let that slide on this one. Herbert escapes eventual edge pressure but never takes his eyes off of the endzone and scanning for open receivers. He recognizes a receiver rounding back to the back corner of the endzone, quickly resets his base and catapults this ball to where only the receiver can come down with the ball for a clutch touchdown.

The drop kind of negates the idea of this being clutch, but Herbert picks up on bendy edge pressure here and rolls out. Keeping his eyes downfield, he picks up the enclosing defender and steps back inside to loft a short ball to the emerging receiver. The receiver obviously was caught off guard here, and he can’t bring in the pass, but this type of play displays how special Herbert can be when creating plays on his own.

When Herbert stares into oncoming pressure, he has no issue evading it (I’ll talk about his (major) issues with pressure otherwise later). Here, he does just that against wide edge pressure and steps up to roll outside and loft a ball over a coverage defender in short field, off of his back foot. A perfect touch throw.

Once again, Herbert’s ability to bait defenders gets put to the test and he nails it. On play-action boot, Herbert keeps his eyes on his pump target to pull the defender down from taking anyway a sideline dart, which Herbert takes advantage of and hits the out route right along the sideline where only the receiver can get the ball, without ever setting his feet to put juice on the pass. A combination of eye maturity, baiting defenders, mobility and natural arm talent: Plays like this put Herbert in the QB1 conversation.

On the run

He may not come off as a great runner, especially considering his large frame, but Herbert can make things happen with his feet. Here, he keeps it on the option evading an enclosing edge defender and picks up on a missed block against the outside corner. Herbert juke-steps to draw the cornerback inside, which sends him flying into the edge defender and opens up space to convert the first down on 3rd and 2. This was up for “clutch play” consideration.

It’s hard to emphasize just how important it is for the QB to keep his eyes downfield when running the ball before ever crossing the line of scrimmage, just in case a receiver opens up. The right tackle gets beaten badly by the defensive end and forces Herbert to bail early, but he keeps his eyes in the middle of the field and scanning right to ensure nothing opens up before he finally tucks and runs for about three yards.

Issues against pressure

This is where I begin to have my reservations with Herbert. Major reservations.

Far too often, Herbert doesn’t recognize pressure. That leads to a combination of missed throws and taking hits he doesn’t need to take, which you see a combination of in this play. If Herbert recognized the defensive tackle swiftly beating his lineman, he likely would have taken advantage of the opening receiver across the sticks on third and three. Rather, Herbert tries to escape far too late and takes a brutal shot from a backside pass rusher.

In some earlier plays, Herbert seemed to do a fair job taking on and recognizing pressure off the edge, but he has legitimate issues when interior defensive linemen make their way into the pocket. Is it that he misses it by keeping his eyes down field? Maybe, and if so then that should be a fixable issue with the right QB coach as generally the QB keeping his eyes downfield is a plus trait. But that plus trait tends to hurt Herbert more than an evaluator may like.

You never want to see this. Herbert misses an incredibly easy blitz pickup with a gaping hole along the interior. With eyes down the middle of the field, it’s hard to believe this blitzing linebacker wasn’t in his vision. By the time Herbert finally spies the pressure, he has nowhere to escape and throws the ball across his body into the dirt. A bad, bad play, and one of several that Herbert has made throughout the season against pressure.

Is this first down conversion with his feet nice? Sure, but if I was Herbert’s QB coach I’d be infuriated. Herbert had a totally clean pocket to step into and scan but he “heard ghosts” with the edge rusher fighting the left tackle, who was ultimately pushed away from applying pressure. As Herbert prematurely tucks, one of his three strong-side receivers opens up at the line to gain on an out-route that Herbert could have hit with ease had he not bailed. This may be a bit nit-picky of a play considering the end result, but you want to see Herbert stay poised in what was truly a clean pocket.

Here, Herbert feels the pressure coming off the right side as seen by his side-step, but he is hesitant in his reaction to the pressure and in doing so he misses another wide-open receiver near the first down marker with tons of room to advance after the catch. Herbert ends up dumping the ball to the same receiver a good bit later, while taking a hit from the same edge defender and after a defender closes on the previously open receiver to stop any chance at a first down.

Another instance of what should be a plus-trait coming back to hurt Herbert, he keeps his eyes downfield with pressure coming off thee right side and never oicks up on a wide-open checkdown with blockers ahead. Getting this to the RB would have led to at least a first down and perhaps more. The mobility and ability to make the play on his own, like previously mentioned plays, is fun to see and nice to know that Herbert can be a threat on the run, but you want to see a potential QB1 make better reads and smarter decisions against pressure.

Herbert panics in a collapsing pocket here and launches a ball with poor footwork after being made uncomfortable with pressure, that would almost always get intercepted by an NFL defensive back. With the pocket collapsing from both edges, Herbert gets knocked off of his step-up into the throw and delays his release as a blocker comes across his vision. Herbert was given the perfect lastt-second opportunity to scramble, which would be recommended here, but instead he lets this ball go with an off-base and the pass sails the intended target.

There are times Herbert makes nice plays when he has the chance to stare down pressure and formulate an escape plan. But that doesn’t always happen, and in the speed on the NFL game, Herbert will get even less chances to gameplan against pressure on a play-to-play basis. Considering this, his mishaps against pressure, especially from the ninterior or simply when he plays scared, he tends to miss a ton of easy reads and rushes into decisions that he shouldn’t ever make.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Excellent frame at 6-6, 233
  • Three year starter
  • Mobile and can throw without a set base
  • Arm strength is fantastic, both throwing deep and with short velocity
  • Very accurate to the short and intermediate passing field
  • Has a “clutch” factor
  • Keeps eyes downfield on the run
  • Touch passes are consistent
  • Natural throwing mechanics

Cons

  • Fails to recognize interior pressure far too often
  • Hears ghosts of pressure that often aren’t there, leading to bail from clean pocket
  • Deep ball occasionally misplaced but not a consistent issue
  • Takes hits he doesn’t need to take
  • Has dealt with injuries to both shoulders in past year
  • Serious decline in completion percentage in 2018

Conclusion

Look, I’m not a quarterback coach. I don’t know how fixable Justin Herbert’s issues against pressure are, and I’m sure there are QB coaches out there that believe they can tune him up in that respect. If that truly is the case, and ends up happening wherever Herbert may go, then Justin Herbert has the skill-set to be one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in the near future.

Jacksonville isn’t that place. Blake Bortles obviously had flaws in his game that weren’t ever fixed during his five years to date with the team. The same can be said about Blaine Gabbert, who had tremendous issues with handling pressure. Given their recent track record, I wouldn’t trust the Jaguars with fixing these very clear and worrisome issues in Herbert’s game.

Otherwise, Herbert can make just about any throw asked of him, and his running ability is the icing on the cake. Jacksonville just needs to draft a more polished quarterback this upcoming April, rather than a guy with issues they need to fix right out of the gate considering the talent that will surround the young QB and the expectancy to win more games in 2019 than they did this year.

There’s certainly an argument to be made about Justin Herbert as QB1 this year, should he declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. Just, he shouldn’t be QB1 for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Check out previous Locked On Jaguars 2019 NFL Draft profiles below.

Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins

Duke QB Daniel Jones

West Virginia QB Will Grier

Oklahoma WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars vs. Texans: Five observations, red zone issues remain

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) throws under pressure from the Houston Texans defensive line men during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn--USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) will be left with a lot to work on during their bye week. There was plenty to gather from the team’s 26-3 loss against the Houston Texans (6-3) in London.

1. Jaguars red-zone woes are still prevalent and have no fix in sight

In the red zone this season, the Jaguars have completed 34.5% (10/29) of their opportunities for touchdowns.  This ranks only better than the Cincinnati Bengals (33.33%) in the entire NFL.

While quarterback play is an issue in this area, the Jaguars have not made the most of their play-call opportunities either. The Jaguars entered the Houston Texans’ red zone only twice in 11 drives on Sunday.

During the two drives in the red zone, the Jaguars completed 0 passes and ran the ball one other time with Leonard Fournette for three yards. Simply not good enough.

Jaguars’ offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has spoken about the team’s ineffectiveness on red zone opportunities. “We moved the football well, but we need to do a better job in the red zone,” DeFilippo said on Thursday following the team’s week seven victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. “I need to do a better job of helping our guys get open. We need to do a better job executing and being more detailed and throwing the ball on time and all of those things. Again, all of that starts with me, and I will do a better job with that.”

Two weeks later and the team’s struggles have continued.

2. Gardner Minshew might take a backseat

Already discussed, the Jaguars might be in for a quarterback change coming out of their week 10 bye week. Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew struggled mightily in Sunday’s game, and head coach Doug Marrone will have a tough decision to make.

Although Minshew was playing with a sore right shoulder, he was able to practice in full all week leading up to their matchup at Wimbley. Regardless, the Jaguars will have to make a decision, and everything points to Nick Foles being the team’s starting quarterback against the Indianapolis Colts in week 11.

Now completely Minshew’s fault, his struggles in the red zone have been evident for the past several weeks. Foles — during the 2017 and 2018 seasons when he started for the Philidelphia Eagles — was efficient in the red zone, which could point to his maturity as a passer more than anything.

The Jaguars will want to see what they can get out of their veteran quarterback, and there is a reason to believe the Jaguars’ head coach is leaning in this direction. If Foles is not named the starting quarterback next Sunday, it is very likely the veteran will never start for this Jaguars team, at least not under the current staff.

3. Jaguars’ run-defense regressed

Without starting nickel corner D.J. Hayden and SAM linebacker Leon Jacobs, the Jaguars were forced to remain in their nickel package for much of the day. Rookie cornerback Breon Borders replaced Hayden in the starting lineup and while he was not the reason why the run defense suffered, not having a competent linebacker on the strong side of the ball impacted the team greatly.

Texans’ running back Carlos Hyde gashed the Jaguars’ defense 19 times for 160 yards during Sunday’s matchup. Part of the reason why the Jaguars were unable to stop the Texans’ running game late was the sheer amount of plays the Texans ran to begin the game.

In the first quarter, the Texans ran 20 total plays while the Jaguars offense was only able to produce nine total plays.

4. Jaguars cannot rely on penalties, but two changed the course of the game

While the Jaguars should not, and cannot rely on penalties, the team had two costly controversial calls in the third quarter of Sunday’s matchup.

With an opportunity to score, Minshew threw a beautiful back-shoulder pass to Jaguars’ receiver DJ Chark Jr. who was able to haul in the pass but was called for offensive pass interference. A few plays later the Jaguars would botch a field goal attempt and give the Texans the football at the 50-yard line.

Following the change of possession, Jaguars’ defensive end Calais Campbell was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Specifically, Campbell was called for lowering his head to initiate contact with a defenseless rusher. The Texans would net only a field goal on this drive, but it was a potential 10-point swing as Chark’s interference call was questionable, and Campbell did not even touch Watson on the play.

5. Keelan Cole shines in Dede Westbrook’s absence

Although the Jaguars clearly missed their 1B receiver in Dede Westbrook, rarely-utilized receiver Keelan Cole was able to step up to the plate and put on his best performance of the season, and possibly since 2017.

While it was not sensational, Cole hauled in five out of six of his targets for 80 yards on the day. The Jaguars could not get anything going down the field, however, Cole was able to get open on routine crossing routes.

In the coming weeks, look for Cole to have a bigger role in the Jaguars offense, especially with veteran receiver Chris Conley playing so up-and-down (2 receptions on 7 targets for 32 yards).

DeFilippo recently spoke about Cole and understands the third-year receiver may be frustrated with his snap count.

“I am proud of the way he stayed in it and even though he has not gotten the playing time,” DeFilippo said after the Jaguars victory over Bengals. “Everyone wants to play every snap. I’m sure he wants [more playing time]. He has done a great job staying in it.”

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Jaguars to make tough decision next week, Minshew Mania over for now

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) throws a pass in the first half against the Houston Texans during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) were embarrassed early Sunday morning via a 26-3 loss to the rival Houston Texans (6-3). Minshew-Mania may be over for now, but it won’t be the last time the rookie sensation starts for the team.

To put it simply, rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew did not play well at all yesterday. Completing 27/47 (57%) of his passes for 309 yards, two interceptions, and two fumbles lost, Minshew looked lost during the second half of the game on Sunday.

Minshew has been everything the team could have hoped for — and much more — out of a sixth-round quarterback, but between what transpired yesterday, and a few of his past performances — against winning teams –, the Jaguars will likely see what they can get out of veteran quarterback Nick Foles.

For three quarters, Minshew looked okay. While there was plenty that went wrong, the rookie was able to make key throws, during key situations. One play, in particular, stands out. With a little over five minutes left in the second quarter, the Jaguars could not seem to get anything going before Minshew scrambles around and eventually finds a wide-open Ryquell Armstead in the middle of the field. Armstead would take the ball 31 yards and set the team up for their only points of the game.

Minshew’s ability to improvise has been his bread and butter this season, and although he was not able to work his magic often against the Texans, these were the types of plays that gave pause in the Minshew/Foles debate.

During the fourth quarter, the Jaguars and Minshew were forced to take more shots downfield in a sort of desperation move while trailing 19-3. Although playcalling can certainly be questioned, the decision making of the Jaguars’ rookie quarterback was equally perplexing. Throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbles, Minshew had no chance at making a little magic to lead the team to another come-from-behind victory.

Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone will be forced to make a decision on his quarterback, but not right now. After the game, Marrone indicated he will wait until the Sunday before the team returns from their week 10 bye week to talk to both quarterbacks.

“I think after those 48 hours are over, I’m going to step away a little bit, take a break because I don’t have to make a decision and have time,” Marrone said shortly after the game when asked about making the quarterback decision. “That’s what I’m going to talk to the quarterbacks about, and then I’ll tell them probably right before we come back on Sunday, we’ll be able to discuss where we’re going to go. That’s pretty much my plan.”

While Minshew did not have a great game yesterday, the decision will be made on more than just one game, Marrone said.

The Jaguars’ head coach is stuck with an incredibly tough decision. At 4-5, the team needs a spark. The Jaguars need to win down the stretch and having to rely on a rookie — still going through ups and downs — is exhausting. While Foles may not be “the answer”, he is the only other option at this moment, and the Jaguars absolutely believe in the veteran.

Although this may be the end of Minshew starting in Jacksonville this season, his achievements — 188/307 (61%) completions for 2,285 yards, 13 touchdowns, and four interceptions — should not go unnoticed. The team absolutely still believes in the rookie quarterback, and he has a golden opportunity — if not this season — next year to prove everyone wrong.

One of the best, most fun performances out of a Jaguars’ quarterback over the first half of the season ever, is nothing to get upset about. Minshew provided spectators with Minshew-Mania, Minshew-Magic, and any other Minshew-ism one can think of.

For now, it is very likely Foles will make his Jaguars’ debut once again after breaking his left clavicle during the opening game of the season. In 11 plays this season Foles completed five out of eight of his passes for 75 yards and a touchdown.

It may be over for now, but this is just the beginning, and having the problem of deciding between a former Superbowl MVP and a rookie sensation at quarterback is a good thing. Depending on how Foles plays — if he is to be named the starter next Sunday –, Minshew could get yet another opportunity as the Jaguars progress from their 4-5 record.

Bonus clip:

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Jaguars fail to seize opportunity in London, falling 26-3 to Houston Texans

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) rushes for a first down during the first half of the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn--USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) fell to Houston Texans (6-3) in a disappointing pre-bye week game in London, England. The Jaguars absolutely did not have home-field advantage on the day. 

The Jaguars took to their annual London voyage with a lot of optimism, however, all of that optimism was quickly quieted by the Houston Texans (6-3) as they were able to bottle up Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars, holding the team to just three points on the day.  The Texans would win 26-3 and kill any chances the Jaguars may have had at earning the division title in a few weeks.

To begin the game, the Jaguars opted to start out on defense with the Texans struggling early on in games this season. Holding the Texans to just three points to start the game, the Jaguars defense showed up big, especially as Jaguars’ cornerback A.J. Bouye shadowed Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins who finished with just eight receptions for 48 yards. The Jaguars seemed to find a groove early on during the first half of the game, but their inability to score in the red zone reared it’s head yet again.

In what is likely his last game starting for the Jaguars this season — at least for now — Jaguars’ rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew completed just 27 out of 47 of his passes for 309 yards and two interceptions. Minshew also fumbled the football two times near the end of the game, which would ultimately end it at Wembley stadium.

While the Jaguars defense played well early on, they stood no chance against Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson who completed 22 out of 28 of his passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Extremely elusive, Watson was able to escape from the Jaguars pass rushers all day long. The Texans effectively ended any chance of the Jaguars coming back after Watson completed a long throw to Hopkins for 21 yards to the Jaguars’ one-yard line. The Texans would score on a one-yard run by Duke Johnson putting the team up 19-3 late in the third quarter.

All four of Minshew’s turnovers would come in the fourth quarter as the Jaguars attempted to climb back in the game. Missing their second-most targetted wide receiver in Dede Westbrook, the Jaguars and Minshew couldn’t seem to get anything going in the passing game.

The Jaguars’ run game was equally disappointing today as running back Leonard Fournette could only edge out 40 yards on 11 rushes.

Perhaps the best play of the game by the Jaguars’ defense, near the end of the game Texans’ running back Carlos Hyde sprinted free and was looking to go into the endzone when Jaguars’ safety Jarrod Wilson showed incredible hustle to force a fumble at the last second, turning the ball over to the Jaguars’ offense.

The good fortune wouldn’t last long, however, as Minshew would go on to throw his final interception of the game to completely seal the game for the Texans offense.

The Jaguars’ offense simply did not get anything going today, similar to their game against the New Orleans Saints in week six earlier this year. Minshew was sacked only four times on the day as the Texans did not want him to escape the pocket.

The team will have a very tough decision to make during their week 10 bye week. Ultimately, the team will need to decide between veteran quarterback Nick Foles or the rookie quarterback in Minshew.

Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone will be making the decision, and after falling 26-3 today largely due to the play of the team’s quarterback, it may be a no-brainer.

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