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.
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
- 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
- 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
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.
Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee officially taken off PUP list
The Jacksonville Jaguars have officially taken wide receiver Marqise Lee off of the physically unable to perform (PUP) list today. Head coach Doug Marrone announced the development at his pre-practice press conference today. Marrone says Lee will be practicing today.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) August 17, 2019
Lee has not practiced or played since his preseason knee injury almost a year ago today. With this progression, the Jaguars will go into the season — at least for now — with their top receivers active and relatively healthy. If Lee is able to make any sort of contribution during the start of the season it will be a major success for the Jaguars.
Currently, the Jaguars have relied on newcomer Chris Conley along with veterans Dede Westbrook, and D.J. Chark along with other newcomers to make up for Lee’s absence. It is not yet known how this will affect the Jaguars roster come the cut-down day.
The Jaguars have not announced a corresponding move as of right now. The roster stands at 91 until they do so.
REPORT: Jaguars sign RB Elijah Hood, release QB Tanner Lee
Earlier today the Jacksonville Jaguars announced the signing of running back Elijah Hood. As a corresponding move, the Jaguars have released quarterback Tanner Lee.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) August 17, 2019
Hood, 5’11” 230 pounds, was originally drafted in the seventh round by the Oakland Raiders. After bouncing around on the Raiders practice squad for the year, he was eventually waived following the 2017 season.
Hood most recently played the Carolina Panthers, however, his time with the Panthers was cut short in 2018 due to a torn ACL. He will get an opportunity to prove himself with the Jaguars and potentially live up to his collegiate career where he accumulated 2,580 yards and 29 touchdowns while at UNC.
With the injury to running back Alfred Blue (ankle) this past Thursday along with other running backs on the roster, the Jaguars needed to add depth at the position. Hood will get every opportunity to make the team, but his chances are rather slim.
Lee, a 2018 6th-round pick by the Jaguars was finally released as a corresponding move to signing Hood. Releasing Lee will not come to much of a shock for Jaguars fans. Lee has struggled throughout the offseason and in the preseason during both of his seasons with the Jaguars. This leaves backup quarterbacks Gardner Minshew and Alex McGough to battle it out in the Jaguars last two preseason games — although it looks like Minshew has the upper hand as of right now.
Jaguars defensive end Datone Jones has inside track on backup job
Earlier this offseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars opted to sign seven-year veteran Datone Jones as a means to create more competition and depth behind defensive end Calais Campbell. At the time, this was seen as more of a roster-filler type move, essentially to make sure the Jaguars have enough bodies during training camp. However, the situation has completely changed due to the way Jones has played during the offseason and into training camp.
Jones, 6’4″ 285 pounds, was originally drafted 26th overall in the 2013 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers. Coming out of UCLA he was expected to make a major impact along the defensive line after accumulating a respectable 62 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks during his senior season. Since being drafted, Jones has bounced around the NFL playing for the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers and, most recently, the Dallas Cowboys.
Jones was not able to make as much of an impact on the Packers’ 3-4 defensive front after bouncing around from the defensive line to — surprisingly — linebacker.
For a short time, Jones signed with the Minnesota Vikings shortly after his contract with the Packers ended and expressed the concern of a position switch during an interview with the Vikings update stating, “They didn’t tell me. I found out on NFL Network that they had moved me to outside linebacker, I kind of knew that I would have to make the adjustment or I wasn’t going to be there anymore. I wanted to come into a place where I felt most natural, where I could really showcase my ability, what I could really do.”
Having to make such a drastic change in his career path after being mildly successful — 73 tackles and nine sacks with the Packers — at another position impacted Jones. While Jones did accumulate the most pressures for the Packers during the 2016 season while playing outside linebacker, it still was not the appropriate position for him to play given his natural ability.
Now with the Jaguars, Jones is back along the defensive line and is thriving. With the backup strong-side defensive end position for the Jaguars being completely wide open, Jones has taken the opportunity afforded to him and could be apart of the first group of players coming onto the field for the normal starters.
The Jaguars have tried for a couple of years now to find a good backup behind Campbell. They drafted defensive tackle/end Taven Bryan in the first round just a year ago, however, he has switched to more of a fulltime role on the interior of the defense. Mostly a disappointment his first two seasons, defensive end Dawuane Smoot has also taken a backseat with the arrival of Jones, giving Jones the inside track to win the primary backup job.
Jones has taken that opportunity and has thrived. Able to come off the ball with speed and power, he has the ability to adequately stop the run along with getting to the quarterback. During the game on Thursday, Jones completely took over the Eagles offensive line. One play in particular from Thursday’s game stands out.
Jones lines up on the defensive edge and is unblocked, getting to the quarterback and knocking him (Cody Kessler) out of the game. These are the type of plays which illustrate why he has earned a spot on the Jaguars 53-man roster.
— Datone Jones AKA TONE_LOCC (@IAM_Dat_One) August 16, 2019
A rotation from normal starters Yannick Ngakoue, Marcell Dareus, Abry Jones, and Campbell to Josh Allen, Bryan, Eli Ankou, and Jones illustrates just how deep the Jaguars are along the defensive line.
This past week head coach Jaguars Doug Marrone was asked about the importance of the defensive end spot behind Campbell.
“I feel good about where we are with our D-Line, I do. In other words, I feel like we have good starters, and I feel like we have good depth. I think we have a lot of players there, guys that will probably be, if you look at the roster, I think that can potentially be the toughest. Who is nine, who is 10 if we keep 10, wherever that goes,” Marrone stated.
“Yan obviously looks great out there, but then all of a sudden [Dontavius] Russell, [Michael] Hughes, Datone Jones, I mean you have guys now, big V [Kalani Vakameilalo] is a big body in there. We have guys now that are in there that are pretty good that it’s going to be a tough call.”
A “tough call” that might have gotten tougher — or easier depending on how you look at it — with the performance Jones put on Thursday and throughout the offseason. Against the Eagles, Jones was credited with three tackles and a quarterback hit, however, it was his persistent pressure and pocket collapsing plays that set him apart from everyone else.
Shortly after the game, reporters spoke to Jones about his strong play against the Eagles. “I just wanted to go out there and execute and compete. I felt like I started off really slow the first preseason game and I felt like I owed it to my teammates to go out there today, execute and put my abilities on film,” Jones said.
“[I wanted to] let guys like Calais [Campbell], Marcell [Dareus] and Yannick [Ngakoue] know that I’m here to compete and I want to be in the lineup with those guys. I want to be here in Sacksonville, sacking quarterbacks. Preseason is all about coming out here and displaying and competing and just having fun with your brothers. Executing, you know.”
It is clear playing behind the Jaguars starting defensive line, and seeing the culture within that group has lit a fire under Jones for the better. If he can provide the same production he has done in the past, the Jaguars may have one of the deepest defensive line groups in the entire league.
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