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Thursday, 4 October 2012

Week 4: Not All Interceptions Are Made The Same

With Andrew Luck and the Colts on a bye week we're down to a fab 4 in week 5. And with that comes a new name to the top of these rookie ranks.

We've also seen the first rumblings that one team may need to move away from it's rookie quarterback to someone with more NFL experience, which we disagree with.

So let's get into these 4 games now, starting with someone I really didn't expect to see top the rankings this week...

1. Ryan Tannehill: Miami Dolphins vs. Arizona Cardinals

Welcome to the top of the pile Mr. Tannehill!

Another OT loss for Miami and you can only have so many moral victories before it starts getting old.

Ryan Tannehill threw for a whole bunch of yards in this one, 431 of them to be exact. With the majority going to new favourite target Brian Hartline. But for all those yards Tannehill made some really bad throws and made some poor decisions.
#1 on out rankings, and just 1 yard shy of the rookie record

2 picks and a lost fumble, and beyond that he had 2 throws that hit defenders in the hands and should have been picked off too. One was a really off target throw to the left that hit Gregory Toler in the hands, the other was again to the left that should never have been thrown as a diving Adrian Wilson couldn’t quite hang onto it as he went to the ground.

The 2 interceptions Tannehill did throw weren’t overly horrible. On the 1st it’s a deep outside curl to Hartline on which the receiver falls out of his break. Not entirely his fault, but the throw was to the inside part of the field, which would have given Toler, who was in tight coverage anyway, a better play on the ball than Hartline even if he’d have kept his feet. Now maybe Hartline is able to break it up or even make a play on it himself, but it’s still a bad throw, the interception is an unfortunate outcome.

The 2nd pick came in overtime and really damned the Dolphins. It was almost instant inside pressure from Paris Lenon as Arizona bought a big blitz. Tannehill tried to get it out of his hands but not in time as Lenon clocks him and causes an awful, fluttery throw that is an easy interception.

It’s kind of a difficult one to call here, because while it’s good that Tannehill is trying to make a play it’s certainly not a play that a veteran QB would attempt, they’d take the sack, accept that the drive was over and live to fight another day. Instead Tannehill takes a huge risk in trying to force the throw out and he pays the price for it.

However, the majority of Tannehill’s play was very encouraging. He doesn’t seem to use his mobility nearly enough in the pocket, but his passing was largely good and given the defense he was against it’s a very good sign for the future.

It’s pleasing to see that Tannehill is gaining a rapport with his receivers, Davon Bess and Brian Hartline are giving him good options at different levels of the defense. He trusts his arm and was throwing into some tight windows in this game. It’s by far his best performance and one that bodes well for the future.

2. Robert Griffin III: Washington Redskins vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mark Barron's audition for the WWE went well
Boy does Griffin take some hits. He got sandwiched at the goal line and fumbled, only for receiver Pierre Garcon to recover it in the endzone. He got body slammed by Mark Barron on an option and took another shot on a scramble at the end of the game. The Redskins need to start protecting him more if they want to keep him on the field for all 16 games this season and throughout his career.

This wasn’t Griffin’s best game with his arm, the Buccaneers did a good job taking away big plays, and but for some defensive ill-discipline they might have walked away with the win. The Bucs committed multiple penalties that gave the Redskins another first down and sustained drives, one was a field-flipping defensive pass interference on one of the few long passes Griffin attempted.

Griffin’s first half was a far better display than his first, with Alfred Morris running hard again and Griffin twice getting his number called on QB draws around the 5 yard line. If, and more likely when, teams start taking away the QB draw in the red zone it will be interesting to see how Griffin and the Redskins adapt.

The 2nd half was much tougher for the ‘Skins to move the ball, with Tampa really clamping down on the run game and starting to be far more effective on offense themselves, and the Redskins were held scoreless through the 2nd half until Griffin, feasting on underneath completions against a prevent defense and a scramble was able to move them into field position where the shaky Billy Cundiff could kick the game winner. At 2-2, and with 3 road games already under their belts, the Redskins will play host to the undefeated Atlanta Falcons next week in a huge test of Griffin’s mettle.

3. Brandon Weeden: Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens

Haloti Ngata and his buddies made life tough for Weeden
Not much to say about this game, it was the biggest test of Weeden's young career and he came through the noise and the pressure of primetime fairly well.

He was under duress a lot in this game, as you'd expect to be against the Baltimore Ravens. The interception, on a speed-out by Travis Benjamin, was really a great jump by Carey Williams. Weeden got it out on time and on target but Williams was just too fast and got to the spot first. While the pass could have been a bit crisper and faster, sometimes there's just nothing you can do against a top level defensive play.

But largely this was a good day, Weeden stood in against some tough pressure and went through his progressions pretty well too. He still had some wild throws, including the final one of the game where he threw a hail mary out the back of the endzone. He did hesitate at times, failing to get the ball out of his hands on 3-step drops as the coverage was tight or simply confusing for him, but we can't be too harsh, even the best QB's and offenses struggle against Baltimore.

Weeden was pretty consistently on the money though, even if his receivers couldn't always haul it in. Greg Little continues to display shocking hands, which makes all his other physical tools worthless, and while Trent Richardson continues to perform well behind Weeden his receiving options are very limited.

4. Russell Wilson: Seattle Seahawks vs. St. Louis Rams

dAfter this game there was a lot of talk about Wilson not being fit for the NFL. About how Matt Flynn would make this a better offense, like he can suddenly improve the ability of all those around him, getting the line to block better and the receivers to be faster, more agile and more able to get open.

Everyone knows I like Wilson, and enjoy watching him play. He might never be an elite passer, but he’s actually a good fit for an offense that, even with Flynn under centre, would be a run-heavy outfit.

But putting all that aside for now, let’s look at just game:

Wilson came out with an impressive first drive, hitting Sidney Rice on a designed rollout and then a forced one. Moving well himself and letting Lynch do his thing. But after that things didn’t really go the Seahawks, or Wilson’s, way. In the 2nd quarter he had a ball tipped on 3rd down that ended a drive, it was his first incompletion for the day. He ended the day with just 8 incompletions, 3 of which were interceptions. So firstly let’s look at those.

1st pick: Wilson sits in the pocket and recognizes the open Doug Baldwin in the slot, but with Eugene Sims clogging up the throwing lane Wilson has to pump fake him, move and then throw, which allows the defense to converge on Baldwin. Now the ball is still on target, although a little behind Baldwin and should be caught but it goes through his hands to Trumaine Johnson for interception number 1. Some have pointed to this as evidence that a guy Wilson’s size simply can’t play quarterback in the NFL but I certainly don’t see it that way. There aren’t many good QB’s of prototypical size that would attempt that throw with Sims sitting right in their throwing lane. Yes, a higher release point would help increase the odds of making that pass, but it’s definitely not enough to start up the “Bring in Matt Flynn” noise.
When the ball's thrown at you Mr. Baldwin, you're
meant to catch it

2nd pick: Again, the Rams are able to keep Wilson in the pocket, this time by bringing 2 wide DB’s on the blitz. Both are initially picked up but with no one open down field Janoris Jenkins is able to work free and hit Wilson as he throws, causing an easy interception for Rocky McIntosh as the ball just loops up out of Wilson’s hand. Again, a tough one to put entirely on the QB as he identifies the open Sidney Rice running down the right sideline, but the play is just too long in developing and the blitz gets home.

Now Wilson will need to better identify and get the ball out sooner, or just bail on the play and try to find a way out of the pocket. That’s all rookie growing-pains that everyone goes through, and it’s not like Matt Flynn is a veteran with 50 starts under his belt, Wilson actually has twice the number of starts now.

3rd pick: This one is just plain unfortunate. Wilson has his tight end Anthony McCoy running a deep out, and throws to him coming out of his break but McCoy slips over and it’s an easy game-ending interception for Bradley Fletcher.

Outside of these throws, Wilson did ok yet again. He struggled getting the ball down the field, but that has as much to do with a weak WR corps as it does with him.

Seattle’s offense does struggle to score however, that much can’t be denied. The only time they’ve gone over 20 points was because of a special teams touchdown. A great defensive season might just go to waste if they can’t start to manufacture more in the passing game.

- Toby Durant (@TDonSport)
- The Pulling Linemen

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