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Crabbs | Early showing from Lamar Jackson offers optimism

Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

NFL Draft

Crabbs | Early showing from Lamar Jackson offers optimism

At the beginning of the summer, I took a diagnostic look at Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. This dive into the film was done with the intent of establishing a baseline of the strengths and weaknesses of Jackson as a player. He’s quickly become well known for his big plays, but how does he operate an offense? What are his throwing mechanics and footwork like? Where does he throw the ball best?

These were the kinds of questions I hoped to answer, with the intent of looking for development and improvement in areas of weakness from last season.

Jackson did not disappoint with his opening performance of the season, a 35-28 victory over the Purdue Boilermakers. It was an impressive statistical showing for Jackson: 30-46 passing for 378 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns and another 107 yards rushing.

But Jackson had eye popping numbers last season as well, so that’s not where the exciting development lies. Rather, watching how Jackson captained the passing game is what gives me optimism that he can live up to his all-world potential.

One area that stood out quickly on Saturday in comparison to Jackson’s 2016 work?

Shallow set footwork

Look at this errant throw from Jackson, for perspective. It’s a shallow pass set in the red area in 2016, and many of these short area throws were marked with the same step tendencies.

This ball sails as Jackson tries to throw with touch; but look at how little rotation his lower half gets on the throw. Lamar Jackson essentially arms this throw, trying to finesse it to his target without using his body to drive the throw. By failing to work the hips through on the release, the likelihood of an errant pass is increased.

Now compare that to this quick set throw from Saturday.

Do you see the right foot swing through? Even though one of these reps is a play action and the other isn’t, Jackson still benefits from transferring his weight and utilizing his bio-mechanics in the legs to throw with accuracy. Keeping this new tendency on touch throws will give Jackson much greater success when trying to throw with accuracy into the short and intermediate areas.

Another area that I appreciated from Jackson against Purdue? The deliberate approach at time to get the ball out “on schedule”. Take this three step drop as an example.

Do you see how once Jackson’s back foot hits the ground for his third step and he hitches back to the line of scrimmage, he immediately begins his throwing motion? This is exactly how these plays are supposed to work. And as Jackson begins to initiate his throwing motion, the receiver is working his head back inside. Meanwhile, the slot receiver is carrying a vertical release, which guarantees no inside zone defender with eyes on the target will be quick to break and challenge.

This is an NFL route combination; and Jackson’s comfort against zone to throw in to the hole is one that NFL folks will like seeing. I love seeing zero hesitation to step and throw to space.

One area that Lamar Jackson has always been strong is his play fakes. Whether that’s riding the mesh point in a zone read concept or short area play action passing, he’s used his quickness, speed and athleticism as a weapon to pull up linebackers and create open space.

https://twitter.com/NDTScouting/status/905142682347024384

The ball off the back hip is a great touch, because when the linebackers initially see Jackson at the catch point, they see an open hand leaving the mesh point. It’s a nuanced, subtle item of interest, but one that adds some extra effectiveness (just ask the Purdue linebackers) in short yardage run situations.

My thoughts on Jackson’s performance can best be summed up below:

Lamar Jackson was immaculate on Saturday. He threw well, saw the field well, showed progression in some technical issues and was his typical self in terms of making explosive, thrilling plays. Look for more performances like this one from Jackson in the weeks to come.

Kyle Crabbs

Kyle Crabbs is the founder/Director of Scouting of NDT Scouting Services, a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the lead NFL Draft analyst for the FanRag Sports Network.

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