Mobility key for young QBs thrown onto field early in NFL
It’s an NFL rite each season that young quarterbacks find themselves playing early whether because of high draft status, injuries or simply a struggling team looking for a spark.
Injuries already have forced Gardner Minshew of the Jaguars, Mason Rudolph in Pittsburgh and Kyle Allen of Carolina into the lineup, while the Giants decided the future is now in turning from Eli Manning to Daniel Jones.
They’re all getting their chance to show what they can do with Dwayne Haskins potentially on deck soon in Washington.
They often find themselves behind porous offensive lines or facing defenses that make getting the ball out quickly a challenge. So the ability to extend plays against NFL pressure is the biggest key — even if athleticism comes in a lot of different ways for quarterbacks, according to Jaguars offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.
“There are a lot of guys like Nick Foles, Tom Brady, who aren’t the fastest guys out there, but have tremendous pocket athleticism in terms of being able to throw off-balanced, being able to move in the pocket and keep their feet in the throw,” DeFilippo said.
“Pocket athleticism and playing quarterback in this league is a very huge attribute to have.”
Some of the younger quarterbacks are also quick on their feet. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson ranks in the top 20 of the NFL’s leading rushers, while Arizona drafted Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick in April for that reason. Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City won the 2018 NFL MVP award by making plays in and out of the pocket.
The New York Giants turned to Jones, the sixth pick overall in April out of Duke, looking to someone who brings more mobility to the quarterback position than Eli Manning. The 38-year-old veteran has only seven career rushing touchdowns and never averaged more than 2.2 rushing attempts a game in any of his previous 15 seasons.
Jones ran for 1,323 yards and 17 touchdowns in his career at Duke, and he debuted Sunday by becoming the first rookie quarterback since 1970 with at least 300 yards passing, two TD passes and two rushing TDs in a single game leading the Giants to a 32-31 win over Tampa Bay.
The rookie ran only once during the preseason, though Giants coach Pat Shurmur said that wasn’t to hide Jones’ legs.
“There was only one call there that was going to become a potential run,” Shurmur said. “Most of the running around were drop back passes where he felt like it was right to scramble.”
Minshew averaged only 2.1 yards rushing at Washington State last season. Now filling in for Foles, Minshew ran for 56 yards on six carries in a 13-12 loss to Houston in the first start of his NFL career, including an 18-yard run on fourth-and-10 that gave the Jaguars a chance at a late comeback. He ran four times for 18 yards in Jacksonville’s 20-7 victory over Tennessee.
“When the rush lanes were there, he took advantage of it, scrambled and made plays,” Brown said.
Minshew still has some “happy feet” moving a bit too much in the pocket, and DeFilippo would like the sixth-round pick to slide a bit earlier too.
“We’ve talked about that,” DeFilippo said. “That just comes with experience and playing time.”
With Cam Newton recovering from a mid-foot sprain, the Panthers are keeping Allen, who went undrafted in 2018 out of college, at quarterback for his third career start. Allen averaged only 1.3 yard per carry in college at Texas A&M and Houston with three TD runs. Allen had three rushes in Carolina’s 38-20 win at Arizona and finished with minus-1 yard.
Carolina coach Ron Rivera has no issues with Allen’s legs.
“Well I think he has just enough mobility to get him out of some situations,” Rivera said. “Once he got a feel for things, he was able to kind of walk away — well I shouldn’t say walk — move away from the pressure, and he handled that very well.”
Surviving to take the next snap or play the next game is what matters most.