What a good post-snap read really looks like
Lots of quarterbacks swivel their heads to seemingly survey the field. Some are probably even making meaningful reads when they do so. Many are not, either going through the motions or just looking for a wide open target. To me though the measure of a quarterback’s read is how quickly they balance two major considerations: how open the target and how valuable the target.
It’s often not necessary to “see the whole field” as is often stressed. The design of the play and pre-snap read should reduce the need to look at every route. Receivers are typically only open briefly, and looking at a route run by a lower priority target can cost passing to an open receiver. Routes have an initial build up when only so much can be read about them. Quarterbacks use this time to read the coverage, and most every quarterback from Tom Brady to Dwayne Haskins will first read the coverage around their primary receiver. By extension that will give you some idea of what’s happening elsewhere.
Instead of writing further prologue, let me use this excellent play by Wilson to show what I mean.
Will Dissly motions in but returns to almost exactly where he started. New England is not running man coverage.
Boy that’s hideous. I very much appreciate your patience while I regain some of my blogging skills.
At the snap, Russell Wilson keeps his read to the right where Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf are running routes. When Lockett’s route begins to break in, he peaks over at Dissly, who has released from blocking and is now wide open. Lots of quarterbacks would target this “given” underneath route, but it’s actually a trap. I’ll show you that in a second. But first notice that in the 3.5 seconds of this gif, Wilson reads right, looks back left at Dissly while Lockett is clearing the underneath coverage, looks back to Lockett seeing he’s open, targets, passes and completes for 16.
Wilson probably sees all five receivers, but he quickly simplifies his decision into a choice between two. Dissly seems to be more open and it’s an easier pass, but Wilson knows Lockett is more than open enough and that he is the more valuable target.
Funny thing about Dissly too—there’s a little mischief at play in his openness. #21 Adrian Phillips lurks.
After initially covering Chris Carson in the flat, he closes near Dissly. It would take a tip or wondrous quickness to actually jump Dissly’s route, but Will’s only three yards down field. Phillips could certainly limit Dissly’s run after the catch, and as you can see by the sticks at the top of the pic, Seattle’s facing 1st and 25. That easy completion wouldn’t be worth the down it cost.
Some may think this is a tad underwhelming. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. It’s read, read, read, pass and in a flash Seattle’s recovered most of the damage done by Lockett’s blind side block. When what was given was good, Wilson took it. And when what was harder to achieve was better, Wilson took that too.
Dissly and Greg Olsen save the day
Facing the Patriots defense makes for a long, stressful day of pre-snap reads. Wilson and Ethan Pocic did surprisingly well. I marked three plays in the first half as suffering from what looked like bad line reads. Two were minor. Against one, Wilson nullified an unblocked safety by quickly targeting Lockett running a quick out.
As for this, maybe Shell thought it was a run rather than a run fake.
Olsen and Dissly are doing their darnedest against front seven pass rushers. Damien Lewis is “helping” Po’ by “doubling” a player Ethan has easily blocked. And poor Brandon Shell is wide flippin’ open for a middle screen. Wilson rushes for six, because he’s that kind of dude, but I wanted to give a little love to Seattle’s two tight ends who made it possible. Greg Olsen in particular had the difficult duty of running behind the formation and picking up Chase Winovich on the move.
No doubt that’s not a great block but it’s a good block given the circumstances, and it’s a vital block which allows Wilson to convert the first.
Damien Lewis stars in The Escapist
I hate to be reductivist but sometimes the simplest explanation really is the best explanation. Lewis is kind of small. He doesn’t have the breadth of a typical guard, and that makes it easier to attack the gaps to his left and right.
And he doesn’t have the heft of a typical guard, meaning big MFer Kyle Dugger (#35) looks a bit Jamal Adams-like running this safety blitz.
Maybe it’s fitting that both of these gifs look captured by kinescope.
Cris Collinsworth singled out Winovich’s abuse of Carlos Hyde, but that’s a back moving across the formation to take on a charging linebacker. It happens. Lewis is forklifted nearly airborne by a defensive back. It’s bad. Wilson took two sacks Sunday night. Those are them.
- New England consistently left routes out of the backfield into the flats open. Just like last week, Wilson got a ton of free yards targeting those routes.
- Chris Carson looked really good. Both him an Hyde showed impressive burst bouncing poorly blocked runs to the outside. But, for the most part, the pass blocking and run blocking were good.
- My favorite play by Carson came on the 11th play of the second drive. He only got 3 on second and four, which is modestly valuable, but he had to navigate a kelp forest of legs to get that three. Shell had a good block to seal the edge defender. Iupati pulled around and used a Bam Bam Bigelow nuclear splash to finish off John Simon, but that’s not clearly a win.
Carson found his way through to give Seattle third and one at the Patriots’ 9. He converted the first on the next play. Two plays later Wilson connected with Lockett for the touchdown.
- Travis “Dancin’” Homer showed patience and flashed burst to get 10 on second and 26. I think he has plenty to contribute this season.
- On Metcalf’s long touchdown reception Devin McCourty mistakenly shadowed Lockett on the left. That put Stephon Gilmore on an island, making for an easier reception and minimally contested run after the catch into the end zone. Score one for Lockett’s intimidation factor.