NFL Films/ESPN legend — and one of the best talent evaluators in the business — Greg Cosell has gone through a metric ton of 2020 tape to provide insights on some interesting players headed into the 2021 NFL season. Here, he brings you his raw notes and observations from those tape sessions.
It’s a chance to get inside the mind of one of the greats of the industry.
We all know how disastrously the rookie season of #1 overall pick Joe Burrow ended in Cincinnati, with a devastating knee injury. But how did he look before that? It turns out, the tape was very promising.
JOE BURROW 3RD-AND-6+ PLAYS
Empty sets were a featured part of the Bengals’ 3rd-and-long game plans — Burrow has a strong sense of timing and rhythm.
Burrow has light feet with rhythm in his body. He features an easy delivery with consistently precise ball location. What consistently stood out with Burrow was he had a natural feel for timing and ball placement.
Burrow took a lot of hits through the early part of the season. The Bengals OL struggled with both one-on-one pass protection and multiple stunt concepts — these issues continued through the season.
Defenses challenged the Bengals’ OL with different front alignments featuring five, six, and at times seven-man fronts. Defenses brought multiple pressure schemes, especially when the Bengals lined up in empty sets. There were too many snaps in which there were protection breakdowns and rushers got in clean on Burrow.
Burrow was decisive with his reads and throws. He was quick to eliminate, isolate, and throw to the right receiver based on the route concept versus the coverage.
There were times in which Burrow got stuck versus zone coverage just not feeling comfortable turning it loose into a tight window, especially between underneath defenders. He saw it, but you could tell he just wasn’t confident making the throw.
There were a lot of 3rd-and-long snaps on which only the 3 WR in the 11 personnel package ran primary routes, The back and TE were either fully part of the protection or were used to chip — that limited the pass route concepts the Bengals could run. It was evident watching all Burrow 3rd-and-long dropbacks was that the Bengals had to compensate for OL pass protection issues with six and seven-man protection schemes.
As a result, there were a good amount of three-man intermediate and vertical route concepts versus six and seven-man coverage schemes – that’s tough for any QB, let alone a rookie.
JOE BURROW 15+ YARD COMPLETIONS ON 1ST DOWN
1st down concepts the Bengals featured: bang play action off power run action with five-step drop and timing crosser; empty out of 12 personnel with four verticals; shotgun play action with five-step drop timing routes.
The Bengals featured a good mix of under center and shotgun on 1st down. Play action was featured, with some two-man route concepts off maximum pass protection.
The Bengals featured hi-low concepts against zone coverage. A strength of Burrow’s is layering the ball with touch and pace over the underneath coverage.
Burrow showed good vision in the pocket, with progression reading traits. He showed the ability to eliminate and isolate within the timing and structure of the play design.
For a rookie, Burrow showed a refined feel for manipulating secondary coverage with his head and eyes. Burrow also showed an excellent feel for the timing of the pass game based on drops in regards to route concepts.