“Blastin’ proton bombs from the arm like Galvatron.” – Bobby Digital
Few people on the planet have the raw arm strength that Lamar Jackson possesses.
You’re damn right, “Oh my gosh Lamar!”
We write a lot of Lamar Jackson articles here at the crunchzone.com. We like to have fun here, it’s why we do what we do. We also like cool and awesome stuff like typical dudes. Well, Aston Martins are cool and anti-aircraft missile launchers are awesome. Lamar Jackson is the football personification of an Aston Martin equipped with an anti-aircraft missile launcher. Writing about Lamar Jackson is fun and awesome, so much that I made another video of Lamar and I decided to go ahead and write about it too.
Let’s discuss. The first pass on this video is a strike to Reggie Bonnafon. The thing I’m most impressed with is the ball placement. Sure UNCC may be the worst of the 128-team division one field, but quarterbacks still can’t assume a D-1 player isn’t going to make plays. Here, UL comes out trips right and Bonnafon is the up receiver on the line, he runs a skinny post unmolested and his quarterback delivers a strike for six.
Jackson displays good eye discipline on the play because he starts his read with his head turned toward the boundary receiver even though his shoulders are cocked field-side toward the trips. This subtle eye discipline keeps the safety in place just long enough for the skinny post to develop a enough space between spot the ball needs to be thrown and where the safety slid. Lamar doesn’t lead Bonaffon into the safety on the throw, but puts it right on his receiver, making the pitch and catch look easy. Yeah I know, the safety on that play got smoked all night, but even an elite safety would have been relegated to trying to jar that throw loose after completion with a hit because Jackson placed it accurately on Reggie’s back shoulder because there is no way he could have deflected the pass. This is progress. The clean pocket also helped.
The next throw is a questionable decision, but hey no nuts no glory. That was a very low percentage pass and an unnecessary risk. In all honesty, it should have been picked at best or at least knocked down. Fortunately, the corner attacking the ball, Kedrick Berry, is only 5-foot-10 and isn’t winning any dunk contests any time soon with that vertical. Chicks dig risk takers and flash, but college football coaches aren’t so fond, especially when the risks are taken on first and ten. I’ll discuss down and distance decision making later.
The third pass on the video is what coaches love to see from their true sophomore highlight machine quarterback, a quick check down to a wide open running back in the flat. This is a high percentage play that many young gunslingers are hesitant to make because they tend to look for the splash play, especially against inferior foes on the first game of the season in front of their jacked up home crowd. Seeing Lamar make this kind of check down is haunting to defensive coordinators studying game film. There are 53 yards from sideline to sideline and Jackson can cover that area in a breeze, both with his legs and his arm. Quick check-downs force defenses to cover every nook and cranny of the field when Jackson is distributing like this.
Bobby Petrino opens up the playbook on the next play I selected to highlight. It looks like a fake 31 Jet-backside-drag where the boundary receiver runs his corner deep, opening up the middle for the backside receiver to run behind the linebackers frozen or faked upfield by the play action.
This works to perfection.
Lamar has the time to hesitate until the receiver on the drag clears into a window, Jackson steps into the gun barrel and delivers the ball in stride to Jamari Staples for a nice chunk play on first down. That’s a slow developing play that may not work against better teams, but flawless execution is not to be taken for granted.
Next we see the risk taking gun slinger emerge. One thing coaches want to see from their young quarterbacks is the awareness of down and distance. Here, it is 1st and ten on the ten yard line with a 35-point lead. The snap is awful and hits the turf before the quarterback’s hands. As they say in little league ball, you gotta eat that one kid. Instead, Jackson paws it back to himself, scoops it up, puts his head down and takes off field-side. An edge defender flashes in his face and he slams on the breaks, mutates into some sort of single cell paramecium with no bone structure and shakes two defenders waiting for him inside, bounces to the outside and relegates a defender to the ground with a stiff arm, which is becoming a signature move for him. Then he does something crazy. He starts waving his arm in a circle to balance himself in preparation for yet another cut back into waiting defenders coming from the hashes.
What’s the problem with that?
The arm he is waving has the ball in it! He then switches the ball into the arm facing the defense, waves it over the ground like he was trying to open some magical portal below the defenders’ feet, then switches it back to his off hand and dives under a big hit that could have busted his grape. As fun as that was for the fans, that had to be maddening to his head coach, who would rather score and not turn the ball over for no reason other than showmanship and probably doesn’t want to not lose his star quarterback for the entire season.
While you don’t want to kill Lamar’s fearless attitude which makes him one of the most special athletes in the world, you would like him to find a balance where he isn’t risking injury and a turnover while taking a nine-yard loss (actually ten because of a block in the back) on a play that should have only surrendered three.
The rest of the video shows a more poised Lamar, making sound decisions, spreading the ball like butter all over the toasted 49ers secondary to a myriad of ‘Cardinal receivers.
Lastly, I included the most impressive pass of the entire game, and maybe of Lamar’s fledgling career. I’m talking about the touchdown he threw late in the second quarter to James Quick. This was my initial reaction when I saw it during my DVR review for this article:
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It looked as if he controlled that ball’s arc with is mind. It had the perfect trajectory and velocity to allow a blanketed James Quick to get under it without slowing down. Lamar actually threw Quick open on a nine route and placed the ball perfectly on the backline of the end zone where only Quick could catch it in spite of almost perfect coverage.
The last point I want to make about that throw is how it stayed a tight spiral that never came untucked and landed nose down right in Quick’s hands. That may have been one of the best throws I’ve ever seen and I watch way too much football.
The take away from all of this is while Lamar was amazing against UNCC, there are still somethings that need to be improved. Mainly decision making, which is always an ongoing process all the way until a college quarterback graduates or declares for the draft, then his NFL coach will carry that torch.
Lamar did wiz a few wild pitches to dirt, but overall he displayed very good accuracy on the majority of his throws and the improvement in that area from last year to last Thursday was evident. It also appears that his mastery of the playbook was not mere puffery but an actual claim that can be substantiated.
Check back for ore review sometime this weekend after the Cards take on Syracuse in the Carrier Dome this Friday.
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