This is part three of a three-part weekly film analysis on the performance of Patrick Mahomes.
The reason Patrick Mahomes wasn’t drafted earlier than 10th was because of the rawness of his game. He was going to have to re-train and learn both basic and advanced elements of the quarterback position to give him the best chance to succeed. Sometimes, we take for granted how far he come since his time at Texas Tech. In college, he played with a lack of technical discipline in some areas of his game.
#SomethingImproved We shouldn't take for granted how far Mahomes has come on the little things. He does a great job staying patient and inviting rushers on this screen play. pic.twitter.com/sS0haUkoj5— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) September 27, 2018
There are specific mechanics for how quarterbacks throw screen passes. They’re inviting the pressure. Offensive linemen are allowing rushers into the backfield after a count or two and working downfield to block for the recipient of the screen pass. If you’ve seen good defensive linemen sniff out they can identify screens because they got free to quickly.
That’s why quarterbacks need to invite the free rushers. I was taught to hitch into the pressure before falling away before contact. Continuing to sell the drop back as long as possible. Mahomes drops back and stares away from the throw, inviting pressure and being patient in delivering the ball. It was a small detail, but these are the kinds of subtleties that not every college quarterback comes in with.
It’s a credit to Mahomes that we dismiss the rapid growth and progression he’s shown so easily. It took a ton of work and all the little details in his game should be appreciated.
So much good is happening with Mahomes early in his career, but it has not been perfect. This week showed a larger sample of warts than he’s had to this point.
#NeedsImprovement When Mahomes is throwing in rhythm, he's been excellent. When unexpected variables are added (read isn't open, doesn't see a defender, has to step up) and he needs to stay in the pocket, inconsistencies appear. pic.twitter.com/HbqKrLHs7R— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) September 27, 2018
I’ve been writing since the preseason that Mahomes has some inconsistencies when he’s forced to work from the pocket. When he makes the right decision and can deliver the ball on time, he’s been fantastic. However, when variables get added after the snap (his read is covered, has to step up, has to make a subtle adjustment in the pocket) and Mahomes can’t scramble out of the pocket, he struggles to process those variables and gets inconsistent.
There are three plays in that clip above showing distinct issues in the pocket:
- Play one: Mahomes wanted to hit Tyreek Hill but he was covered, so he worked to the other side of the field where he had opportunities to hit Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins but showed indecision when forced to process the rest of the play from the pocket.
- Play two: Mahomes wants to throw to the field side. He pulls up and is forced to work back to the boundary, moving up into the pocket and delivering an inaccurate throw at the feet of a receiver. Things got off schedule, he wasn’t able to bail out of the back of pocket.
- Play three: Mahomes instincts are to scramble out the back of the pocket. It’s what he wants to do. He wants to turn plays into a scramble drill when things aren’t out of rhythm. He wasted a perfect opportunity to step up into the pocket and possibly run for yards in the middle of the field. Instead, Mahomes forces an escape wide.
There are inconsistencies in the comfort, decision making and process he’s using when he has to negotiate when things are out of rhythm. It’s normal, especially for a guy working in some unfamiliar space. He’s fighting old habits, developing new ones and can get overwhelmed at times when he has to lean on new habits. He’s more mortal when something goes off schedule and he’s forced to work from the pocket instead of trailing to bail out of it. A few of the hits he’s taken have been as a result of variables he wasn’t expecting being thrown at him.
Aaron Rodgers is exceptional from the pocket. He hangs in there and tries to work through structure as long as he can, and he tries to win between the tackles. He’s space efficient and comfortable in those moments and is able to deliver big plays within it. He’s an assassin. That’s where Mahomes can take his game to another level. We know he can scramble and make a play, and he’s been excellent when he’s in rhythm.
The good news is that Mahomes is shattering records while he grows. He also has yet to turn the ball over as a result of it. He’ll continue to develop. He’s just getting started. Andy Reid and the weapons at his disposal make it difficult for things to go wrong, and he can grow in the midst of winning. He is far from perfect, and some of these issues might result in a loss, but you should be absolutely ecstatic about where he’s at. The kid is real, and he’s got a chance to be the best quarterback in the history of the franchise. Nothing I’ve seen to this point says otherwise.