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Scouting Report: Christian Hackenberg- (Pros)
The Jets selected Christian Hackenberg with the 51st pick in the 2016 draft, receiving much disdain from experts and fans alike. Only Pete Prisco from CBS gave the Jets a great grade for the pick. USA Today chimed in with a grade of B for the pick, while Pro Football Focus absolutely trashed the pick. The gifs are from video compiled by Draft Breakdown. So how did the Jets do with the pick? Let’s examine Christian Hackenberg:
The first play to review here (from his freshman year) is a play action roll out to his right. There a couple of things to notice on this play. For one, he sells the running play well, and does a good job of rolling out to the right. This may seem like a small process, but it’s one of the things that set apart good QBs from great ones, the ability to sell a fake. The second aspect is the throw on the run, and it is put exactly where it needs to go. It hits the TE in stride allowing him to run after the catch. Also, notice the other options on this play, there are three players on the same side of the field. The outside WR is running a clear out route, while two WRs run out routes, with the TE running a deeper out route across the field. It’s hard to see without the All-22 tape, but this is a very familiar concept in Chan Gailey’s offense. There were plenty of times where the QB is presented with the opportunity to have two similar routes at varying depths to pick from for a throw on the run. If both players are well covered, there is room to run for some yardage. The play set up on this is exquisite for it’s simplicity for a QB to read on the run, because no one looks good looking side to side while running. The focus on this play is to read the deeper TE, if covered, move down to the underneath WR, and if that’s not available, then run with the ball. Hackenberg executes it perfectly here, and it results in a TD.
This play is here mainly for the anticipation of his throw. If you look closely, Hackenberg starts his throwing motion while his receiver was just starting his spin. The spin move with a slower receiver (it looks like a TE lined up wide) only creates a small window before the line backer can recover. However, by anticipating the throw, the QB takes advantage of the small window and gets a first down. This is a good example of how a QB can throw a receiver open. Also, notice the other WRs on the play, and their positioning. Hackenberg is looking up the middle on this play, but there is a crossing route behind his first target. If for some reason, the first receiver is covered, he doesn’t have to move his eyes too far to find the secondary option on the deeper crossing route. This eliminates some of the time used to find the secondary option, and another example of how the system can help a young QB. The only bad aspect of this play is that Hackenberg does not step up into his throw, but has more than enough arm power to zip the ball in there.
This is a play that has been dissected on the internet already, about how Hackenberg is controlling the safety with his eyes. The read on this play is the short out route, and then two routes that are crossing each other. If the linebacker doesn’t get in the way, this read is to Allen Robinson, but the linebacker essentially double teams him, thus the play goes to the WR behind him. This is another example of play set up, where the QB doesn’t have to look around much, both guys cross each other at varying vertical distances, therefore moving from Read 1 to Read 2 is not complicated. Hackenberg does better with his foot set up, but still does not step up properly on the throw. His hips are more open than they should be, but his arm talent is good enough to make a throw that many QBs might not attempt. He is on the far hash mark, throwing across the field, over defenders, right into the arms of the WR. This is a quality NFL throw that he accomplishes as a freshman in college.
This play is a very similar set up of the first play on this list, but from a different angle. There are three options on this play, with the outside WR running a clear out route. The short option is the TE running an out route, the other option is Allen Robinson running an out route, and the third option is a WR running a crossing route in the middle. The pressure from the DE probably forces Hackenberg to throw to ball faster than he anticipated, but this is a great throw on the run, that is sage, because no one else but Robinson has a play on this pass. At risk of sounding like a broken record, notice how well this play is set up, and very reminiscent of the Gailey system last year. The QB is given three options on this play, but the read guideline on this play is easier than it looks. If Hackenberg looks at Robinson first, he can see the TE in his line of vision as well, giving him two reads at the same time. This is another great throw, and it illustrates his ability to throw on the run.
This is another example of Hackenberg going to his right and throwing with accuracy and very good ball placement. This throw is impressive because he’s moving to the right and throwing on the run, throwing the ball as the WR is the middle of his turn. This shows good anticipation, as well as ball placement on the throw.
This one is from his sophomore season, and notice the instant pressure in his face. He steps up in the pocket, and makes a nice throw for the first down. He gets hits as he makes the throw. Hackenberg does do a good job of stepping up in the pocket to make throw. However, watch the offensive line on this play, especially the right side. The Michigan State team runs a stunt on the offensive line, and three guys were committed to blocking two guys, and they end up blocking absolutely no one. The RG went to the school of blocking by Brian Winters, because he didn’t block anyone on this play, while the running back did nothing as well. To make matters worse, the DE blew right past the RT to put pressure on Hackenberg anyway. This is an absolutely horrible show of blocking by the line (and it won’t be the last) but Hackenberg steps up in the pocket and makes a nice throw here.
This play is something that is very reminiscent of Tom Brady, and even Ryan Fitzpatrick from years past. These 3 and very short situations are critical, and having a QB that can succeed with short scrambles like this really weakens the defense because they have to go all out to stop it. This ofcourse opens up the possibility of bigger plays if they go for a different run or pass here. The scramble is hard to defend because the linebackers on this play have nothing to do, and are useless to the play. If this is on the scouting tape enough time, then the linebackers will also move up to take part in the play, at which point they can audible to other plays from under center.
Following up on the last play, this is another 3rd and 1 play, where the defense jumps off-sides. It’s a hard count by Hackenberg, and there are three players that flinch during this play, with the last one jumping off sides. This is a result of the last play being on tape, because if you are good at QB sneaks, the defense is under pressure to get a jump on the snap, leaving them vulnerable to the hard count. This is the sort of thing you rarely see from shotgun oriented offenses, and shows a small example of the advanced mental game of Hackenberg.
The play shows off some mobility from Hackenberg. He’s not going to remind anyone of Robert Griffin, but he can move around some. This is a clip of him rolling to the left, and running for first down yardage (In the game, I believe this was called back for a penalty somewhere) and then absolutely destroying the CB. However, this is a bit of a concern for me, because it would have been better if he would have slid down at the end. Also, watch No. 72 (the RG) on this play, he completely whiffs on the block again, and this is a reoccurring theme when you watch the tapes.
This is an absolute gem of a throw, in the face of pressure. Once again, notice the RG ending up blocking air for the most part by the end of the play. Hackenberg steps up in the pocket and throws the ball while getting hit, but puts the ball on the money on the other side of the field. When talking about issues with coaching and offensive set up, notice the options on this play. Hackenberg has one read, then has to look back half the field before his next read even comes into play. The more pro-set up, part of which we saw Gailey run last season, is much more QB friendly. If the outside WR is covered on this play, Hackenberg doesn’t have enough time for a second read because of the horrible offensive line. This was part of the problem with James Franklin where there were very little QB friendly calls where you could make multiple reads in quick amount of times. One of the biggest reasons why the Jets cut down on sacks last year was because these route combinations made it much easier for the QB to go through the progressions, lowering the time needed to scan the field.
This play is a rare clean pocket for Hackenberg, and he steps up in the pocket and makes a great throw down the field. The ball is placed perfectly and ends up in a TD. Notice where Hackenberg’s head is when he is in the drop back. He’s looking directly at the safety going back, freezing the guy because there is a player running a deep crossing pattern as well. This is essentially holding the defense with your eyes, and prevents the safety from coming over the top on the deep route and takes him out of the play. At the same time notice the DE blow right by the RT on this play as well, but Hackenberg is saved by moving up in the pocket. When it comes down to it, this is one of the cleaner pockets he’s afforded in the last two years, and he makes a great throw.
This play is actually a failure, but is in here because of the thought process rather than what happened on the field. As you can see, the Eagles have too many men on the field, and one player is running off the field. Hackenberg tries to snap the ball quick to get the penalty, something players like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning do on a consistent basis to get free yards. The Jets on the other hand, wait for the player to get off the field and call his mother to tell her that he made it to the sideline safely, before snapping the ball. They leave free yards on the field all the time, when they could get yards with a quick snap. I love Hackenberg recognizing the situation, and trying to snap the ball early. The throw is bad, as again Hackenberg does not step into the pass, causing his hips to be open. Being a former pitcher, you would think Hackenberg would have better hip rotation skills, but he consistently throws his hips open on throws to his left.
In the Pro section of this scouting report, Hackenberg definitely showed a ton of promise, as well as some concerning issues. The next part of this scouting report deals with the con section. Please check in with the article to read further on Hackenberg.
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