The second part of the the series, deals the downside of Christian Hackenberg, and some of the issues he’s demonstrated over the years.
This play is from his freshman year again, and he shows a trigger that’s too quick for the play. This is a 3rd down play, and should be an easy throw. However, Hackenberg rushes the throw and puts the pass on the back shoulder of the TE, making it a much tougher pass to catch. This should have been an easy catch and conversion, instead it is an incomplete pass that brings on the punting unit. However, also notice the play call here and where the receivers cross here, right in the line of Hackenberg’s sight. He’s reading the linebacker on this play to find his open receiver, but rushes the throw and makes a bad pass. Hackenberg also fails to set his feet on this throw, jumping without need, and throwing out his accuracy.
This pass is a completion that goes for positive yards, but a bad screen pass. Allen Robinson has to jump to catch the ball, allowing the defense to recover and tackle him after a short gain. If the ball is placed lower to Robinson, there is a good chance that he runs for more yards before being tackled. Notice how Hackenberg’s hips are open again before he makes the throw, causing the ball to sail. His footwork needs work when it comes to these throws, his foot is getting ahead of the rest of the body. It’s very similar to the issues Dellin Betances faced as a starter for the Yankees. He couldn’t consistently get his delivery to match up where his foot and body lined up, leading to bad control. The other aspect of the play is actually positive in that, notice the mirror aspect of this play call. There is a WR bubble screen set up on both sides of the line, allowing the QB to look at where the match-ups favor the team, and then pick that side. There is a ton of examples where the Jets ran the same concept last year, where both sides of receivers mirrored each other so Fitzpatrick could decide at the line where the weakness in the match-up was for the defense.
This is an absolutely horrible throw, Hackenberg has a relatively clean pocket and Allen Robinson wide open down the field, but flat out misses the throw. He under-throws Robinson by a fair margin and turns a surefire TD into an incomplete pass. This is a good play call with options open under neath, but Hackenberg makes the right read on this play, however, execution was horrible. The only possible excuse would be that it started to rain right around this time in the game, which may lead some credence to issues with the weather. He has relatively small hands for a QB, which could become an issue in bad weather games, as this looks like a case of him not getting the grip on the ball.
This is probably Christian Hackenberg’s kryptonite: The screen pass. Hackenberg consistently has trouble with the screen pass, as if he’s not sure what to do in this case. Mark Sanchez was bad at screen passes with the Jets, but Hackenberg is beyond brutal consistently. Infact, this play is one of the few good screen passes that Hackenberg threw in his career, and this in itself is a bad pass. Hackenberg is about to get hit, but he puts the ball at the feet of his RB, causing him to stop running before starting to run again. While the RB may not have gotten a first down with a good pass, it would have been a much better option for them to convert. This is actually one of the few screen passes that Hackenberg throws overhand, as he has a very bad tendency to side arm screen passes. The next year, RB No. 1, the guy that caught this pass, is wide open in a game against Northwestern, and Hackenberg misses him short, and he absolutely rips in the QB. Infact, they were at words on the sideline, but they did work together on the next drive.
This a very good play set up and good protection. The pocket is clean, and the WR runs a nice route to be absolutely open. The good aspect of the play is the set up, as you will notice the mirror aspect of this play (this is his freshman year) which means the main read is the middle of the field. The read on this play is the safety, as Hackenberg holds him in the middle by looking right at him when he’s dropping back. Once the CB drops into zone coverage, they have a perfect pocket in the zone, and Hackenberg steps up into the throw, and then just flat out misses him. This is a throw that every QB in the league needs to hit, because receivers are rarely this open for large gains. Everything went perfectly for this play, except the pass execution.
Another deep pass that absolutely misses the throw for a wide open receiver. Allen Robinson ran a high amount of double move pass routes while at PSU, and he gets open on a similar route here, but Hackenberg just flat out misses this throw. He does everything right in this play, he steps up well, his hips aren’t flying open, but just air-mails the throw. This is the downside of having big arm QBs sometimes, because they just overthrow passes, similar to say Randy Johnson sailing a pitch to the backstop at times. Most scouting reports have Hackenberg as loving the deep pass but he is not yet refined on deep passes quite yet.
Back to the James Franklin era, and notice the right guard again. He’s not blocking anyone at all, yet still in position as if he’s waiting for the headless horsemen to come running upon him. However, the pocket is relatively clean (there is a guy diving at Hackenberg’s feet) but this is another air mail of the pass. The WR is open on this play, but Hackenberg just misses him flatly. On this throw, Hackenberg’s hips flies open causing him to lose control of the pass. These are some mechanical adjustments he has to make before being a starting QB.
Screen pass: enter nightmare. This is a play set up to go for plenty of yards, but Hackenberg absolutely misses the throw. This is another example of Hackenberg’s hips flying open causing him to be wild with his throws, as his mechanics are not there. Granted, he’s facing a free runner up the middle and needs to get the ball out fast, but he has to step into this throw a bit, rather than doing a twirl pass.
Next screen pass, next issue. This play is a disaster waiting to happen on many levels, even though the end result of the play is positive. There is a free runner coming at Hackenberg again, but this is a pick 6 throw waiting to happen as the DE was right near the throwing lane. In the NFL, this is at best knocked down, and at worst picked off. Second, the pick is behind the RB, who makes a nice adjustment to catch the ball and turn up-field.
This is a Geno Smith pass, the LB dropping back in pass coverage picking off a pass and returning it for a TD. The defense is playing zone coverage and it looks like the WR sits down too close to the next LB in the zone. Most experienced WRs would have stopped earlier, but that is just a small mistake. Hackenberg had no right to throw this pass, even a bull rusher pushing his offensive lineman back into his face. He throws it right to the LB and the rest is history. The only good aspect from this play for Hackenberg is the hustle he shows in trying to tackle the returned, albeit it ends up futile. This is also an example of Hackenberg locking in on one WR and staring him down. Remember from the earlier series about how vertically spaced players allow a QB to make two reads at once? Well on this play, his second read is open, but he’s on the other side of the formation. With the rusher bearing down in the pocket, it can be understood why Hackenberg didn’t want to delay further to scan the other side of the field, but he was much better at throwing away this pass.
Another deep pass that is misplaced by Hackenberg, partially due to bad mechanics. He throws this foot more off of his back foot and sails the pass. This is a one on one match on the outside, so he does a good job in identifying the one on one match-up but just makes it a horrible throw. The CB makes a good play on the ball to intercept the pass.
Screen pass disaster again. This play has a couple of culprits from the looks of it. The main one if Hackenberg again, as he side arms the screen pass and it again goes low. The second culprit is what looks like the center, who instead of blocking the linebacker in front of him decides to run into thin air before circling back too late. Hackenberg absolutely needs to work on his screen game, it’s quite painful to see him perform so badly on a play that is somewhat basic. He rarely puts any touch on screen passes, and seems to have an affinity for side arming the throws, which almost always end up too low for the receiver.
As you can see the from the examples, Hackenberg is far from perfect and has plenty of flaws in his game that he needs to work on. Please check out the other scouting report Christian Hackenberg Pros. Tomorrow we will have part 3 (teammates) and a summary.