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Bleacher Report – Vikings

QB scouting: Strong-armed Matthew Stafford has his vulnerabilities

By Derek Wetmore

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There are plenty of similarities between Matthew Stafford and Carson Palmer. Both players are strong-armed passers who will show off erratic ball placement but also make throws into tight windows deep downfield. Both are error prone but also capable of overcoming errors around them. The one big difference between Stafford and Palmer is how they are used.

In the Arizona Cardinals offense, Palmer was asked to repeatedly take deep drops and push the ball downfield against the Vikings on Sunday. This allowed the Vikings to intercept him twice while limiting the passing game to 5.2 yards per attempt. Palmer played really well individually but was let down by his receivers on a number of important plays and was constantly under pressure. It will be tougher to get that kind of pressure on Stafford.

In the Detroit Lions offense, Stafford is expected to get rid of the ball quickly. Jim Bob Cooter has a YAC-emphasis with the quarterback in shotgun so he has opportunities to throw the ball as soon as he catches it. The Vikings already encountered Stafford and Cooter’s quick passing game this season. An overtime loss in Week 9 showed off the Vikings ability to contain the offense as a whole, Stafford averaged 6.1 yards per attempt and was intercepted once, but it also revealed how the defense couldn’t make stops to kill off the game. In the second quarter the Lions had a 17-play, 84-yard drive for a touchdown before Golden Tate capped off an 11-play, 87-yard drive in overtime with a game-winning touchdown.

The Vikings sacked Stafford just once in that game. It was one of four games this year where Stafford has been sacked only once. He still has 23 sacks on the season because when teams have gotten to Stafford they have done so in bunches. On Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars sacked Stafford three times. Two of those sacks came when the defense disguised its intentions before the snap.

For their first sack, the Jaguars come out in their nickel defense with two linebackers, four down linemen and five defensive backs. The Jaguars actually do a terrible job of disguising this blitz. The cornerback who initially lines up on the outer slot receiver to the top of the screen shows that he is coming long before the ball is snapped. He moves inside of the inner slot receiver and essentially lines up as an edge defender before the ball is snapped. Telvin Smith (#50) and the right-sided off-ball linebacker, moves to his left as we get deeper in the play clock. Stafford now knows who the blitzer is and knows who is dropping out into coverage. Or at least, he should know.

Stafford changed the play and set the protection but it didn’t work. His vertical routes didn’t have time to develop before the unblocked defender closed on him in the pocket. He likely didn’t expect the defense to play Cover-1 off a corner blitz and was expecting one-on-one coverage across the board.

Mike Zimmer loves his double A-Gap blitz looks. While Stafford may be expecting them and will have some familiarity with what Zimmer does after years of sharing a division, he showed last week that he can still fall to one.

As the above gif begins, you can see two linebackers standing between the defensive tackles. The defensive line has widened in three-point stances. When this play initially begins, the Jaguars have two safeties back but one walks forward to cover the tight end. Stafford expects that safety to be in man coverage, one-on-one. That is where he will look after the snap. Just as the ball is snapped, the safety turns and sprints deep while the linebacker to that side picks up the tight end in man coverage. Stafford is now staring into double coverage after the snap and doesn’t ever take his eyes away from his initial read. This leads to him holding the ball for too long as the Jaguars’ four-man rush closes the pocket around him.

The Jaguars aren’t a good pass-rushing team. The have 19 sacks in 10 games and don’t possess individual rushers who can consistently win one-on-one matchups. They had to create pressure against the Lions and managed to do it thanks to some poor adjustments from Stafford. The Vikings pass rush has been inconsistent this year. Early on they were consistently forcing offenses into difficult situations because opposing quarterbacks couldn’t hold the ball without being pressured. At least, that was the case before the Cardinals game.

Everson Griffen repeatedly destroyed the design of passing plays for the Cardinals by coming off the edge.

When they’re not disguising rushes and being aggressive with their play calls, the Vikings will be relying on Griffen to get consistent pressure on Stafford. Stafford, like Palmer, can be rushed into big mistakes because of how much he trusts his arm strength. Griffen wasn’t really a factor in the Vikings’ first meeting with the Lions. They almost won that game in spite of that. They can’t expect to win in Detroit without one of their most important players playing to expectations.

Talk of Stafford being an MVP candidate has slowed down. He never really belonged in that conversation. He was repeatedly making mistakes that defenders couldn’t take advantage of for turnovers and his accuracy was erratic despite his completion percentage. Even with his flaws though, Stafford can be a very dangerous quarterback. The Vikings shouldn’t need reminding of that after how they lost their last matchup.

The post QB scouting: Strong-armed Matthew Stafford has his vulnerabilities appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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