When evaluating quarterback prospects, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan always closely observes where the passer’s eyes go right after he gets the snap and drops back to pass.
A quarterback that immediately scans the field gets positive marks from the coach. But a quarterback that quickly glances to see where the pass rush is coming from and then looks downfield scares Shanahan away.
Shanahan in the past has disregarded gaudy passing numbers and passed on highly touted college quarterbacks that have an inability to block out the rush. A quarterback may be able to get by despite this habit on the college level. But that crutch is harder to overcome in the NFL, where defenders are faster, and pass coverages are more complex. And Shanahan says teaching a quarterback to ignore the rush and focus downfield is easier said than done. A player has to have a sixth sense when it comes to this aspect of quarterbacking.
“For most people it’s pretty instinctive,” Shanahan explained. “Most quarterbacks have a focus downfield, where they’re looking at the coverages. You can’t look at the rush. You feel the rush. The guys that usually look at the rush have a hard time reading coverages.”
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III said two of the keys to ignoring the rush is having confidence in the offensive line to do its job, and letting his senses pick up on defenders.
“I trust that my offensive linemen no matter who the defensive linemen are,” Griffin said. “On one of the plays, I think it was early in the game, I had pressure right up the field on me, and you might think you’re looking at the rush in those situations, but I actually wasn’t. I came around after I did my five-step drop, looking to hit my primary target and had color flash on me, so I moved to the side. It’s a tough thing to explain. You’re never totally watching the rush, you’re always keeping your eyes downfield, but you do have to feel things in the pocket. I thought I did a good job of feeling around.”
Shanahan said that Griffin and fellow rookie Kirk Cousins have juggled the tricky task of seeing downfield and sensing pressure well in their first two preseason games.
“Both guys did a great job of focusing downfield,” Shanahan said. “Both of them are natural, coming out of college and not looking at the rush and looking downfield.”