Editor’s note: Coming Friday, The Best of Jacob Eason’s freshman season.
With a full season under his belt, expectations are high for Jacob Eason in 2017.
The sophomore quarterback is embroiled in a tight quarterback competition with Jake Fromm this spring, but Eason has fared well and looks more comfortable than he did as a freshman.
On Saturday, Georgia will hold its annual G-Day Game, giving fans their first chance to see Eason 2.0. Other notable SEC quarterbacks have shined in their spring games, so this will be an important statement for Eason to make.
Ahead of the G-Day Game, we took a deep dive into last year’s game film. We watched every one of Eason’s throws from 2016 and picked some of the best and worst, which we will break down in a two-part series.
Today, we will look at some of the worst throws from Eason’s freshman season, which we have broken down into five primary categories. Friday, we will follow up with his best throws.
Eason completed 204 of 370 passes as a freshman. That means he missed on 45 percent of his throws. There were several factors, including drops.
Among Eason’s most common mistake was his tendency to force passes into tight coverage.
This is understandable given his exceptional arm strength and lack of time in Jim Chaney’s offensive scheme before being thrust into action.
We saw this often in Georgia’s first game against North Carolina. Eason’s willingness to push the ball downfield helped the Bulldogs draw several pass interference penalties and keep the Tar Heels honest, but it also led to plenty of ill-advised throws.
This looks like a designed deep shot down the field. Leaving Eason without a safety valve might not have been the best idea on this play, but a pass off his back foot into double coverage likely wasn’t what Chaney and Kirby Smart had in mind.
Against Ole Miss, Eason’s confidence in his arm strength resulted in a poor decision into double coverage and an easy interception.
He seemingly locked onto his receiver from the very beginning and missed a wide-open Nick Chubb coming out of the backfield. This is simply a case of Eason trying to do too much and looking for a completion past the first-down mark, but it ultimately gave the Rebels great field position.
This final throw is another instance of Eason locking onto a receiver and forcing a pass into double coverage.
The biggest difference on this play, however, is that Eason missed a wide-open Isaac Nauta coming open on a crossing route near the right hash mark, which would have likely resulted in a touchdown.
It’s true that Eason was under mild pressure at that point, but allowing routes to develop and going through his progressions is something he can correct this fall.
While forcing throws can seriously backfire, inaccuracy can be equally devastating. In multiple games, Eason’s accuracy waned when targeting wide-open receivers, which might have cost Georgia some points.
A good throw on this play would have likely led to a touchdown.
Yes, that is a closing window and a longer throw, but it’s one that a starting SEC quarterback should make. Eason has a big arm, but it wasn’t always on target. His accuracy on deep passes will be something to keep an eye on this fall.
This next pass isn’t a deep one, but Eason’s inaccuracy created a huge swing in momentum and played a role in Georgia’s loss to Georgia Tech.
The last place a quarterback wants to miss on an out route is to the inside. On this route, a receiver should have a step on his defender, which means that any pass behind the receiver is in jeopardy of being intercepted.
Later against Georgia Tech, Eason had another poor throw at a pivotal moment in the game.
This is a pass that Nauta should be expected to catch, but Eason’s low throw does not make that an easy job. Eason could have placed this ball further inside to allow Nauta to catch the ball in stride and potentially gain a few more yards.
Held onto the ball/poor decision
As could be expected with a young quarterback, there were quite a few times when Eason held onto the ball longer than he should have or made a poor decision while trying to make a big play.
This was another play call that could be deemed questionable, but Eason needs to know to speed up his internal clock when backed up at the goal line. If nothing is open, Eason needs to put the ball out of harm’s way, which he failed to do here.
The strip sack resulted in a Tennessee touchdown.
When Eason became uncomfortable in the pocket, which was often the case against Florida, he fell out of rhythm and it affected his accuracy.
Yet another pass that the receiver could have come up with, but Eason takes a slight hitch while stepping up into the pocket. This small pause disrupts his rhythm and may have caused him to underthrow the pass. If Eason throws this ball sooner and in rhythm, it likely hits Riley Ridley in stride as he’s coming open.
Locked onto receiver
Freshman quarterbacks typically don’t get to their second or third options. Locking onto his receiver might have been the result of Eason’s unfamiliarity with the playbook and his progressions. Greater confidence in his reads and the receivers around him should help Eason in this aspect.
From the very start of this play, Eason is locked onto his slot receiver. The safety on the left hash reads Eason all the way and undercuts the route for an easy interception.
Locking onto a receiver often led to Eason missing other opportunities, almost always wide open underneath routes.
Before the snap, Eason should identify the corners playing far off the receiver and recognize the zone coverage. He locks onto the deep out route, which plays into the deep part of the coverage. By fixating on the deep out, Eason misses the slot receiver coming open on a curl route.
Probably Eason’s biggest problem in his first season was waiting for a receiver to come open instead of throwing him open. Eason was late on some reads and completely missed others, which is part of life with a true freshman quarterback.
On this play, Eason likely saw the cornerbacks playing off the line and expected the in route from the perimeter receiver to be open. As the sequence developed, however, Eason gave the cornerback time to break on the ball and missed Isaiah McKenzie coming open in the end zone.
Against TCU, Eason made the correct read but didn’t throw the ball early enough and limited the space is receiver had to work with.
If Eason releases this ball sooner, when McKenzie is about to make his break, there is more room for him to work with on the boundary and a greater chance of a completion.
Eason’s tendency to hold onto the ball became especially apparent on short routes that require precise timing.
With only 3 yards to gain, Eason needs to make a quick read before the defense can react. As he goes through his progressions, the receivers running out routes begin to run out of space. Eason also misses Sony Michel coming out of the backfield, which would have likely gained the first down.
Michel and Nick Chubb combined to catch just 27 passes last year, but each had a touchdown catch for at least 30 yards. Meaning, both have the ability to turn short throws into big plays.
At other times, Eason didn’t appear to work through his progression or missed a potential big play.
It’s possible that the vertical route was the last read on this play, but Eason had plenty of time in the pocket to at least sneak a peek at a potential home run. If he had, it should have ended with six points for the Bulldogs.
Nobody expected Eason to be perfect in his first season, and there were plenty of rookie mistakes. There were also several bright spots, which we will touch on in our next piece.
When evaluating his second G-Day Game, Eason’s ability to work through progressions and throw the ball timely and accurately will be the main things to watch for.
William McFadden covers the University of Georgia for Saturday Down South. For news on everything happening between the hedges, follow him on Twitter @willmcfadden.