Film Review: Shea Patterson and What It Would Mean for Michigan

I’ve fielded a few questions about my thoughts on the Shea Patterson situation. I did something similar for Jake Rudock when he transferred from Iowa to Michigan, so I figured I’d take a brief look at what he would bring to the table. In doing so, it is essentially not to just look at highlights, but also look at his weaknesses and his worst performances.

Let’s make one thing clear, the primary reason, above all other reasons, that Michigan is looking to bring in Patterson is because he is incredibly talented. His game is far from without flaws, but in my opinion, bringing him in is much less about the current roster and the staff’s trust in that roster and much more about what Patterson potentially brings to the table. Let’s take a look, and hopefully this isn't all for naught.

Photo: AP

Strengths
Patterson has a nice understanding of the concepts he runs. He understands how a concept is supposed to move a defense, and where he has to look to open up the coverage.

Here, provided a wheel route off of a toss fake, he uses his eyes to hold the safety inside and then throws the wheel on time, as the receiver is breaking over but before the safety can get over the top:


Here, he gets a quick drop by the CB and demonstrates a quick read and release to get the ball out to his receiver. If the first read is clear, he does have a quick release and does a good job getting the ball out on time:



Patterson can push the ball down the field and does a good job putting the ball in position to allow his receivers to make plays (two plays):


He can also put the ball on a line to fit into tighter coverage underneath (two plays):


And I love this throw on a line vs Cover 2:


He can alter the pace and trajectory of his throws well. While he tends to prefer to put zip on it, he can let up.

Here, on PA, he throws a ball into the seam above the LB level and drops it below the safety. This angle and this throw is incredibly difficult, and he makes it look easy.



Patterson isn’t a true dual-threat QB, but he is a good athlete for a QB, shows he isn’t a weak runner, and has good enough awareness to generally make a guy miss. He can run away from most DL and even LBs once he is able to break the pocket. This allows him to extend plays and occasionally pick up yards on designed runs.

Here is a designed pass, but he feels LB pressure off the edge, immediately sees a crease in the DL, and hits it quickly. He is able to run away from the LB and pick up a nice chunk of yards with his legs:


Here’s another one where the play is completely covered, but he can make plays because he’s a good athlete and hard to track down for a defense:


Here he is extending a play long enough because he knows the design is working. That extra time allows him to throw a nice touch pass to the wheel route.



Patterson demonstrates very good mechanics when on the move. Ole Miss rolled Patterson a ton because he throws a really strong and accurate ball when moving either right or left. Rolling him out limited the number of reads he had to make and generally made those reads initially easier.

Here he is, play action from under center, and rolling left. Look how well he gets his left shoulder up field, his feet gathered and under him, and has the arm to put the ball on a line 30 yards away. This is a clean read and gives the receiver the ability to make the catch and then gain bonus yards because the ball is there on time and with good pace:


What Patterson is probably best known for is his ability to “make plays”. While rolling out generally makes the initial read easier, it does condense the field and if the ball doesn’t come out quickly, it leaves you with limited options. But much like Johnny Football, where most of Patterson’s playmaking comes from is his ability to defeat the initial rush, extend the play, and then utilize his athleticism to give receivers an opportunity to come open. And he does a great job keeping his eyes downfield at all times when he’s scrambling.

This is the highlight I’ve seen most floating around the internet from Michigan fans, but it’s far from an isolated instant. The first read is a little open, and on third and 3 you may be able to fit that throw in, but for the most part the CB has outside leverage and is ready to break on the throw, so it isn’t a throw you want to make. Patterson extends the play, beats the backside pursuit, moves back to the far side of the field and finds a wide open receiver that snuck away from coverage. Not exactly how you draw it up, but a nice option to have:


Weaknesses
Patterson isn’t always accurate. He is a shorter QB, and tends to utilize upper body torque to put the ball on a line. And again, he doesn’t like to throw when pressured, so he’s rushing here; in essence, he gets sped up and either drops his eyes or rushes the ball out in order to avoid hits. This can see the ball get away from him a little bit, typically missing high and to the left when he doesn’t set his feet. Isn’t always accurate.

This isn’t the worst throw in the world, and is the correct receiver. But the CB is over top and working inside the receiver, so this slant needs to be on the back hip. Instead, he throws it high toward the front shoulder, and even then misses by about a foot. The CB does a terrific job raking the WR’s arms and then making a play (this is a 1 in a hundred INT), but this is a poor decision that will typically lead to an incomplete pass:



And sometimes he just makes bad decisions. I don’t think he sees the CB sitting underneath, or expects him to be run off. But you just can’t make this throw. It happens:



Tends to stick on his first read, disrupting timing of play. This will have a bigger impact in a west-coast based passing attack, where progression timing is key. It is important that he does tend to move on in the progression, providing the pocket is clean, but it often times takes him too long which can lead to the pocket collapsing.

Here, we see an instance where a receiver is open for a long time, but is the second receiver in the progression. He’s blindly wide open because the CB vastly over reacts to the run fake, but this ball should be out a beat early, but Patterson is stuck reading the defense deep waiting for the slot to come open. He needs to get off it sooner and get the ball into the receiver’s hands. In many cases, his window would have closed (this is a highlight big play, but it's fairly easy to translate it to other plays and see where it won't work out because of a flaw):


His eyes also tend to drop when the rush comes. He doesn’t like to throw when pressured. While he keeps his eyes downfield once he breaks pressure, pressure can disrupt the timing of a play.

Here is a “highlight” where the play should be successful as designed. The slot receiver gets outside leverage and clear separation from a safety on a corner route. But the defense gets a delayed rush that gets into Patterson’s vision and Patterson brings his eyes down. In this instance, he defeats the rush and then finds another receiver open, but you want your QB to first be able to get you the success you design into the play. This ball should be out of his hand when the rush is still 6 yards from him:


Here’s an instance where he drops his eyes and trust his leg too much. He’s trying to work forward through a pocket where there isn’t a crease to move forward through. Meanwhile, he has an open relief option that could gain a nice chunk back. There is a time to take off, and there is a time to realize your legs can’t get you out of everything and you need to work the play design. And on the next play tries to take off again where there isn’t an opening and gets stripped (two plays):



Because he sticks on his first read too long, it often leads to second read going away. This leads to him bailing on the pocket early in an effort to “make plays” when the play was there to begin with.

Here, Texas A&M brings a 4 man pressure vs a 5 man protection. The receivers haven’t even gotten fully into their routes, and Patterson has just completed his drop, but the perception of rush has already caused him to start bailing on the pocket. While this pocket isn’t perfect, there is a clear area to step into and reset, instead, he starts scrambling and takes off. He makes up for it by making a few tackles miss and driving for the first down, but this is often an instance you want him to trust his pocket and trust his receivers will get open and give them more of an opportunity to do so, much more than it is “see and opening and know you can get 1st down yardage”:


Overview

Strengths

  • Good ball speed/pace, can push ball downfield or put it on a line
  • Good athlete for position that can pick up chunks on the ground (designed or scramble)
  • Does well to extend plays and keep eyes downfield
  • Good mechanics on roll out
  • Play maker
Weaknesses
  • Sometimes has accuracy issues due to avoiding pressure
  • Will drop eyes when facing pressure
  • Will get stuck on first read too long, disrupting the timing of the progression (but does move on in progression)
  • Will have an over-reliance on legs at times

Conclusions
Personally, I really liked what I saw from Peters in his limited time. I think he needs improvement on reading coverage and needs to improve the timing slightly off of that, but he showed promise and showed a good arm. I think if he was the starter next year, you could expect some good growth from a RS SO and an opportunity to really turn the corner as a RS JR. Patterson, for his part, I don’t think would walk directly into a starting position. I do think there would be a legit competition, if anything because Peters has a better grasp of the offensive system and the timing required within that system.

But Patterson has undeniable talent. He has a live arm, can put the ball on a rope, and generally makes some really good throws even against tight coverage. And when plays breakdown, as they likely will with Michigan’s pass pro, he can still make plays and get you out of jams. Plays don’t always work as designed, sometimes the defense wins, it’s nice to have a really good option back there in the event that happens.

In Patterson’s case though, he tends to over-rely on that playmaking ability. Ole Miss didn’t do him a ton of favors though, relying heavily on roll outs and 5 man protections and saying “if you can’t get the ball out quickly, make hay yourself.” How much does he change in a more structured scheme, with more protections, or how much do the schemes have to change if he is what he is and doesn’t play as well within the structure. His timing getting off 1st options could bog down in a WCO at times, where timing is essentially to moving the ball through the air. Does he more than make up for that by “making plays”, or does it bog down too much to be of benefit within what the offense wants to do? It’s hard to know immediately how much of his play (good and bad) and how it fits at Michigan (good and bad) is a product of him vs a product of the Ole Miss scheme.

But the talent is obvious, the upside is potentially significant if it all comes together, and if he can play immediately, that provides an additional bullet (a particularly talented and high upside one) in Michigan’s chamber going into 2018.