Vince Young showed good poise overall in the pocket against Jacksonville last weekend, but he had a good reason for it -- his offensive line was doing a terrific job of protecting him, giving him plenty of time to scan the field. So if he had all that time, you're probably wondering why he finished his day against the Jaguars with just 78 yards passing.
At times, Young had no one to throw to, a problem that haunted the Titans receivers throughout the preseason as they frequently had problems shaking free of defenders. But the second-year quarterback contributes to that problem in two ways -- he relies too much on the shotgun formation, and then when he tries to execute a play-action fake it's with little enthusiasm. As a result, defenders see an obvious passing situation by the formation, or even if he comes up under center, they aren't biting on his play-action.
One of the interesting early pass plays they ran against the Jaguars included
a play-action fake handoff to the left side with Young then spinning to toss a
screen to the right flat to Bo Scaife, who was also one of Young's targets while
the duo played for the University of Texas. It was covered well by Jacksonville
and actually resulted in a loss, but with a speedy team like Indianapolis, if
they don't stay on assignment and react too quickly, it's the type of play that
could be effective for a decent gain.
During the preseason, Scaife was a frequent and reliable target, and the 6-foot-3, 249-pound tight end made a nice leaping circus catch during the game by the sidelines. The Colts will need to be aware of his presence on every play, because if they can shut him down, Young has been struggling to connect with his wide receivers. On a first-down play, Young ran a very casual left rollout and then threw into double-coverage and was nearly picked. Out of the shotgun he threw a wobbly ball that was lofted too far and was intercepted by Rashean Mathis.
Vince Young on the run
But even when he wasn't throwing dangerous passes, Young was just throwing some really poor ones. He had good protection out of the shotgun on one play and tried to throw the ball to the left side to Scaife, but it was both short and wide. He threw two balls at Eric Mould's shoelaces -- one of which Moulds actually catched. But the veteran wide receiver visibly gave the young quarterback a hand signal letting him know he needed to get his throws up.
But the problems continued with him throwing short and wide of an open Brandon Jones even though he once again had time to make the throw.
Young spent the day getting his meager 78 yards primarily on quick slants across the middle or short swing and screen passes near the line of scrimmage that his receivers occasionally converted into decent gains after the catch. Rookie wide receiver Chris Davis took a swing pass to the right in stride and converted it for a first down.
While still a threat to run during his rollout option plays, Young was
contained pretty well by the Jaguars. The few times he did break free and get
past the line of scrimmage, middle linebacker Mike Peterson and cornerback Terry Cousin made some good plays to keep the damage to 6 yards or less.
The two times that Young had to handle strong pressure, it came from his left side, including once on a safety blitz by rookie Reggie Nelson. Young coughed-up the ball on the play, but the Titans recovered it.
What you should see on Sunday...
Overall, you can expect to see Young well-protected on pass plays. He lined up in the shotgun formation for 12 of his 18 pass attempts, including 9 times in the first half alone. When he rolls out, he's actually more effective running at that point than passing. While staying in the pocket, he was at least able to complete some screens, swing passes and quick slants. It's the slants that the Colts will likely be most susceptible to since they have the team speed to recover on swing passes and screens.
Most of all, you should see Young continue to miss his mark often when he does try to throw downfield, and that could open up some turnover chances for the opportunistic Colts. If Indianapolis can execute a game plan similar to what they did against the Chiefs in the playoffs and force the Titans to abandon their running game quickly, it will be a huge advantage for Indy as Young is still trying to prove that he can be a pro-level passer in the NFL.