It is sometimes a positive to play an inexperienced player because you can give them looks they may not have seen and force them into mistakes. On the flipside, the opponent can’t adequately prepare because there isn’t a great deal of game film to generate a quality scouting report on him.
This is currently what the Carolina Panthers are going through as they are set to face Ryan Mallett, who only has two career starts before this week. The Houston Texans traded for Mallett prior to the 2014 season with the New England Patriots and he was named the starter in Week 11 last year. However, he suffered a pectoral injury the next week and missed the remainder of the season.
He ended up losing the starting job to Brian Hoyer at the start of this year, however that lasted only three quarters into the 2015 season before Hoyer was pulled and replaced with Mallett. The Panthers are now going to have the responsibility of stopping the Texans’ new quarterback on Sunday.
I had a chance to watch his game last year against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12 when he went 21 of 45 for 189 yards and one interception. It was not a great performance for Mallett and these were three things that stood out to me during that game.
Gets the Ball Out Quickly
The first thing that stood out almost immediately was the fact that Mallett gets the ball out quickly. He generally knew where he was going to go with the ball, which is good and bad. The positive is that the Bengals’ pass rush was almost non-existent because it didn’t have the time to get to the quarterback. For his career, he has only been sacked twice and this is due in large part to that quick release.
The downside is that when watching Mallett, it seemed like he was not going through his progressions. He seemed to know where he was going with the football before the ball was even snapped and a number of times he was throwing into coverage and very small windows.
He also was not letting plays develop because of these quick releases. He appears to have a very strong arm but against the Bengals only threw one deep ball to DeAndre Hopkins, which came halfway through the fourth. The majority of his passes were quick routes and he only finished the game averaging 4.2 yards per attempt.
It would not be surprising to see the Texans try and implement a similar gameplan against the Panthers because it will keep Mallett from taking big hits in the pocket. This means Charles Tillman and Josh Norman are going to have to play very close to the line of scrimmage and disrupt the wide receivers when they are coming off the line of scrimmage and hopefully affect their timing.
He is Erratic with His Throws
Ryan Mallett seems to suffer from the same thing that Cam Newton does in the fact that he is not very accurate and when he does miss, he misses high. Both quarterbacks seem to have a tendency to have their passes sail on them, making it difficult for the wide receiver to make the catch. As you can see on this play, he pump fakes and tries to hit his target on a deep route across the middle of the field. He ends up throwing the ball high and the ball falls to the ground for an incompletion.
The Panthers secondary played excellent against the Jaguars and they won’t be giving Mallett a great deal of chances to complete passes so when his targets are open, he needs to get the ball to them.
He Moves Very Well in the Pocket
Ryan Mallett is a big quarterback at 6’6” and 240 pounds and he is not easy to take down. Against the Bengals he showed excellent pocket presence and while he is not the most mobile quarterback in the NFL, he moves very well in the pocket.
On this play, the Bengals seemingly had a sack on Mallett as the pass rusher came off the edge on his blindside. He had the Texans quarterback lined up but at the last second, a subtle move in the pocket allowed him to escape, step up and complete a third down conversion to Andre Johnson.
The Panthers’ pass rush looked vastly improved from the preseason, thanks in large part to the return of Charles Johnson and the play of Mario Addison. The Texans could be without their Pro Bowl left tackle, Duane Brown, which could present a winnable matchup for second year player Kony Ealy.
While Ryan Mallett may not have a great deal of experience, he is quarterback that has the physical tools to be successful in the NFL. This is not a matchup the Panthers’ defense should take lightly but similar to how they played against Blake Bortles, this defense should be able to control the game from start to finish.
*All .gifs courtesy of NFL Game Rewind
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