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Film Room: Ryan Finley shows potential amidst inconsistency

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A closer look at the Bengals’ newest quarterback, Ryan Finley

NCAA Football: TaxSlayer Gator Bowl-Texas A&M vs North Carolina State Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Former NC State and new Bengals quarterback Ryan Finley has a lot of positive qualities.

At his best, he throws a great ball and understands how to make adjustments on the fly, but these qualities do not present themselves as often as you’d prefer.

A look at the film reveals that Finley has translatable skills, but consistency issues will be the hill he has to overcome to be successful in the NFL.

First, we have a simple play-action pass. Finley turns and executes a ball fake to the running back, then sets up and looks down field. He gets some pressure from his right side, just as he releases the ball, but delivers a great pass hitting his receiver right in stride.

There have been questions about Finley’s arm strength, but this deep ball is thrown roughly 30 yards from the original line of scrimmage with accuracy.

This ball is thrown only 15 yards down field, but starting from the opposite hash, it travels farther than it appears. This is a long throw in college football where the hashes are much wider than they are in the NFL.

Finley puts the ball right on the sideline, where no one but his receiver that a chance to catch it. This is an excellent snag by wide receiver Stephen Louis, but also smart placement by Finley to avoid a potential turnover.

This is another example of the quarterback and receiver both doing a great job to set up the completion. Wide receiver C.J. Riley keeps his route vertical, leaving horizontal space for Finley to work in. Finley puts the ball outside of Riley, where he can use his body to shield it from the defensive back as he makes an athletic touchdown catch.

Unfortunately, Finley’s placement can be erratic. He throws too many balls behind his receivers. This forces them to turn and adjust and prevents them from gaining additional yardage after the catch.

Below, the receiver may be able to score a touchdown if Finley puts the ball in front of him, allowing him to turn it up field at the sideline. Instead, the ball is behind the receiver who is forced to turn and falls in the process of making the catch.

Here, the defense brings a five-man pressure. Finley looks to get rid of the ball in a hurry and hits the receiver on a quick route. This is the sort of hot route that a quarterback should be looking for when the defense is bringing pressure that the blocking scheme cannot handle.

In this case, the protection should have been able to pick up the rush, but they struggled with the inside pressure. Finley appears to recognize this, and delivers an accurate pass to his hot receiver.

Finley isn’t perfect against the blitz, though.

On this next play, Finley’s offensive line deploys a full slide protection, meaning that the entire offensive line slides to one side (in this case the left), and the running back is responsible for the edge on the opposite side.

The kryptonite of this type of pass protection is a double edge blitz. Finley needs to know this and needs to recognize when the outside linebacker on the bottom of the screen shows blitz, that the protection will not be able to account for him.

On the snap, Finley stares down the left side of the formation, eventually delivering a wild incompletion to that side.

The slot receiver on the bottom of the screen runs a short in-cutting route. This is where Finley should go with the ball. It was third-and-six and a completion on this route would have moved the chains. Plus, it is a natural hot route, especially with the defender who was lined up over the slot blitzing.

The receiver recognizes and points at the blitz, but does not get his head around quickly expecting the ball. This may mean that neither Finley nor the receiver have been coached to make this adjustment, but this is the sort of thing you would expect a three-year starter to know.

Here, the defense doesn’t send a blitz, but the pocket starts to break down for Finley, and he cannot find a receiver right away. He moves within the pocket but keeps his eyes down field. This allows him to find an open receiver on the sideline and complete a pass for a first down.

Here the defense sends an all out blitz at Finley, and he does not respond well to the pressure. He backs out quickly and throws an errant pass that is intercepted.


In short, Finley looks the part of a “game manager”. He’s a quasi-jack of all trades quarterback that can keep an offense afloat, but for being 24 years old entering the NFL, it’s difficult to see his shortcomings going away.

Finley’s arm strength has been criticized, but that is not a major concern to me. He needs to become more consistent with his ball placement and react better to pressure in order to have a successful NFL career.