Jake Browning struggled against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the very first start of his NFL career.
He seemed overwhelmed by the complexity of the Joe Burrow offense, and he simply couldn’t process quickly enough to make something out of nothing the way the superstar QB tends to do.
So Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor went back into the lab and concocted a game plan that works to Browning’s strengths and relieves him of the pressure that comes with filling in for a savant of a QB who likes to give himself multiple options.
What did that look like in practice? A to Z Sports’ John Sheeran breaks it down:
Jake Browning was in empty personnel 12 times against the Steelers, which means he had no one in the backfield and the ball had to get out quickly. The ball did not get out quickly, he took some sacks, and he made some bad decisions. They didn’t have that at all against Jacksonville. They always had someone in the backfield. They had like six guys in protection. Yeah, quick decision making after the snap, that’s not for you, Jake Browning. We’re going to eliminate that.
Sheeran then dropped some numbers to support his observation:
Playactions and screens went up from 25% to 45% this past game. The first quarter was just, what, Ja’Marr Chase quick screens and quick passes. He had like five catches for five yards at one point... [Browning’s] time to throw went from 2.7 seconds to 2.3 seconds. Again, very little post-snap processing for you, Jake Browning. We’re going to get the ball out as quickly as possible, and, again, playaction bootlegs, rollouts, sprintouts. Get Jake Browning out of the pocket. Get him throwing on the move. That’s one of his strengths.
And then, as Sheeran points out, when Browning got into rhythm thanks to a gameplan that worked to his ability, he was able to make some big-time throws in the fourth quarter and overtime. The analyst said:
When they needed to get into field goal range, he made two really good throws without Zac Taylor holding his hand. To go from the boundary side of the field to the long side of the field and read that backside dig to Ja’Marr Chase and put it right on him, that was impressive. He did that in a standard dropback pocket with pressure in his face. It was a great throw by Jake Browning that got them into field goal range.
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