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Tale of the Tape: Quincy Wilson v Cardinals First Half Breakdown

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

There were a lot of disappointing things about week two, but there were several very positive things as well. Possibly the most encouraging was seeing T.J. Green take a seat in favor of second-round cornerback Quincy Wilson. Wilson made his first start and was in on 64 of 66 defensive snaps. I had already been thinking about breaking down some film on this guy because he has intrigued me since his selection, but it didn’t take me very long to decide that was a must. Let’s dive in and have a look at how the rookie did.

This is the first time Carson Palmer targets Wilson’s man. It’s 3rd and 15, and the Colts are playing a Cover 3 zone. That means that the outside cornerbacks and the free safety split the field into thirds in deep coverage. The strong safety and slot corner cover the flats and the inside linebackers cover the middle of the field. Palmer sends J.J. Nelson (14) in motion to determine if the Colts are playing man or zone, and when Wilson doesn’t follow Nelson he knows it is zone coverage.

Jaron Brown (13) runs a seam route just underneath Wilson’s coverage area and Palmer has a decent shot at a completion but throws the ball behind him due to pressure from the Colts’ defensive front. Wilson is right on top of the play and probably would have had a big hit if this had been a completion. This isn’t a knock on him, but give him a year or two, and Nate Hairston might have had a pick here. There is not a player in his zone of coverage, and if he drops back just a little more, he is in a position to pick the ball, or at the very least, force Palmer to hold the ball and possibly cause a sack. Also interesting here, is that Malik Hooker doesn’t bite on the fake handoff to Nelson and take a false step. All in all, a pretty solid play from 3 rookie defensive backs. They all could have been a tick more decisive, but a good showing so far.

This was the play that made Wilson a lock for the film room this week for me. It comes on another 3rd down with 6:05 to go in the first. It is fair to see why on 3rd down the game plan would be to go after the guy who replaced T.J. Green. After watching Green you’d have to assume that the guy he started ahead of in week one must be awful, right? Wrong.

On this play, the Colts are playing Cover 2 and Wilson is again matched up against Jaron Brown, who is bunched to the left with Fitzgerald (11) and Golden (10). Brown runs a 10-yard out and Palmer doesn’t put quite enough on it. Wilson is in great position in coverage and has help over the top from Matthias Farley which enables him to jump the pass. He has an interception go right through his fingers.

That’s a play you’d love to see him make, but it is also one that showcases his aggressiveness and ability to make plays on the ball. There will be ample opportunities throughout this season for him to get those kinds of chances against quarterbacks with less experience and awareness than Carson Palmer. This probably won’t be the last time you’ll see Quincy Wilson jump on an out route.

On 3rd and long, the Cardinals were dead set on going after Wilson and this one is another example. 3rd and 16 and deep in the Colts territory, the Cardinals were threatening to score.

This play is really my first gripe with Wilson. In my opinion, he sets up too deep here. At the bottom of the screen, you see Melvin who is about 10 yards off the line of scrimmage. Wilson is about a yard deeper on the other side of the field. Once the ball is snapped, he ends up about 3 yards deep in the end zone. Ultimately, he makes the play on the curl just outside the goal line, and that play leads to a failed 4th down conversion and no points for the Cardinals.

If Wilson is playing a little bit tighter coverage, this is a pass breakup or maybe even an interception. The ball doesn’t have a ton of zip on it and Palmer stares at Nelson the whole way down the field. Given another step or two Wilson might have had a chance to make a big play here. There definitely would have been some risk, because he is on an island, but in Pagano’s defense, that’s going to be the case often. Still, it is a stop and a good tackle.

Here the Cardinals start out in 12 personnel, 1 RB and 2 TE’s. They run play action, and Hooker bites, taking a step forward and moving him in the wrong direction as Brown runs a post route. Wilson stays in stride with the receiver and makes an incredible play on the ball to break up what would have been a huge gain. This might have been Wilson’s most impressive play. He was essentially without help over the top as Hooker was scrambling to catch up to it.

Palmer makes a good, not great throw, and the receiver absolutely makes that catch if not for Wilson knocking the ball loose. TE’s. They run play action, and Hooker bites, taking a step forward and moving him in the wrong direction as Brown runs a post route. Wilson stays in stride with the receiver and makes an incredible play on the ball to break up what would have been a huge gain. This might have been Wilson’s most impressive play. He was essentially without help as he was closer to the play than Hooker who was scrambling to catch up to it. Palmer makes a good, not great throw, and the receiver absolutely makes that catch if not for Wilson knocking the ball loose.

Here is the broadcast angle:

With 10:35 to play in the half and on 3rd and 2, we see a conversion using something the Cardinals had a bit of success with in the 2nd half of the game. They run a kind of natural pick, or “rub route” that creates space for Fitzgerald to get open and gain the first down. There seems to be some miscommunication between Wilson and Hairston on the left side because this looks like Cover 1 Man. That means each guy is in man coverage and Hooker is in deep zone.

However, when Fitzgerald, who is Wilson’s responsibility goes in motion it seems like both rookies, but specifically, Wilson, are a little uncertain about who they should cover. That hesitation, as well as good play design and execution by the Cardinals, gives the veteran Fitzgerald more than enough space to pick up the easy first down. Give Hairston credit, he makes a great one on one open field tackle.

Here is the first time we see a little bit of an adjustment by the Cardinals pay off. On Wilson’s big pass breakup from before, we saw the Cardinals in 12 personnel. This time we see it again and the Colts defense gives them a similar look. There is no play action, and this time the tight ends are lined up on either side rather than stacked on the right. Moving a tight end to the left side and sending him out for a pass holds Farley in place, and rather than running a post route, Nelson runs an out, where he is very open. The pass isn’t good, but he makes the catch for an easy first down.

I am not a fan of these plays where Wilson plays this far back off the ball. His skill set lends itself to tight physical coverage. You simply cannot be 5 yards off the receiver when he comes out of his break. Seeing that trend is something any decent coach is going to exploit, and we see it here.

This play is a lucky one for Wilson because if it is a catch it is probably a touchdown. The Cardinals receivers are bunched on the right side and that puts Wilson one-on-one with the tight end Momah. That’s a matchup you want if you’re Carson Palmer and he goes for it immediately. Momah’s head-fake inside makes Wilson hesitate for just a second and gives him space on the out route. You really don’t want to see your corner so far off the ball against a tight end where he should have the speed advantage. Fortunately, it fell incomplete.

After the Cardinals have been on the march to end the half the Colts make a huge play to keep them from getting points and go into halftime with momentum. The Cardinals are back in their 4 wide receiver set and this time the Colts are playing Cover 1 with Wilson in tight coverage of Nelson and Hooker back deep.

Wilson is right on Nelson’s outside hip forcing him to the inside and making Palmer throw over his inside shoulder. That gives Hooker the perfect opportunity to go up and get the interception. This is the first of what will hopefully be many interceptions by Hooker, but without great coverage by Wilson forcing him inside, it doesn’t happen. These two working well in tandem is encouraging and bodes well for the Colts secondary in the long haul.

Check back tomorrow for the second half breakdown!