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

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Indianapolis Colts Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday we had a look at Quincy Wilson’s first-half play and found lots to be encouraged about. Today it is on to the second-half to see how he finished. If I had done all the analysis at once I probably wouldn’t have divided it by half, as this one is a bit shorter, but there is still plenty to digest.


Wilson’s first significant play in the second half is not one to rave about. The Cardinals struggled to move the ball and didn’t target him at all in the third quarter. With 7:47 left in the 4th and immediately following the 22-yard pass to Jaron Brown and the roughing the passer penalty they took their big shot.

The Cardinals are in 12 personnel, where they did the most damage to the Colts on the day. The Colts are playing a Cover 4 or “quarters” defensive look, with the boundary cornerbacks and both safeties dropping back into deep zone coverage. I hate this kind of coverage personally, as it is often referred to as “prevent”.

The problem is that when coaches go to this it is often a change from what they have been effectively using all game to stop the opposing offense. What usually happens when you see this kind of look is that you are exposed on the short outside routes and can get a running back or a tight end open with space to move because the boundary corners are playing so far off the line of scrimmage. This results in teams who have struggled to move the ball being able to string together long drives and get some momentum.

None of that happens here because the Colts do something unforgivable for this type of coverage: they let a receiver get behind them. The Cardinals snap the ball and run play action to the left side. Neither safety bites on the play action, but Matthias Farley turns his hips in and locks in on the tight end Ifeanyi Momah who is running a slant. Meanwhile, Larry Fitzgerald is running downfield with Rashaan Melvin in coverage on the right side. Malik Hooker moves forward here which would put him in a better place to make a play on the tight end, but leaves the middle of the field open should Fitzgerald run a post, although he does not.

Because Farley has his back turned to J.J. Nelson, he doesn’t see Nelson blow past him and is then behind the play, which is totally unacceptable. You cannot be more than 20 yards downfield of a receiver and get beat deep by them at the safety position. Wilson has reasonably good coverage and makes a good attempt to break up the catch, but if Farley had been in position as he should have, Palmer has to throw elsewhere, or this is might have been a pick like it was earlier with Hooker. Instead, it is a 45-yard touchdown and gets the Cardinals right back in the game.

Farley is still young and mistakes like that will happen, but that is the kind of mistake that is back-breaking. You cannot make those mistakes and win when you are a bad team. It is easy to put this blame on Wilson at a glance, but he played this pretty well and a worse throw or more lackluster catch attempt and he still might have broken it up, even without the safety help over the top.

Here we get a look at one of the few plays where Wilson is involved in run support. From the appearance, the run is designed to go between the left guard and tight end, but Chris Johnson quickly bounces it outside when it is clear John Simon is going to win that battle and close the hole there. Farley is in good position to make a play on the ball regardless of it Johnson hits the original hole or cuts it back.

Wilson is hanging out to the outside and is not really ever involved in the play. Given that it is coming his way, you’d really like to see him work straight upfield and turn the running back in toward the middle. If he is a bit more decisive here he might have had a tackle for a loss. Those kinds of plays come with time and familiarity, and a cornerback who can make those kinds of plays against the run makes himself that much more valuable.

This play is ugly. The Cardinals figured out throughout the course of the game that the best way to beat the Colts man-coverage was using these kinds of “rub routes” to brush off defenders. They are especially effective against the Colts’ younger defensive backs who aren’t anticipating them and get off the “pick” slowly. When you add in that Jabaal Sheard jumps offside making this a free play, it quickly goes downhill.

The Cardinals are lined up in a 4 wide receiver set with Chris Johnson split out wide to the left. The Colts are in Cover 1, with Hooker back deep. Johnson runs a crossing route and Nelson runs and out and up and Wilson simply isn’t able to get off the screen. That gives Carson Palmer a very easy and very open throw. The middle school basketball coach in me wants to see some communication there and have Farley and Wilson switch responsibilities to avoid this screen blowing up the play.

Ultimately, what needs to happen is for Wilson to identify the screen and hustle around it. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he gave up on the play, but it did not seem that he was going full-motor to catch up to Nelson either. This was the most he has played, so some fatigue may have played a role as well. Regardless, this was a critical play that moved the Cardinals into field goal territory.

This might be Wilson’s worst play all game. If you wanted to have a gripe against him, Wilson’s tendency not to quickly engaging runners would be a fair one. He seems to stand around a lot on run plays, and on this play, we see him whiff on a tackle he absolutely has to make.

The Cardinals are back in their 4 wide set and Johnson is again split out wide left. Wilson is covering Brittan Golden and the ball goes to Jaron Brown on a dig route. Brown leaves Kenny Moore in his dust and is moving upfield and toward the sideline directly at Wilson. Rather than shedding what is a pretty pathetic block by Golden, Wilson completely lets himself get pushed to the inside, not only not making the tackle, but also creating another obstacle for Moore to work past to get to the runner on the outside. Rather than what could have been a stop just short of the sticks, this ends up as a 20-yard gain. A big, physical cornerback has to run over that blocker and get the tackle.


The second half for Wilson was not nearly as pretty, but overall he played very well. It remains a mystery to me after watching this film why the coaching staff ever started T.J. Green over Wilson in the first place, but you should feel encouraged that there is a ton of potential for this guy to be a rising star on this defense.