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Film Room: Jacoby Brissett shines in 2019 debut

Brissett took control of the offense in week one

Indianapolis Colts v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement weeks ago threw backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett back into the starting lineup as the starter going forward. The last season he started (back in 2017) he threw for 3,098 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. Now with a new coaching staff, new offensive weapons, and an elite offensive line, the expectations for Brissett were very high entering week one against a very talented Chargers’ defense.

Brissett finished the day with a solid stat line of 190 yards passing, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He also only took two sacks on the day and engineered a late game drive to tie the game in the final minute and force overtime. While he wasn’t flashy by any means in week one, he played confidently and executed the game plan perfectly and nearly got the big victory on the road.

In today’s film room, we are going to look at eight plays that told the story of the game for Brissett in week one. We will be looking at the positive aspects of his performance as well as my few concerns going forward with him as the starting quarterback.


Positives

The first clip of today’s film room shows some improvement over a major area of concern in Brissett’s 2017 film. In 2017, he didn’t trust his offensive line, with good reason, and had happy feet in the pocket. He felt pressure when it wasn’t there and also struggled mightily when pressured at all. These first two clips tell a different story however.

Here is a designed leak out play action on third and short for tight end Jack Doyle. By design, the quarterback is going to face some pressure in his face on this play. Brissett does a great job of faking the hand off, locating his target on the leak out, and not overreacting to the pressure in his face. He doesn’t lose his mechanics or his sight line like he did back in 2017 and is able to find Doyle for the big gain and a first down.


This next play again shows improvement when the pocket collapses/when he is moved off base. Joey Bosa pushes the edge of the pocket and forces Brissett to step up. Rather than panicking and losing his mechanics, he keeps his eyes downfield and avoids the rush.

As he rolls out of the pocket and with the direction of the play, his head is up trying to locate an exit route or checkdown. Once he sees nobody open downfield, he doesn’t force a pass and decides to escape the pocket and run. He sidesteps another block in the backfield before sliding down after a positive gain.

The result may not be outstanding but the process of confidently stepping up, keeping his eyes downfield, and knowing when to tuck the ball is a major improvement over the last time he started in the league.


Pre-snap reads and eye discipline are also two factors that are so important for a quarterback. Brissett looked a bit lost in this area in 2017 but on Sunday, he was in total command of the field. Here is a perfect example.

Notice how he reads man coverage before the ball is snapped. He keeps in mind that this is man coverage and he sees the strong safety down in the box, meaning he is going to have one-on-one coverage on the outside in a preferred match-up. He takes the snap but immediately looks the other direction. This freezes the single high safety over the top and gives him enough confidence to come back to his left and fire it to his target. He is able to hit Deon Cain with a beautiful back shoulder pass and get the big play.

Brissett also did the exact same thing on the next play but to Devin Funchess on the same side.


Here is another example of his excellent job with pre- and post-snap reads on Sunday. He recognizes the defense is in zone coverage at the snap and plans accordingly. As he fakes the sweep play, he notices the hesitation of the linebackers in the middle of the zone. Seeing this hesitation, he then whips his head over to TY Hilton who is supposed to be in that vacated zone. Hilton sits in the vacated area and Brissett is able to hit him with a fastball before the defenders can close in.

Great read before the snap and immediately after to know where the correct throwing lane would be on this play-action pass.


The final aspects of his game I want to look at here are his anticipation and arm strength. He didn’t have a ton of opportunities to showcase these two traits due to the game plan but he did show some flashes.

This first clip is potentially his best throw of the game, maybe even career to be honest, and it is a shame that it was incomplete. On a 3rd and medium late in the game, Brissett wants to go to his big bodied tight end Eric Ebron on the post. Ebron is covered well by Casey Hayward but Brissett fires the pass regardless. The pass is an absolute laser that is placed perfectly between two defenders and hits Ebron right in his outstretched hands.

The anticipation, accuracy, and strength on this play are absolutely insane.


The final play for the positives is a fairly simple levels concept but is thrown very well by Brissett. Needing big yards late in the game, Head Coach Frank Reich draws up this play to free up TY Hilton.

The inside slot receiver clears out the middle of the field and Hilton comes on the deep in route to the vacated area. Brissett does a good job of anticipating this opening as he fires the pass as Hilton comes out of his break. Even though the pass is a bit low, I also like his placement here as it is low and away from the safety coming downhill which protects Hilton from a big hit. Great anticipation and good timing on this big throw late in the game.


Concerns

Jacoby Brissett had a very good game on Sunday and operated well in Reich’s game plan, which was mostly centered around quick passes and one or two read throws. This actually isn’t uncommon for Reich as he drew up similar game plans for Andrew Luck last year against good defenses in the Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys. With that being said, there wasn’t too much to pick apart in this game.

If I wanted to drag out something though, I would say there were a few instances where Brissett missed some opportunities down the field in order to hit the check down.

These two examples show what I’m talking about. While in both clips he doesn’t necessarily make the wrong read and likely makes the read designed in the game plan, I’d like to see him more aggressive going forward.

Here he quickly finds tight end Mo Alie-Cox for a short gain. With the amount of time he had and the deeper routes developing downfield, I think he missed a touchdown on the outside. Hayward bites hard on the post route by Deon Cain which leaves Hilton wide open on the wheel route. Brissett just misses him in favor of the check down.

Not the wrong play or a bad play by any means but I’d like to see him show a bit more patience and take the shot going forward.

Last play I’m going to show today, and I’ll admit I’m reaching a little bit here. The Chargers bring an all out blitz on this play and force Brissett to make a quick decision in the pocket. He decides to throw out to the right to Ebron and the pass falls incomplete.

I’d love for him in theory to recognize the three man bunch formation to his left only has two defenders in the area and look that way instead. If he looked left, he would have noticed Devin Funchess running an in route from the bunch and have a ton of space from the safety coming downhill. Again, this is a tough read knowing the blitz is coming but going forward, I’d like for him to see the match-ups a little bit better downfield rather than focusing almost solely on the underneath route like he did this game (even though it was the game plan).


Final Thoughts

While it wasn’t an absolutely outstanding first game for Jacoby Brissett as the Colts’ new starting quarterback, it was certainly a good start to the season. He executed the game plan well, played with confidence, and put them in a position to win the football game. If that is what they get on a weekly basis from him, then the team should be fairly successful this season.

Jacoby Brissett showed off a lot of the traits he had his whole career— rocket arm, mobility, anticipation— while also showing improvement in areas he struggled at in 2017— confidence, poise in the pocket, pre- and post-snap reads, eye manipulation. Overall this was a very positive start for the young quarterback and we should expect even bigger performances going forward as Reich opens up the offense a bit more.