I’ve just got back to the hotel following the Apple Cup and wanted to share my observations…
I’ve enjoyed watching Michael Penix this season. He has excellent arm strength, he comes across well and he has elevated his team. There’s no getting away from the fact this was a poor performance though.
I’ve mentioned recently that he’s been ‘off’ with his accuracy for a few weeks and has resorted to throwing to areas rather than aiming passes. A reminder that his completion percentage was 74.9% through five games and then in the next six, it’s dropped to 59.5%. Today he completed 54.5% of his throws, dropping that number even further to 58.5%.
There were several misses in the first half despite a lack of pressure forcing mistakes. He was off-target and inaccurate and there appeared to be miscommunication issues. I hate to say it but it was very much like watching the Seahawks at times. Nothing was clicking.
His first touchdown came on a coverage bust. The defensive back covering Rome Odunze fell over at the LOS allowing a free 40-yard score. The second touchdown was a classic hook-up between Penix and Odunze. The ball’s in a spot where Odunze can adjust to the football and catch at the back-shoulder. I was told this week that Odunze can run a 4.37 forty and given his sensational body control, consistency, hands and first-class character — there’s no doubt for me he’ll be a very high pick. Don’t be shocked if he goes in the top-10.
Penix’s interception was a bit unlucky — it’s just a good play by the defensive back at the start of the third quarter. However, the wayward throws continued. He threw wildly to Jack Westover who had to make a flying grab despite being wide open. That was right before the second TD to Odunze. For some reason, every time Penix throws to Westover it’s an adventure. It’s like he’s trying to test him with every target.
The end of the game was a mess, even though Washington won. A generous roughing the passer penalty put them in field goal range. What followed was a confusing, fairly awful sequence. All they needed to do was run to kill clock and set up the field goal. Instead, Penix underthrew a pass over the middle to the end zone that should’ve been picked off. Then with just 20 seconds remaining he threw an awful pass to the right corner of the end zone. It needed to go outside (back-shoulder to Odunze) but was thrown inside. The cornerback was ideally placed to make a pick but instead tipped it into the air and it fell incomplete.
Then, Penix sat in the pocket and took a Geno Smith-esque sack for a loss of nine yards, making the field goal attempt far harder. It was bizarre. Everything, it seems, was done to try and blow the end of the game — including the quarterback throwing two turnover-worthy passes and then taking a sack.
As noted, there weren’t any spectacular throws. We’ve seen so many this year, to counter some of the inconsistent stuff. There was one genuine NFL level pass. Penix armed a throw over to the sideline. It’s tight coverage and the DB had position to play the ball, maybe even pick it off. He needed every bit of his arm strength to beat the corner and get it through to the receiver. It was a bullet. But he ended that drive throwing behind his receiver while on the run for an incompletion.
I didn’t see layered passes today. There was very little thrown over the middle. Washington’s offense is playing at a concerning level ahead of the Oregon rematch.
I have to say, I felt like I was watching a mid-round pick today. Despite what some sections of draft media are saying, that might be where he goes. The accuracy issues for several weeks now are part of the issue. The injuries will need to be considered. I was talking to someone recently — and I wasn’t even aware of this — but your entire offense has to change when you start a lefty. It’s not just blocking — the receivers need to learn and adjust to catching passes from a left-handed quarterback.
Me saying he’s probably a third rounder will seem like criticism but that’s only because of ill-judged media hype elsewhere. That might be what he is — and it might be best for him because the team that gets him can take the time to prepare for a lefty to start, allow him to adjust to a new scheme and it’ll give him the best chance to succeed.
I think Bralen Trice is an excellent prospect. He worked through a double team to get a sack in the game and really should’ve been credited with another when he bull-rushed a linemen, disengaged and then worked to the QB. He has a fantastic combination of size, length and agility. I’m told he runs a 4.20 short shuttle at arouind 270lbs. He has every chance to be a top-50 pick.
I enjoyed watching Troy Fautanu live. I’m a big fan. He plays left tackle for the Huskies but looks tailor-made to kick inside to guard. There’s some Alijah Vera-Tucker to his game and he might go in a similar range. Great athlete, he plays with a strong base and can control and anchor. The kind of lineman who deserves to go early.
Washington State quarterback Cam Ward made this a game with some important throws. Like Penix, he also had some misses. I think it really helped seeing him live today. He’s fun to watch but lacks zip in his throws, I’m not sure he’s got the physical potential to start in the NFL and as a runner he’s more elusive than creative. He’s probably a late day three pick at best.
I’ve mentioned Josh Kelly a few times. He’s been a consistent force at receiver for Washington State. He’s also made some incredible catches this year. He had eight catches for 106 yards and a score today. I like him. I appreciate he’s not going to generate much draft buzz but there’s something there. He deserves some attention.
I’m going to enjoy an Old Fashioned in the hotel bar on my final night. I’ve got an article ready to publish tomorrow on the Seahawks. A couple of quick final thoughts. Firstly, a big thank you to Robbie Williams, Curtis Allen and the people at the University of Washington for making this trip a tremendous experience. I’ve been well reminded over the last few days why I fell for the Pacific Northwest 17 years ago and will take every opportunity I can get to come back here. The setting at UW is mind-blowing — the view of Lake Washington next to the stadium has to be seen to be believed. Being given a chance to tour the facility on Thursday was unforgettable.
Finally, jet lag is the undefeated champion of lags.
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