Saturday review: Jake Locker & Ryan Mallett


Jake Locker had a day to forget against Nebraska

Jake Locker (QB, Washington) vs Nebraska

Let me start by saying that as bad as Locker was in this game, it doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t going to be a high first round pick. Amongst all the suspensions and disappointing performances, the 2011 class of prospects have so far flattered to deceive. How Locker responds to this setback could just as easily define his stock next April as the Nebraska performance itself hampers it. He plays enough good teams between now and the new year that he can repair the damage done this weekend.

However, his performance against Nebraska was a horror show. He completed just 4/20 passes, registered 71 yards and threw two picks (a third was called back for a defensive hold). The stats alone paint a bad picture, but the tape simply enhanced the bad display. He miss-fired on many short/medium throws. He looked edgy in the pocket and too often locked onto receivers. He forced far too many throws. Overall it was not what you wanted to see from a fifth year senior touted as a potential #1 overall pick.

It started badly and got worse and Locker’s first throw just encapsulated his entire day. Despite having an age to sit in the pocket, he forces the pass into double coverage and is easily picked off by the Nebraska safety. It was an incomprehensible decision to even attempt the throw. He’s not under pressure and his deep receiver is clearly well covered. If nobody else is open, why didn’t he just throw it away? It set the tone for an afternoon of bad decisions.

For his second interception, he locks onto one receiver who is extremely well covered by a Cornhusker CB. The pass is never on, at no point in that play is the receiver in position to make the catch. Locker never realises this and simply tosses it out there on the slant. The cornerback is always in position to make the interception and deservedly it’s picked off and taken in for a defensive touchdown.

As the game went away from Washington, Locker’s game seemed to further drift. He started to toss throws up for grabs and his accuracy became even looser. It often gets said that Locker is hampered by his supporting cast, but for me – it was his supporting cast being let down by the star quarterback. Granted he was playing against a good defense, but there was no excuse for a performance so disjointed as this.

It’s too simplistic to say that Locker will ‘fall’ down boards now. Can he still go first overall? Of course. We’re three games into the new season. He has a chance to prove this was a freak one off, he has a chance to prove he’s better than this. However, I truly believe we’re looking at someone with a very high ceiling but is still developing as a pro-QB. Anyone who thinks Locker made the wrong decision in coming back to Washington needs to watch this game. He isn’t ready. Maybe he would’ve earned a nice sum for leaving early, but he’s not ready to start. He needs this season of games and I also think he needs to be red-shirted for 1-2 years when he is drafted. That could put some teams off on draft day, but others will look at Locker’s potential and see the long term benefits of him sitting for a couple of seasons. He can still be an early pick, he can still be a first round pick. But he has to do so much better.

Ryan Mallett (QB, Arkansas) vs Georgia

Last year, my biggest issue with Mallett was his consistency. He could demolish weak opposition and put up the big numbers, but he struggled against the better teams (especially on the road). 34.3% (Alabama), 44.4% (Florida) and 35.3% (Ole Miss) away from Arkansas showed the kind of issues the 6’7″, 239lbs quarterback faced last year. This was his first real test of 2010, although it’s important to remember that last year he scored 5 TD’s and registered 408 yards in a losing effort against Georgia.

This was on the road though and Mallett previously hadn’t won away from Arkansas in the SEC. When I watched Mallett in 2009 I liked a lot of things. He has his critics and whilst I acknowledge he’s far from perfect, I came into this year thinking he was the top QB prospect legible for 2011. My opinion hasn’t changed after watching the Georgia game. Mallett completed 63.6% of his passes, scoring 3 TD’s and registering 380 passing yards.

Aside from two throws that should’ve been picked off, he generally made good decisions. Mallett has a brilliant arm and can make a full quota of pro-throws, but it’s the short stuff he needs to improve on. He showed much better touch on short/medium and underneath throws against Georgia and his game-winning pass with seconds remaining on a medium slant route was perfection (see it in the video below). He displayed immense poise in the pocket under pressure and kept his eyes downfield, especially on an inch perfect throw to his running back on a wheel route for a TD just before the end of the third quarter.

Mallett can make throws that a lot of NFL QB’s aren’t capable of because of his arm. Just before half time, he launched a 50-yard bomb downfield which dissected two defenders and hit his receiver absolutely on the money. Despite his size and a lot of inaccurate reports, he isn’t immobile despite his size. He avoids pressure well in the pocket and whilst he isn’t going to be ‘Big Ben’ at the next level, he’s not a statue and this isn’t an issue for me.

In fact ‘Big Ben’ is probably the best comparison I’d have for Mallett. Like Roethlisberger, he’ll have off-days at the next level. What Mallett needs to do when he does enter the NFL, is master the art of winning games despite this. Roethlisberger isn’t the most accurate passer or the most clinical, but he gets it done. It helps that he’s benefited from a well coached team with an elite defense – Mallett may never get that same luxury.

Right now I’d rank Mallett higher than the other quarterbacks legible for 2011. Andrew Luck likely won’t declare for me, but if he does I’m not convinced he isn’t an above average game manager. Jake Locker has a repair job to do and can still be the first QB taken next year, but this weekend has suggested to me he’s more of a long term project. Mallett will come into the NFL facing the same kind of lessons that most rookie’s encounter. But he has the physical talents to interest teams and concern pro-defenses. For someone who has a lot of critics, Mallett (in my opinion) deserves a much greater press.

There are unanswered questions about his work ethic and attitude, no doubt the pro-scouts will do their homework but for know, it’s important to concentrate on what we can actually judge – which is what we see on tape.


  1. Patrick

    After today’s game, I think I wholeheartedly agree with you Rob. To me Ryan Mallett has definitely ascerted himself as the top QB prospect so far. I like Jake Locker a lot, but it sounds like today wa a very rough game for him and could certainly hurt his stock. Mallett’s stock should really soar and unless a team in need of a mobile QB is picking first, I think Mallett definitely deserves consideration.

    Also, Mark Ingram was averaging 21 yards in the first half of his game today. That’s simply amazing!!!

  2. Trakar

    I’ve been a mallet fan for a couple years now, and would prefer him to Locker, though to be honest, I’m still hoping that we have too low a draft pick to get either one,…at least the way the season has started out so far this year!!

    Go Seahawks!!

  3. Dan

    I’m going to throw this out there now just because. Every year people make these very good observations and judgments during the college football season. For example Jake Locker didn’t look like the best QB and Leader in this year’s draft today. The time between the end of the season and the draft has a way of distorting what happened on the field. I wonder if the numbers at the combine and pro days will re-write our mid-season observation.

  4. Neilchr

    Locker looked awful today. He never looked off receivers and his accuracy was awful. He may not have looked as bad as Ponder last week, but it was close. Nebraska destroyed UW. The score is bad, but not as bad as it looked on the field. Devastating for the Huskies and Locker IMO.

  5. CFraychineaud

    I have to say that I agree that Locker hasn’t looked great, but I did notice that often he wasn’t given much time. The O-Line for the Huskies, the OT’s in particular looked sluggish and weak. Often the Defensive ends were able to run around them mostly untouched and close the pocket. The other big thing I noticed was that the Huskies receivers weren’t getting much seperation on their routes. The Nebraska CB’s were sitting in their back pockets almost all game long. The Huskies rarely got good comeback opertunities on routes, and when it did happen there was rarely any seperation. The Defense looked pourous, and got ran all over. This might truely be a case of the Huskies being smaller, weaker, and slower than the overall group Nebraska fielded on Saturday.

    Locker hasn’t played great by any means, but he kept more plays alive than a lesser physically able QB would have with the same Husky team out there. I don’t like seeing him throw off his back foot while running directly south to get away from a pass rush that looked untouched, but he was trying to do something.

    Rob, how much of what you see from Locker seems to be his fault rather than a lack of ability or talent from the players surrounding him? He locks on to targets a bit more than he should, but that doesn’t mean he won’t make it, that’s something that can be taught. What else are you seeing that look to be his fault completely?

    • Rob

      I’ve just watched the Locker vs Nebraska tape and will have a report on Mallett/Locker on the blog very soon.

      For me a lot of that horror show was on Locker. Granted he played a tough defense, but the decision making was very poor. The first interception he had all the time in the world to throw with no pressure, but he still tossed the ball right to the DB with his WR in thick double coverage. On his second INT, he forces a throw to a WR and gets easily picked off by a well placed CB for a pick-six. He should look off that WR, but he eyed him up all the way and still threw the ball even though it wasn’t on. The third pick which got called back he just tossed into the air mindlessly.

      I’d say it had precious little to do with anyone else and it’d be a major excuse to not point the finger at Locker. If you’re WR isn’t open, look elsewhere or throw it away… don’t force it through frustration. Live to fight another down. Early on he just made bad decisions and late on he just started throwing it up for grabs. It was a very poor show of discipline. I’ve seen Locker do much more than this, but what it says to me is that he’s still very raw and will need lots of time in the NFL to continue his development. He has a very high ceiling, but he’ll be a disaster if he’s forced to start straight away in the pro’s.

  6. 1sthill

    Locker looks like he has regressed from last season. He really struggled with his accuracey yesterday, throwing either too high or behind his WR’s. He threw a pass to a WR that was double cover and it was intercepted, which was a poor decicion from a 5th year senior QB. It also looked like he had happy feet in the pocket, meaning he scrambled out of the pocket even though there was not a defender near him. Yeah, his offensive line was suspect in its pass blocking and his WR’s were struggling to get seperation, but his accuracy & decisions were bad.

    I have held out hope that somehow the Seahawks could draft Locker, but now I’m really starting to reconsider that thought. After 3 games his draft stock has to be down, but I’m sure someone will still take him in the top-10 in the 2010 draft.

  7. Matt

    Locker was brutal and is clearly going to need to have a team pull an Aaron Rodgers on him where he doesn’t see the field for 3 years. Mallett looked really good, but for some reason, Petrino’s QBs never churn out. As of right now, I wouldn’t feel good about either of those guys in round 1.

    All that said, I hate to neglect offense, but if we have a chance at Akeem Ayers and a very good CB (2nd round) due to depth, I say go for it and have the defense set up for years to come. Ayers is that good. The guy flat out makes plays and is always in the right spot. You can’t teach that. He’s a dynamic athlete who just oozes upside as a pass rusher and is clearly a stud in space during coverage. I think the addition of a top notch corner and Ayers, is the type of thing that can make the Seahawks defense not only very good, but very dynamic. Then you load up on offense the next few years because you have youth and depth starting to build at every level of the defense.

    Think of what a defense with Bryant Mebane Ayers Tatupu Curry Hawthorne Tru Thurmond III ET and another yound rookie CB (Brandon Harris maybe) would look like? I love the sound of that. Then combine that type of talent with a coach like Pete Carroll, and I could see some awfully special things to come down the road.

    Let’s hold off until Matt Barkely enters the draft and spend the house to get him. He’s the only QB I’ve seen so far who I’d feel confident spending a top 5 pick on. Say what you want about USC, but the kid has great vision, arm strength, touch, leadership, etc. I’ve seen him make every throw with unreal anticipation, touch, you name it.

    • Rob

      Some good points Matt and I’m also a fan of Barkley (although he had a difficult game against Minnesota yesterday).

      Ayers is a playmaker. He got a 70-yard interception return yesterday against Houston. I’m not 100% sure that’ll transfer to the pro’s and he needs to do more as a rusher,but he’s a late first/early second round pick as a LB if not strictly an outside rusher.

      I need to study more, but this could be a very good year for cornerbacks. There’s some good senior and underclassmen prospects and that may be an area of strength next year.

  8. PRP

    Good luck with mallet he is the next Roethlisberger IMO.

  9. akki

    Locker’s still looks to be a top-15 pick even if he stinks up another game or two, because qb is such a scarce position in the NFL. But he’s starting to look more like Kyle Boller rather than Donovan McNabb. As of *right now* what separates Locker from past 1st rounders like Boller and JP Losman who were also highly athletic with big but erratic arms? An even faster 40-time? The presence of Sarkisian as a guarantee that he’ll take more leaps forward?

    The problem is Rodgers only got to sit for 2+ years because he was drafted by a good team that had an established qb. You know if Locker goes in the top 5, he can’t sit and learn for a while because of (1) his likely huge contract, and (2) if you draft that early, the fanbase will have endured some bad seasons and will be desperate to see him play very soon.

    Mallett, we’ll see how he does against Alabama before drawing conclusions. I kind of disagree with the Roethlisberger comp because what makes Big Ben a step above other strong-armed pocket passers like Drew Bledsoe and Kerry Collins is the uncanny ability to sidestep the rush. It’s not ra athleticism as much as eyes in the back of his head. That’s a rare ability, and I’d like to see if Mallett has any semblance of that, but whether he does might never be answered in college, where most top college qbs rarely get put in tough situations. where they have to avoid massive pressure.

  10. Matt

    After some time to think, this actually could be a great year for the Hawks to pick in the top 8. My thought is you get a chance at a top notch DE or DT. Personally I’m starting to think a guy like Marcell Dareus would be an amazing pick for us. I can’t imagine what a 3 man front like Mebane, Dareus, and Bryant would look like. I think it’s much easier to find a Leo, especially considering the talent the 3 others beside him would provide. Not to mention, after watching Dareus more and more, the guy is just freakish and very flexible scheme wise which seems like a premium trait for a Carroll defense.

    Then with that high second round pick, you trade up to get Jake Locker and you provide him the opportunity to sit for a few years without the pressure of being a top 10 pick and rushing to the field day one. Let Whitehurst play the next few seasons to buy time for Locker to develop.

    I really think that our defense is one piece away from being a very good defense. Now, the debate is whether or not that an upgrade to the Leo or at DT is what it will take to provide a pass rush. I really think a 3 man front of Mebane, Bryant, Dareus would be great if not close to elite in a few years and would only free up a speed guy from the outside. Those 3 guys are not only massive but can really move. Not to mention, the scheme flexibility of those 3 is downright scary.

    Wish I had more time to get into details and be a little more clear, but I really think a top 6 or 8 pick with a shot at Dareus as well as the ability to trade up for Locker in the late 1st would be an ideal situation for the Hawks. I think this FO has the ability to find some pretty good guys in the mid rounds with some talent to develop into very effective pieces down the road. Just a thought.

    • Rob

      Hey Matt,

      I’d disagree slightly. I don’t think there’s a lot of top end talent, at least not at this early stage. If Dareus is worthy of a pick that high, he could be gone in picks 1-5. The drop off between the top 10 picks and those between 11-25 will be very little for me. A lot can change, but I think the Seahawks would be better off having a bounce-back year and picking a lot later than in 2009 and 2010.

      I also think it’d be difficult to trade back into round one. Not owning a third rounder makes it tough, they might have to give up a 2012 #1 or #2. Cleveland had to give up a #1 for Brady Quinn in the 20’s.

  11. dre

    i am a ryan mallet and razorbacks fan i have seen all of their games this season i hope the seahawks pick him up it would be a great move for the franchinse. we need a good qb. teams dont give away great qb’s we need to see if we can draft one. not get one at the tale end of their career. take chances it can pay off. go seahawks

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