NFL Draft: A look at Kirk Cousins in the red zone

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Looking at the top QBs heading into the NFL Draft, let’s not forget about Kirk Cousins. We know the Michigan State product isn’t going to receive the hype of Luck, Griffin or Tannehill on opening night of the draft. However, after his week down in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, plus his Combine and Pro Day workouts, Cousins should fall into that second-tier category at the position.

Today, I want to check out at Cousins vs. Notre Dame in the “high red zone” (20-35 yard line) on the “pump-seam.” A great example of a QB extending the play and finding a target down the field.

Notre Dame vs. Michigan State
Personnel: Ace (2 WR, 2 TE, 1 RB)
Formation: Unit
Scheme: Pump-Seam

- The “Pump-Seam” is a concept we will find at the pro level—and it is based on field position. In the “high red zone,” offenses want to take a shot at the end zone. Work the double-moves (slant and go) to the outside and look up the inside vertical seam. Michigan State is running this out of Ace personnel with both WRs (X, Z) on the double move and the TE (Y) releasing down the middle of the zone.

- Notre Dame is playing Cover 4 (quarters) in the secondary; however, the “Pump-Seam” is a great call vs. single high safety defenses (Cover 3, Cover 1). The basic idea: use the “pump” to force the safety to leave the middle of the field (overlap on the vertical) and target the seam.

- We have to understand that route concepts and schemes look great in practice (and on the chalkboard), but in a game situation things change. Both CBs are playing from an off-man alignment in Quarters coverage and stay on top of the “sluggo” from X and Z. Cousins looks to the seam, feels pressure and then shows the ability to extend the play—with his eyes down the field.

- This is what you want to see from your QB when the play breaks down. Buy some time, use your feet to create a throwing lane and look up receivers down the field. With Cousins moving laterally to the line of scrimmage, WR B.J. Cunningham can convert his route up the field. And the finish from Cousins is an example of an NFL throw.

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