The preseason is over. There is a ton to break down with the roster down to 53 players entering the first week of the regular season. The biggest news of the weekend for the Eagles came from the quarterback position after the Eagles decided to part ways with both Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow in favor of Stephen Morris, who was acquired on Sunday after being waived by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Who is Stephen Morris, you ask?
Morris was a leader and a very productive starter for the University of Miami. Coming out of college, many analysts (including yours truly) really liked the 6-2 quarterback's arm strength and athletic ability. After a junior season that included some historic moments against big-time opponents, he had to learn a new system and was up and down as a senior in 2013. He was not drafted and landed in Jacksonville because his old college offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch had just taken the same role with the Jaguars. One year later, Fisch left for the University of Michigan and Morris found himself on the outside looking in. To see what he brings to the table as a backup quarterback, let's look at the tape.
I mentioned Morris' arm strength. I can remember some throws he made early on in Miami's game against Notre Dame back in 2012, when he made some beautiful throws down the field and attacked the Irish secondary. He's always had the ability to get the ball vertical, and he showed that this preseason a number of times.
On this throw against Washington in the preseason finale, Morris delivers an accurate throw down the field off play-action on a big play for the Jaguars. Not only does his arm strength allow him to challenge defenses down the field, but it allows him to make tight-window throws and get the ball into tiny spaces underneath as well.
This is a tough throw to make to the perimeter of the field. Washington is in quarters coverage, and with an underneath defender present outside the numbers, Morris has a pretty tight window to throw into. He delivers the ball where only his receiver can get it, over the defender and allowed his receiver to pick up the rest for the first down.
One trait that Morris presents that I always appreciated, and I saw this a lot from him as a junior at Miami, was his toughness in the pocket. He was willing to "stare down the gun barrel" as they say and make a throw with a defender bearing down on him. Watching all of his preseason throws from this summer, I saw more than a few examples of this.
It's second-and-9 and the Jaguars are running a version of a "Follow" concept where an inside receiver loops around a player lined up outside of him and cuts back inside (as a side note - they ran this a lot last year with running backs out of the backfield, I like this wrinkle from them). Morris sees that the throw will be there, but he's got a 3-technique defensive tackle closing in on him with a clean shot. Does he shrivel up and brace for the hit? Does he try to leave the pocket and run to safety? No. He pulls the trigger and hits the receiver right in the chest for a 21-yard gain and a first down before taking a shot to the sternum. Loved seeing that type of poise from a young quarterback.
One of the other qualities that I love to see from a young quarterback is a willingness to turn it loose against zone coverage. Some players out of college don't always trust what they see and take time to process what's unfolding in front of them.
On this first-down play against Pittsburgh, the Jaguars are running a four verticals concept against Cover 2.
Morris quickly recognizes that the Steelers are in Cover 2. He knows that the middle linebacker will be occupied with the vertical route from the No. 3 receiver so he can fit this ball into a tight window to the No. 2. This was a great play by Morris that displayed his anticipation and knowledge of the pass concept against that particular coverage.
Fran Duffy is the producer of "Eagles Game Plan" which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices and opponents.