INDIANAPOLIS – It was a unique four-year run in college for Jacob Eason.
The consensus 5-star recruit left his home state of Washington to try and get Georgia their first National title since 1980.
Eason enrolled early at Georgia in January 2016 and took over as the starter in Week Two of his true freshman season.
A knee injury early in the 2017 season opener spelled the end of Eason’s playing career at Georgia. Jake Fromm took over and remained the starter when Eason returned to full health, which led to the 6-6 quarterback transferring back home.
After sitting out 2018 due to transfer rules, Eason eventually won the starting job at Washington for 2019.
Despite Eason having eligibility for one more year, he decided the 2019 season would be his last in college football.
2016 (Georgia): 204-of-370 (55.1%), 2,430 yards, 6.6 yards per attempt, 16 TDs, 8 INTs
2017 (Georgia): 4-of-7 (57.1%), 28 yards, 4.0 yards per attempt, 0 TDs, 0 INTs
2018 (Washington): Sat out due to transfer
2019 (Washington): 260-of-405 (64.2%), 3,132 yards, 7.7 yards per attempt, 23 TDs, 8 INTs
Eason’s Totals: 468-of-782 (59.8%), 5,590 yards, 7.1 yards per attempt, 39 TDs, 16 INTs
Eason’s teams were 17-10 in the games he started. His individual collegiate numbers aren’t eye-popping, with just 4 games of more than 300 yards.
What are some takeaways from watching Eason on film during the 2019 season?
1. The Arm
It’s cliché, it’s obvious, but it’s also darn impressive.
Jacob Eason has a howitzer of an arm. The arm strength and velocity gives Eason the ability to make throws all over of the field.
You see Eason tossing, and completing, balls that the Colts never even attempted last season. Eason’s touch outside the numbers is particularly impressive.
When Eason gets a clean pocket, knows his progressions, it’s often ‘game over’ in terms of the ball being on target. The ball placement is more often on point, as well.
As Frank Reich put it after the draft, Eason’s arm isn’t strictly just a guy who can chuck it 70 yards in the air.
“What I liked about his arm talent is he can throw it on a rope, he can throw it long, he can throw with touch, he can change his speed on the ball and he can deliver from different arm angles,” Reich said.
Want to see why Eason’s name was being floated around as a Round 1 pick at times in 2019?
Go watch the first half of the BYU game from last September.
2. Pre-Snap Command
Watching Eason operate the Washington offense play-to-play, you do not see a ton of pre-snap command from him, without looking towards the sideline for direction.
Eason did play in two different offenses during his two seasons starting (2016 at Georgia, 2019 at Washington), so maybe a lack of familiarity/experience contributed to the lack of command. Of the 12 quarterbacks drafted in 2019, Eason had the 2nd least experience (playing in just 29 games, 8 games below the average of the other guys).
Compared to seeing Andrew Luck or Jacoby Brissett at the line of scrimmage under Frank Reich, it didn’t appear that Eason had as much freedom.
If Eason ever gets the chance to quarterback the Colts under Reich, that opportunity is coming, because Reich wants his quarterbacks to have that discretion.
In the early virtual teaching/learning, the Colts like what Eason has shown, from a mental aptitude standpoint.
“As we are going through these virtual meetings, we are seeing his intelligence, his ability to process, and what he’s been exposed to, he’s definitely ahead of the curve, so that’s been exciting,” offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni says.
Hearing that though, it didn’t look like Washington fully trusted to open things up and let Eason sling it. You wonder how much of that had to do with a lack of command.
3. Nailing Down Progressions
This is something Frank Reich mentioned in the Eason’s draft evaluation, and you see it when watching games.
It’s not often you watch Eason make multiple progressions, and successfully complete a pass.
Washington clearly prefers a quicker rhythm passing game (as do the Colts), unless it’s Eason attempting a ball down one of the sidelines.
When teams were able to disrupt that timing of Eason, and force him to go deeper into his reads, the fluidity of that was not smooth.
There are plays where Eason’s eyes move the defense, but it’s something you’d like to see more of, especially when he gets into more complex systems and situations at the professional level.
In 2019, Washington finished 102nd (out of 130 teams) in converting on third down (35.7 percent), which is an ugly stat when evaluating quarterbacks making the right reads, pre-snap and post-snap.
As Reich explains the challenges for a rookie QB trying to develop without game reps, the head coach said it’s a must for the staff to spend extra 1-on-1 time with Eason, once that is allowed this offseason.
“What happens with rookie quarterbacks is they kind of see ghosts,” Reich says. “What I mean by that is they see things that aren’t really there. All of the other things are true—the game is faster, there is better disguise and the other thing you see is they misjudge how far a (defensive back) can break or how far a safety’s range is. So they have to figure that out, but I also think they see some things pre-snap and they assume certain things. That is not always the way it plays out. What I talk to rookie quarterbacks about is you’ve got to be patient, you’ve got to understand.
“We talk about chunking all the time. One of the big secrets to how we teach, I say secret, but this is just normal, common-place teaching stuff, is there are 11 defensive players. Well really, if you chunk it together we can put them in three different pieces so you have to understand how all guys are connected. So if one guy moves, that implies what everybody else on the defense is going to do. Part of our process is helping a young quarterback understand in this league how the parts are all connected so that rather than looking at 11 different pieces, he is really only looking at three or four different pieces. So that way he can play faster. Then he is not seeing ghosts and he understands how the integrity of the coverage and the front, how it all syncs up in this league and the multiple fronts and coverages that you see.”
4. Handling Pressure
From a fundamental standpoint, Frank Reich has mentioned footwork as a big area of improvement for Eason.
You see Eason’s footwork often break down when pressure starts to come. It’s something the rookie quarterback has even admitted as needing work. Eason can’t be solely reliant on his arm to make up for sloppy footwork.
The recognizing of pressure needs fine-tuning, knowing where it’s coming, how to pick it up and then how to attack it.
Now, improving on this is going to be difficult without actual game reps, when the red jersey is off.
It’s one of the biggest reasons some felt Eason would be better off returning for his final season at Washington.