Breaking Down Matt McGloin's Potential with the Raiders

Matt Bowen NFL National Lead WriterNovember 20, 2013

Nov 17, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin (14) throws a pass against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin went down to Houston this past Sunday and threw three touchdown passes in Oakland’s 28-23 win over the Texans.

While that’s impressive for a rookie making his first NFL start, what is the tape telling us about the former undrafted free agent out of Penn State?

Let’s break down the film, take a look at some route concepts and discuss why McGloin’s development is key for the Raiders.


Three Takeaways from the Game Tape

After watching the tape, here are three things that stand out on McGloin and the Raiders' game plan. 


1. Pocket Awareness/ Route Progressions

Nov 17, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin (14) throws a pass against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. The Raiders defeated the Texans 28-23. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With rookie quarterbacks, I always focus on their composure inside the pocket. Do they panic, drop their eyes and come off their progressions too quickly? Or do they manage the pocket, get the ball out to their primary reads and challenge defensive backs? 

Watching McGloin, he displayed the ability to climb the pocket and keep his eyes up the field. That's crucial for a young player—slide the feet, create throwing lanes and allow routes to develop.

On multiple occasions, McGloin came off his primary read and threw the ball underneath or to the backside. That’s exactly what you want to see within the game plan.


2. Ball Placement Versus Outside Leverage

The Texans are a Cover 4 (quarters) and Cover 1 (man-free) defense when looking at their core schemes. That allowed the Raiders to run inside-breaking concepts in the short-to-intermediate route tree and work the ball between the numbers on the dig, shallow drive, post, angle, etc.

That presented McGloin with the opportunity to put the ball away from the defender's initial leverage (outside shade) on his upfield shoulder. That showed up in the red zone, on third downs and on the fade 9 route.

Yes, McGloin did miss on some throws, and there were some drops, but when he was asked to deliver the ball—and beat the defender’s leverage—the rookie displayed the accuracy needed to win against pro defensive backs.


3. The Ability to Challenge the Secondary

Nov 17, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Oakland Raiders receiver Rod Streater (80) catches a 16-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Raiders didn’t have a game plan loaded with vertical passing concepts, but McGloin did challenge press-man looks with the fade and targeted Andre Holmes against Cover 4 on the deep ball. The Raiders also picked up six points on the inside vertical seam with tight end Mychal Rivera versus 2-Man.

However, as I watched the tape, I kept thinking about how McGloin was going after the Texans secondary. This wasn’t a situation where the rookie consistently took the checkdown or leaned on the three-step game for four quarters to stay out of trouble.

Instead, McGloin tested the Texans' core schemes, threw the ball with confidence and gave his receivers opportunities to make plays. That sells, from my perspective, with a young player under center.


Breaking Down Three Route Concepts

I want to take a look at three plays from the All-22 tape to show what the Raiders did from a game perspective and to highlight how McGloin executed the offense.


“Pin” Route vs. Cover 4

NFL Game Rewind

The “Pin” route (post/dig combo) is the top Cover 4-beater in the NFL—force the strong safety to drive the dig and target the post. Create that one-on-one matchup with the cornerback and expose the coverage.

Here, the Raiders—working out of a bunch alignment—send No. 2 on the dig (square-in) with No. 1, Rod Streater, on the skinny post. With safety D.J. Swearinger taking the bait and matching to the dig route, McGloin can target Streater versus the cornerback playing from an outside leverage position.

NFL Game Rewind

I talked about ball placement above, and this is a prime example. With the safety now removed, the cornerback has no help back to the inside. This is a true one-on-one matchup, and McGloin puts this ball on the upfield shoulder of the receiver for six points.


“Follow” Route vs. Cover 4

NFL Game Rewind

This is a 3rd-and-9 situation for the Raiders and McGloin has to make a play versus Cover 4 on the “follow route” (angle/shallow drive combination). Here, the Raiders will work to clear the middle hook defender with the shallow drive route and open up a throwing window for McGloin on the angle route. Out of a bunch alignment, Marcel Reece stems his route to the flat and then breaks back inside versus the curl/flat defender to create leverage at the point of attack.

NFL Game Rewind

Again, look at the ball placement from McGloin. This is tight coverage from the Texans, with the curl/flat defender driving to the inside hip of Reece. However, the rookie puts this ball on the upfield shoulder of the receiver and the Raiders can move the sticks to set up a scoring opportunity.


Four Verticals vs. 2-Man

NFL Game Rewind

In 2-Man, the underneath defenders will play from a “trail” position (low and to the inside hip) with help over the top from the deep-half safeties. As we can see here, Rivera is matched up with a linebacker playing to that inside hip on the vertical seam route. McGloin slides in the pocket, buys time and looks up his tight end on a route that will split the two deep-half safeties.

NFL Game Rewind

With the safety to the closed (strong) side of the formation opening his hips to the outside vertical, Rivera can stem his route back to the near hash marks and create separation on a sweet throw from McGloin for the score.


Will the Arrow Continue to Point Up on McGloin?

Coaches and scouts want to see the development of young players progress with each opportunity. Whether that is technique, execution or overall production within the scheme, the arrow has to be pointing up for the young signal-caller.

McGloin played at a high level and the tape supports that, but can he do it again? And does he show signs of consistent play and improvement with his next opportunity?

Considering Terrelle Pryor's recent slip in production (and knee injury), the Raiders should give the football to McGloin again when they host the Titans on Sunday. That will be a good test for the rookie quarterback versus the talent in the Tennessee secondary.

But before we start asking if Matt McGloin is the answer to the quarterback situation for Dennis Allen's team in Oakland, let’s see if he can first continue to play quality football and show signs of development at the pro level.


Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.