By Harry Allison
Eagles fan fave Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston both lit up the sky at last week’s NFL Combine in Indy, but you’ll never guess who is unimpressed?
Former Eagles QB and current ESPN scold Ron Jaworski.
“I saw really scattered shot drop backs from these guys,” Jaworski said during his weekly radio show on 97.5 FM The Fanatic.
“You could tell these are shotgun quarterbacks that have a long way to go in mastering the quarterback position at the NFL level. I guess my big thing would be, I was impressed, but they all have a long way to go.
“Yeah, they threw the ball well, they completed passes … I drill down a lot more than watching the ball come out of his hand and watching the receiver catch it. How are they exploding away from the center? How are they rotating that hip to get away from the center? Is the drive late? Are those cleats digging into the ground and driving them away. Is their plant foot firmly planted in the ground?”
Mariota and Winston are widely believed to be the type of quarterbacks that could greatly improve the fortune of whatever franchise has the opportunity to draft them in April.
Mariota, the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback who was recruited and coached at Oregon by Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, showed some technical flaws in Indianapolis according to Jaworski.
“Even Mariota, I’m a little bit concerned,” Jaworski explained. “The timing, the quickness, the ability to get away from center wasn’t where it needs to be. Breaking down that left leg, driving away … I didn’t see the quick drops, the quick release on that back foot that I thought I would see.
“It’s a small sampling, he has a long time to work on that. He’ll eventually get it down. You see the athleticism. Obviously he’s a guy that ran a 4.52 :40, he’s going to be a tremendous football player. As excited as I was, I still see a lot of things to clean up.”
On the field, Mariota threw for 4,454 yards, 42 touchdowns and just four interceptions while leading the Ducks to the national championship game in his junior season at Oregon.
Meanwhile, Winston is widely considered to be the more ‘pro-ready’ prospect. Winston followed his Heisman Trophy winning freshman campaign by leading the Seminoles to a Rose Bowl berth while passing for 3,907 yards, 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
Many analysts have Winston pegged as the top selection to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in most mock drafts. That’s an assessment that Jaworski agrees with.
“As I project these guys … Unless Marcus Mariota comes into the right system, he’s a couple or three-years away,” Jaworski said. “I think Jameis Winston is more prepared to step into a conventional NFL offense, prototypical drop and throw the football. He’s better suited for that style.”
The Eagles, along with the familiarity of Kelly’s offense, certainly change the perception of Mariota as he would not be asked to line up under center and as we’ve seen the past two years both wide receivers and quarterbacks alike seem to flourish in the uptempo scheme.
What say you, Jaws?
“Clearly, Mariota has a way to go in those little nuances of playing the position … Throwing the football off-balance. Those little things that all the scouts, all the personnel departments are breaking down. We look at the raw numbers … How many touchdowns did he throw? How many interceptions? Those numbers are great. 105 touchdowns. 14 interceptions. But you have to look at every throw.
“Where were they thrown? What areas of the field where they thrown? Was he making NFL-type throws? The more I watch these college offenses, these spread offenses, the harder it is for me and I think most of the guys I talk to … Mike Mayock, Phil Simms, the guys who we talk about these projections, it becomes much more difficult because you just don’t see NFL type throws out of these college passing attacks.”
Whether or not the Eagles pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade to move up and nab Mariota potentially has high as in the top five selections, or the Jets are able to stay put and draft him, the front offices of both franchises — or whichever NFL team lands Mariota — will need to ask themselves if he is capable of making the leap from college to the NFL at a high level.