Snapshots: Dylan McCaffrey vs. Notre Dame/Maryland

Snapshots: Dylan McCaffrey vs. Notre Dame/Maryland


June 8, 2020
Dylan McCaffrey (image via Wolverines Wire)

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This is another post evaluating Dylan McCaffrey and whether or not he should win the starting job in 2020. You can find the first post here (LINK).

As a reminder, I awarded grades on the following scale:

  • +1: Good play that not everyone can make
  • 0: Average play that an average player can make
  • -1: Poor play

PLAY 1 (LINK): This is a slant (or snag) RPO where McCaffrey is reading the backside inside linebacker. When the linebacker comes up to support the run, McCaffrey pulls the ball from the running back’s belly, resets his feet, and throws to the slot receiver (Giles Jackson). It’s the right read, albeit for a moderate gain, and the play is made more difficult because right guard Stephen Spanellis whiffs on his block. McCaffrey throws the ball accurately despite being hit by a defensive tackle.
McCaffrey grade: +1

Hit the jump for the rest of his performance against Notre Dame and then Maryland.

PLAY 2 (LINK): This is another slant RPO, although it’s a little tougher to diagnose because the video cuts to the play late. It looks very similar to the first play in that the linebacker has come up to support the run. Michigan runs a pick route against what looks like man coverage. The safety is playing very close to the line of scrimmage (perhaps due to game situation, or the fact that it was rainy that night), so it should have been stopped for another moderate gain. It’s a crisp, accurate throw and appears to be the correct read. Still, Mike Sainristil does most of the work here by breaking a tackle and then running to daylight, which gets him in the endzone.
McCaffrey grade: +1

PLAY 3 (LINK): You can’t see the whole route structure here because of the camera angle. What initially looks like a 2-high safety structure becomes 1-high when the weak safety rotates down at the snap. The corner may have duped McCaffrey into thinking he was running man coverage, but the fact that his eyes are on the quarterback should perhaps give away the disguise; a true man corner should have his eyes on the receiver, not the QB. Nico Collins ends up running a hitch-and-go at a Cover 3 corner, which is not a good plan. The only way Collins would have a chance at this would be if McCaffrey threw a back-shoulder fade, but instead, he tries to hit him deep and the ball could have been intercepted.
McCaffrey grade: -1

PLAY 4 (LINK): On 3rd-and-12, Michigan runs a hitch-seam concept to the top of the screen. The hitch is open, but that’s not ideal when you need 12 yards. McCaffrey scrambles – perhaps a little too early – and gives time for running back Tru Wilson to run his check release, and McCaffrey throws him the ball. This is a “live to die another day” situation, but there’s nothing special about it.
McCaffrey grade: 0

PLAY 5 (LINK): This is a bootleg to the left, and McCaffrey does a nice job of getting depth before squaring his shoulders up to throw. In this case, though, tight end Sean McKeon never really creates separation to get open. I would prefer to see McCaffrey fake the throw and/or just tuck the ball and run. Man coverage has the nearest defender running away from him, and McCaffrey can outrun Maryland’s slow-ish defensive end who has a brace on his knee.
McCaffrey grade: 0

PLAY 6 (LINK): This is a pretty cool frontside counter RPO. Maryland’s strong safety blitzes from depth with a same-side counter coming his way. McCaffrey quickly recognizes it and throws where the blitz is coming from. The ball is thrown crisply but not too hard; unfortunately, Mike Sainristil flat-out drops it.
McCaffrey grade: +1

PLAY 7 (LINK): Again, the camera angle limits what I can see, but McCaffrey has wide receiver Tarik Black running a crossing route. With no defenders capping the route, McCaffrey makes a decent throw on time. The other route look like they’re probably covered well. The catch is a little difficult, but Black reels it in before getting dragged down. This is a pretty easy read and throw.
McCaffrey grade: 0

PLAY 8 (LINK): This is a decent read by McCaffrey, who keeps the ball on an inside zone read. He reads outside linebacker Shaq Smith, who does a good job of playing a feather technique (taking the RB and then redirecting for the QB). McCaffrey still beats him to the edge, but there’s not a lot of space due to the blocking and the safety filling the alley. I would prefer to see McCaffrey hand off the ball here and not expose himself to a hit, even though he gets down and doesn’t take a punishing blow.
McCaffrey grade: 0

PLAY 9 (LINK): This is probably the correct read because #4 crashes down hard, but the play is doomed because of the defense’s alignment. It appears to be a “double option” play with no possibility for a pitch/bubble. MGoBlog would probably say Michigan got RPSed (Rock, Paper, Scissored) on this one.
McCaffrey grade: 0

PLAY 10 (LINK): Again, I wish I could see the whole field, but McCaffrey makes a mistake here that should have been picked. In general, with a blitz coming from McCaffrey’s left, you don’t want to throw to your right. That edge blitzer from the top of the screen pushes every guy in the front toward the bottom, meaning the edge guy on the bottom can drop out. Which he does. Directly into the path of Sean McKeon running the crosser.
McCaffrey grade: -1

PLAY 11 (LINK): This is a called jet toss that goes down as a completion, so there’s no point in grading it.
McCaffrey grade: N/A

CONCLUSIONS BASED ON TWO GAMES

Out of 10 plays charted here, I see two bad decision and two iffy ones. The bad decisions are the poorly thrown hitch-and-go (play 4) and the near-pick in play 10. The iffy ones are on the bootleg (play 5) and the inside zone (play 8). It’s impossible to know how exactly he was being coached, but play 5 looked like he was trying to avoid taking contact while play 8 looked like he was exposing himself to a hit. So I don’t see anything consistent here. There were times in 2019 when it seemed like Shea Patterson was consistently trying to hand off the ball on run reads, but McCaffrey is harder to gauge.

I think the coaching staff kept the passing game pretty vanilla for McCaffrey, and when you’re winning blowout games, why not? But McCaffrey still put the ball at risk a couple times. He showed good accuracy on short and intermediate throws, but the lone deep ball to Collins was pretty ugly. I will concede that a hitch-and-go requires timing, and perhaps McCaffrey (the #2 QB) didn’t get enough reps with Collins (a starter) to get the execution down very well.

7 comments

  1. Avatar
    Comments: 1345
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Jun 08, 2020 at 1:01 PM

    I like these posts. They are good content in the middle of a famine, but …

    Hopefully nobody is thinking that any this is indicative and for damn sure not predictive of anything.

    My friend who sees practices in the spring told me last year that McCaffrey was as or more accurate than Patterson. This on the strength of having seen maybe 30 balls each. All thrown under the most controlled of scenarios.

    First of all, damnation by faint praise.

    So, here’s ten more snaps in blowout games on absolutely limited weekday snaps.

    I do think it’s McCaffrey for no other reason than I’d always go with older guy first unless I just have a sure enough phenom on my hands. I think most people work that way, if not all of them. I have not heard the word phenom associated with Milton yet.

    I also think McCaffrey is gonna be good and get better, strictly based on pedigree and athleticism. Really, my biggest fear on the kid is that he’ll break.

    Which is why I think Milton will get snaps as well, ready or not.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3827
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jun 09, 2020 at 10:52 AM

      FTR, I’m looking more at general traits (speed, athleticism, accuracy, etc.) in these videos than I am at perfect execution/reads. Yes, I am dinging guys for bad decisions because that’s really the only choice, but ultimately, I want to kind of gauge who’s going to be the best QB going forward.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 1863
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Jun 08, 2020 at 1:18 PM

    Great read Thunder, THANKS

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 6256
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Sep 30, 2020 at 5:02 PM

    Looking at this post again and the subjective element really stands out.

    Play 1: on target for the catch but does not lead the receiver at all. he has to slow down and is tackled quickly after spinning back the way he came. Easily could be a +0 for the throw but pressure was there.

    Play 2: same thing ball is a bit behind the receiver. this time the spin back works to Sainristil’s advantage as he YACs his way to the end zone. McCaffrey is just doing a simple thing +0

    Play 3: overthrow gets a -1 but receiver was impeded and could be 0

    Play 4: happy feet plus dumpoff on 3rd and 12 would get a -1 with less benefit of the doubt

    Play 5: throwing at a covered receiver should be a -1 rather than the 0. McCaffrey tries to fit it in but doesn’t have the pinpoint accuracy needed to make it work.

    Play 6: nice accurate throw on a simple pitch and catch is dropped. receiver is wide open, maybe because QB is a big run threat. nothing special. Would be a +0 if you’re denard robinson but here it’s a +1

    Play 7: “the catch is a little difficult” yet no comparison to Denard Robinson. Did they get a first on this? Close but 3rd down you want better.

    Play 8: 5 yard gain on a “good read” where DM demonstrates his speed but +0 because it’s running.

    Play 9: DM does nothing but blame falls on playcall.

    Play 10: Nothing to argue with as this is obvious -1 throwing it right to LB on short throw

    I’m tallying up the above and not seeing a great pinpoint passer. I’m seeing a guy who runs well and executes on short simple pass offense. Like Denard. I’m seeing a guy who isn’t always perfectly on target like Milton.

    Not saying its wrong just that these things are very eye of the beholder.

    Play 11:

  4. Lanknows
    Comments: 6256
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Sep 30, 2020 at 5:52 PM

    Looking at this post again and the subjective element really stands out.

    Play 1 on target for the catch but does not lead the receiver at all. he has to slow down and is tackled quickly after spinning back the way he came. Easily could be a 0 for the throw but pressure was there.

    Play 2 same thing ball is a bit behind the receiver. this time the spin back works to Sainristil’s advantage as he YACs his way to the end zone. McCaffrey is just doing a simple thing that could be a 0

    Play 3 overthrow gets a -1 but receiver was impeded and could be 0

    Play 4 happy feet plus dumpoff on 3rd and 12 would get a minus with less benefit of the doubt. playmakers make plays.

    Play 5 throwing at a covered receiver should be a minus rather than the 0. McCaffrey tries to fit it in but doesn’t have the pinpoint accuracy needed to make it work.

    Play 6 nice accurate throw on a simple pitch and catch is dropped. receiver is wide open maybe because QB is a big run threat. nothing special. Would be a zero if you’re denard robinson but here it is plus 1

    Play 7 “the catch is a little difficult” yet no comparison to Denard Robinson. Did they get a first on this? Close but 3rd down you want better.

    Play 8 5 yard gain on a “good read” where DM demonstrates his speed but zero. because it’s running i guess.

    Play 9 DM does nothing but blame falls on playcall. might be legit here but also elsewhere.

    Play 10 obvious minus throwing it right to LB on short throw

    I’m tallying up the above and not seeing a great pinpoint passer. I’m seeing a guy who runs well and executes on short simple pass offense. Like Denard. I’m seeing a guy who isn’t always perfectly on target like Milton.

    Not saying its wrong just that these things are very eye of the beholder.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3827
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Oct 01, 2020 at 7:54 AM

      You’re right. Never mind. Milton is very accurate. Everybody is wrong. He will complete 75% of his passes.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 6256
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Oct 01, 2020 at 4:33 PM

        No no! Your sarcasm is too convincing. Now I think your prediction of Milton completing 20% of his passes, throwing more INTs than TDs, and rushing for 1,500 yards will come true.

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