Snapshots: Joe Milton vs. 2019 Opponents

Snapshots: Joe Milton vs. 2019 Opponents


August 6, 2020
Joe Milton (image via Wolverines Wire)

I have previously broken down Dylan McCaffrey as I evaluate the 2020 quarterback battle (HERE and HERE).

Now here’s a look at Joe Milton’s performance against a few opponents in blowouts. It’s important to keep in mind that Milton was often working with backups, and practice reps for the #3 guy are limited.

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

Click on the play number for the YouTube link.

PLAY 1: The line doesn’t do Milton any favors – especially right guard Griffin Korican, who allows pressure that prevents Milton from stepping up – but a quick throw on an arrow route gets batted down as Milton tries to throw it through the defensive end.
Milton grade: -1

Hit the jump for the rest.

PLAY 2: Milton throws a tunnel screen to Mike Sainristil on 3rd-and-5. Screens are a good way to get a young quarterback some confidence.
Milton grade: 0

PLAY 3: On 3rd-and-15, Middle Tennessee rushes six vs. a six-man protection. Running back Tru Wilson doesn’t do a great job picking up the edge rush, which spooks Milton. Nothing is open down the field, so Milton should step up in the pocket and throw to Nate Schoenle running a shallow route across the middle. Instead, Milton takes off and gains a couple yards on a scramble. This is good athleticism to get to the edge and out of bounds, but ideally, he gets the ball to a receiver who can hopefully gain some yards after the catch.
Milton grade: 0

PLAY 4: Late in the Wisconsin game, I don’t see anyone getting open. Milton steps up in the pocket when necessary, thinks about throwing it, and then just decides to run out of bounds. Roy Roundtree (the assistant WR coach) seems to be upset at Cornelius Johnson, but overall, there’s just not much happening for Michigan on this play.
Milton grade: 0

PLAY 5: Again, it’s hard to see what’s going on downfield, but Milton spooks early and scrambles out of a clean pocket. Late in the game, you don’t need a 5-yard run. You need to let the play develop.
Milton grade: -1

PLAY 6: Ryan Hayes at right tackle looks confused, because he disappears to block a corner that’s not there. Instead, there’s a screen to the left. The safety reads it and would be there to blow it up, but it’s a dangerous throw into traffic that should probably just be spiked into the ground instead.
Milton grade: -1

PLAY 7: Michigan is running what amounts to a version of the “Levels” play you might have called on Madden at some point (and which Peyton Manning loved). Unfortunately, Milton tries to force it in to tight end Erick All on a dig route, and it gets picked off by a linebacker. Milton does hustle and make the tackle.
Milton grade: -1

PLAY 8: This is a clearout with a shallow cross coming from Tarik Black. I don’t really see anything open, but the throw is probably a smidgen late to Black. It hits the ground at Black’s feet, and he gets smoked anyway. Maybe he threw it into the ground on purpose to avoid a more punishing blow or a turnover if the ball got tipped up in the air. He had pressure in his face, so he didn’t have much more time to wait. This is a good time to bring up that I’m not in love with Milton’s mechanics – particularly his footwork – as I think he gets too narrow of a base and ends up throwing the ball with his arm strength only. He needs to involve his lower body, not just for power but for accuracy.
Milton grade: 0

PLAY 9: On 3rd-and-5, Donovan Peoples-Jones runs an angle route from the slot. He looks to be the only open guy on the play. Milton is decisive and completes the ball, but it takes Peoples-Jones off his feet. It gains 7 yards for a first down, so I’ll give him a +1. But I used to say this about Denard Robinson, so I’ll repeat it here: it’s not a good thing when guys have to dive to catch slants and bubbles. If this ball is thrown to anyone on the team except DPJ, nobody else has good enough athleticism and body control to make the catch.
Milton grade: +1

PLAY 10: QB sneak goes nowhere.
Milton grade: 0

PLAY 11: Naked bootleg for a touchdown. Milton sells it well and runs well to get into the endzone untouched.
Milton grade: +1

PLAY 12: On 2nd-and-10 late in the blowout of Rutgers, Michigan runs a play action bootleg from the gun. Tight end Luke Schoonmaker fakes the kickout on inside zone and then runs past the edge defender, so he gets open in the flat. Meanwhile, Mike Sainristil runs a deep out and Cornelius Johnson runs a go route. This turns into a “Flood” concept with a go, an intermediate out, and a shallow out. The best read would be to throw to Sainristil on the intermediate out route, but maybe the coaches told him just to take the easy stuff and cruise to the end of the game.
Milton grade: 0

PLAY 13: This is a slot fade, which has burned Michigan a ton over the years. It’s nice against man coverage and very similar to a “Smash” route. If the corner stays shallow, you throw the fade to the slot guy. If the corner bails, you throw the hitch to the outside man. Milton throws a rope to Giles Jackson for a touchdown. If I’m nitpicking, again Milton’s feet get a little narrow and he forces Jackson to turn all the way around in order to make the catch. But the ball gets there in such a hurry that the Rutgers safety has zero chance.
Milton grade: +1

CONCLUSIONS BASED ON LIMITED BACKUP REPS

Again, the caveat exists: Milton got QB3 reps and probably almost never worked with the first team offense in practice.

That being said, I’m not super encouraged by what I saw here. Milton threw a nice deep ball to Giles Jackson for a touchdown, and he completed a couple short, easy throws to guys at the line of scrimmage. Otherwise, he was spooked by pressure or threw inaccurate intermediate routes. His footwork does not look clean, and his decision-making is not where it needs to be.

One big positive about Milton is his ability to run. He may not look like a real running threat at 6’5″ and 240+ pounds, but he can get the edge and he has nifty feet. He’s also not afraid to lower his shoulder, make a tackle when needed, etc.

Overall, Milton’s inability so far to display accuracy on intermediate throws and his propensity toward forcing the ball into coverage do not bode well. There’s room for growth, and he wouldn’t be the first guy who forces the ball to develop into a more reliable passer. I think Chad Henne had some of those same issues, and Henne had a similar cannon for an arm. But accuracy is a very important trait for a QB in an offense that needs those short throws, RPO completions, etc. to take pressure off the run game.

15 comments

  1. Avatar
    Comments: 1332
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Aug 06, 2020 at 8:36 AM

    As opposed to boding unwell.

  2. Lanknows
    Comments: 6182
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Aug 06, 2020 at 10:02 AM

    Chad Henne, but faster

    • Avatar
      Comments: 1332
      Joined: 8/13/2015
      Roanman
      Aug 06, 2020 at 10:59 AM

      Henne was a much better QB.

      More likely, Shane … but faster.

      • Thunder
        Comments: 3785
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Aug 06, 2020 at 1:55 PM

        Milton is already better (3 total touchdowns) than Morris (0 total touchdowns).

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 6182
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Aug 06, 2020 at 11:39 AM

      Yeah he was for sure early on. Henne, like Forcier, came in ready to play from day one. We always knew Milton would not be.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1359
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Aug 06, 2020 at 3:28 PM

        So, like Henne, but not really like him at all.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 6182
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Aug 06, 2020 at 5:09 PM

          Almost exactly the same. Over 6 feet tall male age ~20. Frequently seen around Ann Arbor wearing a distinctive maize and blue helmet. Presumed to be a student but often seen engaged in leisure activity (e.g., playing catch).

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 6182
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Aug 06, 2020 at 6:13 PM

    My 2 cents on Milton.

    He’s exactly on track. I think Thunder’s right to bring up accuracy – that is critical but context must not be ignored in the breakdown above. You come in and want to impress, so you force some things. You’re entering late and probably not in rhythm so your accuracy is maybe a little off. I don’t see any cause for concern in the long run.

    We’re talking about sophomore who was not a top 200 prospect despite a tantalizing physical characteristics because everyone knew he was a project. The arm is as good as billed and the legs even better. And then we get to character. Milton has faced the kind of questions we’ve seen repeatedly for a QB like him. Transfer speculation, character questions, uncertainity about fit. He’s taken it in stride and seemingly earned respect from everyone along the way.

    That doesn’t mean he’ll be a good QB but it does mean he has passed every test so far. If accuracy is a problem, that needs to get developed. If not then mitigated through playcalling or by virtue of other strengths.

    Compare back to what Tom Brady, Jake Rudock, Wilton Speight had accomplished after 2 years. Nothing at all. Rudock took 4.5 years to be above average QB. Speight went from playing like Russel Bellomy to playing like Jake Rudock in one offseason. Joe Burrow went from just-a-guy to God-level between years 4 and 5.

    Another comparison, given the arm, might be Ryan Mallett. Though Milton is far less heralded he has the same enthralling potential. It took him 4 years to be a high caliber player too. Patience is warranted.

    There’s no reason to doubt Milton at this point considering his profile coming in and his class. That could change quickly if he wins the starting job or pops in for meaningful snaps as an injury replacement. For now, I see no reason not to be excited about the potential for a kid with a rocket arm.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 6182
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Aug 06, 2020 at 6:16 PM

      And don’t forget he probably jumped ahead of Brandon Peters by the end of his freshman season.

      Also don’t forget he could still be wearing a Michigan uniform through the end of 2022.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 1359
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      WindyCityBlue
      Aug 06, 2020 at 8:52 PM

      Not even close. Mallett was obviously better in his first start as a true freshman than Milton has ever looked. And Mallet threw for 30 TDs (more than any Michigan QB has ever thrown) and over 3600 years in his second season. Even better his third. Milton has never even been close to that. Milton might still become a decent QB, but he’s not going to redshirt unless he gets hurt. Unless that happens, he’s gone after 2021.

      • Thunder
        Comments: 3785
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Aug 07, 2020 at 8:58 AM

        I have to agree with WCB here. Both guys had/have cannons, but coincidentally, I just watched some Ryan Mallett highlights a couple days ago. He made some very nice touch throws as a true freshman that Milton has not shown he’s capable of making at this point in his career.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 6182
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Aug 07, 2020 at 11:51 AM

        Milton already red-shirted.

        Mallett threw for 3000 yards when he was a junior. He red-shirted his sophomore year to transfer. I should acknowledge that Mallet was good as a junior, not just his senior year. We didn’t see him his sophomore year. But we know he wasn’t good as a freshman despite being thrown to the wolves.

        I brought it up but again we’re comparing Milton to a 5-star and a top 5 recruit nationally. I don’t dispute Mallet was more ready as a freshman.

        My point is it didn’t matter that Mallet didn’t prove himself until he was an upperclassmen. That’s pretty common for a QB. In Milton’s case it’s expected.

        • Avatar
          Comments: 1359
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          WindyCityBlue
          Aug 07, 2020 at 2:34 PM

          No “we’re” not comparing them. YOU compared them, and said they had the same potential. That isn’t true. That was obvious from very early on. And Mallet did not take 4 years to develop.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 6182
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Aug 07, 2020 at 3:23 PM

            You’re comparing too. You just don’t agree with me.

            In terms of different timelines, I’ve already agreed. Mallet didn’t demonstrate he was a good QB until year 3. Milton hasn’t yet played year 3.

            • Avatar
              Comments: 1359
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              WindyCityBlue
              Aug 07, 2020 at 4:06 PM

              Here’s what you said before you started backpedaling and moving the goalposts:

              “Though Milton is far less heralded he has the same enthralling potential.”

              Milton has never had the same potential as Mallet did at any point in their careers. Not even close, as I said.

You must belogged in to post a comment.