July 8, 2014

Cauz: A stock report on young quarterbacks


Young quarterbacks are like IPO’s (Initial Public Offering), they get tons of hype and attention, we want to buy into them, and at the end of the day investors either make a ton of cash or are looking at second mortgage options.

In football they can lead you to the promise land like Travis Lulay back in 2011, or as is more often the case, they sputter fast and are soon forgotten. We as fans love buying into them because there is a great deal of fun in the unpredictable nature and the untapped potential of a young heralded quarterback.

There’s nothing better than jumping on the bandwagon early of a rookie signal caller who actually lives up to their potential. You can brag to your friends that you knew right from the start that Quarterback X was going to be a star. It’s like going to an Arcade Fire concert right when ‘Funeral’ was first released.

Well the 2014 season is filled with them, heck it was one of the main storylines going into this year. Now of course it is too soon to mark anyone as a “bust” or a “star”. Don’t worry, though I love the quick emotional reaction, the season is eight quarters old. There will be no final judgments in this piece.

Having said that, there’s no harm in combing through the tape to make some observations about what we’ve seen, is there? Do you really want to read about how amazing Ricky Ray is or a 2,000 word essay on Kevin Glenn’s problems? (Come on Kevin, I expected more out of you!!)

So instead of sweeping pronouncements, consider this a simple young quarterbacks stock report update. Oh I will not be including Bo Levi Mitchell in this. He was great in Calgary’s 29-8 Week 1win over Montreal (102 yarder to Maurice Price!) but I need at least two weeks of play for this impromptu stock report.

Mike Reilly:

Statistically Reilly has continued right from where he left off last year when he was second in the league in passing yardage. The big difference is this team has won two-straight games to start their season. Edmonton is already half way from matching last years win total. If you look at how some of the older passers are either have trouble (See Glenn, Kevin) or injured (Oh god are we at the stage where we must use the term “injury prone” when discussing Travis Lulay???) Reilly is moving closer and closer to a “sure thing stock.

I would give you an example, but if I knew one I would currently be on an island as I dispatched my minions to find old Birmingham Barracudas games. My favourite Reilly moment had nothing to do with throwing the ball but with a tackle. In the first quarter of Edmonton’s 28-24 win over Hamilton Erik Harris was attempting to return an Adarius Bowman fumble for a touchdown when Reilly did his best Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka off the turnbuckle impersonation and tackled Harris.

I have re-watched that play may times.

Troy Smith:

Anyone who says that Troy Smith bounced back in Week 2 after a rough Week 1 is right, sort of. To be fair as long as Troy didn’t flip off the home fans while getting into a fight with the mascot than his day would automatically have been better than the 23 incompletions, multiple over throws, one interception game he had against Calgary a week earlier.

Smith’s numbers were better against the Lions, and Montreal did win 24-9 but it had more to do with those around him. The victory was about Brandon Whitaker, Scott Paxson, Chip Cox and the rest of the Alouettes defence.

I went back and watched every throw made by Smith. Of his 29 throws about 12 (minimum) traveled no more than five yards while 12 of his other attempts you would consider very safe, conservative throws. I understand you want to bring Smith slowly but on only three occasions did Smith actually try to challenge the defence.

I’m sure plenty of this is by design by the coaching staff who wants to bring Smith along slowly. But I do wonder about Smith’s potential when even his own coaches are installing such a conservative game plan. Far too often on second-and-long you saw Smith completing passes for short gains.

Now this plan of attack can work if you are hitting guys accurately in open areas when there is only one defender for the receiver to deal with. But what I saw was Smith going for safe passes and hoping his receivers would break multiple tackles to pick up first downs. He was asking too much from his teammates as they were catching inaccurate passes with multiple defensive backs and linebackers ready to swarm.

If you just looked at his numbers you would say he played a “safe” game as he didn’t have any turnovers. But on three different occasions, all in the second quarter, there were passes that easily should have been picked off.

Now I’m not ready to give up on Smith yet. He won some games last year that helped get Montreal in the playoffs. He showed off an impressive arm on a couple occasions with some impressive completions to S.J. Green. But overall, of all the young guys, Smith’s stock is at the lowest. I wouldn’t call it a penny stock but it certainly isn’t Apple.

Drew Willy:

To quote Bud Fox from ‘Wall Street’: Blue Horseshoe loves Anacott Steel. In this case Blue Horseshoe is every Blue Bombers fan and coach Mike O’Shea.

O’Shea and his coaching staff are looking pretty smart right now with their decision to go after Willy and name him the starter right at the beginning of training camp. Two straight 300-yard passing games, and more importantly, his team has generated 81 total points in their wins over Toronto and Ottawa.  
I wasn’t sure what kind of an arm Drew possessed until midway into the first quarter against Ottawa. With his team trailing 14-0 Willy hit Nick Moore for a 51-yard gain. This was not a short pass followed by great down-field blocking and some nifty moves. There were no yards after the catch on this play or even busted coverage. This was Drew going deep, that ball went 50 yards on a rope hitting Moore in stride, who was fairly well covered by Jerrell Gavins.

Willy received textbook pass protection and he delivered.

After years of fretting week in and week out about the health of Buck Pierce, Winnipeg fans deserve this small run of success. Here’s hoping it continues.

Right now Willy is a google-lite sort of stock and if you didn’t buy early you’re paying double now what you would have three weeks ago.

Zack Collaros:

Can we go with an incomplete on Collaros?  He got sacked 10 times against Saskatchewan. Then on the second play of the game against Edmonton, Hamilton decided to allow both Aaron Grymes and Eric Samuels to come free and treat Collaros like a Whack-a-Mole. It didn’t get any better when in the second quarter Odell Willis knocked Collaros out of the game with a hit that Willis was eventually fined for.

There was a lot expected out of Collaros considering he had some success with Toronto, and was going to a perfect situation with Kent Austin in Hamilton. I’m not ready to sell this stock. But I am at least starting to look to diversify my portfolio. Collaros has absorbed a lot of punishment early on.