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Escape Artists: A New Era of Quarterback

It all started when I was watching the Philadelphia Eagles play the Seattle Seahawks when I thought about the possibility of a new era of quarterback.

Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz battled it out in a way football fans are not accustomed to. Growing up, I remember watching the “Brady-Manning Bowls” featuring none other than Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. These two Hall of Famers would go back and forth torturing the other team’s defense. What always baffled me was how the worst athletes on the field would absolutely dominate the game. Perfect throw after perfect throw, correct read after correct read. These two quarterbacks were so on top of their mental game it was remarkable. They were so methodical against each other, marching down the field and always putting their teams in the best position to win the game.

What I always noticed was what would happen if an offensive lineman got beat in one of these games. Brady and Manning would crumple up into a ball and fall into the turn to avoid taking a hit.

The “Wilson and Wentz Bowl” was far different. This battle consisted of less crumpling and more scrambling. It appeared that the offenses were at their best whenever there was a breakdown in pass protection. This allowed for the quarterback to scramble around and make plays. Carson Wentz’s throw to Nelson Agholor while falling down was biggest play of the night for the Eagles. Wentz scrambled to his right and was falling to the ground when he delivered a 51 yard strike that would lead to the Eagles only touchdown of the night.

Seattle’s offense always seems to work best when Wilson is running around making plays. There have been countless times where Wilson finds a wide open Doug Baldwin for a big play or touchdown. Wilson and Wentz have perhaps perfected the art of the scramble, but they aren’t the first quarterbacks to do it, and they won’t be the last.

There have been other successful “scramblers” in the NFL. Fran Tarkenton, Steve Young, and one of the best quarterbacks today, Aaron Rodgers have all made careers by using their legs to extend plays. Today there are quarterbacks who’s elusiveness go under the radar.

My unbiased favorite: Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Case Keenum

College football’s all time leading passer, Keenum has been the hero of the Vikings season so far. Posting a 9-3 record filling in for the injured Sam Bradford, Keenum has been remarkable this season. Keenum, according to Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has played with “balls” this year, which might explain his career best 96.2 passer rating. Keenum has proven time and time again this year why he deserves to be the starting quarterback for the Vikings. He has kept plays alive with his legs, keeping the Vikings season alive as well.

Keenum has been sacked 15 times this year, but his escapability is keeping that number down a lot. One of the biggest plays of the Vikings season so far has come from the escapability of their quarterback. This came on Thanksgiving against the Detroit Lions. The Vikings were in an empty (no running back in backfield) formation. This puts an extreme amount of pressure on the offensive line in pass protection because there is no running back to help out. Case Keenum took the snap and immediately had a linebacker in his face.

I considered this play to be a difference maker. A quarterback who is immobile would have crumbled up and took the sack to avoid the hit. However, Keenum showed his escapability by dodging the sure sack, stepping up in the pocket, and delivering a strike to receiver Adam Thielen.

Keenum’s NFL career has been mediocre at best. Undrafted in 2012, Keenum traveled between the Texans and Rams from 2013-2016 before finding a home in Minnesota this year. Keenum’s play has been remarkable this year. He’s posted numbers comparable to Tom Brady despite being the less talented quarterback. Keenum’s success could be a model for success to other teams when evaluating a quarterback.

Elusiveness in a quarterback may compensate for lack of arm strength. Does Keenum have an elite arm? No, but he is winning games. At the end of the day, that is what it is all about. Escapability might become the three-point shot of the NFL. Keenum has put himself in position for a big payday in 2018, and possibly aid in the transition of the new era of quarterback.

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