What QB Jacoby Brissett brings to the Washington Commanders
Breaking down what the Commanders are getting in their new quarterback
After Taylor Heinicke left to join the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, the Washington Commanders needed a new veteran quarterback to back up and push Sam Howell to continue his development going into his second season. Of the options available, the Commanders landed with probably the best outcome. Jacoby Brissett signed a one-year deal worth $8 million guaranteed, the amount the Commanders saved by getting a long-term deal done with Daron Payne.
Brissett is coming off one of his best seasons in the NFL. He started the first 11 games last season while the Browns waited for Deshaun Watson’s return from suspension and he statistically ranked pretty highly. He completed 64% of his passes for 2608 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’ll now provide some valuable experience behind Howell, having played behind some great quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Andrew Luck and Phillip Rivers.
He should also fit a similar style of offense to the one Eric Bieniemy is likely to try and install for Howell. From watching Brissett, he appears at his best making quick decisions and getting the ball out of his hands efficiently.
Here, the Browns run a slant-flat combination with a tight end spotting up over the middle. Off the snap, Brissett looks to his right and wants to work to the slant-flat combination. However, the Patriots defenders slide across to negate it, with the flat defender working out to take away the flat route and the hook defender sliding across to match the slant. Brissett doesn’t linger on the route or panic, instead he quickly resets his feet and gets the ball out of his hands to the tight end over the middle.
It’s by no means a spectacular play, but it's one where the quarterback has to be decisive and get the ball out on time otherwise throwing windows will close. Howell’s quick release is one of his better traits, so the offense will likely be built around making quick decisions and getting the ball out early. That suits Brissett just fine, meaning the offense won’t have to necessarily make big changes if Brissett is needed to play, which makes him an ideal back up.
Brissett also excels at operating an offense as a distributor, where he can trust his coach to scheme open his first read or give him a simple read that stresses a single defender in order to decide where to throw. In Kansas City, Bieniemy and Andy Reid were kings of scouting opposing defenses and knowing how to scheme up plays that would either open up the first read or isolate single defenders for the quarterback to read.
Here’s an example of the Browns running a play to isolate a single defender for the read. They work out of an empty set to spread out the defense. To the right side of the formation, they have an “Arrow” concept, with a corner route, flat route and a spot route working in between them. To the other side, it’s just a double slant. By spreading out the defense like this, the Browns give Brissett a simple read. He works off the Mike (middle) linebacker for where to go with the ball. The Mike slides to the arrow concept, attaching to the spot route, which opens up the middle of the field and tells Brissett to work to the slant route to the left. Brissett makes the read quickly and gets the ball out efficiently to find his receiver for first down and a nice gain in the red zone.
Another benefit to adding Brissett is that he’s familiar with the west coast offense that Bieniemy is looking to install. Now there will be some differences in terminology and some smaller details that might be coached different from Brissett’s previous stops, but there will also be a lot of familiarity with particular concepts.
On this play, the Browns run what’s known in the west coast offense as a “Bow” concept. It’s a variation from the “Arrow” concept we saw in the previous play. The only change is the corner route converting to a basic cross breaking over the middle of the field. Bieniemy ran the Bow and Arrow concepts multiple times a game in Kansas City, so expect them to be run in Washington often next year.
Brissett runs this concept extremely well on this play. The idea is to try and isolate a single zone defender with a high-low read. Essentially, whichever route the defender attaches to, the quarterback throws to the other. Young quarterbacks would simple read the linebacker here and respond to whatever he does, but Brissett has a little more experience and manipulates the defender to get the deeper option open. Off the snap, his eyes go to the spot route, deliberately leading the linebacker underneath. He even throws a pump fake to sell the linebacker on his intent to throw the spot route underneath. The linebacker bites on the fake and charges up to match the spot route, opening up space behind him. Brissett quickly resets and throws behind the lineback to the basic cross for a solid gain.
Brissett shows a consistent ability to use his eyes to manipulate defenders and open throwing windows for himself.