Trey Lance‘s pocket presence makes him an intriguing yet under-the-radar option for the New York Jets in the 2021 NFL draft.
North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance’s 2019 season put him on the map. The Bison went undefeated and won the D2 championship behind Lance’s stellar play that featured 3,886 scrimmage yards, 42 total touchdowns, zero interceptions and one lost fumble.
Then came 2020 and the extra baggage that accompanied the year.
Lance played in just one game and didn’t look his best. He had little-to-no-practice time or film study and looked rusty while missing open targets and playing with less urgency.
Lance is a gifted quarterback whose best traits are things that cannot be taught. Plus, his weaknesses are coachable.
Make no mistake about it, Lance to the New York Jets is a possibility that needs more attention. And while most Jets fans have a preference for either Wilson or Fields, the sky will not suddenly fall if Lance ends up in Gotham.
For a 20-year-old player with 16 games of starting experience, Lance flashes the pocket presence of a 10-year NFL veteran. While his inconsistencies include pocket presence—much like most collegiate quarterbacks—his highs in this regard are outstanding.
Knowing how to keep yourself clean and free to throw at any moment is a vital professional-quarterback trait. It keeps the offense on schedule and can turn broken plays into big gains.
Remaining cool, calm and collected, with rushers coming from every angle, isn’t something that’s easily learned. Quarterbacks either have it or don’t, and Lance definitely has it.
The left guard gets beat inside (video above) when Lance gets to the top of his drop, and he has a rusher coming at him clean before he’s finished making his reads. Rather than panic or scramble, Lance causally sidesteps the rusher, resets and fires a bullet between two defenders for a first down.
NDSU was in the red zone and a sack would have put them in a third-and-long situation, likely forcing a field goal. Instead, Lance made up for his offensive line and converted. He would go on to cross the end zone the very next play.
Speaking of his rushing ability, Lance’s legs make the most out of his pocket presence by taking advantage of poor contain. It’s a third-and-9 at the NDSU 11-yard line and Lance senses the pressure coming off the edge. As usual, he casually steps up and away from it.
This time, however, Lance sees an open lane through the left B-gap and takes off. The spying LB is two gaps over and has no shot of getting the angle on Lance, who runs for a 25-yard gain.
Pocket presence kept Lance from taking a sack, and his physical gifts turned it into a big play.
Even when the pressure is unavoidable, Lance can still make plays.
Here, the Bison run a designed rollout left off a play-action read. The defensive end as the read-man recognizes the play-action and starts barreling down on Lance as he rolls out. Just before getting blasted, Lance throws a 20-yard frozen rope with perfect placement.
When getting hit is an inevitability, poise must be shown, something Lance features on a regular basis.
Poise on display again as Lance has two rushers collapsing the pocket and diving at his feet after the play fake. There’s no room to step up and Lance has to make the throw as soon as he’s done with his drop, per the timing of the play.
Still, Lance stays unphased and throws an absolute dime to the slot fade for a score. It didn’t matter what was going on around him, Lance delivered anyway, and that’s a sign of a good quarterback.
Of all the reasons to bet on Trey Lance—arm talent, running ability, etc.—pocket presence is what sells me the most. It’s a crucial skill that’s harder to develop than almost any other aspect of quarterback play, and Lance is far better at it after 16 starts than most college quarterbacks will be after a four-year collegiate career.
You can teach a quarterback to be more accurate through mechanics. You can teach a quarterback to diagnose coverage with film study. You can teach a quarterback to be faster through reads with repetition and board work. There’s nothing you can do to teach a quarterback not to panic when all hell breaks loose and 250-pound men are flying around.
Quarterbacks either crumble or thrive under the pressure and Lance, more often than not, thrives. How the New York Jets brass values the quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL draft class is yet to be realized, but if they decide Trey Lance is their quarterback of the future, don’t panic; don’t start yelling “same old Jets.”
Follow Trey Lance’s lead and stay calm, remain poised and have a presence about yourself. The best of Trey Lance is yet to come.