Josh Dobbs, the Steelers fourth round pick, started and played most of Steelers first pre-season game against the New York Giants last Friday. While he did throw two interceptions, his performance was impressive all things considered. He even managed to throw a 28-yard touchdown to receiver Cobi Hamilton.
Josh Dobbs a Work In Progress: Preseason Week 1
Dobbs was struggling at first to adjust to the speed to of the game, something to be expected from any rookie. He took some hard hits from a talented Giants defensive front but still maintained his composure, something that cannot be taught. Also, Dobbs showed a good grasp of what Todd Haley and the offensive staff was demanding from him. He showed a willingness to check out of passing plays to run the ball when the offense had a numerical advantage. Another encouraging sign was his willingness to trust the system. Haley likes to attack down-field off play-action when the offense can identify a one deep safety.
That is exactly what happened on Dobbs’ touchdown pass. The Giants had only one safety playing deep. Hamilton ran a go route against the Giants cornerback who played the route well. He kept outside responsibility denying Hamilton from reaching the sideline and re-directed Hamilton to where he had safety assistance; in the middle of the field. This was expected by the Steelers and Dobbs. Good play design froze the safety with a play-action fake, allowing Dobbs to thread a 28-yard touchdown between the two Giants defenders.
Dobbs did show some tendencies that made him fall to the fourth round in the first place. His footwork leaves a lot to be desired at times. He gets happy feet, where he doesn’t set them at all. Other times he throws off his back foot. This causes easy passes to sail high, with his pass to Eli Rogers a perfect example. He also made a mortal passing sin, rolling to his left and throwing a pass across his body into double coverage. It was completed to tight end Xavier Grimble but a holding penalty negated the throw.
Like most rookie quarterbacks, Dobbs looked frazzled by the speed of the game early on. Even though he settled down, and stayed in the pocket, he struggled with going through his reads quick enough to pick apart the Giants secondary. He was hit or miss with his pre-snap reads. But the fact that he was correct on some of them this early in his career shows how high his football IQ is. More importantly, he seems bright enough to learn from his mistakes.
An example of Dobbs missing his pre-snap read occurred when he threw his second interception. The Giants dropped a defensive end into coverage, a wrinkle added to bait any quarterback into throwing a shallow cross. Dobbs read blitz pre-snap and figured a receiver would come open on a crossing route once the linebacker vacated that zone. This would be Dobbs’ hot receiver and normally he would have been right. But he fell into the Giants trap, as the linebacker vacated the zone, a defensive end dropped into coverage to fill it again. It was a perfectly executed zone blitz, a scheme that was invented by the Steelers, and Dobbs never saw it coming. He stared down the intended receiver and threw his second pick.
Dobbs still has plenty to work on before he reminds anyone of Ben Roethlisberger on the field. But considering most quarterbacks picked in the fourth round struggle to make NFL rosters, Dobbs did an admirable job. When factoring in the short amount of time Dobbs has spent with the Steelers organization, this is doubly the case. Have the Steelers found the heir apparent to Roethlisberger or another career backup? Only time will tell, but after his first showing, Dobbs’ stock is definitely on the rise.