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Film Room: Michael Penix Jr., the human rocket launcher

UW QB has an impressive arm

Valero Alamo Bowl - Washington v Texas
Michael Penix Jr.
Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders are expected to be in the quarterback market during the 2024 NFL Draft, and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. currently ranks 20th overall on NFL Mock Draft Database’s consensus big board and could climb up even higher on draft boards this fall.

After a successful but injury-riddled career at Indiana, Penix Jr. transferred to Washington this past season and ended up leading the Pac-12 in passing yards (4,641) and ranking second in touchdowns with 31.

His impressive arm strength was a big reason for those numbers as he racked up 27 ‘big time throws’, third-most in the conference per Pro Football Focus. But the Husky was also careful with the ball as he recorded a ‘turnover-worthy play’ on just 1.3 percent of opportunities, the lowest rate among his peers.

As outstanding as those numbers are, Penix Jr.’s tape drops even more jaws with the rocket launcher he has attached to his left shoulder.

We’ll kick things off with an example of that impressive arm strength mentioned above.

It looks like Oregon is running a zone or pattern match coverage (likely a version of Cover 7) against this three-by-one formation from Washington. Essentially, that’s going to put the nickel corner (top of the screen, standing on the 30-yard-line pre-snap) man-to-man against the outside slot receiver who is running a seam route.

Post-snap, Penix Jr. executes the token ball fake and takes a peak at the safeties who end up staying in the middle of the field to bracket the inside slot receiver, so he knows he has a one-on-one matchup against the seam route.

He then launches a ball from Wasington’s 16-yard line that ends up getting caught on Oregon’s 32-yard line, nearly 55 air yards, while hitting the receiver in stride for a casual 76-yard touchdown. Penix Jr. also does a decent job of standing in the pocket and taking a hit after releasing the ball as the Huskies’ offensive line fails to recognize/pick up the simulated pressure.

This next clip will get old-school coaches excited as the Washington product is under center and executes a beautiful play-action pass.

In addition to the ball fake, the Huskies also call a half-roll bootleg to influence the defense to move toward the wide side of the field and create space near the boundary. Michigan State takes the bait and Penix Jr. does an excellent job of re-setting his feet and flipping his hips around.

To top it off, he delivers a well-placed ball that travels about 55 air yards to the open receiver for six points. That’s pretty impressive considering his momentum was working in the opposite direction initially.

We’ll move on to a couple of plays that show how Penix Jr.’s arm strength can help him rip passes into windows against zone coverage.

Here, Oregon is running Cover 6 and Washington calls a dual-seam concept where the slot receivers run seam routes and the outside guys are running curls. Since the Ducks are in man coverage to the wide side of the field/top of the screen, Penix Jr. wisely opts to attack the Cover 4 coverage on the other side of the field.

The outside receiver at the bottom of the screen—No. 37—does a good job of running to grass/finding a hole in the zone coverage. That’s when the quarterback rears back and puts some heat on the ball while also showing some nice touch to ensure the pass is over the underneath defender’s head but still catchable for the wideout.

That’s a beautiful rope that puts Washington in a first-and-goal situation from the five-yard line.

This next clip shows off some of the Husky’s ability to execute those coveted off-script plays.

He starts the read to the boundary or short side of the field but the defense has those two receivers covered up. So, he pump fakes and uses his legs to buy some time and get the defense to start coming downhill toward the line of scrimmage.

Finally, he finds someone open on the scramble drill and tosses a nice pass with enough velocity to fit the ball between two defenders for a touchdown. While the MPH on this throw certainly is lower than in the clips above, that’s still good heat considering his feet weren’t set.

We’ll end with a rep where Penix Jr. shows off some of his intelligence and athleticism to pick up a first down.

Pre-snap, the offense looks to the sideline to make any adjustments based on the look from the defense and ends up flipping the two slot receivers to the other side of the formation and getting into an empty set. With the running back no longer in the backfield, the protection scheme has to change, so Penix Jr. makes the adjustment and ensures the offensive line is on the same page.

With four pass-rush threats to the wide side of the field (the two defensive linemen, the linebacker walked up close to the line of scrimmage and a nickel corner in press coverage) to just two from the boundary (the defensive end and press nickel corner), he slides the protection to the offense’s left.

That means he’s responsible for the boundary nickel corner if the corner blitzes, which is difficult because that’s his blind side as a left-handed quarterback. He either needs to get rid of the ball quickly or use his legs to buy time if the nickel comes off the edge, which the nickel does.

It doesn’t help that the left tackle gets beat too, so now Penix Jr. is facing pressure from both sides of the pocket. However, he shows off a dirty spin move to leave the pass-rushers in the dust and then sees nothing but green turf in front of him, so he uses his legs to pick up the first down and keep the drive alive on third and long.