Oklahoma must be a different sort of place. When James Washington came out from State, he talked about how he embraces the physicality of the wide receiver position. That’s not something that you’re going to hear from too many wideouts. And in recent weeks, we have been hearing Mason Rudolph say the same thing about the quarterback position.
Which is frankly the last person you as a coach want to hear talk like that. but here we are four starts into Rudolph’s career, fresh off a concussion, talking about playing the position in the most physical way that he can.
Leading up to yesterday’s game, the young quarterback talked about anticipating taking his first couple of hits of the game to get them out of the way and back into the flow, the physicality of football. You know it’s going to be coming at some point, so it might as well happen quickly.
“I took some early. It didn’t phase me really at all”, he said of getting hit. “I think it’s good to get that first one in and handle it and move forward. I’m never going to shy away from contact. I’m going to try to play the position as physical as I can. I guess it was good in a sense to put it behind me, get the first one in, but I never thought about it twice moving forward”.
He may not have thought twice, but his coaches and teammates did. Especially on his very ill-advised ‘scramble’ on a play in which he rolled out to his right and, instead of throwing the ball away, took a hit as he went out of bounds for a loss of yardage, and thus ‘technically’ a sack, which shouldn’t be awarded to the line.
Rudolph was asked about that play after the game and if he heard from the coaches about it. Yes, for sure”, he said. “That’s one of the corrections you’ll make, and you’ll look back and you move forward and correct it”.
While he might be trained to make a different decision in that situation next time, one thing that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon is his willingness to stand tall in the pocket and hold onto the ball, even with bodies flying all around him. That led to a strip sack in the game, but also helped him hit some passes down the field as well and convert some big third downs.
He’s taking more hits than I would care for, but as we know well watching Ben Roethlisberger for a decade and a half, that’s the trade-off for being able to make plays off-script. As long as he’s still doing that, they’re going to have to continue to allow him to hold onto the ball at his discretion.