With camp now underway, we’re going to take a look at some more of the Jets’ offseason acquisitions, continuing today with Luke Falk.
Falk is a 24-year old quarterback who was a sixth round pick out of Washington State last season. He is 6’4” and 215 pounds and was claimed by the Jets after being waived by the Dolphins in May. Falk was originally drafted by the Titans and is yet to play in an NFL regular season game.
Falk began his high school career in Utah before moving to California to attend Oaks Christian School, which is where Jimmy Clausen made a name for himself. However, he didn’t get on well there and moved back to Utah, where he set multiple state records as a senior.
The move hurt his chances of earning a college scholarship, but he opted to go to Washington State because head coach Mike Leach promised him a shot at a starting role so he joined the Cougars as a walk-on.
After redshirting his freshman year, Falk got a chance to start three games due to injury at the end of his redshirt freshman season and put up big numbers, including a 600-yard game.
As a sophomore, Falk broke out and led the nation with 380 passing yards per game. He also ended up 5th in total yardage and 4th in touchdowns with 38. He only threw eight interceptions and was a first-team all-Pac 12 selection.
Falk’s junior year was not quite as good statistically, but he still performed well. He completed a career-high 70 percent of his passes (2nd in the nation) and was a second-team all-Pac 12 selection. He threw 38 touchdowns again, but also had 11 interceptions.
Unfortunately, despite a 6-0 start, his senior year saw him regress as he was banged-up and benched a few times. His completion percentage, yards per attempt average and touchdown/interception ratio all dropped off.
Falk’s draft stock had also fallen off. Some scouts felt he was a potential top-five pick during 2016, but his rough 2017 dropped him to a mid-rounder on most experts’ boards. However, a solid week at the senior bowl had some scouts saying he had re-established himself as a potential day two pick.
It didn’t work out that way though, as he dropped all the way to the sixth round before being selected by the Tennessee Titans. He completed 32 of 58 passes for 296 yards, one touchdown and one interception for them in preseason, but was released in final cuts after Blaine Gabbert beat him out for the backup role.
Miami, who had been considered a contender to draft Falk, claimed him off waivers and kept him on their active roster for a month before putting him on injured reserve, then released him this May.
The Jets opted to claim Falk and he’s been sharing third unit reps with Davis Webb in the early stages of training camp.
Now let’s take a look at what Falk brings to the table, divided into categories.
Falk is not considered a particularly good athlete. He is slow and lacks agility and elusiveness. However, he has decent height, although he could probably pack on a few more pounds to become more durable.
At the scouting combine, Falk did the broad jump and vertical jump, but posted poor numbers in each.
Falk was never known for his arm strength in college, although he throws a nice spiral and had some success on deep balls in college. Nevertheless, Gil Brandt reported that his pro day workout was impressive and showed marked improvements in that area.
Even so, it’s clear that he needs to work from a solid base and step into his throw to drive the ball downfield effectively and that’s not always possible.
In addition to the above throw, he had another badly underthrown deep ball in preseason that actually worked out because the receiver came back for the ball and drew a pass interference penalty.
Draft experts felt the ability to zip passes into tight windows or throw the long out would be more of an issue for Falk than going long, although he did make this impressive throw in preseason.
At times, he needs to drive the ball on intermediate and seam passes rather than lofting it.
Falk’s only interception in preseason came on a deep ball, although it was 4th-and-23 and late in the game so he was really just throwing it up for grabs.
When at his best, Falk plays with good rhythm and his accuracy is impressive. He hits receivers in stride and on time and can make tight window throws. As noted, he was among the nation’s leaders in completion percentage in 2015 and 2016. However, he became inconsistent and was a little erratic at times in his senior year.
He had a few nice throws in preseason, but ended up completing just 55 percent of his passes and missing on a few throws like this one.
Pressure is predictably one thing that has an effect on Falk’s accuracy, with his completion percentage tending to drop to about 50 percent when under pressure.
He can sometimes bail out of throws, although at times he does this by design as he seeks to change his arm angle to get the ball out. He’ll also make off balance throws on the move.
Falk has had issues with ball protection at times as the ball has been stripped away from him in the pocket a few times, including on this play in preseason last year.
Part of that is due to an occasional lack of awareness that will see him late to recognize the rush and missing opportunities to get the ball out to his hot read or check-down options. On this play, he doesn’t sense the pressure coming from his blind side.
Falk’s fundamentals have been praised and he displays decent footwork and a quick release when kept clean. When pressured, that can change, but he generally looks balanced and under control in the pocket.
One concern is that he lacks experience of lining up under center, but he looked good doing that on this play.
Falk himself admitted he was guilty of forcing the ball far too much in his senior year. He often took unnecessary risks rather than taking what the defense gave him or displaying patience to let something develop.
In his senior year, Falk seemed to have been rattled by constantly being under pressure and that’s perhaps why he was reluctant to let plays develop. He did that on this play though.
He also suffers from the opposite issue at times. He can be too slow to process and this can lead to him running out of time. This is a good example of the NFL game moving too fast for him because he appears to decide against the crossing route which would have left them in a third-and-long situation but doesn’t move on to the back in the left flat, who had green grass ahead of him for a safe chunk of yardage.
Falk does show the ability to read the field and go through progressions on a regular basis, but there’s some alarming mistakes on film where he didn’t see someone dropping into coverage or a lineman jumping into a passing line to bat down a pass.
As noted, Falk isn’t very athletic but he moves around well within the pocket. He’ll keep his feet active to keep passing lanes clean and isn’t afraid to step into the pocket. He shows a bit of elusiveness on this play.
When flushed from the pocket, Falk lacks the speed to run away from onrushing defenders but can get throws away on the move.
As a rusher, he doesn’t offer much, although he ran for six first downs in 2017, including two runs of over 10 yards. He had four rushing touchdowns in his college career, all of them on quarterback sneaks. All of these were in 2014 or 2015.
Falk hasn’t contributed on special teams at the college level and wouldn’t be expected to in the NFL.
Falk probably fits best within a west coast style offense where he can operate a quick-passing game. He has, of course, had some limited exposure to Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains’ system when with Miami last year. However, his idol is Tom Brady and he might therefore prefer a system with Erhardt-Perkins principles.
Falk was a teammate of Frankie Luvu in college and Deontay Burnett while he was with the Titans.
Falk was knocked out of a few games in college because his head got slammed into the turf on a sack, so concussions are a concern with him.
He missed the end of the 2017 season, including the Cougar’s bowl game, with a wrist injury and when he was placed on injured reserve last year, that was also because of a wrist injury.
Falk has been regarded as an outstanding leader and impressed teammates with his toughness, although there may have been situations where he wanted to stay in the game but perhaps shouldn’t have.
He has an excellent work ethic, puts in a lot of preparation work and is considered as extremely intelligent. His demeanor is said to be confident but not cocky, although that confidence may have been shaken over the past few years.
Leach has praised Falk for being analytical but cautioned that he can have a tendency to overthink things at times.
Falk is an interesting player, whose career seemed to be on a much brighter path before becoming derailed in the second half of the 2017 season. Gase will seek to rebuild his confidence with the hope he can start to show the potential that had people predicting big things for him a few years ago.
He seems unlikely to make the Jets’ roster this year but if he shows enough potential, perhaps he can earn a practice squad spot.
His main competition is Webb. Based on their respective rookie preseason performances, they were about even. Webb didn’t make much progress in year two, so perhaps Falk has a shot if he can do that.
Longer-term, being a late developer and enjoying some success down the road like Keenum seems like a best case scenario, but even he started several games as a rookie, so Falk is already behind the 8-ball.