The initial thought going into Washington’s 2021 rookie mini-camp was that practice squad QB, Stephen Montez, would be the one passing and handing off to the rookies. Apparently, as a result of spending too much time on the 53-man roster in 2020, he wasn’t eligible to do so. In a last minute swap, Washington brought in former XFL stand-out Jordan Ta’amu to fill the role.
I actually liked Ta’amu a lot a couple of years ago as a late round prospect. He had been fairly mobile and accurate at Ole Miss and seemed to fit the mold of the multi-faceted QB that has had success in the NFL over the last decade or so. He went undrafted in 2019, and was picked up by the Texans that year as an undrafted free agent. At that point, I lost track of what he was up to.
Turns out he was released before the 2019 season, and ended up being the first player added to the - then newly formed - St. Louis Battlehawks of the XFL. He played very well there...until the league went belly up.
Jordan Ta'amu was one of the XFL's best players in 2020.— Jake Russell (@_JakeRussell) May 14, 2021
Finished the covid-shortened five-game season 1st in completion percentage among starting QBs, 2nd in completions and yards per attempt, 3rd in passing yards and passer rating, and 7th in rushing yards - yes, RBs included. https://t.co/kNZjjzLnwK
At that point, the Kansas City Chiefs picked him up and eventually signed him to their practice squad, before releasing him in October of 2020. One theory at the time was that the Chiefs had signed him, at least in part, to mimic Lamar Jackson on their scout team.
After a very brief stint on the Lions’ practice squad, Ta’amu was again picked up by the Chiefs, in January 2021. He was then waived by them earlier this week (May 10th).
Will Ta’amu stick around Washington long-term? That’s very hard to say at this point, but I think there are reasons to be optimistic. Let’s look back to the 2019 draft to see what was being said about him when he came out of school.
Talent evaluators at the Draft Network had a 4th-5th round grade on Ta’amu in 2019
Despite the fact he is receiving little hype at this point, Jordan Ta’amu is the ideal developmental, mid-round quarterback pick in this class. He’s accurate, mechanically-sound and can beat defenses at all levels of the field already. What he needs to learn is how to read defenses, pick up pressure pre-snap and make consistently good decisions in a muddy pocket. I don’t want him starting right away, but if he lands in the right spot, he has the physical tools, athletic traits and impressive accuracy to be a starter in the NFL if he can refine the mental aspects of his game.
There’s a lot to like about Ta’amu in terms of mechanics, accuracy, size and mobility which serve as a strong foundation for his development moving forward. Coaches rave about his intangibles and I got a glimpse of that at Shrine Week. Given the passing concepts featured by Ole Miss, Ta’amu has a big jump ahead of him in terms of mental processing at the next level. There were concerning moments on film where he fails to recognize coverage rotations and his overall field vision was shaky. More complex defenses in the SEC proved to be challenging for Ta’amu, particularly in making good pre-snap reads to aide with post-snap decisions. In addition, pressure certainly impacts him as his eyes will drop and speeding up his process can be problematic. It would not surprise me to see Ta’amu challenge for a starting gig in time in the right situation.
Ole Miss Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu shows high promise as a passer. His development would be best enhanced in an offense with effective contested catch receivers and a system that promotes moving the QB platform to throw. Ta’amu has ample physical tools but has been a little too reliant on dominant skill players. Possesses quality starter potential with further maturation.
The most consistent criticism of Ta’amu was sub-par mental processing, essentially the ability to move through receiver progressions smoothly. Whether that was the cause, or product, of the limited route trees that Ole Miss ran during Ta’amu’s time there isn’t entirely clear, from what I can tell.
By most accounts, though Ta’amu has an NFL-caliber arm, very solid accuracy, and enough speed and size to make plays off script when he has to. His senior year at Ole Miss, he ran for 342 yards and 6 TDs. In the XFL, he was the top rushing QB (and #7 overall rusher in the league) with 217 yards on the ground. (I’d be lying if I didn’t say his rushing reminds me a lot of Logan Thomas’ college film as a QB).
In addition to his athleticism, another positive for Ta’amu is the perception that he would likely be a good culture fit for Rivera’s team.
“if my kids grow up to be as high-character as Jordan, I’ll have done a good job”. - Phil Longo (Ole Miss, OC)
“Jordan is a very good leader, and the team responds well to him on the field. Coaches with the Rebels praise his attention to detail and willingness to work as long and as hard as he can to better his skills.” - Mike Detiller (draft analyst)
John Ledyard, of the Draft Network wrote an incredibly thorough review of Jordan before the draft. It’s worth a read in it’s own right, but I’ll excerpt some highlights here:
Ta’amu received basically no praise the entire season, despite the fact that he was easily the best draft-eligible quarterback in the SEC throughout most of the year.
The main reason why I think Ta’amu has a shot to become at least a spot starter in the NFL is his accuracy. He throws a gorgeous ball to all levels of the field, and is consistently accurate from a clean platform. Sound mechanics lead to an accurate ball whether he drives it to a spot with velocity or throws with touch over the top.
You don’t have to watch Ta’amu for long to see how accurate he is short-intermediate, but what might surprise you is how gorgeous his deep ball is. He can throw with touch and throw for distance, placing the ball well to lead his receiver when they have a step, or put it up high and away where only they can get it.
Ta’amu’s biggest area of growth in the NFL will easily be on the mental side of things. He struggles to move through progressions, he can lose his poise in the pocket if he’s uncomfortable early in the rep and he’ll drop his eyes against pressure as well.
The odds of Ta’amu becoming a franchise quarterback are slim - like almost every other quarterback in this class. But if you’re looking for upside and a lot of the baseline traits needed to be a successful signal caller in the NFL, Ta’amu might be exactly what you need, and you might not need to spend more than a day three pick to get him.
Ta’amu, like any back end QB, still needs work, particularly on the mental aspects of the game, but it appears the tools are there, potentially, to have success as depth. Is it possible, that, through a bit of serendipity, Washington may have stumbled into another, very low cost, roster upgrade this offseason? I certainly hope so.
Who would you rather see as QB4 on Washington’s roster?
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