Thursday, December 01, 2011

Passing lanes and Blaine Gabbert.

So I'd had a fun week last week (kind of) and I needed to atone for my behaviour with a bit of self inflicted punishment, which explains why I was watching videos on

One video that caught my eye in particular was this one, breaking down some of Matthew Staffords interceptions from the game against the Bears. One play really stood out for me because it gives me an opportunity to take a look at something that a lot of people forget about when we wonder "why didn't the quarterback throw the ball to xyz across the middle etc?"

The answers are many to that kind of question, but one important reason often has to do with throwing lanes. Just so we're all on the same page, we're talking about the path from the quarterback to the receiver, along which the ball will have to travel.

There are basically two things that can obstruct a throwing lane. One is a defensive player, the other is an offensive lineman. How much of an obstruction certain players cause depends on the throw being made. A deep bomb on a 40 yard fade pass has to be lofted so high and with such an arc just to get it down the field that throwing lanes are seldom a concern.

But as the pass becomes progressively more flat in nature, we're talking shorter passes often between 5-15 yards from the line of scrimmage, suddenly the freedom of the throwing lane from obstructions becomes a big issue. I want to show you a screen capture taken from that video to illustrate my point. I haven't edited this or done anything to the picture;

The presenter Brian Baldinger was talking about Stafford looking across the middle and seeing his tight end covered. Well I disagree. For me, the tight end is open there, at least by the standards of the NFL. A quarterback at this level needs to be able to fit the ball into just that kind of window, right into his gut in order to help the receiver to protect himself.

The problem is not the coverage though, it's the center. You should be able to seem him under that vision graphic. The problem is if Stafford throws the ball to the middle now, he'll likely hit the center in the back and have the pass deflected. I think that's why Stafford went wide and got picked off.

It's a good question though; how many of us think about things like passing lanes on a regular bases. I'd be interested to know just how many defensive coordinators have a package in their play book whereby the defensive linemen are taught to attack the offensive line face to face, filling the passing lanes with their hands, while other defenders drop off and fill the remaining passing lanes in coverage.

Below I've put up a hypothetical example;

As you can see the linebackers are in a position to interrupt most of the passing lanes, while the rushing defenders fight through the linemen instead of going around them, pushing them back into their own quarterback while being ready to jump and get their hands up.

It's not something I could see a team doing more than just a few plays per game, but I think it's an interesting thought exercise and I think it's a good reminder for offensive coaches to think about passing lanes and not just passing routes when working with quarterbacks.

The other thing I quickly wanted to harp on, and this relates to quarterbacks, is Blaine Gabbert. I stumbled across this article the other day that had this interesting line in it; "The rookie has zero pocket presence. He feels pressure when it’s not there and takes too long to make decisions"

My response to this would be; no shit.

How long ago did I say that? This long ago.

"Gabbert will probably collapse in the face of pressure in the NFL. Very rarely did I see him stand in the pocket and let routes develop down field. Everything was coming out of his hands as quick as a flash. On the few occasions that he did try and hold the ball, he almost immediately bailed out of the pocket and ran for his life, even if it was just a three man rush.

He just seems to have zero experience of standing up to a proper rush...

...The people then that I blame are the people putting Gabbert up there on the pedestal as the number one QB in the 2011 draft class, because I don't think he's anything near that....

...But to tout him as a franchise QB at all, let alone a day one franchise kid, is a big mistake in my opinion."

This is what has been frustrating me so much lately. Think of all the TV analysts, the draft experts, the NFL scouts who were tipping off the TV guys. Not once did anyone talk about this stuff, they loved Gabbert. Now all of a sudden everyone is an expert in picking out his faults having watched a significant amount of him in the NFL.

I just don't get it. They were watching the same film I was. In fact that's wrong, they had access to way more film from way more angles than I could ever dream about, and still missed it. It's all there. Just go back and watch any Missouri game. It's not hard to spot, especially now you know what you're looking for.

And I guess all this boils down to frustration, due primarily to envy I guess. I go to bed knowing that somewhere out there a whole bunch of scouts, TV people etc are all earning fairly big money for their opinions on players, and they can't even pick up a simple thing like this Gabbert situation.

It just annoys me and I enjoy venting. So there.

Now in all the rushing about this week I didn't get the chance to recap my picks from week 12 but I was 13-3 for the week so I'm pretty happy with that, and I'm now 113-67 for the season. For tomorrow nights game I will take... the Seahawks. Because the Eagles don't stop the run all that well and the Seahawks are kind of leaning that way lately. Should be a really good game though.

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