An NFL quarterback’s release time is important to both his safety and his success in the passing game. Holding the ball longer can mean the difference between a touchdown pass or first down and a sack or interception.
Let’s look at Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, taking the competition beyond the banal reasons why one should start over the other to find out which Texan would be best for the starting job.
Their preseason stats are as follows:
Kolb has completed 5 of 15 passes for 47 yards, no touchdowns and one interception for a 15.1 QB rating.
Skelton has completed 10 of 15 passes for 90 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a 77.1 rating.
On the protection both quarterbacks have received during exhibition games this preseason, many analysts and even coaches have stated that Skelton has been the beneficiary of the better line play.
But does release time have anything to do with that? The longer a quarterback holds the ball, the longer his linemen have to block for him.
And if he moves out of the pocket, his linemen are at an instant disadvantage because they can’t see where he’s going—the defenders, on the other hand, can.
Kolb has taken four sacks in 19 drop-backs while Skelton has taken just one in 16.
But how quickly do they release the ball?
This chart reveals the perhaps not-so-shocking results of my findings this preseason. I used my own stopwatch to gather the times. Times are game-long averages.
|Opponent||Kevin Kolb||John Skelton|
|New Orleans||3.59 (4 att.)||2.40 (6 att.)|
|Kansas City||4.00 (5)||2.73 (6)|
|Oakland||2.79 (6)||2.24 (3)|
|Average||3.41 (15)||2.50 (15)|
Getting the ball out in a timely manner makes the offensive line look good.
Don’t believe me?
The offensive line of the Indianapolis Colts surrendered 35 sacks last season without Peyton Manning behind center, good for 17th-most NFL-wide. Sounds pretty good, right? It sounds great when compared to Arizona’s second-to-last total of 54 sacks allowed.
Now consider that the Colts gave up a three-year total of 43 sacks from 2008-2010, Manning’s last three seasons in Indy. That’s No. 1 in the NFL over that time for fewest allowed.
Yes, getting the ball out on time is imperative. But it’s not just about how quickly a quarterback can go from taking a snap to throwing it somewhere; it has to be to an open receiver and placed in a spot where only his guy can get it.
This is an area in which Manning has set himself apart and where Skelton is getting better.
He has made some very good throws this preseason. And while some pass it off as “just the preseason,” which it is, it means a lot for his development that he has been able to make the right reads quicker.
That’s not to say he’s been perfect. Far from it. Both he and Kolb have missed open receivers through three practice games. But because Skelton is able to stand in a pocket and deliver a pass quicker than Kolb, he is the best quarterback for the Cardinals this season.
Especially now that the blind side will be without Levi Brown, Arizona’s most tenured and best offensive lineman.
It is unknown what the team will do to fill the void left by Brown, but chances are the play they get from the position won’t be what he could have provided unless someone unexpected turns up on the market after first cuts on August 27.
In all seriousness, the 2012 season hangs in the balance with some of the personnel decisions that have to be made by the coaching staff. If it were up to me, Skelton would have been named the starter already.
Then again, I never believed Kolb was the answer.
I do believe Skelton can get the team where they want to be, however. Maybe not this season. Maybe not next. But the kid knows how to win games.
You can’t teach that.