An Xs and Os Guide to the Top QB Battles Coming Up in Training Camp
There are a few storylines as we head into NFL training camps that will shine a little brighter than others strictly because of the position being discussed.
Those will come out of New York and Philadelphia, along with a few others.
The New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles have quarterback questions they'll have to answer before the season kicks off in September. More than likely, both of these teams' quarterback battles will be won by the veteran in the mix.
While the majority of the football-watching community will tell you that Mark Sanchez isn't the answer for the Jets, that doesn't mean head coach Rex Ryan should throw Geno Smith into the fire before he's ready. You can always bring Smith in after a few games if we see more of the same ineptitude from Sanchez this season.
Starting Smith and then going back to Sanchez if he struggles wouldn't make much sense, especially considering Ryan's job could be on the line.
It's an open competition for the starting quarterback job in Philadelphia. Ten-year NFL Veteran Michael Vick and second-year player Nick Foles will battle it out in training camp and the preseason for the starting job. Head coach Chip Kelly hasn't named a starter or No. 1 guy yet, and he doesn't seem to be in a rush to do so (via Philly.com):
We're going to have to name a starter at some point in time...That's why I think it would be unfair right now, because there hasn't been enough situations to evaluate. If someone said, 'Hey, we have to play a game tomorrow,' we have to make a decision. But we don't have to play a game tomorrow. We have until Sept. 9, so we'll see how it works itself out.
The decision to not yet make a decision has led to questions being asked of the rest of the Eagles offensive players as to how they feel about not knowing who's going to be their starter. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson weighed in on the situation recently (via csnphilly.com):
I have been hearing some things about Vick saying that he wants to know. At the same time, the team wants to know too. We need to go into training camp prepared and know who is going to be our starting quarterback...Whether it is Foles or Vick, I think they would both do a great job and we will be ready for the season.
It's easy to say Vick will eventually earn the starting job. He's the veteran, and you want to know what he can do in Chip Kelly's offense before you move on to Foles, the younger player. If Vick doesn't earn the starting job, then his time in Philadelphia is basically over.
So before Kelly and coaching staff move on to Foles and the future, they should completely run the course with Vick, because there's no going back after you name Foles the starter over a healthy Vick. It's also the psychology of the team that's in play if you name Foles the starting quarterback. It's a "moving on" type of decision, as the rest of the team will have to accept that Vick is no longer the guy in that locker room.
I'm assuming both of these veterans, Sanchez and Vick, will be named the starters for their respective teams. But what would it take for the younger players to have their names called and lead their teams during the season?
The answer is easy—losing.
Below are two plays, one from each of these quarterbacks, that show the kinds of things they have to avoid if they're to remain starters. Obviously this is under the assumption they are named the starters.
The first is going to be from Sanchez.
It's a simple go route from wide receiver Stephen Hill, who's lined up in the slot.
The Patriots are running a cover-three defense with the strong safety coming up and bumping Hill about five-and-a-half yards off the line of scrimmage.
Once Hill gets past the safety he finds a hole in the middle of the defense. You don't get many opportunities in the NFL where a receiver is this open.
As you can see, the pass is overthrown to the wide-open 6'4" receiver. You can't miss wide receivers that are THIS open.
It's easy to point at every interception Sanchez threw last season, or even certain fumbles that have become wide-spread comedy, and use those as examples as things he can't do if he wants to keep his job. But it's also these kinds of throws. He's not giving his offense the chance to pick up big chunks of yardage—the kinds of plays that lead to points and ultimately win games.
These next screen shots are of Vick on a very similar type play against the Detroit Lions.
The slot receiver finds a hole in the middle of the defense against a Cover 3 once Vick reaches the top of his drop.
Vick steps way up into the pocket while the window downfield begins to close. He's got an outlet receiver to his left that's well covered, and the two outside receivers have cornerbacks over the top of them. Any hitch route could be cut off by the outside linebackers that have gotten deep into their drops. The opportunity for the throw across the middle is vanishing but looks to be the only real option for Vick.
This next angle shows the pocket that Vick is working with once he reaches the top of his seven-step drop. As you can see, he's got plenty of room in the pocket. Once he reaches the top of his drop and plants his left foot, he explodes back towards the line of scrimmage.
This collage shows you the progression of Vick's movements in the pocket before he throws the ball. He does a good job of getting deep into his drop, but then he sacrifices all that space when he plants and steps back up into the pocket. When he finally does decide to pull the trigger, he's got a defensive lineman in his face and isn't able to fully step into the throw.
Who has a better chance of beginning the season as his team's starter?
If Vick hadn't stepped up so far into the pocket, he would have been able to throw the pass with more authority.
Instead, Vick throws up a jump ball that's intercepted. He was late throwing this ball by virtue of his decision to step up into traffic.
You expect young quarterbacks to make some of these mistakes, but from veteran QBs these are the kinds of plays that get you sent to the bench.
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