After months of debating anything and everything about their favorite NFL teams, fans finally have some real news, at least "on-the-field" news, to discuss as all NFL training camps are set to begin within the next few days.
There's optimism flowing through every NFL city right now, and expectations are high for every team. It doesn't matter if your team only won two games last season and had the No. 1 pick in the draft, like they did in Kansas City. Expectations are still high.
As players report for training camp, naturally, all eyes tend to shift towards the quarterback position. It's the most popular position to play in the most popular sport in the country. It's going to get the most attention as these first few practices get underway, just like it will throughout the majority of the regular season.
Fans are often able to attend these practices and have access to these workouts as the players prepare for their preseason games. If you want something in particular to look for during these practices, it's pretty simple.
Whether it's a new quarterback, new coaching staff, new offensive weapons or some kind of a combination, coaches want to see fluidity and crispness on the offensive side of the ball.
Obviously you want to see the main things from your quarterback, like knowing the playbook and all of the terminology, and you want to know how they'll hold up from a physical perspective. There are things you want to see from them when they're lined up doing drills with the other skill players.
You want to see quarterbacks and wide receivers on the same page. That means hitting the receiver on time and in stride and when he's running a route, thus allowing him to pick up additional yardage after the catch.
When a receiver has to break stride, even on an easy throw, it takes away possible yardage the player can get after they catch the football.
This play over to the right is an example of a player breaking stride to adjust to a poorly thrown football. Even during camp, getting these players reps with one another is so important.
That's why you hear so much about who's getting the first-team reps during camp. It's that critical timing between a receiver and a quarterback that's so vital.
Here's a play from the regular season from Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman.
It's a simple three-step drop, back-shoulder throw. It may look simple because its premise doesn't require a lot of scheming or diagramming. But this play takes hundreds, if not thousands of reps to perform well at game speed.
When Freeman gets to the top of his three-step drop, he's throwing that ball to a specific location. The receiver hasn't even looked back yet, but he knows where and when the ball is coming.
You can see that once Brees has committed to throwing the football, the receiver hasn't yet reached the top of his route.
As soon as the receiver turns to locate the football, it's already on him, and he's then immediately tackled by the cornerback. Brees can't wait for the receiver to turn and look for the football before cutting it loose. NFL defensive backs are too quick and athletic, and they'll either break up the pass or undercut the route and pick it off.
This is why timing and accuracy are so important to quarterbacks and wide receivers, and it all starts with their chemistry at training camp.
If you see them in sync with one another on the timing and depth of these simple routes early in camp, it's a great sign for your offense heading into the season.
So if you're out there at training camp and want something specific to look for on offense, check and see exactly where the receivers are catching the football and whether or not they're having to break stride.
It may not seem like a big deal now as they play against air during a lot of these drills, but imagine a defensive back completely draped on the receiver. Would the pass still have been completed?
Coaches will be looking at these things, and you can too.
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