Greg Cosell of NFL Films sang the praises of rookie quarterback Mike Glennon before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' victory over the Detroit Lions this weekend. Glennon affirmed Cosell's sentiment in that game by throwing for two touchdowns and 247 yards on 21 pass attempts.
Although those numbers are understated compared to others that we have seen from rookie quarterbacks over the past three seasons, they do reflect what Glennon brings to the table. He's not flashy like Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck and he doesn't have the all-around talent of Russell Wilson, but what Glennon does well is understand situations and play to his strengths.
The former third round pick certainly wasn't the biggest reason that the Buccaneers beat the Lions. Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw four interceptions and wide receiver Kris Durham lost a fumble for the Lions offense. Those turnovers kept points off the board for Detroit, and one of Stafford's interceptions even led to a Tampa Bay touchdown when Buccaneers cornerback Leonard Johnson scored from 48 yards out in the second quarter.
However, Glennon was a big reason why the Buccaneers offense was able to keep itself on track.
A combination of penalties and a nonexistent rushing threat put Glennon in many third-and-long situations throughout the game. He could have panicked on those plays, but more often than not he made smart decisions.
A harsh roughing the passer penalty allowed Glennon and the offense to convert on their first scoring drive, as he found wide receiver Vincent Jackson underneath to set up the Buccaneers' only field goal of the game.
With any rookie quarterback, the first question is about their physical tools. Everyone could immediately see that Luck, Wilson, Griffin III, Stafford and Cam Newton all had the physical tools to excel at the NFL level during their rookie seasons. Glennon doesn't jump off the page like those guys do, but he clearly isn't overwhelmed by the prospect of playing NFL football.
In today's league, there is a greater emphasis on the quarterback's ability to move than in previous seasons. Glennon is somewhat in between what you consider a pocket passer or a scrambler. He doesn't diagnose defenses incredibly well before the snap to negate the pass rush, but he also doesn't escape into the flat routinely to scramble for yards down the field.
Instead, Glennon plays the game much like the style of Tom Brady. He feels pressure and adjusts to avoid it while keeping his feet beneath him and his eyes downfield. Midway through the third quarter, deep in his own territory while trailing by four points, Glennon showed off this poise and athleticism in the pocket.
On 2nd-and-10, the Buccaneers gave Glennon a deep drop. From his left side, the Lions have two rushers who are penetrating the pocket. Glennon keeps his eyes downfield and doesn't panic as the pass-rushers get closer to him.
While keeping his eyes downfield, Glennon sees the gap that is created between his left tackle and his running back. He doesn't look to run into the flat, instead he slides his feet and slips past the incoming pass rush.
This allows Glennon to keep his feet square and the rest of his body in a perfect position to throw the football downfield once he is outside of the pocket. Glennon does just that as he finds a receiver running a deep crossing route for a first down.
His ability to move in the pocket would be worthless if he didn't have an NFL arm.
Glennon primarily threw to receivers running intermediate routes during the game, but he showed on multiple occasions that he can push the ball down the field and fit it into tight windows. He may not throw perfect deep passes, but with the size of Vincent Jackson and Tiquan Underwood, Glennon only has to give his receivers a chance.
Bigger receivers helped Josh Freeman a huge amount last season, but Freeman hurt himself with his inability to fit the ball into tight windows and his bad decision-making. Those are the two traits that give Glennon his best chance to hold onto this position moving forward.
On multiple occasions he read the coverage in the pocket before finding the right receiver, but his best throw went for a touchdown to Underwood.
During the second quarter with the Buccaneers trailing 7-3, the offense came out with two receivers to the left of the formation and one receiver and a tight end to the right.
Multiple things happen immediately after the snap.
The Lions blitz two defenders from the top of the screen. The running back in the backfield misses one of those pass-rushers, but he slows him down enough for Glennon to survey the field. Glennon is watching Vincent Jackson in the slot, but more important is the safety who is watching the cornerback in coverage.
Glennon can't throw the ball at this point because he doesn't know what the safety is doing. He understands that his outside receiver will be free if the safety goes with Jackson, but if he doesn't then Glennon will likely throw an interception.
Instead of panicking, Glennon pump-fakes while keeping his eyes on Jackson and the safety. That shows a lot of poise because the pass-rushers are in the pocket and they react to Glennon's pump fake, which gives the quarterback time to shift his feet to the left a little bit. This changes the angle on the throw.
Glennon puts the ball out in front of Underwood, but most importantly he puts the ball in a spot where only his receiver can get to it. The rookie quarterback understood the situation despite having a pass-rusher in his face, and he perfectly anticipated and executed a throw for a score.
This kind of poise, intelligence and execution is what makes a good NFL quarterback. If the Buccaneers aren't in position to take a top quarterback in next season's draft, they likely won't have any problem keeping Glennon as their starter.
However, that's not the real issue.
The real question is whether the Buccaneers would take one of the top quarterbacks from this season's rookie class if they have the opportunity. For many reasons, that question will remain unanswered for now.
At the very least, Glennon is already proving most draft experts wrong about what he could do during his rookie season as a starter.