John Skelton Will Be the Arizona Cardinals' Starting QB in the Near Future
The Arizona Cardinals have a quarterback quandary and the available choices just don't seem satisfactory. Derek Anderson is a joke with a golden arm and Matt Leinart is a former Heisman winner who still doesn't have the respect of his teammates after four seasons.
Safety Adrian Wilson was quoted in the National Football Post as saying Leinart "definitely has to earn it [respect]."
Before you read any further please see the ESPN Sports Science segment on John Skelton located here:
||Sport Science: John Skelton|
I am a Cleveland Browns fan and sports contributor who also happens to have done a lot of research on John Skelton in the hopes that the Browns would draft him instead of Colt McCoy.
I believe that Skelton will not just be a starting quarterback, but be the starting quarterback in the near future based on his competition for the job and his ability to excel in the role.
John Skelton is the fifth round draft pick of Arizona from Fordham college and was born in El Paso Texas. While there, he starred at Burges High School in both football and baseball. He was a star shortstop which shows off his all around athleticism.
The following draft-combine and pro-day information was gleaned from CBS Sports.
Playing at Fordham has not exposed him to a high level of competition and that is definitely a concern. On the converse, playing at Fordham is a testament to his intelligence and his potential ability to pick up whatever playbook he is given.
Skelton is accurate enough to give his receiver a chance to make a play after the catch whether on a quick screen, out route, slant, fade, or throw down the seam. He also leads his man on slants and deep throws and will aim the ball and feather it in instead of letting it loose.
John has a cannon : He throws 45-50-yard passes with little effort, but he rarely takes full advantage of his arm strength. Ball gets from hash to opposite sideline in a hurry when he steps into the throw. Good trajectory on deep passes, and the ball doesn’t hang up. Inconsistent spiral, though the ball still has fair pace when it wobbles.
Skelton's setup and release: John has prototypical size and stands tall in the pocket. He waits patiently for routes to develop. Skelton plays primarily in the spread and usually sets up in the shotgun.
Skelton has an NFL quick release but he relies on his arm strength too much and will throw off back foot and into traffic. He throws from different arm angles and is usually well-balanced. He will need a lot of work on ball fakes and play action.
His ability to read defenses: Skelton knows the second and third progression, and is willing to throw to the underneath route if the deep receiver is covered up. He will pick apart a defense if given time. Looks to the quick screen before checking out deep throw.
He does not look off the safety or creeping corner consistently which results in interceptions. Skelton trusts his receivers too much and throws jump balls when unnecessary.
Mobility: Skelton is an athlete not just a big guy with an arm and he is mobile and able to throw accurately on the run in either direction. He squares his shoulders when throwing on the run. Will evade sacks from FCS defenders, but unclear whether he’ll do so in NFL.
At this point in his development he doesn’t always get his eyes down field when pressured in the pocket but does when outside.
Skelton's mobility leads him to leave the pocket too quickly at times. He is agile enough to get first downs when scrambling or running the read option, but not quick enough to run for more than a few yards and lacks elusiveness in the open field.
He lowers his head for a first down if the sideline isn’t available and can slide if possible. Skelton has perfect size for the sneak.
Intangibles: Skelton was a two-year captain who lead his offense on and off the field. Quiet with the media, but vocal on the field. Has the work ethic and intelligence to become an NFL starter.
Now all that stands in the way of young master Skelton besides a lot of hard work is a curb pickup, Derek Anderson, and a likely never will be, Matt Leinart.
Anderson will drive a person mad with his golden arm. He will throw a beautiful 40 yard strike and miss the next open running back in the flat. Anderson is also immobile but hey he is an excellent golfer so if you need a partner.
On a serious note, there will always be second chances for Anderson as long as his arm is attached to his side but he does not have the touch or the accuracy to be a successful NFL quarterback. His college accuracy was 54.2 and his NFL accuracy is 52.9.
Matt Leinart had two good years in college with completion percentage of about 65% for both years. In 2006-2007 when Leinart started 16 games for the Cardinals he completed approximately 56% of his passes and had a ratio of 13 TDs to 16 INTs.
Leinart had Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin as targets so he didn't have that as an excuse. One major knock on Leinart is that he throws the ball high and hangs his receivers out to get hammered over the middle. That is not a way to make friends.
Leinart alson tends to overstride and when he does it affects his accuracy.
The scouting report on him also reads: he needs to show the veterans in the locker room that he has the commitment and work ethic expected of a number one quarterback.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt is so unconvinced of Leinart's ability to do the job that the Cardinals are paying Anderson $7.25 million after he was unceremoniously released. He posted a 42.1 quarterback rating in significant time and yet was brought in to push him.
All of this does have a negative side for John Skelton. While he potentially may have an opportunity sooner than he would in a lot of settings he doesn't have the best set of circumstances to come in and learn. Odds are Leinart is going to be focused on winning the locker room over and Anderson will be trying to win the starting role.
Neither one will likely be a warm, fuzzy mentor to the young man from Fordham.
There are things that Skelton can work on without them that he must do to succeed. He must become friends with a center and take snaps from under center. The spread offense he comes from has done him a disservice in that regard.
He must throw thousands of short touch passes to whoever will catch the ball: receivers, interns, cheerleaders, and coaches.
Most of all John Skelton must become synonymous with the word work to his teammates. He must lead his draft class through every drill and coach them up when they need it.
Skelton has to become a film junkie. he has to break down film every week as if he is going to start.
As a fellow football fan I don't wish hard times upon Cardinals fans. I just have my doubts about Anderson and Leinart.
I did a lot of research on Skelton, Clausen, Kafka, Jarrett Brown, Jevan Snead, Colt McCoy, Dan LeFevour, Tony Pike, Tim Tebow, and Tim Hiller prior to the draft and I have the best feeling about Skelton.
He is a comparable athlete to Sam Bradford: 4.77 40 and 35 inch vertical at an inch shorter and 12lbs lighter than Skelton, and has a stronger arm. Skelton had the agility to play the most demanding position on the baseball diamond and the intelligence to thrive at an Ivy league school.
He is stepping into an offense that has three excellent receivers, an established offensive line and competent coaches. What better set up is there for a smart, athletic young quarterback with a great arm?
If John Skelton does all of these things I have no doubt that the fans of the Arizona Cardinals will have a quality starting quarterback for a long time.
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