Happy New Year CSR! I've had some thoughts on Clausen I've been wanting to share, and I figured this would be a good time to share them. So in honor of the holidays, I'd like to take a look at what Clausen needs to change to become an NFL QB, in the form of a resolution list. I think most of us agree that at this point in his career, he lacks many of the qualities needed, but that he can improve in time. So what does he need to do?
More after the jump....
1. Pocket Presence
This is a major one, and possibly the most pressing one. How many times this season have we seen Clausen move directly into the path of the rush? The offensive line isn't doing him any favors, but it's reciprocal some of the time. Clausen needs to learn that his best option is to step up into the pocket once he feels the rush. He's not athletic at all, but moving up into the pocket instead of attempting to roll out and outrun the defenders will minimize his deficiencies in that regard. I've seen him start to step up gradually, but he needs to increase the regularity of these occurences.
2. Downfield Ability
Right now, Clausen is not much of a threat to go downfield. He gets a few completions downfield per game, but nothing consistent. Again, not all of that is his fault, you'll find on a team this bad you can't solely blame our problems on one aspect of the team, but the QB does bear a large part of the blame. Clausen is playing scared right now. The game is too fast for him, so he sticks with what he knows he can complete, the checkdown. Every now and again, he'll get up the guts to throw downfield, with mixed results. Most of his INT's are downfield throws I believe, as are most of his good plays. He needs to accept that some bad will come with the good, and that he has to try and make plays for his team. Again, he seems to be slowly coming to that realization as of late.
This is always a gray area when it comes to QB's. Josh Freeman wasn't highly regarded as a leader coming out of of Kansas State, but I'd say he's solidified himself as an NFL QB. Peyton Manning is a heck of a QB, but he's been on record as throwing his teammates under the bus before. On field there's no questioning his ability, so he does get a pass for his off field personality. It doesn't hurt that he makes hilarious commercials. Now you may not share this opinion, but that just proves my point. Everyone disagrees on a QB's leadership ability. In college, Clausen did everything in his power to win, but he was repeatedly let down by his defense and offensive line. And occasionaly he did pull out a win, like against Purdue. His teammates at Notre Dame stuck by him despite the media perception that he was a bad teammate and had an abrasive, arrogant personality. However he was still stuck with that coming into Carolina. For that reason I don't think we've seen his true leadership ability. He also hasn't done anything to back it up, a one win QB doesn't inspire much confidence in teammates, especially considering his predecessor's success. However he's got to step up next year, one key component our offense is missing is a vocal leader to hold them all together. If he's going to be our QB, he has to fill that role.
4. Timing W/ Receivers
This one I find hard to blame on Clausen for two reasons. One, he wasn't the starter, or even expected to see significant playing time, this year. He has seen limited reps with most of our wideouts. And two, the majority of our receivers are rookies and new to the offense. With rookies throwing to rookies, of course the timing is going to be hit and miss. However, next season this has to be fixed. It's leaving too many plays on the field, and costing us dearly. I'd love to see Clausen hold an offseason workout with his wideouts, it would kill two birds with one stone. He'd be showing leadership and command while growing with his wideouts. Win-win situation.
5. Progression Through Reads
This is something all rookies struggle with, however Clausen has a bad habit of locking onto his receiver before the play and telegraphing his passes. It's something he needs to unlearn if he wants to have success next year. A good QB coach could really help him out in this regard, as could an older vet.
6. Just Relax
You often hear the cliche regarding Favre, that he plays like a kid. As tiring as it may be, it applies here. Clausen plays far too tightly, he doesn't relax and let his natural ability come through. I sound like a broken record here, but all rookies, no matter the position, have to come to this realization. When you can stop thinking and just play, that's when your true ability comes through. If Clausen can go into next year ignoring the pressure and just relax and go make plays instead of trying to avoid making a mistake, we'll see a completely different Jimmy. One we thought we were getting when we drafted him.
Happy Holidays! :)