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Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

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Old 02-15-2010, 08:03 PM   #1
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Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

I originally posted this in another thread but I felt it deserved it's own thread.

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What this is: During the year, Football Scientist K.C. Joyner has evaluated top NFL draft prospects. This week he looks at former Notre Dame Fighting Irish QB Jimmy Clausen.

When grading a quarterback's arm strength, I often think back to a line from former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh in Dr. Z's classic book, "The New Thinking Man's Guide To Pro Football." Some in the media had called Super Bowl XVI a battle between Walsh's brains and Cincinnati coach Forrest Gregg's discipline. That viewpoint led Walsh to ask this question: What constituted discipline? Was it being physically tough on someone? Or could it also be executing a highly choreographed set of moves under the pressure of competition? The answer is that it could be either, and it really depended on what one meant by the word discipline.

The same thing goes for measuring the velocity of a passing arm. The gold standard in this area is the deep out pass, but that throw requires a much different kind of delivery and less touch than many other important vertical passes, such as the go, corner, post and fade routes.

Now, let's look at Jimmy Clausen. It is pretty much a given that Clausen will be a first-round draft pick, but his arm strength is enough of a question mark to cause his predicted draft slot status to vary significantly. For example, Mel Kiper's initial mock draft has Clausen going to the Buffalo Bills at the No. 9 spot because he possesses "an NFL arm." Scouts Inc.'s Todd McShay, on the other hand, has Clausen going in the No. 23 spot (to the Seattle Seahawks) in part because "he doesn't have ideal arm strength."

So which analyst is right?


The odd thing is that they both are on the money. After breaking down six of Clausen's 2009 game tapes (at Michigan, at Michigan State, vs. USC, vs. Boston College, vs. Connecticut and at Stanford), I found metrics and scouting notes to back both sides of that argument.

For example, Clausen did a fine job on the 13 deep out passes he threw. Eleven of them were on target (on target being defined as landing within the catching frame of the receiver) and seven ended up being completed. He was also 2-for-2 on the comeback route -- which is a close cousin of the deep out -- so he was on the money on 13 out of 15 of the vertical outside routes.

Clausen also displayed superb accuracy on the long passes that require more arc than the deep out. He was one for two on the corner route and would have been two for two if not for a dropped pass. Clausen also completed the only deep post route he threw.

Throwing into high traffic areas also was an area of strength for Clausen, something that is evidenced by his seven completions in eight attempts on deep in passes.

For all of his vertical plusses from a metric perspective, the scouting eye indicated Clausen had some issues on certain types of throws. This was especially evident in the Michigan contest. In that game, Clausen had multiple occasions when he threw a low hard pass when a higher, arced passed would have been more appropriate. It almost looked as though he was trying to show just how hard he could throw the ball and was putting more mustard on passes than was necessary. That trend didn't show up later in the season, so it might have been an early season psychological issue he has since overcome.

Clausen also had issues when facing a pass rush. The scouting notes indicated numerous instances where Clausen threw passes off of his back foot when the defense did a heavy blitz. The first negative on this front is that he would do at times even when the blitz was picked up, so that leads to concerns about whether he will get what Phil Simms calls "pocket cabin fever" whenever a defense comes after him.

The second negative is that those aerials ended up well short of the mark. That clearly shows Clausen cannot effectively gun a pass downfield unless he has the ability to step into the pass.

If the game tape reviews showed both an upside and a downside in terms of Clausen's arm, they were perfectly clear about his ability to read a defense. He made only four bad decisions in 224 passes (a bad decision being defined as when the quarterback makes a mistake with the ball that leads to either a turnover or a near turnover). That equates to a 1.7 percent bad-decision rate, which is a mark that would usually rank among the top 10-15 quarterbacks if it were accomplished at the NFL level, so Clausen gets high marks here.


The Football Scientist Lab Result: Drew Brees and Philip Rivers have proven that the ability to read a defense is much more important than possessing a cannon for an arm. Clausen has displayed superb ability in that area, and when that is added to his more than adequate skill in placing accurate throws downfield, it equals a TFS seal of approval.

K.C. Joyner, aka The Football Scientist, is a regular contributor to ESPN Insider. His Countdown Daily by IBM weekly video matchups can be found every Tuesday here. He also can be found on Twitter (@kcjoynertfs) and at his Web site.
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Old 02-15-2010, 09:24 PM   #2
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Re: Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

I thought it would have been Lessons of Brees extended to Bradford. Spread QB in college, major shoulder surgery...
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Old 02-15-2010, 09:39 PM   #3
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Re: Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

I never really watched a notre dame game in about 2 years. He sounds a lot like Chad Pennington?
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Old 02-15-2010, 09:50 PM   #4
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Re: Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

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I thought it would have been Lessons of Brees extended to Bradford. Spread QB in college, major shoulder surgery...
A ha ha, nice.
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Old 02-15-2010, 11:25 PM   #5
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Re: Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

Clausen also displayed superb accuracy on the long passes that require more arc than the deep out. He was one for two on the corner route and would have been two for two if not for a dropped pass. Clausen also completed the only deep post route he threw.

IMO opinion this is one of the more important observations about Clausen. Something JC lacks almost entirely is the ability to get the appropriate arc on a pass, which is critical in the deep ball and often the mid-range throw. Jason's long ball is usually too flat so it can be batted down by a defender or it goes over the head and hands of the WR. His mid-range throws are often at the top of their arc and therefor over the WR head, forcing a lot of passes caught w/ the WR off his feet and losing YAC opportunity.

I'm not saying Clausen is an overall improvement over JC though. I actually doubt it. Jason has been tough as nails and shown improvement in really shitty circumstances. I guess I'd like Shanny/Allen to give him a line and a better offense to work with and see what he does.
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Old 02-16-2010, 08:39 AM   #6
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Re: Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

Hmm...wait, he wears No. 7 and comes from Notre Dame?
Joey T needs to give his blessing or else...

Ok, seriously, Clausen sounds like he can be good here if slowly ease him into the role and they don't shell-shock him, and I doubt Shanny would risk that.
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Old 02-16-2010, 10:10 AM   #7
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Re: Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

I think Allen & Shanny will entertain & manipulate the draft with QB talk to bait a team to take our spot at 4. Especially if the Rams take a QB at #1 i know Buffalo & Seattle have already talked about getting a franchise signal caller.
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Old 02-16-2010, 10:18 AM   #8
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Re: Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

Clausen is a second round QB who will be drafted in the first round because the QB class is so incredibly weak. As such, I wouldn't whine if we took him at 36, but to even consider doing so in the top 25 of the draft would be foolish.
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Old 02-16-2010, 12:45 PM   #9
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Re: Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

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Hmm...wait, he wears No. 7 and comes from Notre Dame?
Joey T needs to give his blessing or else...

Ok, seriously, Clausen sounds like he can be good here if slowly ease him into the role and they don't shell-shock him, and I doubt Shanny would risk that.
He'd survive. Besides no ones worn number 8 here in a long time.
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Old 02-16-2010, 12:49 PM   #10
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Re: Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

^ didn't brunnel wear 8?
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Old 02-16-2010, 01:05 PM   #11
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Re: Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

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^ didn't brunnel wear 8?
Who?
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Old 02-18-2010, 12:15 PM   #12
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Re: Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

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He'd survive. Besides no ones worn number 8 here in a long time.
I was just pointing out the striking conincidences.
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Old 02-18-2010, 01:09 PM   #13
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Re: Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

Someone (I don't know who) suggested that, like Campbell, Clausen holds onto the ball too long in the pocket. I haven't seen that in any of the analysis of Clausen. Anyone have support for or against that?
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Old 02-18-2010, 04:36 PM   #14
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Re: Lessons of Brees extended to Clausen

I think this guy has the wrong idea about arm strenghth. I dont think the issue with arm strength stems from the ability to throw the deep ball, but the ability to give the defender less time to recover. The faster you get it to the reciever, the larger your window to complete the ball to the wr is because the closing time is less, which results in a higher completion percentage and less picks. And before someone jumps on me, I just want to cover my a$$ by saying that arm strength isnt the end all be all or THAT major a factor, but you do need to be able to throw it hard enough to hit your man for the split second that he is open. Weather Clausen can throw it hard enough?I dont know, Im not a scout.
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