Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Breaking down a Clausen game winning drive

I managed to sit down and watch the game winning drive by Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen today as he led his team to a dramatic 24-21 victory over Purdue last weekend. He missed a large portion of this game with a turf toe injury but Charlie Weiss put him back in for the fourth quarter with Purdue leading 21-17.

I've broken down the drive below and afterwards I had some thoughts.

3:37 - shotgun pass from the 33 yard line. Dropped back, lots of pressure but managed to avoid it before launching the ball through the middle for a twelve yard reception.

3:13 - shotgun pass from the 45 yard line. Good pressure and looked like he's be sacked, but an excellent pump fake through the defensive end (who was concerned about a late hit penalty). Managed to buy himself an extra second to complete a screen pass left to the RB for a short gain.

2:47 - shotgun pass from the 46 yard line. Short pass to WR in space, who is able to turn up the field for a twenty-four yard gain.

2:14 - Clausen under center, hands off to the RB for a short rushing gain.

1:36 - shotgun pass from the 28 yard line. Clausen sacked looking downfield, didn't feel the presence and needed to get rid of the ball.

1:21 - shotgun pass from 36 on 3rd and 14. Pass thrown to the right, ball seemed to float out of Clausen's hands a bit. Wobbly pass but WR had created very good separation to make a 15 yard catch for the first down.

1:16 - shotgun pass from the 21 yard line. Clausen throws off his back foot deep left to the end zone to a receiver in single coverage. Nice spiral on the ball but lacked velocity and sailed out of bounds for an incompletion.

1:11 - shotgun pass from 21. Ball thrown to an open WR on the 10 yard line. Ball again floats a little which suggests a lack of arm strength when throwing off his back foot. Receiver makes a nice move to avoid a tackle and get to the four yard line for a 17 yard gain.

:48 - shotgun pass from the four yard line. Clausen throws off his front foot this time and generates a lot more force on the ball. Looks for a WR at the back of the end zone but too much on the pass and it shoots through the end zone.

:42 - Clausen hands off to the RB for a two yard gain from shotgun.

:36 - shotgun pass, great protection allowing Clausen an age to throw. The QB considers running it in but checks his run and instead throws a soft pass out of bounds.

:29 - 4th and goal with the game on the line. Clausen drops back receiving good protection. He throws a good, tight ball to a WR in single coverage who catches the ball in the end zone.

For starters, you have to credit Clausen for coming into the game at such a late stage, clearly not at 100% and leading his team to victory. It was a hostile atmosphere on the road and he showed some leadership to put the game on his own shoulders and drag ND over the finish line. You also have to credit that last play in a do-or-die situation. Clausen finished with a state line of 15/26 for 171 yards and a TD & Interception.

The reason I wanted to include some thoughts on Clausen are largely because his stock has risen dramatically in recent weeks. Walter Cherepinsky has the Notre Dame QB going first overall in his latest mock draft, published last week. It's only a small sample, but considering the consequences it's also a chance to see Clausen at his best.

It's the first real chance I've had to sit down and look at Clausen. As I've mentioned, I like his leadership and ability to get the job done in this game. It shows character and that's an under rated quality. He shows good agility to avoid pressure in the pocket, he keeps his eyes down field and he seems to be pretty accurate.

However, I don't much like his side arm action. He's listed as 6'3" according to ESPN but it's quite a low throwing action. It's a similar complaint to that which is thrown at Sam Bradford. He generates decent velocity on his passes when he throws on the front foot, but his passes get a bit floaty on the back foot. It's was also quite evident to me that Clausen was getting good protection for the most part, certainly as ND got into the red zone.

I would like to see more from Clausen but at this point I'd still rank Tony Pike (Cincinnati) as my number one ranked QB. I'd put Clausen alongside Sam Bradford as being bigger names with arguably bigger upside, but mechanical issues that could be a concern.


1stHill said...

Rob or anybody reading this can give their opinion on the following question.

If the Seahawks have another bad or even a mediocre year, do you think Tim Ruskell will be on the hot seat? If Ruskell does feel he is on the hot seat, do you think he would even consider using a 1st or 2nd round pick on a QB?

Rob Staton said...

Personally, I'd think it unlikely he'd be on the hot seat simply because he's just appointed a new head coach. But I do not know what Paul Allen's view is. Could a repeat of last year... or something similar (say 5-11 or 6-10) change matters? I'd guess that a bad year probably won't affect Ruskell job as much as the size or longevity of his next deal.

Ruskell kept his head down throughout most of last year during the awful 4-12 season and we didn't hear a thing from him until it had all finished. He was down on the field at the end of the Rams game congratulating everyone with a visible sense of relief. I think at that point he felt very positive about the direction the team were going.

Obviously since then it's been a bit car crash with all the injuries and two very disappointing games. Stranger things have happened, but my guess is that Ruskell is one of the safer GM's in the NFL.

With regard to drafting a QB early, I think it's something he has to consider due to Hasselbeck's age and injury record. In fact drafting a new QB could buy him some time, giving the new guy a chance could be an excuse of some sorts as a rebuilding process.

There's still a lot that can happen between now and the end of the year that will affect Seattle's decision. Hasselbeck may play every game after week 4, lead the Seahawks to the playoffs and make a pro-bowl. On the other hand, he might miss most of the year and in that situation getting a QB in the draft becomes more likely.

germpod said...

I do not think Ruskell would be on the hot seat, but I am a big Ruskell fan. His track record on his picks seems to be a little above average compared to other GMs. The team having such a poor record lat year and the early part of this year can honestly be blamed on injuries. The Ruskell debate is not my favorite one, since I am too lazy to look at all the other teams picks to make it more then one side listing his busts players while the other side lists the productive players.

Clausen took a lot of snaps from shotgun, I wonder if that is due to his foot being hurt or if that is what they do all the time?

Rob Staton said...

It's something I'll look out for germpod. He seemed quite comfortable in the gun but I want to see him throw from his front foot a lot more - that's when he generates more whip on his passes. On his back foot the velocity just isn't there and the ball tends to float. I just wonder if taking more snaps under center and having to drop back may help his footwork and enable him to naturally throw more from the front.

Certainly looked like a side arm action to me though, which is a concern. Tony Pike remains my #1 ranked QB... for now.

Anonymous said...

Rob, National Football Post's Wes Bunting has Jake Locker topping their "Super 30" for the 2010 draft. They have Clausen at 14,Bradford at 16 and Snead at 20. While we won't know until after the season whether he'll even declare, I found it an intriguing possibility. Given the uncapped year looming, and the talk of restructuring rookie salaries, it wouldn't surprise me if more underclassman declare than "normal". The success of Sanchez thus far, who was also knocked for only starting one full season, and really only shining in one big game (Rose Bowl), coupled with Bradford's injury and Snead's struggles, make a good, if not compelling argument that leaving after a very successful junior campaign (assuming he achieves that) might be his best option. I also found the Super 30 as interesting in that it includes 6 OT's, but omits Ciron Black and Selvish Capers, both of whom have been pretty heavily hyped most mock drafts. What are your thoughts on Locker vs. Clausen and the Super 30 list in general?

Rob Staton said...

Hi annonymous,

With regard to an increase in players declaring for the draft, I'm yet to be convinced it'll be much different than previous years. Yes, the uncapped year is looming and the further down the line we go we possibly come closer to a rookie cap.

However, we expected every man and his dog to declare for 2009 for the same reasons and had mixed results... some surprises (Sanchez, Bradford) and some obvious (Crabtree, Stafford, Moreno, Tebow). I envisage something similar, some guys will come out who you maybe don't expect and some will stay in the opposite scenario.

I'm not sure on Locker's decision right now. He only really arrived in the 2010 draft talk after the USC game and I just wonder how many of these 'experts' have sat down and watched a full 3-4 games of Jake Locker. Have they just watched the game winning drive against SoCal? The general disappointing performances from some top prospects (Eg Jevan Snead) has left a gap for a new 'hyped' star and maybe they're filling that vacancy with Jake Locker.

The Stanford game last week was a bit of a reality check. If Locker has more USC games than Stanford games then he probably will declare. However, I think at this stage he's likely to go back, understanding what Sarkisian can do for his career long term with another year's fine tuning. Having said that, money talks. If he genuinely does have a good year, it's hard to snub a potential $30-50m like Sam Bradford possibly did last year.

I've seen precious little of Jake Locker because they never show Washington games on the TV over here. I cannot compare him personally to Clausen for that matter, so apologies. I've seen Clausen and there's things I like (leadership, quick release, good arm when throwing off front foot, accuracy) then there's things I don't like (side arm, no velocity when throwing off back foot, low release). From what I gather Locker is a different beast - more athletic with a bigger arm.

The guys with big arms tend to get the most hype. With Snead playing like he's never seen a football before recently, I'm not surprised Locker is getting pumped up the rankings. Personally, I'm not sold on any of the QB's yet with Tony Pike the best of the bunch. However - I still expect about 5-6 guys to potentially go in the first two rounds, something we didn't see last year.

I'm not a fan of Ciron Black at all and wasn't coming into this year. I read a magazine over the summer that linked him as the best player in his conference and nearly choked on my Coca Cola. He's a guard at best in the NFL for me with a 4-5 round grading. Not surprised to see him omitted. Selvish Capers I'm less familiar with.

germpod said...

The reason more underclassmen did not declare for this last draft was that they were told that there was not going to be a rookie cap this year, so for the people declaring this year it did not apply to them. There may not be such a guarantee for 2011 though.

Anonymous said...

Rob, with Washington at Notre Dame this week, you should get a great opportunity to compare Locker to Clausen. Looking forward to your analysis.

Rob Staton said...

That's a fair point, germpod.

Annonymous - I know for a fact that USC vs Cal is on and I'll be sitting down with my brother to watch that - keeping a close eye on Taylor Mays and Jahvid Best. The ND vs Wash game isn't scheduled yet but could come under the 'game of the week' tag (as ND did this week at Purdue) but I won't catch it until Wednesday. I actually noticed that they're cutting down on the college football on ESPN UK now that the NHL season begins, which is a shame. We're going from about 5 games a week to a couple live and a 'game of the week' repeat, which will restrict my ability to watch as much as I have done so far in 2009.

Patrick said...

So, after these past 2 games I have realized something. I absolutely, 100% want Seattle to draft a top QB. At this point I don't care who, I'd take everyone from Tebow, Pike, Clausen, or Bradford to even McCoy or Snead (Okay, well maybe not Snead). As for our other pick, there isn't a single position that would make me upset. I'd love Jahvid Best, but getting a great DT or OL would help as well. Honestly though, if it meant getting a clear #1 or #2 QB, I wouldn't be upset with packaging our picks as well. Maybe if Bradford slips we could package Seneca Wallace and one or two other players plus one of our picks to move up and get him? Do you think that could happen? I believe that is similar to what the Jets did to move with the Browns. Ugh... the only thing that would upset me is if the QB goes ignored. I have absolutely lost faith in Seneca Wallace, and honestly think we should even give Teel a shot this year.

rakeback said...

I have been a lifelong Notre Dame fan and its really disappointing to see how far they have dropped in recent years. They need to hire a top-tier coach and get this thing turned around. Weiss has had enough time to put his stamp on the program and aside from 1 good year they have been very mediocre.