Thursday, November 5, 2009

Giants: Eli mechanics etc.

For several years, people have been talking about Eli's mechanics and his inconsistent passing. When Eli first came into the league, his mechanics were in fact not good. Gilbride was his QB coach and he did not fix things. The current QB coach, Palmer has done a good job addressing the problem and Eli is now a very accurate thrower. In the past, people talked about him throwing off his back foot, but in fact, this was not the flaw in his throwing motion. Every QB throws off his back foot from time to time, you can't help it when you have a defender in your face. The problem with Eli's motion was with his shoulder positioning. He did several things incorrectly: (1) he turned his front shoulder to the left as he threw, twisting away from the target instead of striding right through his throw. (2) he would drop his front shoulder at the beginning of the throw, instead of raising it up and gradually dropping it only after he released the ball and his right shoulder came forward. Both of these flaws took the forward momentum of his body out of his throw and put all the stress for the power and pace of the throw onto his right shoulder. When the shoulder, the elbow and the wrist are straining to put pace on the ball, they can not guide the ball effectively and accuracy suffers. Furthermore, if the shoulder is dropping too early, the nose of the ball drops down and the ball comes up short. If you try to compensate by putting more arc on the ball, it sails on you. It seems to me that Eli has fallen into some of these bad habits on occasion in the last 3 games and it also is possible that it is related to his bad foot. If the QB can't put all his weight on that back plant foot and get his body moving forward, the momentum of his body can not propel the throw forward. It's not only the INT's that he's thrown in the last 3 games - some of the blame for those INTs can be shared with the WRs. There was a tipped ball that resulted in an INT; there was a good deep ball that Hixon did not make a play on in the Cardinals game and there was a pass that Beckum didn't make a good enough play on in the Eagles game. But, there are several throws that should have been easy TDs that Eli missed on. There was a pass to Steve Smith in the Saints game that Eli overthrew by about 1 yard where Smith was wide open for what should have been a 35 yard TD. There was another throw against the Eagles where Hakeem Nicks was running down the seam on a double move. Perhaps you remember, it was the 1st half and the S Mikkel cut over from his spot in the zone, got his hands on the ball and nearly made an INT. This throw was badly underthrown. Nicks was behind the CB and the S was even with him, also biting on the first move by Nicks. The ball could have been thrown 5-7 yards deeper, giving Nicks a chance to run under it for an easy TD.

The reason I am highlighting these two particular passes is that they have a common element. They were deep balls that did not have enough air under them; they were thrown too flat. The throw to Smith was long and to Nicks was short, but both were thrown with not enough arc for deep balls. In both cases, if the ball had been thrown a little higher, the WRs would have been able to run under them and catch a TD. As I described above, this could come from not getting his weight down on his plant foot, bending his knees and exploding into the throw. His weight is only half back, the throwing shoulder doesn't come down enough, the nose of the ball stays just a little down and you don't get enough elevation on the throw. We'll see.

The other factor could be the OL, which has been just a little off this year. They're not terrible, but they're definitely not affording Eli the time he had to throw in the past. They are better run blockers than they are pass blockers, but this year, it seems like both have declined just a little. It could be that the OL is slowing down just a bit or it could be that the entire league has caught up to the Giants play calls and their protection schemes. Either way, Eli has been under more pressure this year than in the past. If the Giants miss too many of these deep pass opportunities, the league will not respect the deep ball, will blitz more and be willing to gamble on keeping single coverage on the outside relying on the fact that the long balls will not hurt them. Eli has to hit on the long pass plays to make this work.

The offense is not as badly broken as the coaching is on the defensive side of the ball, where there are hosts of blown assignments, players are not lining up properly and they don't get the play call early enough to know what their assignments are on a particular play. This is stuff that can be rectified. I just don't have confidence in the DC to do it.