Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Stafford Infection: Pocket Presence

There are a million things I could talk about when breaking down Matthew Stafford's performance against the Bears on Sunday. I could go on about his broken finger, his gloves, his tendency to force throws (specifically to Calvin Johnson). I could ramble on about how his accuracy is continuing to decline, despite weather conditions. But this week, instead, I've decided to focus on his pocket presence, which is also a big problem facing Stafford's development.

I've mentioned this before, and even displayed an instance in which Stafford had improved this issue against the Broncos. However, against the Bears this problem, once again, appeared and it cost the Lions some great opportunities. Take a look.

The situation: Lions, down 20-3, 3rd and goal from the Bears' six yard line. About one second into the play, Stafford rolls to his right, where his primary target is. Here's the moment before he rolls to the right.
Stafford's inclination is to roll to the right, in order to make a shorter, easier throw, as Pettigrew (currently on the four yard line) is about to break open to the right. However, Stafford does not see that Julius Peppers is getting pushed to that side and about to break free. He also doesn't see that there will be a large gap in the center of the field for him to step into when Dominic Raiola helps out with Peppers. Rob Sims and Jeff Backus are both doing incredible jobs on their blocks and Stafford would've had plenty of time and space to hit Pettigrew or wait for another option. Instead he does this:
Sack, field goal. 20-6.

Scenario #2. The Lions are, once again, in the red zone, this time down 37-6, with the game out of hand. The play is basically a jump ball to Calvin. Here's what the play looks like at the point where Stafford is releasing the ball.
Stafford is backing and backing out of the pocket when there is plenty of room in front of him. I have several problems with this. First, if the wind was as really bad as everyone claimed it was, a jump ball to Calvin is not a good play, especially when double (or triple) covered like he was in this play. Secondly, by continually backing up, Stafford has eliminated any possibility of a backup plan. If he stepped into the pocket, Stafford would have afforded himself more time, and the possibility of a second read. Finally, instead of stepping into the pocket, Stafford throws off his back foot, causing an inaccurate throw. Now, a jump-ball doesn't necessarily require strong footwork, but on a day where you need all the accuracy you can get, throwing with your momentum going back is typically going to result in disaster.
Yep. Pass not even close to Calvin. No shot. Fourth pick of the day.

However, on this day, Stafford was actually okay with his pocket presence. For the most part, he stood in the pocket and only took two sacks on the day. The biggest issue was his accuracy. We can't be certain what the cause of that was. Lions claim it was the wind. Stafford's broken finger certainly seems like it caused some problems. Deny it all you want, but Stafford's accuracy has always been criticized and some of it could just be a talent issue. Whatever the problem is/was, Stafford's pocket presence isn't helping. Though for most of the game Stafford showed poise in the pocket, in two red zone opportunities, Stafford lacked composure and it cost the Lions, at least, seven points.  

No comments:

Post a Comment