When draft day rolled around, Clausen's surprising slide down the charts had me saying, "oh no, we're going to take a QB that we don't have an immediate need for and bypass a receiver that we need badly". After the 48th pick was made, I was disheartened. I was however, "re-heartened" when they team was able to nab Brandon LaFell, and even more "heartened" when they also got Armanti Edwards.
"Depending on how good Moore really is," I thought, "Clausen should be able to sit for at least one season, maybe even two or three. Whenever his time does come, he'll be well-prepared and ready to go.'
Substitute the word "game" for the word "season" and that first statement becomes a lot more accurate
So now, here we are ready to watch Clausen take the reins way earlier than the coaching staff would have wanted, but about two games later than Clausen himself would have preferred. So with all that in mind, what can we expect to see this Sunday? What will be the good, the bad, and the ugly?
We'll start with the good...
ACCURACY: Clausen's pretty good with ball placement, putting his throws where they're less likely to be picked or where the only guy who has a shot at them is the receiver. Granted, he's been off once or twice in a few throws to date, but I think that has to do with adjusting to the speed of pro defenders (something every rookie has to do). Yeah, he may wing a highball or two, but for the most part his passes tend to go where they're supposed to go. This is important not only in avoiding interceptions, but also when it comes to throwing a ball that a receiver can run with rather than having to adjust and wait to be tackled.
CONFIDENCE: Some guys think they're in charge. Others know they are. Clausen is the latter. He may be younger than a lot of the guys he'll be commanding on offense, but he won't go into the game wide-eyed and awestruck. This is where he expected to be, and when you see him break the huddle and walk to the line, you'll know it. Likewise, when he looks at the opposing defense, he'll be seeing positions, not star players. And there's a toughness about him that should keep him from being afraid, even when one of those big fellas lays a good smack on him. A guy named Jake had a similar mojo in years past, and it got him a lot further than his talent alone would have taken him. Likewise, there's a fellow by the name of Steve Smith who often plays best when he plays angry. This may be the first season where you see the guy throwing the ball look just as ticked off as the guy catching it.
INTELLIGENCE: Many quarterbacks and coaches will tell you that the moments before the snap are as critical to the success of a play as the moments after. Recognizing what alignments mean, knowing how to read the body language of opposing linebackers, catching on when someone's trying to fool you, and being able to see where that oh-so-valuable mismatch is happening... These skills are gold to quarterbacks, and Clausen has them. He'll need them on Sunday too, because Mike Zimmer is one of the smarter DCs in the league. You can bet Zimmer will show Clausen a thing or two he hasn't seen before. Rest assured that he'll be fooled once or twice, but Clausen is smart enough that he shouldn't be saying "shame on me" all too often.
CRAFTINESS: Defensive coordinators aren't the only ones who can play mind games. Sometimes what a quarterback does with his eyes, his head or even his voice can be just as crucial to a play's success as what he does with his arms and his feet. A good hard count can be used to gain needed yards at a critical time. Likewise, looking off a safety can be the difference between a touchdown and an interception. Clausen's generally been good at that, and considering that at the pro level the success of a play can depend on a fraction of a second's hesitation, that's a nice talent to have.
GOOD FOOT SKILLS: Clausen has what some folks call 'pocket mobility". You'll never confuse him with Steve Young or Michael Vick as a runner (even Matt Moore might be better at it) but he knows how to move around in the pocket, when to step up in it, and when to step out of it. Likewise, he knows how to plant and step into his throws. It's no easy thing to do that with a 300 pound defensive lineman is barreling toward you like a charging rhino, but Clausen's done that plenty. Playing behind a Notre Dame offensive line for whom 'suspect" might have been a compliment was far from ideal, but it might have been good prep for what he'll face in Carolina (at least early on).
WILLINGNESS TO THROW IT AWAY: Patience is a virtue, and can be especially virtuous in the NFL. "take what the defense gives you" is a fairly common sentence for a young QB to hear from his coach, and it's sound advice. Between Clausen and Moore, Clausen is much more willing to toss a ball out of bounds when nothing presents itself and move on to the next play. Add in that Clausen's throwaways tend to be high arcs that go well out of bounds without anybody less than fifteen feet tall having a good shot at picking them off. That’s good, because some QBs don't put as much on their throwaways as they should, and they wind up turning into picks (Delhomme was bad about that). No such worry with Clausen.
(to be continued)
Edited by Mr Scot, 22 September 2010 - 03:55 AM.