A happy Mahomes Day to you all. We’re finally going to see our rookie quarterback thrown into the fire. The excitement is palpable.
There are some that aren’t too thrilled. They would be the fine people at www.draftbreakdown.com, an essential resource for NFL Draft who have changed football content for the better. This week they lose two of their biggest click factories in myself and MNChiefsFan for the next few months because we get to watch NFL tape on Mahomes.
Move over Patrick Mahomes vs. Louisiana Tech (2016), we have 15 snaps of basic preseason plays against vanilla coverages to over analyze! It’s time to retire Mahomes’ Texas Tech tape reviews. Long live this GIF:
Preseason is coming. We'll be retiring gifs from @PatrickMahomes5 days at Texas Tech soon. Long live this ridiculous throw. pic.twitter.com/hPBAPIK7kl— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) August 7, 2017
Before he takes the field, I created a checklist of the things to watch for in his preseason appearances. After each preseason game, I’ll review the checklist and whether there was any take away from his performance. These are things that I’m looking for in the next four weeks.
1. The basics
Hard hitting take here, I know. We’ll get more granular in a minute. Let’s all expect Mahomes to be perfect on the little things. It’s a good start. Turn the right direction for the handoff. Don’t throw a slip screen at the feet of your receiver. Don’t fumble a snap.
Being perfect on the basics can show a level of confidence and understanding in what he’s learned to this point. Let’s see how comfortable he is with them.
2. Managing the play clock
Especially early, play calls in the preseason are those that every player 1-90 are well familiar with. They want to get a good look at all of these guys, and the best way to ensure they all are on the same page are to start with staples of the offense.
There could be late substitutions or a late play call, but it still falls on Mahomes to get his team lined up to snap the football. Mahomes will have the authority to abort pre-snap shifts and motions and/or have everyone run up to line up quickly.
If the clock is running down, he needs to take control of the situation. I wouldn’t be stunned if Andy Reid calls a play in late on purpose to see how he reacts. Look to see how well and consistently he can get everyone simply lined up to run a play.
3. Playcall trends
The coaching staff wants to get a good look at Mahomes, but they also want him to have success. These preseason snaps could be his last against live action before 2018. Everyone wants to make them count. All parties want him to have moments for his confidence and growth.
Look to see if a similar playcall is run multiple times. They very well could be the plays that the team thinks Mahomes is best at. It could be our first taste of what a Mahomes-led offense might look like.
4. Ball placement
Completions are great, and I hope he has plenty. I’m more interested in seeing what kind of ball placement he has on the throws he delivers. If he completes a slant but the ball is a low and behind the receiver, that’s nothing to be excited about. Ball placement is more important than completion percentage.
5. Toeing the line
There is a fine line between madness and brilliance in the NFL. Knowing when to go for the big play and when to try to live another down is a critical process to develop. Mahomes won’t need to score 60 to win like he did at Texas Tech. We’ve seen success and failure from Mahomes trying to make a big play downfield.
Balls thrown up into traffic are the #QBwinz of pass attempts. Just because it works doesn’t mean it was a good decision. I want to see the decision making process behind the big plays he does or does not try to make. How he manages that line is only magnified against pressure.
6. Handling pressure
If this were baseball, Tom Emansky most likely isn’t putting Thursday’s footwork in his VHS series. While I believe he has the potential to be excellent from the pocket, the structure and space he’ll be working in from now on is still relatively new.
Your feet are most critical when you’re dealing with pressure. He’s admittedly working on it, but it’s not easy build the muscle memory to move as efficiently as he’ll need to in a condensed pocket. This might be his biggest area for growth.
Real pocket pressure can’t be replicated in practice. It’s hard to respond to 1,200 pounds of defensive lineman trying to hurt you unless they’re, ya know, actually trying to hurt you. You can run through drills, and they help, but we won’t know much until it’s real.
There still are things we can look for. Is he willing to stand in and deliver a throw? Does his accuracy suffer with a free rushing linebacker heading for him? Do his eyes still look down field under pressure? Is he aware of the space he does have in the pocket?
Those are things that show up in his college tape, and are required of a successful quarterback. Glimpses of the nuances to pocket negotiation and manipulation are gravy. As long as we see gradual improvement over the course of the next four weeks, we’re right on track.
7. The arm
I want to see the growth and development and blah blah blah…
Andy, let me see the arm at least once. Summon your inner Bruce Arians and call an aggressive play action shot. Give the people what they want.
There’s a lengthy list of other things I could add, but I think this is a good baseline. If we can get positive glimpses of these things, I’d say we got a lot accomplished. I wish you all a very Happy Mahomes Day. May your rookie quarterback stay healthy and bring hope for the future.