It’s not a cliché when people say that quarterback is the most difficult position in sports.
Quarterbacks spend hours studying the fronts, coverage and personnel of a team so that they are prepared for every possible scenario they possibly can for their next opponent.
Then, 30-plus times a game, after gathering as much information as they can to help them, they have to be able to call the play, line the offense up correctly (sometimes with shifts and motions), identify the look of the defense, set the protection, potentially change the play, snap the ball in time, identify the blitz and know if it holds up to the protection, identify the coverage, go through the progression based on said coverage, make the right drop for the route they want to throw and deliver the ball on time and with accuracy, all in about 45 seconds. That’s not including all the run plays that require pieces of that as well.
What has been put on the plate of young Patrick Mahomes requires immense amounts of work to achieve the things he and all of Kansas City want for him and their franchise. Our goal here is to help you find tangible things to take away about the player, performances and development of the 22-year-old signal caller.
As we get closer and closer to the regular season, the AP Nerd Squad (Craig Stout, Matt Lane and myself) are going to be revealing pieces of our plans for regular season content. We have a lot of big ideas for what film analysis this season will look like at Arrowhead Pride. This is one of them.
I’ll be writing three pieces of Mahomes film analysis every week during the regular season. We want to have three separate, more digestible conversations about what we’ll see every week. We’re putting the spotlight on moments each week that show the positives, negatives, talent and development of Mahomes.
Let’s identify a simple positive and negative takeaway from the game.
- Part Two: As we get a larger sample size in his performance, we’ll reveal this piece
- Part Three: Something Mahomes has improved upon and something that needs improving
We’re about to watch Mahomes grow up. Let’s do it with him.
We hope you’ll enjoy how we approach film analysis for the most important position in sports. Let’s look at the next piece to the puzzle:
Footwork is a buzzword for the quarterback position, but it really is critical. There are a ton of nuances to it that we’ll identify over the next few months as this piece goes along. One thing is already certain from the preseason tape:
Mahomes has worked hard to improve his footwork and it’s paying off.
#SomethingImproved Mahomes put the work in on his feet. Even though it's an easy throw, compared to last year he's arriving at a good base more efficiently on these bubbles. pic.twitter.com/p0C52GY3tV— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) August 14, 2018
Mahomes was not asked to develop great footwork playing in the Air Raid offense at Texas Tech. His time there created some bad habits that needed to be fixed for him to have the success he wants to in the NFL. It’s still a work in progress, but the clips above show a new level of comfort and efficiency in his footwork.
On the throw from January, Mahomes takes more or less two shuffle steps on the bubble RPO. Last week, Mahomes executes the same play with less steps and keeps a solid base throughout the process to deliver the throw with a step back and plant of his left foot. He maintains a more athletic stance throughout and can easily transition from reading the play to delivering the ball.
Being balanced and able to keep your feet underneath you for more time will serve him well as he progresses. Even though the arm talent is rare, being able to cut down on time to deliver is going to benefit him. The foundation he’s continuing to build with his feet will become more critical as he continues his development. He’s on the right track.
Something he needs to work on
This clip started off so promising:
#SomethingThatNeedsImproving Mahomes is still fighting some old habits within the pocket. He needs to learn to use the space he has better. He pushed up farther than he needed to. pic.twitter.com/RjlmUVrt7d— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) August 14, 2018
We’re almost continuing the “Something improved” section here.
The comfort Mahomes is showing with his play-action footwork is obvious to me. He’s extending the ball with more confidence and getting his eyes out of the fake and in the right places so much better than last year. He’s able to process quicker as a result.
This is also a more convincing play action. Mahomes feels the pressure from his front side and moves up to avoid it. He rips through his step up with the ball to protect it from the rusher flying past him, another sign of comfort and a good habit to develop. That’s where the improvements and old habits kicked in.
Here’s a few clips from his college days:
Mahomes steps up and finds an easy completion with YAC. Doesn't bail on the play call entirely. Executes original route construction. pic.twitter.com/sJCJnGvFcC— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) July 26, 2017
Pocket negotiation might look different with NFL protections, but his mind is in the right place. Eyes up, executes the original play call. pic.twitter.com/XhZQW7Tvo5— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) July 26, 2017
Texas Tech utilized wide splits and odd pass sets in their offense. It created pocket structure for Mahomes to work in that he won’t see in the NFL—a habit created by his time in Lubbock is that he would run to space in the pocket instead of slide, mostly because he could. It’s an urge he seems to still be fighting at times at the next level.
Mahomes has less space to work with than he ever has. His adjustments need to be as minimal and subtle as possible. The protection wasn’t good on this play, but Mahomes made it worse by moving too far up in the pocket.
He took a step he didn’t need to and ran into trouble. The first half of the play showed promise, but ending it with that step ruined it. Pocket negotiation is tied to feet, and working good habits with them. He’s close, but he’s still not there yet. If he can become more efficient with the space he’s given, it will undoubtedly help him get closer to his very high ceiling.
Every week I’m going to add a quick note about something I’ve picked up about the quarterback position through my time learning the game.
Learning a playbook is not easy. It takes time and a good learning process that fits what works best for you. I had to write plays out over and over again to memorize them. Some people had more fun ways of doing it. Someone I played with used Madden’s Create-a-Playbook function to learn.
He built our entire playbook through the game and would use it to go through progressions based on coverage.