This will continue our series on Charting Jake Locker. Intro is here. Distance and direction is here.
For this part of the series, we'll look at Locker's success in throwing to different routes and also get back into distances thrown. All in all Locker threw to 15 route varieties. Note here that hitch, curl, and stick routes are all lumped together as hitch routes. Not much elaboration need here, let's look at the data.
|Route||Comp/Att||Yardage||Avg. Yards Thrown||Y/A|
It's hard to read too much into these numbers. The couple that stick out are the hitch and slant patterns. What takeaways can we make from those? To me, there's a couple of things.
1. These are shorter pass patterns. While the hitch is timing oriented, it's such a short distance that it's really a sight read. That is, the QB has the luxury of sight identifying the receiver is open before he cuts the ball loose. That's in contrast to a route like a deep comeback, where the QB sometimes throws the ball before the receiver turns back to the ball.
2. The first point continues to this one: By being able to sight identify, Locker's able to trust the throw. When he's committed, it appears that his accuracy in the short game is at elite levels.
Beyond that, there weren't too many things I took from this data. It did strike me that his accuracy on short throws looked better than the sub 55% throws in the previous post, which forced me to dig a little deeper.
In the previous post, throws were broken down into "short" and "long". The threshold that separated that was 15 yards thrown. It would appear based on this analysis, that the absence of a "medium" range, skewed the data. Based on this inconsistency, I went back and looked at the data. Here's what I found:
Short (under 8 yards thrown) - 25/41 - 298 yards - 7.26 y/a - 60.9% Complete
Medium (8-14.99 yards thrown) - 4/12 - 60 yards - 5.00 y/a - 33.3% Complete
Long - (15 and up yards thrown) - 5/12 - 184 yards - 15.33 y/a - 41.66 % Complete
Much better. And, it paints a different picture of Locker's accuracy too. In the short game, Locker's accuracy is fine. It's not great, but it certainly looks better than the 54% in the previous post. And, really the long ball is OK, too considering the average distance of those balls was 25.5 yards. It's the intermediate throws that are a problem. The average distance thrown is 11.25 yards. (Average distance for short throws was 3.78 yards, for those that are curious.) So, despite throwing the ball 10+ yards less than the "deep" throws, Locker actually completed less of his passes.
Sample size is small, so we can't really draw meaningful conclusions. After all in the medium and long throws, one completion would skew completion percentage almost a full 10 points. That said, part of me thinks this is part of the rookie learning curve. On these shorter "sight verified" throws, he can trust his athleticism and deliver the ball with commitment. In an odd way, the same thing is true of the deep ball. The play develops slowly, and he can sight verify before throwing deep. Lucky for us, he excels at throwing deep...that is, there doesn't appear to be much to fix mechanically in that part of his game. It comes naturally for him.
The intermediate game is somewhat different from these two, however, in the sense that the intermediate throws are typically going to be the ones into coverage and areas where there's a higher potential for defenders. So, in a way, there's less commitment from a young QB on an intermediate pattern than say a deep seam, or go, because there's a higher chance for a misread in coverage that could result in a turnover. I haven't verified this through film study, so take that for what it's worth.
Bottom line, Locker's accuracy issues are probably a little overstated. Watching film, it's pretty clear that he has some things to work on. When his feet are set, however, he's accurate at all distances. Trust on intermediate throws will come with time. And, short accuracy will only get better as he gels with receivers. The film and the data tell the same story, if Locker can get consistent mechanically and become a student of the game, he's got all the tools to be a top level quarterback in the NFL.