Towards the end of last season, I touched on the potential of Mike Glennon. Now that a few weeks have passed since the Super Bowl brought the season to a close, I was able to go back and give Glennon a closer look. What I found was simply startling.
Glennon was a third round pick who didn't enter the season as a starter. He was an afterthought in Tampa Bay even after taking over for Josh Freeman because of the controversy surrounding head coach Greg Schiano. In 13 starts, Glennon completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 2,608 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
For a rookie, his touchdown to turnover ratio is impressive. For a rookie who was playing with a significantly depleted supporting cast in an offense that asked him to throw the ball down the field, it is phenomenal. Key players such as running back Doug Martin, left guard Carl Nicks and wide receiver Mike Williams were all injured for most of the season. Bobby Rainey proved to be a viable replacement for Martin and Vincent Jackson was fully healthy at wide receiver, but Glennon's other receivers couldn't consistently get open or catch the ball and the offensive line in front of him wasn't reliable.
Our perception of rookie quarterbacks has been altered by Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. Glennon isn't on their level, but he showed enough potential to suggest he could be an effective starter for the Buccaneers for a very long time.
The first aspect of Glennon's season that stands out is his low number of interceptions. Of his nine interceptions, two came when he started for the first time ever and attempted 43 passes against one of the best defenses in the NFL, that of the Arizona Cardinals. During the rest of the season, Glennon consistently showed off an incredible understanding of when he could take shots down the field, when he needed to hold onto the ball to give his receivers time to come open and when he needed to throw the ball away early.
The primary reason for Glennon's interceptions was him forcing the ball into coverage or losing mechanical discipline while under pressure. Only one of his interceptions was really a result of poor ball placement and that came during his debut against the Cardinals. One was a bad coverage read and one was simply a great play on the ball by Stephon Gilmore.
From a ball security perspective, Glennon needs to show more bravery in the pocket.
It's not something that is always evident throughout his play, but Glennon does sometimes fade away during his throws when the pocket begins to close in on him. This leads to more floated, inaccurate passes that are easily picked off or defended by cornerbacks. More prominent than this was his tendency to escape the pocket into the flat rather than step up in it when pressure came from the edges.
Glennon is athletic enough to consistently get outside, but he would be better served to stay in the pocket where he can survey the whole field. For a rookie, those are his two greatest flaws. Two flaws that can be corrected moving forward.
Although he is very tall and has a slender frame, Glennon is a good athlete. Not only can he escape the pocket and scramble for first downs when space is afforded to him, he shows very impressive ability to throw the ball on the move. Glennon's footwork and upper body mechanics outside of the pocket are very impressive.
This is something I touched on towards the end of the season:
Glennon's athleticism allows him to escape into the flat, but it's the consistency in his mechanics, vision and footwork that allows him to make difficult throws down the field while on the move. On that play against the San Francisco 49ers, Glennon's most impressive move came before he threw the ball. Vincent Jackson was wide open, even though the throw itself wasn't easy Glennon didn't need to fit the ball through a window or lead his receiver to space.
There are many examples of Glennon showing off excellent ball placement from the pocket and on the move.
On this play against the Detroit Lions, the Buccaneers come out in shotgun with two receivers to the left, one to the right with a tight end and a running back in the backfield with Glennon. The Lions defensive line is spread wide and the secondary isn't lining up aggressively on the outside.
Glennon immediately looks to his left at the snap. Both receivers were releasing from an initial tight alignment, while the running back who initially lined up in the backfield is escaping into the flat. Only the back is available at this point and there is a linebacker following him underneath. Glennon sticks with his receivers for long enough to see if they will come open.
Because he has time in the pocket, Glennon sticks with his three receivers to the left side of the field to see if any come open. His tight end and the receiver who initially lined up to the right are running across the field, but both of them are also well covered. The left side of the pocket begins to break down, so Glennon turns and runs to his right. He could have stepped up in the pocket instead, but running to his right allows him to see Tiquan Underwood breaking to the sideline deep down the field.
Underwood creates some separation from the defensive back, but the defender keeps working so he is in position to get to the receiver if the pass doesn't lead him to the sideline. Glennon throws a perfect pass that leads Underwood to space and arrives at the perfect height for him to continue in stride. Much like a Ben Roethlisberger or Robert Griffin III, throwing on the run appears to come naturally to Glennon. He can routinely make this kind of play.
Understanding ball placement and having the ability to execute passes with perfect ball placement are two very valuable skills to have in the NFL. Ball placement can be the difference between a receiver being covered and a receiver being open. Having the ability to put the ball in a spot where only your receiver can catch it allows bigger receivers such as Vincent Jackson to flourish.
It would be easy to suggest that Glennon simply overthrew the above pass and he got lucky. However, he put the ball in the perfect spot for his receiver too often to not give him the benefit of the doubt. Some quarterbacks simply understand the importance of precision and throwing to receivers rather than at receivers.
Glennon's ball placement is impressive to every area of the field.
On this play against the Bills, the defense shows a blitz from the left side of the offense before the snap. Linebacker Kiko Alonso is also threatening to blitz from the middle of the defensive line. Glennon motioned his slot receiver behind the line of scrimmage before sending him back to his original position. How the defense reacted suggested that it was man coverage.
With his slot receiver and his tight end so tight together, and because he understood the route combination against the Bills' off coverage, Glennon immediately looks to his right for a quick throw to negate the blitz. However, he doesn't rush his pass and is able to see Alonso dropping into space. Alonso could easily have had an interception if Glennon threw this pass immediately.
Instead of panicking and rushing the throw like so many rookies in his position would, Glennon shows outstanding poise and holds the football long enough to adjust to Alonso who is reading his eyes. With outstanding ball placement and control of his velocity, Glennon slides the ball past Alonso to his receiver who is put in the perfect spot to get a first down.
Glennon doesn't have an exceptionally strong arm, but his ability to anticipate throws and put the ball in the perfect spot means his arm is more effective than it physically should be. He doesn't throw the ball on a rope, but his control of the football is very impressive and that allows him to control the trajectory of it. Much like Aaron Rodgers, Glennon's passes come with an arc that generally makes his pass more catchable.
Of course, when you don't have NFL caliber targets, throwing catchable passes doesn't guarantee anything.
Glennon is very accurate, is advanced mentally for a rookie(he reads through progressions and makes good decisions already) and has the athleticism to make every throw and throw on the move. His throwing motion has a slight hitch in it, but nothing of major consequence. There are question marks over his aggressiveness and willingness to push the ball down the field.
I have no concerns about his aggressiveness.
Glennon plays smart football. He doesn't force the ball into coverage and too often he would have had to force the ball into coverage because his receivers weren't getting open. He was aggressive when throwing to Jackson. That suggests that he is smart because he understands his matchup advantage and he understands when to use it.
When Josh Freeman played with Vincent Jackson, he repeatedly threw the ball up for him to go and get it. However, Freeman forced more passes than Glennon. When Glennon threw the ball to Jackson, he typically did it because the situation called for him to do it. In the above examples, Jackson has either gained good position or the defender has his back to the ball when Glennon begins his throwing motion.
The rookie quarterback wasn't this aggressive throwing to Tim Wright, Tiquan Underwood and the other receivers who played for Tampa Bay last season. If he had bee, his interception total would likely have doubled.
It's easy to bet against Mike Glennon and suggest that the Buccaneers need to think about replacing him. However, that bet is largely based on a perception that has little to do with his performance. Yes, he was a third round pick. Yes, he was the choice of a head coach who proved to be inept at his job. Yes, he doesn't look like your typical NFL quarterback. But on the field, Glennon played better than the majority of rookies who have entered the league as starters over the last 10 years.
More from Cian Fahey:
Examining the Potential Situations for 2014 Rookie Quarterbacks - April 11
Pushing the Pocket - NFC Running Back Situations - January 13
Pushing the Pocket - AFC Running Back Situations - January 6
Pushing the Pocket - LeGarrette Blount and Jonathan Grimes - December 30
Pushing the Pocket - The Potential of Geno Smith - December 22
Pushing the Pocket - Mike Glennon - December 16
Pushing the Pocket - Shane Vereen, Bobby Rainey, Kendall Wright and Josh Gordon - December 9
Pushing the Pocket - Nick Foles, Cordarrelle Patterson and Andre Holmes - December 1
Pushing the Pocket - Eddie Lacy, LeVeon Bell and Michael Floyd - November 24
Pushing the Pocket - The Kansas City Chiefs Pass Rush and Percy Harvin - November 18