Monday, September 30, 2013
Rookie Review: Mike Glennon
By Kevin Weidl
Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie QB Mike Glennon made his first career start on Sunday in a 13-10 loss to the Cardinals. Glennon, a third-round selection in the 2013 draft, was given the opportunity after the Bucs went winless through the first three games, prompting coach Greg Schiano to bench then-starter Josh Freeman. Glennon showed flashes early on, but a few late fourth-quarter mistakes played a key role in the Buccaneers' fourth straight loss to start the season.
At 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds, Glennon was a prototypical drop-back passer coming out of North Carolina State last year. There was a lot to like about his arm strength and he was an easy thrower. When provided with a clean pocket he could be very accurate at all three levels and was one of the better deep throwers of the 2013 quarterback class.
Glennon showed flashes of this accuracy early in the first half against the Cardinals. The Buccaneers' offensive line was able to provide Glennon with adequate protection which allowed him to survey the field and find a rhythm. He was able to take advantage of a Cardinals fumble in the first quarter and lead the Buccaneers on a six-play, 41-yard touchdown drive. Glennon developed a nice rapport with WR Mike Williams on the drive, finding him for both of his completions, including an 8-yard touchdown pass on a slant route.
While Glennon did some positive things throughout the contest, he also showed the same struggles that worried us at NC State, which warranted us giving him a third-round grade. One of Glennon’s bigger flaws was as a decision maker, particularly when dealing with pressure. He had a tendency to rush throws and did not always see underneath coverage. This led to 29 interceptions in his final two seasons at NC State, including 17 as a senior.
Those worries were confirmed after two late-fourth quarter interceptions, with the first coming while the Buccaneers held a 10-3 lead. On a second-and-6 from their own 11-yard line, Glennon came off play-action and tried to force a dig throw to WR Vincent Jackson. The pass was undercut by Arizona CB Patrick Peterson, who intercepted it. This provided a spark for the sputtering Cardinals offense and allowed the Cardinals to tie the game on the next play with a touchdown catch by Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald.
To be fair, this was more of a big-time play from Peterson, one of the better cornerbacks in the league, than a poor decision. Coaching could also be called into question as well for putting the rookie making his first NFL career start in that particular situation late in the game. However, Glennon must show better awareness both in terms of situational football and knowing the opponent's personnel.
One of the other bigger concerns about Glennon entering the draft was with his competitive temperament and his ability to bounce back from a mistake. There were multiple times when Glennon allowed an error to snowball into multiple mistakes during contests. One example came in his season opener as a senior in a 35-21 loss against Tennessee. I was at that game, and Glennon was able to get out to a strong start through the air. However, a first-quarter interception had a spiraling effect, which led to him throwing three more, which played a big part in the defeat.
Buccaneers' QB Mike Glennon suffered the typical ups -- and on this play, downs -- of a rookie QB in his first NFL start.
This tendency showed up during Glennon’s final drive of the game with the Bucs trailing 13-10. Glennon had a chance to rectify his first mistake while conducting the two-minute drill with the ability to tie or win the ballgame. However, he was pressured on the fourth play of the drive and hurried a throw into underneath coverage. The pass sailed over his receiver's head and into the arms of Peterson, whose second interception ended the game.
Glennon has the physical tools to develop into an adequate starter at this level. As he gains experience he must continue to improve his poise especially when dealing with pressure. Glennon will need to show the mental toughness to quickly move on from a poor finish, which can weigh heavily on a young quarterback. Tampa Bay’s coaching staff will also be a critical component in Glennon’s development. It will be vital they don’t put too much on the rookie's plate and they keep him out of tough spots as much as possible while he gains confidence.
Overall, while it wasn’t an ideal start to Glennon’s career, there were plenty of positives from his performance to build on moving forward.
Impressive showings from 2014 quarterbacks
I was in the state of Georgia this past weekend to see a pair of games. On Thursday, I was in Atlanta to see Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech before making my way to Athens to take in LSU and Georgia on Saturday. While there were plenty of prospects to look at -- including Virginia Tech DC Kyle Fuller, who turned in another strong performance and is off to a great start to the year -- the quarterback position was the theme for the weekend. Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Georgia's Aaron Murray are three senior quarterbacks who all showed well in what is shaping up to be a very deep 2014 quarterback crop.
Mettenberger and Murray had one of the better quarterback battles I’ve witnessed. The two exchanged haymakers in a shootout with Georgia edging out LSU 44-41. Below is a quick review on what I saw as well as some buzz I heard in speaking with a few NFL evaluators who were also in attendance.
Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas (6-5⅝, 256)
This was my second time seeing Thomas live this year, and he was able to get off to a strong start against Georgia Tech in the first half. He made quick reads and threw with better balance and accuracy particularly in the short-to-intermediate part of the field, giving his receivers a chance to create after the catch. Thomas looked as comfortable as I have seen him since the 2011 season and showed flashes of the upside that has some scouts enamored with him.
Part of this success was because of better protection up front and getting improved play from a Hokies receiving corps that has been plagued with inconsistencies dating back to last season. This allowed Thomas to gain confidence and settle into the flow of the game. While Virginia Tech managed only 17 points, Thomas turned in his best showing from a performance and statistical standpoint to date this season, ending the night 19-of-25 for 221 yards and a touchdown while adding 58 yards and another touchdown on the ground.
There are several factors that will play into Thomas’ evaluation. The Hokies have not had the skill the program has grown accustom to having, and the run game has been nearly nonexistent the past two seasons. In fact, aside from Thomas’ 58 yards rushing, the other Virginia Tech runners accounted for just 1 rushing yard on Thursday.
Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas can also make plays with his feet.
There are varied opinions on Thomas with scouts I have spoken to in the league. Some are very down on him while some are intrigued by his physical skill set. Two directors I spoke with this past weekend both shared similar views in that prospects like Thomas, with his frame, athleticism and arm strength, don’t come around very often. A scout even questioned how many games the Hokies’ would win if Thomas was taken away from their offense.
Thomas is far from being ready to be an NFL starter and has work to do in terms of decision-making and footwork that can affect his accuracy. However, his upside is undeniable, and Thomas like many others in this quarterback class will be heavily debated as the draft process proceeds.
LSU's Zach Mettenberger (6-5¼, 242)
LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron deserves a lot of credit for the play of Mettenberger, who is operating at the highest level of his collegiate career. During my film study for the game, it was easy to decipher that Cameron was doing a nice job of keeping Mettenberger comfortable and in favorable situations to maximize his skill set.
That said, I was very interested in seeing how Mettenberger handled adversity in his first true road test against a formidable in-conference opponent. The senior quarterback did not disappoint, and despite the loss turned in a big-time performance, throwing for a career-high 372 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
Mettenberger was sharp from start to finish. He was efficient against Georgia’s pressure packages. He was able to exploit the blitz on a handful of occasions, including his first touchdown pass to WR Kadron Boone on a third down in their opening drive after Georgia jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead.
I was most impressed, though, with his poise, particularly in the second half. Mettenberger consistently delivered in high-pressure situations, making multiple throws to convert third downs. None was more impressive than a 39-yard touchdown pass to WR Jarvis Landry in the third quarter. Trailing by seven points and coming off a false start penalty that pushed the Tigers to a third-and-9, Mettenberger was able to hang in the pocket and deliver a strike to Landry in tight coverage down the seam while silencing a frenzied crowd.
Getting a closer look at Mettenberger on the field during warm-ups, I noticed he has excellent size and a sturdy frame. The ball jumped off his hand with a compact over-the-top to three-quarter release. Mettenberger showed throughout the contest he can make all the NFL type throws. He lacks ideal mobility escaping pressure but maneuvered around the pocket well for the most part on Saturday.
The biggest takeaway from Saturday is that Mettenberger is playing with a lot of confidence, and it’s hard to argue there is a prospect that has improved more from his junior to senior season. Scouts will need to investigate leadership and maturity issues from early in his career, but he has all the physical tools and his stock is definitely on the rise after Saturday’s performance.
Georgia's Aaron Murray (6-0⅞, 206)
In speaking with a scout last week, I was told Murray was better than people were giving him credit for. Coming into Saturday's game, I had my doubts. After the game, admittedly I was more impressed with Murray than I thought I would be.
The first thing that stood out was his strong field presence throughout the game. Murray showed a natural feel for situations, made sound decisions and did a nice job of improvising throughout the afternoon. He also was poised and in complete control conducting the two-minute drill before the end of the first half and late in the fourth quarter.
While he possesses average arm strength, Murray threw with anticipation and had excellent ball placement with several throws. Murray was impressive converting fade or nine routes outside the hashes. He has a strong feel for defenders' technique and positioning, and Murray knows when to lead his receiver or place it on his back shoulder.
Overall though, it’s hard to see Murray’s stock going any higher than the third round. Getting a close look at him during warm-ups, it’s questionable whether he’ll measure out at the 6-foot mark. While he will draw comparisons to Drew Brees, I don’t believe he has Brees' arm strength. I saw a few throws tail off when attempting to drive the ball downfield. He will constantly have to rely on throwing with great anticipation and accuracy to exploit tight intermediate to deep windows that can close in a flash at the NFL level.