Rookie Scouting Portfolio contributor David Igono examines LSU QB Danny Etling’s anticipation and targets where the quarterback’s eyes are bigger than his arm.
One of my favorite quarterback traits to study is anticipation. Good anticipation is often widely lauded as “touch” while bad anticipation leads to three and outs or even turnovers.
Said another way, good anticipation is knowing what exactly to get your mom on Mother’s Day while surprising her with a variation of the same thing you’ve gotten her the last five years. Bad anticipation is sitting in line outside of your local Best Buy on Black Friday waiting for the doors to open to get your hands on a 17 inch TV. Sometimes it’s better to just pay full price instead of dealing with the headaches that come with beating the crowd.
A quarterback that can accurately anticipate targets is the bane of any defense – it can be the equivalent of attempting to hold water in your hands. Some of the water is going to slip through your fingers, no matter how tight you keep your fingers.
Good anticipation for a quarterback normally boils down to understanding coverage, trusting your receiver and accurate ball placement. Bad anticipation is characterized by poor ball placement. In an effort to avoid pressure or to beat coverage a quarterback can be punished for errant targets.
Danny Etling from LSU is a tough customer who is capable of willing his team forward. He does have limitations as a passer. On the surface, Etling demonstrates seemingly adequate arm strength as a passer. A closer look reveals otherwise.
This is an impressive downfield pitch and catch that highlights Etling’s trust in his receivers to win routes downfield. It’s somewhat easy for quarterbacks to show off their arm strength by “airing one out” and letting the receiver run under it.
We can get a true gauge of Etling’s arm strength on intermediate throws that require touch and placement in the proper window. Although his target has proper leverage at the top of his route Etling oddly puts the attempt “at” his receiver instead of leading his man upfield in the following clip.
This could simply be down to miscommunication. However, a good portion of Etling’s intermediate and downfield attempts leave you feeling that he doesn’t have the arm strength to consistently hit those targets.
All things being equal, ball placement is probably the most integral aspect of anticipation. It’s a timing nuance that quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers have mastered. Etling seemingly tries to fast forward his throws into windows that either force his receivers into peril or at best ill-advised.
The tight end on this attempt shouldn’t have to dive to attempt to make this catch. Etling has enough time and space to deliver an accurate enough pass. He properly diagnoses where he needs to go with the ball but he mistimes the actual throw. He either needs to throw the ball earlier to that spot or he needs to add velocity and throw it at his receiver.
Etling is sharp and has a firm grasp of the offense he’s running. I question whether his arm can complete the passes he visualizes. He has a worrying knack of throwing passes that are either in harm’s way or put his target under duress to make the completion. Etling’s ceiling ultimately will be decided by how consistently he can drive the ball into his intermediate targets. Whether that means shoring up his stride/mechanics or focusing more on throwing easier passes for his receivers, Etling has his work cut out for him.
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