Vikings coach Leslie Frazier says a review of film with Donovan McNabb produced some points of emphasis to improve in his game, but McNabb said those issues aren't mechanical.
With McNabb, the conversation on improving his accuracy centered on him having time to set up, throw the ball and being able to follow through, all issues stemming with protection.
"Sometimes you anticipate throws, or if you have pressure in your face, you try to anticipate. Especially versus man coverage, you want to have the ball out before the [defensive back] even has a chance to turn his head around and give your guy an opportunity," McNabb said. "Some throws you just miss. For me, just watching myself each and every week, if you're over-striding on a throw or you put it outside when the receiver is taking a step inside, whatever it may be, those things definitely can be corrected and I look forward to it being corrected."
On Sunday, McNabb missed on several throws. It started on the first play of the second series when he threw behind a wide open Jim Kleinssaser and they ended with a pass thrown high and out of bounds with Bernard Berrian having a step on the defensive back in the end zone on third-and-5 of the Vikings' last realistic chance to score a go-ahead touchdown with just over a minute to play in regulation. In between, there were throws that were high, low and behind other receivers, some of which could have been caused by a wrist injury to his throwing arm he sustained in the third quarter but played through.
"When you're critical of yourself and your play, you just look at your reads, you look at how fast you get the ball out and I think it's footwork and things of that nature. That's not just my position, that's from everyone," McNabb said. "As a quarterback, when you're watching yourself you're going through everything. It's ball placement, is it the right read, things of that nature. That's kind of how I evaluate myself."
Frazier and McNabb both emphasized that the starting quarterback isn't the only player being evaluated for mechanical or technique issues, but Frazier pointed out a few things that the film revealed when it came to McNabb's accuracy issues.
"You just want to make sure we're launching the football from the right point, we're taking the proper drops, that our feet are where they need to be," Frazier said. "Those are some of the points of emphasis."
McNabb also mentioned taking the right number of steps in his drop, and some of the adjustment may come because of the pressure he's feeling from the pass rush. While he is far from the quarterback sacked most often this year – that distinction belongs to two quarterbacks the Vikings are very familiar with, Jay Cutler and Tarvaris Jackson, with 14 sacks each – McNabb has seen his pocket collapse often.
If he is forced to scramble, that affects the timing. Or if he doesn't have a clear sight line to his receivers or doesn't have enough room to follow through, those are issues that affect a quarterback.
"It does. You go into anticipating and trying to get the ball out before obviously [the pass rusher] gets closer or you try to slide up into the pocket – that throws off a lot of different things. That's pretty much how they've been having their success, bringing the front four or maybe bringing another guy and just clogging up the middle," McNabb said. "Quarterbacks now have to try to find a lane to run. I was trying to anticipate some throws. Some throws I couldn't follow through with. To me, if it's taking another step back to get some room to follow through, whatever it may be, just anticipating and giving our guys opportunities."
Frazier acknowledged that a quarterback having to rush a throw "could affect your accuracy for sure." McNabb ranks 24th in the league for completion percentage at 58, and 26th in passer rating at 78.1.
While Frazier said the coaching staff would "definitely work on some things" with McNabb's mechanics, there is the issue of how much a quarterback's throwing motion can be effectively changed in his 13th season.
"It's not a whole lot different than say a Cy Young winner in baseball," Frazier said. "You're just trying to improve on what you have. You don't ever want to stay the same. I just know from experience, if you can continue to work on technique, whether you're a 10-year vet, 11-year vet … you want to always watch tape and try to improve on technique and fundamentals. If you ever get to the point where you think, ‘OK, I'm perfect,' that's exactly when you see things begin to get a little out of whack."
Almost as if they were prepared for the line of questioning, McNabb echoed Frazier's sentiments.
"Once you feel satisfied and think you know everything or you can do everything, you're not saving any room for improvement," he said. "I want to be the best at what I do, no matter what age you are, but I've always been trying to keep a critical eye on it."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Frazier, McNabb working on changes
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