Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Gruden gives thoughts on QBs

Posted by: under Off the field, Quarterbacks, Vikings, NFL draft, Vikings draft Updated: April 20, 2011 - 1:15 PM

We've blogged recently different videos from Jon Gruden's QB Camp series on ESPN. Gruden once again sat down with the top quarterbacks in the draft and grilled them on how they handled situations on and off the field.

Gruden held a conference call with reporters Tuesday to preview his QB Camp special on ESPN on Thursday at 6 p.m. central. Here are some of Gruden's answers about the quarterbacks.

Q. The Vikings obviously need a QB. They've been tied to (Donovan) McNabb of late, potentially going out and getting him once the lockout is done. Do you think a team that's gone through as many quarterbacks as the Vikings have in recent years would be best to go out and get a guy like McNabb? Or do you think they should target one of the guys that you've sat down with in the draft and try to get a long term solution for the problem?

GRUDEN: I think that depends on how much they like the quarterbacks that are available this year. This is a very difficult year for a young quarterback to come in and make an immediate contribution if this lockout persists.

The young quarterback needs as many snaps in the off season program, training camp as he can get. He needs as much private one on one time with his quarterback coach and coordinator as possible. So the longer this lockout looms, the harder it will be for these young guys to come in and make an immediate contribution.

But I think it depends on how much Minnesota values these young quarterbacks and who is available when they make the pick. There is no sense drafting a guy in the first round if you're not totally confident that that young guy can be your future.

Q. Was there one guy you sat down going into the QB camp that you came away really impressed by or you may not have thought as much of until you sat down with him and broke down the film with him?

GRUDEN: You know these five guys that we had in, three of them are juniors: (Cam) Newton, (Blaine) Gabbert and (Ryan) Mallett. They're all underclassmen.

Cam Newton with 14 career starts, the thing that impressed me, not only his physical attributes and his size, but his charisma. I think his eagerness to learn and prove that he can adapt to a pro style on offense. He showed very good retention to me in the meetings and the material that we covered.

I just like the look in his eyes, the eagerness and feeling that he has a lot to prove to everybody including himself. I think Newton impressed me the most in that regard.

Q. Following up on that, it seems like no matter how much time, money and expertise is poured into the evaluation of these quarterbacks, it's still an inexact science. What are the one, two or three things that you never know about playing quarterback in the NFL until you're playing quarterback in the NFL?

GRUDEN: Well, the big thing is you never know how these guys are going to respond to getting hit. The blur like images that they see. The tight windows that they have to throw into with tremendous anticipation and location, it's no different than being a Major League Baseball pitcher. If you're off six inches, someone's hitting it out of the park.

But these quarterbacks have to have tremendous poise, tremendous toughness. They have to have a great knowledge of how defenses work. How pass protections work, how patterns adjust against bump and run coverage, off coverage, rotation coverages, where the hot receiver is. It's a process that's never ending.

That's why you've got to try to develop an urgency and a respect in terms of preparation with every young quarterback. They've got to walk in day one and feel that urgency to improve, whether it be fundamentally or from a knowledge standpoint. They've got to respect the defenses. They pay their coaches and players a lot of money too. They're paid to stop and demoralize quarterbacks, especially the young ones.

Q. What were your impressions of Mallett? Do you think he gets it in terms of what's going to be required of him in the NFL?

GRUDEN: I think he does get it. He comes from a unique background. His mom and dad were teachers and coaches. Football is very important to him. The thing I really liked about Ryan Mallett was his background playing under Bobby Petrino at Arkansas. And I know Coach Petrino well enough to know that he coaches quarterbacks hard, very demanding. If you watch Mallett play, he's in a lot of pro style situations, underneath the center, in the shotgun, audibling, check with me's. They do a lot of good things on offense at Arkansas. Ryan Mallett can draw protections, blocking schemes, and he does have a beautiful throwing motion that I know a lot of guys in the league are excited about. He can really hum it.

So he has that ability, I think, to throw the football from a lot of different areas. In the pocket he can get it out of his hand with a lot of velocity in a hurry. And I think he's got a very good football aptitude being in Coach Petrino's attack for the last couple of years.

Q. Can I get your take on Jake Locker? You seem to have a pretty good connection with him during that QB Camp episode. Wanted your take on how close do you think he is to the NFL level, and the accuracy concerns and other concerns you think he still needs to work on?

GRUDEN: Well, Jake Locker said what he was going to do, and he did what he said he was going to do. He said he was coming back for his senior year. He said he wanted to take Washington to a bowl game, and I admire that about him.
He could have walked away from the Husky program and potentially been the number one pick a year ago according to a lot of analysts. But he wanted to do what he said he was going to do, and that is a trait that I really admire.

This is one tough guy. I mean, Jake Locker has played for two head coaches. He had to endure an 0-12 season. This guy took a lot of punishment. The whole offense was built around No. 10. From a running standpoint, from a passing standpoint, this guy was involved significantly on every snap for the Huskies. He does have to improve his accuracy. But I think when you're hit a lot and asked to do as much as Locker's been asked to do, sometimes your fundamentals wane a little bit. They disappear in key situations. He does have a good, strong arm. He's an outstanding athlete. He's got very good elusiveness and straight line speed with some power, and I think he loves football. I think there is a real passionate fire inside this guy that somebody's going to capture. He would be a fun guy to coach. I know that.

Q. To follow up on that, if you're not accurate in college, you won't be accurate in the pros. How much do you buy into that? Isn't it more a factor of what the guy's situation is and where he's going?

GRUDEN: Accuracy can be improved. Sometimes it's because of your fundamentals. Sometimes you're out of rhythm, you're in the shotgun, you're underneath the center. Sometimes you're under duress and out of rhythm. Sometimes you're hurrying, you're playing too fast. You're anticipating congestion around you when maybe there isn't.

I just think he needs to go back and re-establish his fundamentals and work hard at that. He'll get the right position coach that's going to help him do that. But accuracy sometimes can be terminal. Sometimes you can't cure that. I think that is a big concern with Jake Locker, because he does miss some throws. But if you pick up the Southern Cal film from this year, if you pick up the Oregon State film from this year, you can see what this guy's capable of doing. He can be a one-man wrecking machine. There is a brilliant talent inside this body he's got. It's a matter of regaining his fundamentals, confidence and composure a little bit, and he'll be fine.


 

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