Someone please explain footwork to me.

Submitted by Transatlantic Flight on September 14th, 2011 at 11:43 AM

So I can't take this anymore. Since the hire of Borges and spring football, I have taken the route of nodding knowingly to myself everytime Denard's footwork is mentioned when passing from the pocket. I understand (or at least think I do) that this mystical "footwork" are the steps the quarterback takes after the ball is snapped to him so he can get set for the pass. That, in my non-quarterbacking simple football mind, makes sense.

But then I read over and over how his footwork is causing incompletions and even interceptions, and my mind goes 'splode. Here are my questions, someone please answer them:

What is wrong with Denard's footwork?

How can it be fixed?

What do his feet have to do with interceptions?




September 14th, 2011 at 11:49 AM ^

When they talk about bad footwork causing a bad throw it is not necessarily on his drop back, but once he is set in the pocket where his feet are positioned, is he throwing off of his back foot etc.  I do not know what it is exactly that Denard does wrong just that it is probably after and not during the dropback when he has footwork issues.


September 14th, 2011 at 12:35 PM ^

It is not necessarily his drop back, but that does have a lot to do with it.  Poor footwork results in improper depth on the drop back wich affects both blocking and passing lanes, as well as the timing of routes.  Proper footwork, as well as where you keep the ball positioned during your drop back and read also enables a quick release after you make the decision to throw.  If your feet have to be reset and you need to bring the ball up into throwing position, you lose timing.  After all of that comes the footwork mechanics that allow for strong accurate throws.  Footwork is far from "mythical."


September 14th, 2011 at 11:49 AM ^

Dropping back X amount of steps is a very precise set of momements coordinated so that your weight is in the right place to see the play develop and make a form throw, and then to stay in the right position while searching for an open receiver so that when you make the throw it's still in that form. Think of it like a windup in baseball: they're always fine-tuning little things that all basically amount to making sure the pitcher has a repeatable delivery motion that maximizes the accuracy of the throw. What makes it so tough to do in football is you are moving around in the pocket and watching a million other things so it has to be super-ingrained in your motion memory so that you're not caught throwing off your back foot or across your body.

It takes a lot of practice to get this right at full speed and keep your balance without having to think about it (so your mind can be on finding the open receiver).


September 14th, 2011 at 11:51 AM ^

but what I see him do sometimes is throw off his back foot and not step into his throws, which can result in underthrown balls, I would rather him overthrow on passes than underthrow. He can fix it by just practicing just like everything else.


September 14th, 2011 at 12:14 PM ^

I may be missing things but if I ever see Denard missing passes its because he's overthrowing them.  I presume this occurs because of his release point, not because of him failing to step into the throw.  (Of course, I'm sure there are balls underthrown because he doesn't step into it as well, I just think the glaring errors are on overthrows.)



September 14th, 2011 at 1:12 PM ^

On purpose or not, I like the concept of the underthrown ball on purpose. Our receivers are fast enough to keep corners' heads turned from the ball/QB, so they're at a disadvantage when they have to react to a change in direction at the last possible second.

Greg McMurtry

September 14th, 2011 at 12:05 PM ^

I'll add that it's actually a more natural motion for a right-handed QB to throw a screen to his left because your body has to rotate left in the direction of the receiver whereas on a screen right it's easy to get fundamentally lazy and arm throw it.  Think about it, get out of your computer chair and give it a try, it's easy to not step into the throw on your right side.


September 14th, 2011 at 12:02 PM ^

Aside from throwing off his back foot (which I don't think is his biggest problem, but a problem nonetheless)... biggest issue with Denard's footwork is that he often ends up with his toe pointed far to the left of his intended target.  Just like the intercepted screen pass, his toe points elsewhere, which prevents his hips from rotating and causes the ball to sail.


September 14th, 2011 at 12:21 PM ^

He looked like he was standing in a batters box with his feet parallel to the line of scrimmage.  If Brady or Manning had their feet in that position they would over-throw that screen.  Your arm has no natural motion if your feet arent lined up in the correct position. 

In baseball you'll see the occassional freak like Weaver that steps out to the side and throws accurately accross his body but that's because it's the same throw a million times and his arm has learned to adjust for it.  In football the QB's feet are critical in delivering the pass with accuracy and strength.



September 14th, 2011 at 12:26 PM ^

Watch Drew Brees... Because of his size he has to have perfect mechanics and he does. I think watching him is a perfect example of football work. I being a short QB (5'11") model my throwing after Drew Brees! Thankfully I very fast and can use my legs too!


Also for a QB like Denard you need good hip rotation and good shoulder depth. Awkward left hand pointing to your destination helps placing your ball too.


September 14th, 2011 at 12:35 PM ^

This doesn't apply to the screen pass, but a 3-, 5-, or 7-step drop is a concept that requires the QB to be taking steps in a certain rhythm because it can be used as a timer for when he throws the ball. This can really help with the timed routes that his receivers are running. For example, if the slot is running a short curl, he will probably take the 3 steps back, plant on the last step and pass right as the receiver is turning around in the curl. You can also see the timing in a delayed handoff. The QB will look as if he's going to throw and then get the ball ready for the handoff on step X. Sometimes, in shotgun, you will see the QB either bouncing or slapping the ball, which takes over as the timer when he's not taking steps back.


September 14th, 2011 at 1:19 PM ^

He seems to set his feet too wide apart on a lot of his poor throws.  in general, his mechanics need a lot of work but he is such a freack athlete that he is compensating for a ton of his deficiencies.  If he can get his mechanics figured out there is probably no ceiling high enough for him.