Alen Dumonjic


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Gauging Mike Glennon

Thursday, February 07, 2013

There are a lot of labels thrown around during the NFL draft season. Some prospects are called “franchise” passers whilst others are considered mere “game managers”. And then there’s the group that many think they simply won’t live up to their billing. One of the quarterbacks that seems to fit into the latter for many is North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon.

Glennon is a talented passer of the football. He has a wicked strong arm that enables him to make a variety of throws, including throwing from the short hash into the wide side of the field and outside the numbers to a receiver running an outside breaking route. This type of throw has long been considered the standard for arm strength, and there’s little doubt about the N.C. State’s signal-caller ability to make it.

He also possesses other tools that make evaluators raise their eyebrows and furrow their forehead. One of these tools is to make intermediate and deep throws through the seam. This is an area that past coaches have called the easiest for quarterbacks to make throws in (former defensive coordinator Tom Olivadotti comes to mind here) but that hasn’t always been the case. Three reasons are that it requires anticipation, touch and understanding of the depth of the field. Not all quarterbacks have this ability (e.g. Chad Henne) but Glennon does.

His above skills were vital to the N.C. State offense during his reign, as he was asked to throw vertically numerous times. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the weapons to throw vertically to, and it can be argued that he did it too much, which explains his streakiness as a passer (58 % completion percentage) and the constant long down and distances he had to work with (e.g. 3rd-&-6+). This aspect of the evaluation is tricky because when a quarterback is in this kind of situation, the evaluator will convince himself that it’s not the quarterbacks fault, rather the surrounding casts. Although this is true with Glennon, his teammates and coaches are not entirely to blame for his inconsistent play.

Two issues of Glennon’s are that he doesn’t allow plays to develop long enough and he doesn’t play outside of the offense.

The development of plays, specifically routes, is an integral part to an execution of the concept. The passer has to be able to read the field, understand how the defense will react and get the ball out to the correct target. What Glennon tends to do is check the ball down to his outlet too early, consequently squashing the chance of a big pickup.

Glennon stood in shotgun on 2nd-&-24 against the North Carolina Tar Heels. To his near left was a running back and to the left, a wide receiver stood inside the numbers. These two players were going to make up the Wolfpack’s curl-flat concept, which is designed to put the cornerback across the receiver in a bind. Glennon’s job was to read the curl route first and then go to the flat route, if the former wasn’t open.



After catching the snap and taking a quick drop, Glennon looks to the curl route and notes that the cornerback is in between the two routes. This means that there is a window to throw the ball into because the cornerback is stuck in the middle of the routes while the middle linebacker, the next closest, is in the middle of the field.



He then looks to the flat route and immediately throws the ball, which the cornerback immediately attacks. This is a part of Glennon’s progression, but he doesn’t trust what he sees. It’s also an example of how he’s playing within the system opposed to improvising when he has the chance. On this play, he could have looked to the flat route, expanded the cornerback, and then threw it back to the curl.



Improvisation is an aspect of quarterbacking that not all are able to do but should be able to do at certain times. For example, a fourth down play when a first down is mandatory. This is an example of improvisation in situational football and it’s something that Glennon doesn’t always do.  

Down by a touchdown in the fourth quarter against FSU, Mike Glennon needed a first down on 4th-&-10 to give his offense a chance of continuing the drive. The slot receiver to his right would be running a bend route behind the defender inside of him while the slot receiver to his left would run a shallow cross. This was another example of a combination of routes that put a defender in a bind.



When Glennon dropped back, he scanned the field to his left before coming across the middle and eventually his right. To his right, the shallow cross was open. However, the receiver running the route was nowhere near the first down marker. In this situation, Glennon has to understand he can’t make this throw and as a result, he must manipulate the near defender with his eyes.



The only way Glennon could successfully move the defender from his spot was to look to his outlet receiver and then throw vertically to the bend route in the middle of the field. He didn’t do that. Instead, he looked to his outlet and threw the ball to him despite having a clean pocket to work with and an open target in the middle of the field.



These small details that Glennon struggles with will be significant in determining his success at the next level. In the pros, concepts don’t always go according to plan, which forces the quarterback to use his instincts and eyes to make them work. Despite his great stature and strong arm, Glennon will have to improve in the areas that don’t strictly ask him to use his physical talents.

All in all, Glennon has talent to work with and is worthy of an early second round draft selection but there’s a chance he goes higher. The question is: Will it be to the right team and scheme?

Alen Dumonjic has also contributed to The Boston Globe, The Sideline View, and The Score. He can be found on Twitter at @Dumonjic_Alen.
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