Sullivan’s Potential 2012 Impact On FreemanJuly 4th, 2012
When Mike Sullivan was hired as the Bucs’ new playcaller and offensive coordinator, much was made of his twirl drills with Eli Manning and other unconventional quarterback training techniques.
Bucs fans’ hopes/expectations were that Sullivan would be able to help Josh Freeman recapture his 2010 form and develop into the poised, two-time Super Bowl champ Manning is.
“I don’t know if he’s gotten any credit but … he’s certainly been a catalyst in the good year Eli’s had,” offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said last month.
Manning also threw much better while moving in the pocket and on the run, which backup quarterback David Carr attributed to Sullivan’s unconventional drills.
“He has some different drills where it’s uncomfortable movements,” Carr said of Sullivan last month. “You’re not just dropping back, moving to the left and right, stepping up and throwing the ball, which never happens in the game.
“You move up, you sprint out, run away from someone and then try to throw off balance. We do that drill every Wednesday and something every Thursday and Friday that’s similar to that, where we move around and twirl.
So it was interesting to Joe to read NFL Films guru Greg Cosell’s new breakdown of Manning. It’s a long enjoyable read for football junkies, and one that seems to back up that Sullivan’s tactics with Manning brought direct results.
In 2011, I saw significant improvement in two other elements of Manning’s game: progression reading and pocket movement, with the corollary ability to extend plays outside the pocket. We all remember the 38-yard completion to Mario Manningham late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLVI; it was the single biggest play in the game. It also reflected many of the attributes that I have often written about, beginning with pre-snap recognition of the coverage. … …
The other part of Manning’s game that dramatically improved in 2011, and I believe it was a defining reason as to why he had his best season yet, was his efficiency moving both within the pocket and outside the pocket. As I’ve discussed numerous times, pocket mobility is an essential trait to perform consistently at a high level. Manning, once a little frenzied and out of control when he was forced to react in response to the pass rush, is now more poised and composed. His movement is more deliberate and calculated. His downfield focus is sharper, with better clarity. In addition, his ability to extend plays on the perimeter was particularly evident last season. In years past, there were times Manning would be somewhat scattershot with his throws off movement. That deficiency has been lessened, and it’s led to better overall play. It’s a huge reason why Manning elevated his game in 2011.
Now Freeman is not Eli Manning, and surely Sullivan is busy crafting his playbook and Joe is concerned that Sullivan has never called plays on any level. However, there’s no question that Sullivan is here, in part, because of his work with Manning and for what he can do for Freeman.
The optimist in Joe believes Sullivan, while busy with other duties, will at least be successful in improving Freeman in the areas noted above: progression reading and pocket movement. Joe suspects the former will be most critical, given that the Bucs’ pocket should be more stable than usual given all the accomplished beef on the offensive line.