Eagles cuts come early…and a few thoughts on releases…

Chip Kelly wasted little time in clearing out Andy Reid's project hold-overs…

First he got rid of Dion Lewis by trading him to Cleveland for injury-ridden but future-hopeful LB Emmanuel Acho…

Then he released linebackers Ryan Rau, Marcus Downtin, wide receiver Ron Johnson and cornerback Chris Hawkins on Thursday. All four were considered long shots to make the team. Still, it shows that Kelly isn't content to keep warm bodies on the roster to fill out spots.

I kinda liked Ryan Rau and was hoping he could get to TC one more time to prove his mettle. I guess that won't be happening…duh…






Rau impressed last year in the preseason and worked his way onto the active roster in December. He appeared in four games as a special teams contributor before suffering an ankle injury in the season finale.

Rau, 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, likely didn't fit in the Eagles' new defensive system. The Eagles seem to be favoring bigger, more physical players in their base 3-4 scheme. The former Portland State star didn't fit the mold.

Johnson, meanwhile, suffered a gruesome leg injury in training camp last year while Downtin was signed to the practice squad late last season. Hawkins, who played for the Titans in 2011, signed with the Eagles in January.

The Eagles currently have 75 players on their roster. They are allowed 90 for training camp.

The word "release" sends me to a different world where I don't have to worry about players and their agents scrambling for last-minute job openings…

That's the part of the business I dislike.

Instead, the word "release" now sends me into contemplation of the perfect "release point" as I continue my personal quest for the perfect spiral.

Every pro QB has his unique release point when throwing the ball. Working upon finding my own optimum release point has been difficult at best.

I've been working on duplicating Drew Brees' release point. I'm a little taller than Cool Brees but we share similar builds. So I'm starting there.






There it is. The arm angle, the release point about 18 inches above eye level. That's the ticket…

There’s an old coaching adage that “you can’t change a throwing motion… a quarterback either can throw or he can’t. Period.”

You hear this all the time, this idea that a quarterback’s mechanics can’t be changed. Commentators, football dads, and coaches proclaim: “It’s impossible to change a quarterback’s throwing motion. Just coach his footwork.” Older quarterbacks in particular get subjected to this tunnel vision.

It says more about the coaches than it does the QB. The message it sends, however, is that, “We don’t have time to improve a young QB's throwing mechanics…Or we don’t know how — we don’t have the technical skills needed to coach them up. Why bother if we can just go find another kid who can already throw it better, without coaching”?

But what is passing talent? The mentality that some guys “have it” while others don’t shouldn’t apply to throwing in the same way it might to raw speed or quickness. Yet it comes up so often. There are many high-profile “athlete-quarterbacks” who are world-class athletes but aren’t very accurate. They can throw a spiral and an accurate pass or two, but because of their latent talent the theory is that the best thing to do is just to “let them play” and the last thing you should do is “overcoach” them. The old myth comes back: Just coach their feet; ignore the upper body.

Ironically, the same coaches who preach a “footwork only” gospel also throw out plenty of meaningless buzz-phrases in lieu of actual coaching: “Follow through,” “Come over the top more,” “Raise your elbow,” “Turn your shoulders more.” This double standard of non-coaching and coaching-via-cliché is confusing — for both the coach and the young QB.

Darin Slack, noted QB tutor http://www.quarterbackacademy.com/ provides us with these insights:

"If we reduce the wrist’s ability to “change” position, we make it more efficient on the throw. How is this done? The adjustment is simple. Hold the ball at the pre-pass pass position and cock the bottom end of the ball outward at a 45 degree angle off the body, making sure that the point away from you doesn’t go above parallel to the ground. This “cocking of the wrist” reduces joint movement, presets wrist pronation, increases the ball’s spin rate when thrown, and increases ball control with the fingers."











"The second aspect we’ll look at is the elbow. This is the joint that can cause the most problems for the throwing motion. The elbow must “lead” the throw. Most coaching suggests that if the elbow is simply above the shoulder — or “comes over the top” — as it comes forward in the motion, then it is sufficient. Yet in their effort to keep it simple coaches are missing a significant opportunity. We throw with muscles, not joints."

"For the torque of the body (i.e. the force created when a passer twists as he releases the ball) to pass through the arm it is necessary to align the joints in the best possible position, at the right moment, to use the arm’s muscles properly. If the elbow is merely “above the shoulder” there is no guarantee that the thrower will achieve proper bio-mechanical position. But what is this “best position”?"

"Take your arm and, as if you had a dumbbell in your hand, do an over-the-shoulder triceps extension. Did you notice where your elbow ends up? Roughly six inches forward of your shoulder in a slot called the angle of the scapula (or in line with your shoulder blade curving around from the back — see the image below).














"The name we use for this position has orthopedic foundations. We call it “zero” because it is “muscular neutral.” It is the safest, strongest position for the arm to be in, as there is no stress on the shoulder joint muscles, the front or the back. It is the perfect “middle point” in the throwing motion. This should be the location of your elbow at the exact moment your chest and hips are square to the throwing target. Everything in the turn up to achieving this position is about generating torque from the body and storing it, and everything after it is about releasing that stored energy through the triceps. Simply put, it is the lead position of the elbow on a throw."

"During the motion, if your arm is too low or not far enough forward of the shoulder to be able to achieve the “zero” position then there are a series of adjustments your brain will make automatically to compensate for your poor arm alignment. None are really optimal. The brain “locks” the shoulder to protect itself from the lower angle, which also forces the wrist outward around the elbow (sidearm delivery) to reduce exposure to injury. If your elbow is too high your wrist elevates too quickly;  this creates the same effect, only higher. This side arm or slashing” release widens, or elongates, the intended target hallway. Of course that reduces accuracy but it also, more importantly, reduces the power you can generate with your throw."

Imagine trying to bench press a full set of weights over your belly button. You couldn’t do it because the angle is wrong: you can’t get your chest muscles involved properly. In the same way, if the triceps muscle misses “zero” your arm muscles won’t fire efficiently and your power will be reduced. Understanding this feedback concept is a key part of self-correcting your throwing motion.

"If the elbow hits “zero” at the right time then the triceps can release all the torque from the body. And the results can often be remarkable, because so few get there. It’s like a two people jumping on a trampoline together. When they hit at the same time, the smaller one flies much higher. The triceps is the smaller person that goes much farther with the help of our much larger body."

Just by changing two simple things in the mind, the feel, and with the timing of the quarterback’s motion, a QB coach can increase his player's consistency, power, and accuracy dramatically – and this says nothing about the feet. The feet will support everything said here, but if the arm misses the “sweet spot” of “zero” on the release path, the footwork is irrelevant.

While almost every other facet of playing the position is well documented in great detail (run game mechanics, drops, coverage reads, etc.), there is a dearth of information about effective passing mechanics. Lots of old 'sacred cow' tips such as "stick the ball in your ear"…"come over the top"…"finish withyour passing hand to the opposite pocket"…but, very little in the way of a meaningful approach to changing and optimizing a QB's passing mechanics.

 Here's an interesting, if not fascinating, quote from Bill Walsh's 1985 Stanford QB Manual regarding the chances of a coach successfully changing his QB's passing mechanics:

"Don't talk to the QB about his throwing motion. You can spend two years trying to change his throwing motion and it won't make a difference. He's going to have a natural throwing motion…"

Walsh eventually changed his tune—- the year that Kerry Collins entered the NFL Draft (1995), he had a very odd hitch at the top of his throwing motion related to his wrist position. Walsh actually worked with him extensively before the draft to correct this element of his throwing.

Sean Payton changed Tony Romo's throwing motion when he came to Dallas. Romo had used a sidearm delivery in college, and the Cowboys changed it to a 3/4 delivery. Maybe not the ideal throwing motion, but certainly a better one.


Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.