It shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that Stephen Morris won the skills competition at the Manning Passing Academy. As arm talent goes – they don’t get any more talented than Morris.
Morris has been lauded as a second-round talent by an NFL scout, called underrated and overlooked by Tony Pauline, is the current infatuation of Bucky Brooks, and is the current ‘buzz’ quarterback – overtaking David Fales. The Morris lovefest is here to stay as he closed the season with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions over the last four games and hasn’t thrown a pick in 139 consecutive passes. Turn on any Miami tape and you’ll find some ‘wow’ throws. On the flipside, you will find just as many head scratchers.
I have no doubt that Morris could emerge into one of, if not the top senior quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft. That said, based on last year’s tape – he’s not there yet. We take to the film to show why Morris is the current ‘buzz’ quarterback and a handful of reasons to exercise a little caution, for now.
WHAT WE LOVE
When it comes to arm strength, you won’t find any better in this draft and he walks into the NFL with one of the stronger arms from day one. In a vertical passing attack with deep drops – Morris is going to make hay. He was at his best when he could get further from the defense on a deep drop, get his feet underneath him, and uncork it down the field.
Morris was comfortable with bodies around him, showing a nice feel for open space. He’s an above-average athlete that can extend the life of the play and is a threat to pull it down and take off. His natural feel for the pocket and ability to move to open grass, reset, and make an accurate throw may be his biggest asset at the next level.
His upper half from a mechanics standpoint is solid. He fires through his core, gets squared up with his target, and shows nice elbow position/collapse/fire of the tricep/extension. The timing between his stride and getting the ball into the load position was fairly consistent.
Miami in their 20 personnel grouping. Morris is going to work towards the field with a ‘levels’ concept working to the top side. Miami’s right tackle is going to get flat-out beat by the left end on this play, forcing Morris to step up into open grass.
As Morris hits his fifth-step, he feels the front side pressure and escapes to open grass. Notice his eyes are downfield but still feels the pressure.
Morris finds the open grass, resets quickly and delivers a strike. A theme we’ll see in the “what’s not to love” is how wide his throwing base is. I’m not condoning his poor lower body mechanics but I can’t argue with the results of this one. It’s interesting that some of the ‘big-arm’ QB’s in the history of the game (Favre, Stafford, Cutler) have such poor lower half body mechanics.
12 personnel grouping with slot receiver to the field working across the field and over the top of the curl by the tight end.
It’s a clean pocket as Morris is able to let the play develop down the field off a 7-step drop. This is a great picture of Morris sound upper body mechanics and arm strength as this one is delivered 30+ yards down the field on a rope. Notice Morris’ body posture (pre-pass) is sound vertically with relaxed arms. Picture perfect pre-pass position.
This is a thing of beauty. The old adage of pointing front foot at the target is well…old. Morris’ front foot is to the left of his intended target – allowing his hips to clear fully. Morris fires through the core with his hips and shoulders aligned to his target as the ball is readying for release.
While the lower body is going to drive the ball, the arm has to collapse, the tricep has to fire and the elbow needs to lead through the extension. Morris’ ability to drive the ball down the field is second to none and is probably the single greatest factor into everyone showering praise onto him. This is a perfect strike for a big gain – which started with sound passing mechanics.
Morris isn’t afraid to challenge the best. He has his No. 1 receiver working against Xavier Rhodes – arguably one of the top corners in CFB last season. Rhodes is playing off, at 10 yards, with the receiver working vertical off an inside release. Rhodes has great coverage on this play but the throw is picture-perfect.
There’s no defensing this one. Morris’ touch and ball placement is average – at best. But in the vertical game both increase. Morris puts this ball where only his guy can catch it. Rhodes wasn’t tested often in 2012 but Morris had no problems throwing at him in this contest. He does a nice job ‘freezing’ the safety with his eyes and he tests Rhodes despite all signs (pre-snap) pointing elsewhere.
WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE
Morris’ footwork and throwing base are wildly erratic. His problems with accuracy start with a sloppy lower half. In six games reviewed, I stopped counting ‘gimme’ throws that were missed because of poor lower body mechanics. Hopefully, a significant chunk of the offseason was spent working becoming more efficient and consistent in the lower half.
There were numerous times that I thought Morris was lazy with his drops. I struggled to find a consistent drop from him. This is a major issue as it throws off the timing between the QB drop and break of route. His timing and anticipation was sporadic (at best) in 2012 and most of that could be fixed with developing some consistency in his drops.
Morris has to develop some touch in the intermediate range. Too often he puts too much on the ball in the short to intermediate range – not allowing his receiver enough reaction time to catch the ball cleanly or at all.
My hope for the 2013 ‘Canes is that they will open the playbook up to Morris and the offense. It seemed in 2012 that Morris locked into his first target and never made it elsewhere, resulting in poor decisions. I hate to speculate on this being Morris’ issue or a product of coaching. However, he will need to show that’s he’s capable of working full field progressions on a consistent basis. Morris, like most big-armed QB’s, falls in love with fitting the ball into tight spots instead of waiting it out in the pocket and making the easy throw.
This throw should be a ‘gimme’. Morris has the receiver to field on a quick slant with the corner in off-man coverage. FSU has eight in the box, with the safety walked up to the LOS. This one could have resulted in a big play but the throw is in the dirt.
If Morris can stick this one on his receiver, it’s a huge play for the ‘Canes. Morris struggled throughout the tape review in the quick game. It seemed that his troubles with his lower half really caught up to him in catch and throw situations. You’ll notice Morris’ wide base – he doesn’t stride here throwing his balance off and forcing the ball to be thrown into the dirt.
Morris locks into his first target, despite being bracketed by the linebacker and safety. He has to be patient and allow the other in-breaking route work into open space. This one should have been six points, instead it results in a field goal.
Stephen Morris was sure to bring up his work on his footwork during this month’s Manning Academy. Noting that it was a cause for his sub-60% completion percentage over his career was caused by a poor set-up and rushing throws. While we listed a slew of things not to love with Morris, the clay is there to mold. What he has is things that are tough to teach – arm strength and athleticism.
Morris will be tested early as a September 7 showdown with Florida looms large for Morris’ NFL future. UF features one of the most talented and deep secondaries in the country and will be a must see matchup for fans of the NFL Draft. If Morris can improve on some of these issues, there’s no reason for him to go any later than the second round of May’s draft.