Mike Glennon vs. Game Film: flashes and flaws against the Cardinals

Al Messerschmidt

As part of a continuing series looking at the Bucs' quarterbacks this year, we throw away the stat sheet and instead turn to the game film to determine how good a game Mike Glennon had against the Cardinals - and whether he's the right man in the right place to become a starting-calibre NFL quarterback.

When Josh Freeman's stat line looked terrible after Week 2, it caused us to turn to game film to see if Freeman was truly as bad as the statistics suggested - and we saw a very different Josh Freeman than the stats suggested. Week 3 saw more of the same - a better (or, at least, a significantly less-bad) game than what both the stat line and the prevailing narrative would have you believe. That's all moot, of course, now that the Bucs have changed from a football team to a soap opera quarterbacks - and accordingly, we've rechristened this feature "Mike Glennon vs. Game Film".

So what does the game film show? Perhaps unsurprisingly, not much different to what we saw with Josh Freeman: there are some things Glennon does better, and things Glennon doesn't do as well. We'll get into the nitty-gritty later, but first, as always, here's your weekly breakdown of every pass thrown by the new Bucs QB:

Pass Attempt Down & Distance Result Notes
1 2nd & 9 Incomplete to Lorig Stops moving his feet in the face of pressure resulting in an inaccurate throw
2 3rd & 9 12 to Ogletree (7 YAC) Goes through progression, delivers the ball with good placement allowing Ogletree to make the catch on the crossing route without having to slow down
3 2nd & 12 0 to Wright Stares down Wright. Completion is made but Wright tackled immediately for no gain.
4 3rd & 12 Sack No-one open - no hot reads built into route combo
5 1st & 10 Drop by Ogletree 15-or-so yard pass off of play-action. Ball may have been slightly behind Ogletree but was beyond catchable
6 1st & 10 14 to Williams (4 YAC)
7 3rd & 3 8 to Williaims (0 YAC), touchdown
8 2nd & 7 13 to Jackson (0 YAC) Stares down Jackson - becomes important later
9 2nd & 7 -1 to Wright Scans only the right side of the field. Misses a wide-open Ogletree (though there was an interception risk if the ball had been underthrown)
10 3rd & 8 Incomplete to Jackson Jackson is the second read on the play, but throws too soon and the pass is far in front of Jackson
11 2nd & 13 12 to Martin (19 YAC) Appears to go through two reads during the drop, then immediately dumps off to Martin seven yards behind the LOS as soon as his feet sets
12 2nd & 8 2 to James (0 YAC) Ball was intended for James but was tipped high in the air by a defender. James plucks it out the air
13 3rd & 6 Incomplete to Jackson Roll out, Glennon locks in on Jackson the whole way despite Dansby sitting underneath the entire route. Should have been an easy pick for Dansby but he drops the ball
14 1st & 10 Incomplete to Jackson Attempt at a long bomb but sails right out of bounds
15 3rd & 12 14 to Wright (0 YAC) Looks briefly at Wright (appears to be attempting to 'look off' the safety), but then locks in on Jackson the whole way. Pass appears intended for Jackson, but Wright effectively 'intercepted' the pass.
16 2nd & 15 Incomplete to Williams Stares down Williams whole way. Hit as he's thrown so ball is inaccurate, but coverage was tight throughout so unlikely to have been a completion.
17 3rd & 15 0 to Martin (2 YAC) Mike Sullivan Special - running back screen on third & long. Glennon floats the ball of his back foot in the face of pressure. Martin has to leap to bring it in. Doesn't help that his OL doesn't even turn to look for defenders until after the catch is made
18 2nd & 7 4 to Martin (4 YAC) Stares down one receiver on his right, then turns back and checks down to Martin.
19 3rd & 3 4 to Leonard (2 YAC) Looks at Wright, then throws to Leonard
20 3rd & 5 5 to Ogletree (2 YAC) Looks at Jackson, then hits Ogletree on the move. Pretty good ball placement allows Ogletree to catch without having to slow down and make necessary YAC
21 1st & 10 Incomplete to Wright Unnecessary Roughness penalty give Bucs a good 20-ish yards. Would have probably been complete for an 18 yard catch if he hadn't gotten rocked.
22 1st & 10 Incomplete to Williams Appears to stare down Williams. Pass a little inaccurate, Williams ahs to come back to the ball, which is knocked out his hands by defender. Catchable, though
23 2nd & 10 13 to Wiliiams (0 YAC)
24 1st & 10 15 to Wright (4 YAC) Good ball placement
25 2nd & 8 Incomplete to Jackson Stares down Jackson, ball is thrown way behind him. Rushed throw due to pressure.
26 3rd & 13 Incomplete to Ogletree Glennon hit as the ball is thrown, is batted straight down by the DE.
27 1st & 10 20 to Lorig (19 YAC) Goes through progression well
28 2nd & 7 14 to Jackson (0 YAC) Jackson slowed down to catch the ball. If thrown with better placement, could have been a huge gain
29 3rd & 6 Incomplete to Martin A little far in front but catchable
30 1st & 10 Intentional Grounding Martin whiffs on his block, wasn't much Glennon could do except eat the sack instead
31 2nd & 25 Incomplete to Ogletree Ball thrown too far ahead of Ogletree due to not moving his feet in the face of pressure
32 3rd & 25 Incomplete to Ogletree Almost identical as the previous pass attempt, except Glennon had no pressure at all this time
33 1st & 10 Incomplete to Jackson Only looks at Jackson, coverage was tight, ball was too far in front
34 2nd & 10 8 to Demps (8 YAC) Only looks at Demps' flat route
35 1st & 10 Incomplete to Jackson Another deep ball that sails out of bounds
36 3rd & 6 7 to Leonard (4 YAC)
37 1st & 10 3 to Williams (0 YAC)
38 3rd & 3 2 to Ogletree (0 YAC)
39 3rd & 7 3 to Ogletree (0 YAC)
40 2nd & 6 Interception Ball thrown a little behind but as already explained in superb fashion, Jackson's imprecise route running made it easy to undercut. Nonetheless, the ball was definitely badly placed, at best Jackson would have to have slowed down and fought through Peterson do make the completion. Was the correct read, though.
41 2nd & 10 Incomplete to Jackson Stares down Jackson, ball is thrown high and out of bounds at Jackson who isn't looking back for the ball
42 3rd & 10 Sack Can't blame Glennon. Long-developing routes inside the Bucs' 20 on a 3rd & 10, of course the Cardinals were going to send the house. Glennon is sacked before any of the routes begin to get open.
43 1st & 10 Incomplete to Wright Coverage was good on Wright. Glennon must have been staring him down as there was a WIDE OPEN Ogletree just a few feet outside Wright
44 2nd & 10 13 to Wright (4 YAC) Good ball placement
45 1st & 10 8 to Ogletree (0 YAC)
46 2nd & 2 Interception

Was trying to hit Jackson on an out route, ball thrown far behind him and is easily picked off by Peterson

So, that makes 24 of 43 completions, with three catchable drops, two interceptions and a third dropped interception with the remaining three drop backs ending in two sacks and an intentional grounding penalty. If we factor in the catchable drops, that would have been a completion percentage of 62.8 - a better completion percentage than Freeman has had since Week 12 of last season. That, however, starts to stray into stats territory, which is what we want to shy away from - how did Glennon compare to Freeman on tape?

Despite the similar result (an anaemic offense unable to build on a stellar defensive performance leading to a last-minute heartbreaker), there are noticeable differences that jump out when watching game film. One of the more impressive things about Glennon is - when he has time - he seems to have much better ball placement than Freeman did. Numerous times Freeman was criticised for throwing to receivers on third down whose routes where shorter than the first-down marker; I've always thought it was one of the more asinine criticisms - there's no reason a quarterback shouldn't expect his receivers to be able to make a play with their ball in their hands. What was valid criticism of Freeman, though, is when throwing to such routes, especially crossing routes (which the Bucs did run when Freeman was under center, though not as often as they did on Sunday), Freeman's ball placement was too haphazard, which required the intended receiver to slow down or catch the ball behind them, naturally causing them to slow their momentum and severely hampering their ability to make yardage after the catch.

No such issue here with Glennon. When finding the crossing receiver underneath (can you believe, we actually ran a mesh? Mike Sullivan actually knows what a passing concept is! Might have been useful if he remembered this fundamental aspect of offensive scheming and gameplanning when Freeman was still the starter, but I digress...), Glennon did a good job - when he had time - of placing the ball in front of the receiver, so that he can accelerate into the catch and have the momentum do gain additional yardage. That ball placement on passing attempts #2 and #20 above is what allowed Ogletree in both cases to make the necessary yardage to convert the third downs, something Freeman was struggling to through the first few games of the season.

Yet, that also leads to one of the issues with Glennon - he seems to be too anticipatory on some plays, throwing the ball to the spot he believes a receiver will be without necessarily looking to see if the receiver had a chance of catching the ball. Pass attempts #10 and #41, both incompletions to Jackson, are examples of this: on both occasions, Jackson was engaged with a defender, and was quite clearly not going to be able to catch the ball. A note on Jackson here: he did not have a good game, and one of the chief reasons was an inability to get consistent separation from his defender. In fact, there were times when it appears that he's not giving everything that he could do in order to try to catch a ball. Personally, I'm going to chalk it up to his rib injury rather than anything else, and hopefully the bye week will allow him to return to his regular form.

We've mentioned that Glennon has good ball placement when he doesn't have pressure (at least, most of the time - there was the occasional pass too far in front or behind but they were generally few and far between - though, as explained above, that first pick was definitely a case of the ball being thrown behind Jackson, regardless of the sloppiness of the route running). When there's pressure in his face, though, that goes pretty quickly out the window. While Glennon doesn't overly step into his throws, you can see him shifting his weight as he throws on good passes. Once pressure is in his face, though, his feet appear to turn to concrete. The notable lack of lower body power in his throws results in some pretty inaccurate passes - pass attempts #29, #31 and #43 (to name just a few) are examples of this.

Here's a curious thing I noticed about Glennon: whereas early he seemed to go through his progressions more, across the field, as the game wore on he started only checking half the field, and then maybe just making one read before throwing to the check down, and by the end, was only staring down single receivers. There's many possible reasons for this, and we'll never find out which was the correct one - did the coaches tell him to start getting the ball out of his hand quicker? Maybe Sullivan started to abandon the 'safer' routes as the game progressed in favour of the same game plans that failed to work in the first three weeks? Maybe Glennon started to feel more rushed as he took more and more hits? He did, after all, appear to get hit more often than Freeman had been this year. Again, we'll almost certainly never find out why, but feel free to speculate in the comments.

Mentioning checkdowns brings us to another interesting difference between no. 8 and no. 5: Glennon appeared to go the checkdown much, much often - and sooner in his progression - than Freeman did. There's little doubt in my mind that this reliance on checkdowns was responsible for his 4.5 yards per attempt. In fact, Glennon threw considerably shorter all day than Freeman had done - his longest completion of the day was just 20 yards, and even that - pass attempt #27 - was a 1-yard completion to Lorig who took it for an additional 19 yards on the ground. Glennon's longest completion through the air alone? Just 14 yards. By comparison, Freeman's average yards-per-completion through the first three weeks was 13.3 - which neatly brings us to possibly the most glaring area Glennon falls behind Freeman: downfield throwing.

Glennon only tried two deep sideline throws - and both sailed way out of bounds, completely uncatchable. The problem is that this throw is one of the core staples of Sullivan's passing playbook - as seen in Grantland's "passing atlas", no quarterback threw more often down the deep left sideline in 2012 than Freeman. Greg Schiano made perfectly clear when he was introduced as head coach of the Buccaneers that his offense would run the ball and take deep shots down field. Glennon showed nothing in the Cardinals game to suggest that he can fit in that scheme. I will readily admit that I've watched very little of Glennon's college tape, and, like most of you, have tried so very hard to scrub the preseason from my memory, so am going purely off of last Sunday's game alone - but based on that game, Glennon seems a really bad fit for what the Bucs have been trying to do on offense. Glennon's placement when he has time - at least before he started staring down receivers in the fourth quarter - combined with his clear penchant for throwing the ball to where he expects the receiver to be, regardless of whether the receiver can actually get there, to me suggest he would be better fitted for a west coast-type offense. Sullivan's scheme, however, seems to be based around a series of one-on-one receivers, with little-to-no thought of putting in place even basic passing concepts to help receivers and routes come open. Combined with his sudden concrete-bootness in the face of pressure, it will be far too easy for defenses all year to play press man on the Bucs' receivers and just blitz the hell out of Glennon. Doing so would necessitate keeping in more blockers, reducing the number of checkdowns Glennons relied so heavily on. The number of times, beginning in the late second quarter, where Glennon would look to one receiver (although, in fairness to him, he does at least attempt to "look off" the safety by not turning to his primary read immediately at the snap, one of Freeman's faults) before immediately throwing to the checkdown frighteningly hints at the very real possibility where the Bucs passing offense might look more like it did when Kregg Lumpkin was catching up to six balls a game.

One more criticism of Glennon: on the two occasions Sullivan dialled up designed roll-outs from the pocket, Glennon stared down the receiver as if his life depended on it. See pass attempt #8 - that was on just such a roll-out, where he stared down Jackson the entire way. I mention that it "becomes important later"; the 'later' I was referring to was pass attempt #13. On another designed roll-out, Glennon stares down Jackson so intently that he appears to not see Karlos Dansby sitting underneath the route the whole play (if you can't remember the specific play from the broadcast, it might because Heath Evans incorrectly mistakes Dansby for John Abraham - but as Dansby wears #56 and Abraham #55, we'll let Evans off this time). The pass is an easy pick, and there's no doubt that Dansby will have been the recipient of plenty of abuse from his team mates for dropping the interception. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the last time a designed roll-out was called all game.

So, what to make of Mike Glennon? He places the ball better than Freeman when he has time; he also appears to scan the field better, at least early in the game, and uses his eyes to try and "look off" the safety more than Freeman did. He also goes to the checkdown much earlier in his progression (though whether that's due to instinct or coaches' instruction we can't know), meaning a higher completion percentage and a smaller risk of a sack. On the downside, though, he goes to the checkdown much earlier, meaning he missed some routes that looked like they would have come open if the play was allowed to develop - and, as we found out in the back half of 2011, dinking and dunking to the check downs can also sap up offensive momentum more often. Most worryingly is the apparent absence of the true deep ball in Glennon's game - he either checked down to receivers before the deeper routes had a chance to develop, or just didn't have near the accuracy needed to make the deep sideline throws that Mike Williams effectively built the case for his recent contract extension around. Glennon just seems a poor scheme fit for what Schiano claims to want to do, and what Sullivan's done in his season and a half here. My take away on Glennon specifically is that he could develop into a good quarterback in the right scheme (and if the Bucs OL can do a better job than they've done thus far) - but I'm skeptical whether that can happen in his present situation. As it stands, he played like a third round rookie is expected to play - flustered enough under pressure that his good traits seem to disappear in the face of oncoming rushers, shows some potential to develop into something but doesn't show enough to make you confident that he can be a long-term answer.

We'll continue checking up on Mike Glennon vs. Game Film as the season goes on to see whether or not he can be the quarterback of the future for Tampa Bay - and whether he can be so in the current offensive scheme. Otherwise, in a few months issue might be Mike Glennon vs. Terry Bridgewater.

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