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Old 08-01-2009, 12:52 AM  
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Cassel Chronicles: The Conclusion

Warning: this is long. If you don't care about Patriots games skip to the second part. There's some good stuff from Football Outsiders.

http://kan.scout.com/2/883312.html

Over the last two months we’ve reviewed the best and worst of Matt Cassel during eight Patriots games. With training camp set to start Saturday, it’s almost time to move on from Cassel’s past and look to the future. But first, we’ll take one final look at 2008.

With a young team, a new offense and a whole lot of unfamiliarity, there will undoubtedly be plenty of negatives for Cassel over the next few months. So with that in mind, we’ll just focus on the positives from a few more Patriots games last season.

Then we wrap it up with a summation of Cassel and just what he brings to the Chiefs this season.


PATRIOTS VS CARDINALS

1st quarter – 1:49 – 1st-and-10


We’ve covered the difficulties Matt Cassel had last season in hooking up deep with Randy Moss, so it’s nice to see him improve, even if it doesn’t result in a completion. On this play the Patriots fake a handoff and Cassel makes Arizona’s safety bite on a pump fake. This leaves Moss one-on-one with Antrel Rolle deep and Cassel lets it fly.

The throw is magnificent. Rolle actually has decent coverage, but Moss never has to break stride and the ball is placed over his right shoulder, away from the cornerback. It falls perfectly into the receiver’s hands, only to be dropped. Daryl Johnston comments on Cassel’s great pass.

2nd quarter – 13:43 – 2nd-and-12

In the middle of a heavy snowstorm, the Patriots are up 14-0 but pushing for more, lined up in five wide at midfield. The Cardinals only rush four so Cassel has plenty of time to step up into a clean pocket, and he finds Jabar Gaffney down the middle of the field for a huge 34-yard gain.

There’s nothing all that impressive about this throw to be honest. Gaffney is wide open and there’s no pressure on Cassel. But horrible field conditions and the weather make it an impressive play. The field is absolutely covered in snow, and flakes are coming down in buckets at an angle, indicating wind. Visibility is low.

Despite all of that Cassel delivers a strike, hitting Gaffney in stride and enabling him to run after the catch for significant yardage. Also, Cassel passes up an open Wes Welker running a shallow drag route, indicating his willingness to be aggressive even in less-than-favorable conditions. Two plays later the Patriots score a touchdown.


PATRIOTS VS RAMS

1st quarter – 5:24 – 1st-and-10


After a play-action fake, the Patriots send two receivers out, trying for a big play down the field. Cassel’s first read is on the right side, with Randy Moss going deep, but he’s covered, so our quarterback comes all the way back to the left side of the field and spots an open Jabar Gaffney, running an intermediate comeback route.

The impressive part of this play comes as Cassel prepares to make the throw to his left, as a safety is barreling right down on top of him, and is right in his line of sight. It’s not easy to keep your eyes focused down the field with the pass rush closing in, but Cassel simply sets his feet and fires the ball with great accuracy for a 17-yard gain. There’s no hesitation, even though Cassel takes a shot and ends up on his butt at the conclusion of the play.

4th quarter – 10:16 – 1st-and-10

With the Patriots trailing by three and the game winding down, every play becomes more important. Fortunately, Matt Cassel delivers here and gets his offense deeper into St. Louis territory on a drive that eventually culminates in the tying field goal.

The Rams don’t blitz, but there’s pressure up the middle after Cassel completes his first read to the right side of the field. As he snaps his head around to the left, a defensive tackle is right on top of Cassel, and he has no room to step up in the pocket. He still manages to get rid of the ball on time, and even though it’s off his back foot, it’s well placed and an easy 12-yard catch for Randy Moss.

4th quarter – 9:36 – 1st-and-10

The Patriots line up in five wide as they approach the St. Louis goal line and, desperate for a stop, the Rams bring a zone blitz off the right side of the formation. It doesn’t faze Cassel even a bit, however, as he completes his drop and keeps his eyes down the field.

With two defenders barreling down on top of him, Cassel is completely focused on the throw, and it’s a beauty – a perfect 40-yard spiral, lofted toward the left corner of the end zone, right into the hands of Randy Moss, who doesn’t break stride but still drops a sure touchdown. The interesting part of this pass is that again, the coverage is solid. Cassel just makes a throw that’s indefensible.

4th quarter – 3:25 – 1st-and-10

Matt Cassel has brought his team from behind, and has marched them down the field for a potential go-ahead score, but there’s still 15 yards to go for a touchdown. The Patriots decide to put the game in their young quarterback’s hands and line up in five wide, most likely hoping to catch the Rams in man coverage.

That’s because the play is a slant-and-go to Kevin Faulk. Cassel pumps once to try and draw up the linebacker covering Faulk, and then lofts the ball towards the front corner of the end zone. Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa actually has great coverage on the play but, again, the pass is so well thrown – Faulk doesn’t have to make much of an adjustment, if any at all - he doesn’t have much of a chance to defend it. The ball drops right in for the game-winning touchdown.


PATRIOTS VS RAIDERS

1st quarter – 8:33 – 2nd-and-11


Already up by a touchdown and threatening for another score, the Patriots run everybody out in the pattern, with Benjamin Watson going up the seam and into the end zone. The Raiders have him well covered however so Matt Cassel turns to the left and Randy Moss, who is actually, again, fairly well covered. Nevertheless, Cassel steps up and fires a dart toward the pylon, right into his receiver’s hands for a touchdown.

The interesting part of this play is Cassel’s apparent willingness to throw to a receiver who was open by only the slimmest margin. He ignored two wide open short options, and instead tried – and succeeded – to make a longer throw that required almost exact precision to complete. Rich Gannon gushes over Cassel’s accuracy in the booth.

3rd quarter – 14:26 – 2nd-and-9

When you’re as accurate a passer as Matt Cassel, sometimes the pass rush and the coverage is pretty much meaningless. That’s the case on this play, which is just an 11-yard gain, but really an unfair one.

Cassel takes the snap and as he begins his throwing motion, Randy Moss is not even four yards down the field. It’s not as if Moss is running a slant, either, he’s just running straight down the field. But Cassel’s timing and accuracy is so perfect, all Moss has to do is plant one foot and lean backwards as the ball arrives.

Of course, there’s no play for Nnamdi Asomugha despite the fact he’s on Moss’ hip the entire way. The throw is too perfect. This is the sort of ridiculous timing you see between quarterbacks and receivers like Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. To see it from a first-year starter like Cassel is certainly impressive.


THE CONCLUSION

So we’ve just spent two months reviewing Matt Cassel’s games from last year. What did we learn? What are his strengths and his weaknesses? Why did the Chiefs give up a second-round pick and a wheelbarrow of Hunt money for him? How will his game, without Randy Moss or Wes Welker, translate from New England to Kansas City?

Well, we’re not exactly NFL scouts, but certain things definitely become clear if you pay enough attention. There were obvious patterns – for better or for worse - that repeated themselves in Cassel’s game over the course of the 2008 season. We can break them down into the following categories.


• Accuracy

If nothing else, Cassel’s accuracy separates him from the average NFL quarterback. According to Football Outsiders, he was the 9th most accurate passer in the league last year at 84.6 percent. This was the percentage of his passes which were – referring to the official FO definition – “not marked as Thrown Ahead, Thrown Behind, Overthrown, Underthrown, or Out of Bounds. Does not include passes marked Thrown Away, Tipped at Line, or Hit in Motion.”

There’s no question that percentage bore itself out in Cassel’s play. It didn’t matter which receiver he was throwing to, whether it was Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, Benjamin Watson or Kevin Faulk. He showed the ability to hit all of them in stride, and not just on short routes.

Cassel also showed the rare ability to connect with receivers who were actually well covered at the point of his release. And it’s not as if he was out there throwing jump balls around the yard like Brett Favre. Cassel was simply great at putting it where only his receiver could get it, time and again.

We can probably attribute Cassel’s near-impeccable accuracy to his consistent footwork. Time and again, he showed an affinity for resetting his feet depending on where he wanted to throw the football. It was extremely rare to see him attempt an off-balance throw, although when he had to throw on the run, it wasn’t an issue.

Where Cassel’s accuracy faltered most was on the deep passes over 30 yards, especially to Moss. Fortunately it wasn’t because of a lack of arm strength. At times Cassel actually overthrew Moss.

Inexplicably, Cassel also had a tendency simply to flat miss a throw at times. It didn’t matter if he was throwing on the run or standing still in the pocket. Occasionally, he would just throw up a duck for no apparent reason.

How will Cassel’s accurate passing benefit the Chiefs? The fewer circus catches Dwayne Bowe has to make, the better. And it goes without saying that if Bowe can catch more passes in stride, his yards after the catch average will skyrocket.

Tyler Thigpen, by the way, was ranked 28th in quarterback accuracy by Football Outsiders. It’s also worth noting that Cassel’s completion percentage could have been even higher. The Patriots dropped 30 passes last season, the 12th highest mark in the league (again, we tip our hats to FO).


• Intelligence

There’s no question Cassel’s smarts helped him succeed despite his inexperience last season. How else do you explain his low interception percentage? But what may not be so obvious is just how rarely he was truly fooled by a defense.

Cassel threw 11 interceptions in 2008, which is already a low number, but in watching the games we discovered that at least four of those interceptions were caused by the receiver (I’m looking at you, Randy Moss). And we didn’t watch every game, so the number of turnovers Cassel was actually personally responsible for may be even lower.

The low turnover rate is pretty easily explained – Cassel simply didn’t throw into tight coverage or take chances with the ball that often. He didn’t have to, because he constantly went through his progressions and found the open man again and again.

Even when defenses blitzed Cassel relentlessly, or stacked the line of scrimmage with defenders who dropped out into zones, usually he read the coverage correctly. Early in the season there were a few cases of “happy feet,” the usual symptom of indecision in a quarterback.

But as the weeks wore on, Cassel looked more and more like a quarterback who knew exactly what he was doing on every snap. There weren’t many signs of confusion. He was in control.


• Mobility

The first thing that really became obvious about Cassel was his athleticism. For a 6-foot-4, 230-pound quarterback, he can really move, and racked up 270 rushing yards in 2008.

But those stats don’t tell the whole story. While Cassel was sacked 47 times last season, and has been accused of “holding onto the ball too long,” it really wasn’t as big of a problem as it’s been made out to be. Early in the year the Patriots had issues on their offensive line, and at times Cassel had no chance. Calling on Football Outsiders again, the Patriots ranked third in the NFL in blown blocks, with 25 in 582 pass plays.

When New England sorted out their protection issues around midseason, the sacks drastically dropped, and Cassel’s mobility really helped out at times. Even if he wasn’t scrambling for a first down, he was great at moving outside the pocket and buying time for his receivers (although he rarely needed to do so, because the Patriots executed on offense so well).

But it’s important to note that Cassel was never at any point a run-first, pass-second quarterback. Too often this is an issue with young passers, but in Cassel’s case, most of the time running was a last resort after he went through his progressions and didn’t find anyone open. And frequently he showed decisiveness in escaping the pocket in such situations.

Occasionally, Cassel’s mobility got him into trouble. There were times when he escaped pressure and decided to throw across his body or attempt a throw that required a stronger arm than he possesses. But these instances were infrequent.


• Toughness

As was already noted, Cassel was sacked 47 times a year ago, but he was also hit 88 times, the third-most in the league behind Kurt Warner and David Garrard. Despite that he was never seriously injured and never became gun-shy. He was always willing to stand in the pocket and take a hit to make the play.

Likely, this is an aspect Head Coach Todd Haley really appreciated if he had any say in bringing Cassel to Kansas City. After all, it was Haley who coached Warner last season in Arizona.

Cassel’s toughness also showed up when he ran with the ball. He wasn’t afraid to lead with his helmet when he needed a first down, and though that can be dangerous, his large frame and thick lower body often prevented defenders from laying any serious hits. Actually, at times he was successful in breaking tackles, although no one should compare him to Daunte Culpepper.

Clearly this is an attribute that will be needed in Kansas City. The Chiefs have had their problems on the offensive line, and if the receivers struggle at all this year, Cassel may need to hold on to the ball a little longer than he did in New England.


PROJECTED 2009 SEASON – FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS

COMP-ATT: 299-501
YARDS: 3,277
TDS: 20
INT: 14


WPI “HOMERVISION” ADJUSTMENT

COMP-ATT: 335-543
YDS: 3,463
TD: 24
INT: 10
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Old 08-01-2009, 04:28 AM   #31
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Innate ability or someone to throw to? Plummer was much better throwing on the run when he had talented WR's in Denver. Montana had much more success sliding in the pocket and completing passes to Rice, Taylor and Jones than Lake Dawson and Keith Cash.
No no no...that's complete garbage.

Plummer threw well on the run in Arizona. Montana threw well on the run in Kansas City.

Green sucked balls, even WITH Tony Gonzalez. His balls took nosedives half the time when he tried to throw on the run.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the receiver. Nothing at all.
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Old 08-01-2009, 04:30 AM   #32
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See here's the thing; I don't give a **** if he out-runs LJ for total ground yards, I want to see him out-scramble pressuring defenders, avoid 40+sacks, and complete passes on the run.

If he does that consistently and brings the team to an NFL Championship; Len Dawson has an equal.
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Old 08-01-2009, 04:37 AM   #33
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I would seriously hope Cassel moves and throws better on the run than Green. Green had a surgically reconstructed knee and didn't like to move. If guys even got around him it ****ed with him.

So throwing that out there isn't some huge shining compliment.

Cassel's issues are as follows, bad deep ball, inconsistent accuracy to the middle of the field, holds the ball to long and shockingly wide splits in stats from shotgun to under center.

Those are his major issues that he needs to work on.
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Old 08-01-2009, 04:38 AM   #34
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See here's the thing; I don't give a **** if he out-runs LJ for total ground yards, I want to see him out-scramble pressuring defenders, avoid 40+sacks, and complete passes on the run.
Uh, he does all of that. I think that's already been explained.

You sound like someone who hasn't watched Cassel play ONE game.
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Old 08-01-2009, 04:41 AM   #35
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If only Cassel could run.

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Old 08-01-2009, 04:42 AM   #36
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No no no...that's complete garbage.

Plummer threw well on the run in Arizona. Montana threw well on the run in Kansas City.

Green sucked balls, even WITH Tony Gonzalez. His balls took nosedives half the time when he tried to throw on the run.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the receiver. Nothing at all.
Plummer and Montana might have thrown well on the run with both teams. Their ability didn't change with their uniforms.

However, their circumstances did. With the Cards and Chiefs Plummer and Montana had less time before they had to run, less time to run and less options when they did.

With nothing more than 15 games of experience, (College and Pros), let us see how he performs driving a Yugo vs. a Ferrarri.

Keep in mind that the last year Offense he lead (?) broke the record the prior year in too many categories for me to look up now. The Offense he is stepping into was .... well... offensive.

He needs someone to throw to, someone to block for him and someone to divert the attention on the pass game. He has none. He doesn't even have a RB that can protect the QB.
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Old 08-01-2009, 04:42 AM   #37
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Uh, he does all of that. I think that's already been explained.

You sound like someone who hasn't watched Cassel play ONE game.


Uh, if he does that; why was he on his ass looking at the stars 40 ****ing times in 2008?
And I have watched the mother****er play, so kiss my ass. And the next time you service him, tell him to work on tightening up that spiral too please.
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Old 08-01-2009, 04:44 AM   #38
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If only Cassel could run.

If only Cassel could shuck one "blow-by" defender in the backfield!

You're really not getting this, are you?
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Old 08-01-2009, 04:46 AM   #39
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Plummer and Montana might have thrown well on the run with both teams. Their ability didn't change with their uniforms.
.
Neither will Cassel's. You don't seem to get it. He throws well on the run. When he's running, the ball comes out with velocity and accuracy. He could be throwing to a cheerleader. It would be irrelevant. He would hit the bitch in stride.
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Old 08-01-2009, 04:46 AM   #40
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If only Cassel could shuck one "blow-by" defender in the backfield!

You're really not getting this, are you?
Do you see Dwight Freeney gaining on him?

The mother****er doesn't trot.
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Old 08-01-2009, 04:48 AM   #41
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Uh, if he does that; why was he on his ass looking at the stars 40 ****ing times in 2008?
That has already been explained. The Patriots had major protection issues early in the season.

You really don't get it. And he throws a tight ****ing spiral. Jesus CHRIST, you HAVEN'T watched him play.
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Old 08-01-2009, 04:48 AM   #42
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Do you see Dwight Freeney gaining on him?

The mother****er doesn't trot.
Yes, I saw him capitalize and make hay, but you're not understanding what I'm trying to tell you.
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Old 08-01-2009, 04:49 AM   #43
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That has already been explained. The Patriots had major protection issues early in the season.

You really don't get it. And he throws a tight ****ing spiral. Jesus CHRIST, you HAVEN'T watched him play.
You are full of shit.
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Old 08-01-2009, 04:49 AM   #44
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I would seriously hope Cassel moves and throws better on the run than Green. Green had a surgically reconstructed knee and didn't like to move. If guys even got around him it ****ed with him.

So throwing that out there isn't some huge shining compliment.

Cassel's issues are as follows, bad deep ball, inconsistent accuracy to the middle of the field, holds the ball to long and shockingly wide splits in stats from shotgun to under center.

Those are his major issues that he needs to work on.
Really? I saw him throw a pass vs the Colts on the money to Gaffney for a touchdown and he dropped it.
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Old 08-01-2009, 04:50 AM   #45
Count Alex's Losses Count Alex's Losses is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raised On Riots View Post
Yes, I saw him capitalize and make hay, but you're not understanding what I'm trying to tell you.
No, I understand completely.

What YOU don't get is that Cassel is a hell of a lot better than you're willing to give him credit for.
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Count Alex's Losses is obviously part of the inner Circle.Count Alex's Losses is obviously part of the inner Circle.Count Alex's Losses is obviously part of the inner Circle.Count Alex's Losses is obviously part of the inner Circle.Count Alex's Losses is obviously part of the inner Circle.Count Alex's Losses is obviously part of the inner Circle.Count Alex's Losses is obviously part of the inner Circle.Count Alex's Losses is obviously part of the inner Circle.Count Alex's Losses is obviously part of the inner Circle.Count Alex's Losses is obviously part of the inner Circle.Count Alex's Losses is obviously part of the inner Circle.
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