Last week I took Secrets of an NFL Scout, a book by the late Tony Razzano, and gave you Part 1 of a scrumptious soufflé of insights into the specific qualities that make good NFL players. It focused on defense. This week, I focus on offense and examine five Bills, just in time for training camp at St. John Fisher.
A quarterback needs arm strength and must have good throwing velocity. He needs to deliver the deep ball fast and accurately. He should have escapability --- a feel for when to step into the pocket and throw or when to shuffle and buy time. He has to read a play on the run, and should have a quick set-up, which is the time it takes to receive the snap, drop back, and throw.
On short throws, he should be precise and have a high completion percentage. He needs to easily locate secondary receivers, and must have good judgment and pocket poise.
Razzano: "Judgment could be the most important quarterback criterion. You can look at all the other specifics. But you don't have anything unless you have good judgment."
Analysis of Bills QB Drew Bledsoe: Good arm strength and throws with sufficient velocity, but he is slow in the pocket, slow in his set-up, and slow in his ball fakes to running backs, which makes for a largely ineffective play action pass and disadvantages the offense from surprising opponents. Watch Jets QB Chad Pennington to see how fakes should work.
Bledsoe's judgment has declined. He is fearless, but his slow nature makes him an easy sack target.
They must be quick, agile, and balanced to ward off increasingly bigger and quicker defensive linemen. An OL must have good feet and move his body well enough to remain an obstacle between the quarterback and a DL, or to find a defender to run-block on. Quick hands and strong arms to jolt defenders are necessities. He must be smart, remembering calls and quickly surveying the changing landscape in order to react accordingly, and he must have stamina, strength, and explosion, which is how fast he leaves his stance for a good, well-balanced body position.
Razzano: "If an offensive lineman doesn't have good feet, I don't like to study him."
Analysis of Bills LT Jonas Jennings: Strength is fine, and he has the quickest feet of any Bills lineman, but sometimes gets off balance and is beaten. Needs more explosion off the snap and more competitiveness. He missed the last four games of last season with a broken right toe and has been prone to injury during his career.
They need control, quickness, agility, and balance, and must have strength and stamina to withstand pounding. A strong upper body and strong legs are necessities. Mostly, running backs need good run instincts. They should be capable of running inside and outside, and must explode into the line, not hesitantly approach it.
If a running back is a receiving option, he needs a wide receiver's hands. Running backs must be durable, and must always keep the football secure.
Razzano: "Size best exemplifies the point I've tried to make about 'functionability.' If a running back doesn't function, I don't care how big he is or how fast he is."
Analysis of Bills RB Travis Henry: A former competitive high school weightlifter, Henry has excellent upper body and lower body strength, is quick and explosive enough to run inside and outside, and plays fearlessly, but he occasionally suffers from fumbleitis. He catches OK, but doesn't click with Bledsoe on passing plays the way Thurman Thomas clicked with Jim Kelly.
They need to run, catch, and hold onto the football. Good hands are a prerequisite. They need to consistently make difficult catches, and must have good body control to adjust to a pass when a defender is in their face. They should always know where the sidelines are. They need to run after the catch, catch in traffic, and have presence of mind to knock the ball down when it's uncatchable. They must also get off the line cleanly during press coverage.
Razzano: "This position is important, but not as important as others to a scout for one reason: Receivers are plentiful. Why? There are a lot of people out there who can run and catch."
Analysis of Bill receiver Josh Reed: Very good body control and showed excellent hands as a rookie two seasons ago, but struggled last year with uncharacteristic drops. Still, he has a knack for getting open, and making defenders miss after the catch. He's not a speed burner, but should be a productive third-down receiver because he can quickly get open in that sliver of available space.
They must be big, strong, and fast, with a receiver's speed, quickness, agility and balance, and a lineman's blocking prowess. They need to get open, make catches, and be bulky and strong. They should be smart enough to recognize blocking schemes, patterns, open zones, coverages, defensive back positioning, and blocking assignments.
Razzano: "Competitiveness --- that's the big thing. It's the most important characteristic, especially with a hybrid position like the tight end... A tight end has got to be a good competitor, have good stamina, and have good strength. He has to have the strength of a lineman because he's blocking inside. Does he function with good strength? It's tough for a tight end to be highly skilled in each of the areas of his responsibility --- you're encompassing a lot of other positions in one position. Many times you have to project a tight end's skill level after you've worked with him."
Analysis of Bill Mark Campbell: A good blocker, and an adequate pass-catching tight end with speed and quickness.
Buffalo Bills Bausch & Lomb Training Camp at St. John Fisher College, Sunday, August 1, to Thursday, August 26. First practice: Sunday, August 1, 2:45 to 5:15 p.m. Browns scrimmage: Saturday, August 7, at 10 a.m. Night practices: Wednesday, August 4, and Wednesday, August 11, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 800-441-5942.