The 2011 NFL Draft featured six quarterbacks (Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick) selected in the first two rounds. Entering the 2013 season, expectations were highest for three of those signal-callers: Kaepernick, Newton and Dalton. Through the first five weeks of the season, all three have struggled to live up to those expectations. This week, I studied all three QBs on tape and quickly noticed that some of their issues could be traced back to their college days.Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick entered the season with the highest expectations of the bunch. He came within a play of leading the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl victory last February, and he was poised to take on more responsibility in Jim Harbaugh's offense this fall. After a phenomenal performance in the opener against the Green Bay Packers, Kaepernick has struggled to regain his Super Bowl form. While studying the 49ers' offense, it was clear that Kaepernick needs to improve his footwork and awareness in the pocket.
While playing in the pistol offense at Nevada, Kaepernick rarely had to sit in the pocket and work through progressions. He threw a lot of "quick hitters" from the pocket or operated on the move. Because of his lack of experience in this area, Kaepernick doesn't look comfortable when he moves inside the pocket to avoid a pass rush and has to deliver the ball accurately down the field. He bailed out of "clean" pockets on several occasions. But this is an area of quarterbacking that can be improved, and I expect to see a more poised Kaepernick as he gains NFL starting experience.
Newton was outstanding in his rookie campaign, making plays with both his arm and legs on a weekly basis. In his sophomore campaign, the results were mixed. He struggled during the first half of the season, but Newton finished strong, tossing 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions over his last six games. This season was supposed to be the year that Newton put it all together for a full 16 games. Through the first five weeks of the season, Newton has been very inconsistent.
Newton only played one year of major college football. He was a dominant force for the Auburn Tigers, carrying the team to a national title. He went on to become the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, but there were some concerns based on what scouts watched on tape. At Auburn, Newton operated in a simplistic offensive system that featured a lot of quarterback runs and very little emphasis on footwork, reading coverage and throwing with anticipation. Some of his struggles this season can be attributed to those specific areas. He repeatedly takes false steps at the top of his drop, and he's late on too many throws. These are areas that can be corrected with proper drilling and practice repetition, but it is discouraging to see these basic mistakes still taking place in year three of Newton's career.
Dalton deserves a lot of credit for helping the Cincinnati Bengals reach the playoffs in each of his first two NFL seasons. There were plenty of things to admire about his play over the last two seasons. He displayed toughness, poise and enough athleticism to extend plays. However, his inconsistent deep-ball accuracy was a concern in each of the last two seasons, and once again it is an issue this fall.
Dalton's lack of premier arm strength was often cited during the lead-up to the 2011 NFL Draft. After studying the Bengals' offense, it was clear that Dalton's physical limitations do limit Jay Gruden's offense. Dalton lacks the arm strength to fit balls in small windows at the intermediate level, and he lacks both velocity and touch on his deep ball. The Bengals have one of the NFL's premier deep threats in A.J. Green, but Green cannot be fully utilized until Dalton becomes a more reliable deep-ball passer.
Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.