The area in which he can make serious strides this year is his pocket presence.
“That’s what we focused on throughout the spring because we know what Johnny can do when he’s outside the pocket, running the ball,” Spavital said. “I try not to let him scramble in practice and he gets frustrated at times and you’ll see some pretty wild plays out there, but he’s been staying in the pocket, going through his progressions, and I think it’s making him a better pocket passer.”
At first glance, this doesn’t make sense as we noted back then:
Um, okay. Let’s review here. Last year, Manziel passed for 3,706 yards, second only to Georgia’s Aaron Murray (though Murray had one more game). But…and that’s a big but, he also rushed for a conference-best 1,410 yards and 21 scores. That’s more touchdowns than Cam Newton had in 2010, and almost as many yards in one less game.
I’m so smart (sarcasm) that I finally figured out what this is about. What it isn’t is Manziel working on becoming a better pocket passer so he will be a better NFL quarterback. And it’s not necessarily about preventing an injury to Manziel. No, what it’s about is addressing what the Aggies think other teams will do this year to defend against Manziel:
Part of that preparation was devising ways to stop Manziel, who was simulated in practice by backup quarterbacks Luke Del Rio and Cooper Bateman. Surely, Blake Sims, a former receiver turned quarterback, played the part of Johnny Football as well.
Saban said the goal won’t necessarily be to turn Manziel into a pocket passer, but to tighten up the containment around him and negate the potential for big gains. Treating him like a normal quarterback won’t work. If the defense does, another 20-0 hole could be in Alabama’s future.
“I told our players, I said, ‘There’s a lot of NFL games on Sundays. You want to watch the quarterback, go watch those games. But if you start watching this guy in our game, you’re going to get busted,’” Saban said. “It happened in our game last year. We’ve got people covered pretty well, you look back at the quarterback and their receivers do a good job of extending the play and getting away from it. He finds them and makes big plays.”
There you have it: “tighten up the containment around him.” If you want to see what “failing to tighten up the containment around him” looks like, check below…