Mark Schofield spent a short lifetime playing quarterback. Now he is in the midst of a second lifetime watching, evaluating, and writing about the position. In this summer series covering techniques for playing QB he takes us through some of the books he used to learn to play the position, using film to illustrate these important concepts.
Many small elements comprise proper throwing mechanics for a quarterback. While some are well-known and understood, such as a suitable throwing base and the appropriate lead step, one element is more nuanced: The use of the lead shoulder and chest to generate torque in the throwing motion. Correct usage of the front shoulder and chest allows a quarterback to increase the power in the throw, allowing him to both drive the football down the field and into tight throwing windows. This series has discussed “Coaching Quarterback Passing Mechanics” by Steve Axman, and this was a topic covered in the coach’s book. Axman writes:
Using the chest to direct a passed football helps to properly focus every party of the trunk-the hips, stomach, and chest-in a straight line to the target spot. In addition, by driving the passed football with the chest, the quarterback can achieve maximum body torque and power in the delivery of the pass[…] The drive of the passed football with the chest to provide maximum body torque and resultant power cannot be overemphasized. Each quarterback has only so much arm strength in relation to the power of his pass delivery. Power can only be added to a pass via the torque of the torso, led by the driving action of the chest. Steve Axman “Coaching Quarterback Passing Mechanics” pp 48-49
Let’s see this in action, starting with Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers. On this play he throws a deep out pattern to the left sideline. Watch as he uses his upper body and chest to deliver a strong throw:
The QB’s chest pulls his throwing arm through the motion, allowing him to add increased zip on the throw. The violent whipping action of the upper body results in a perfect pass for an easy 10-yard gain.
Proper usage of the chest to generate torque can mask limitations in arm strength. One of the knocks against Minnesota Vikings rookie Taylor Heinicke was his relatively average arm. But while he was in college, the Old Dominion passer used proper mechanics – and torque – to generate power when he needed to drive the football. Here are two examples. In the first, Heinicke throws a deep crossing route. After resetting his feet due to pressure, he delivers a very strong throw:
Even though he has his back to the camera, you can see how the QB’s front shoulder starts the throwing motion, creating increased torque and resulting in a strong throw. It almost seems as if the right arm is just along for the ride, as the front shoulder and chest do most of the work.
On this play, Heinicke brings his fastball on this goal-line slant route:
Again, his left arm and chest lead him through the delivery. His left shoulder pulls his chest through the motion, increasing the torque in the upper body and allowing him to drive this throw directly to the target receiver.
In one particular instance the torque generated by the lead shoulder and chest takes on increased importance, and that is when a quarterback is throwing on the run while moving in the direction of his off-hand. When a right-handed quarterback is rolling to his right, the momentum of his body is working in his favor and adds power to the throw. But when moving to his left, the right-handed quarterback is working against the flow of his momentum and must focus on using his lead shoulder and chest to generate torque on the throw. One nice example of this actually comes from Kirk Cousins, during this Week 17 matchup against the Giants in 2013. Washington fakes the stretch play to the right and the QB then rolls back to the other side of the field before delivering a well-thrown pass on a crossing route. Watch how Cousins uses his left shoulder to help generate the torque he needs to get zip on the throw:
Once Cousins decides to throw, he makes sure to curl his left shoulder back toward his target before beginning the throwing motion. This creates the necessary whipping action of the upper body, and pulls his right arm through the delivery of the football. There are many elements to the throwing motion, but the lead shoulder/chest torque combination might be the most important aspect. Those two body parts allow the quarterback to generate more power in each throw, allowing him to drive the ball to all levels of the field and to get the football to playmakers faster, leading to yards after the catch.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.