Forget a token show of leadership.
There is significant work to be done around the NFL.
Quarterback-organized workouts like the Giants’ Daniel Jones recently set up at the University of Texas and the Jets’ Sam Darnold held Friday with the team’s healthy offensive skill players in Florida carry greater significance this year because the coronavirus canceled the on-field aspect of NFL offseason programs.
“I think it definitely will be more serious because it’s all they have,” NFL quarterback trainer Tony Racioppi told The Post. “What quarterbacks are doing is taking the Zoom teaching, taking charge and running their own minicamps and OTAs. If I’m going to teach the offense to somebody, that means I have to learn it.”
It has become a rite of spring — an expectation, really — for young quarterbacks to gather teammates in a warm-weather locale for extra work away from the eye of coaches. Praise immediately follows for leadership.
Only this year the quality of the private work matters just as much as the intangibles.
Peyton Manning told multiple NFL teams that Eli Manning’s coach-like mastery of spring workouts during the 2011 NFL lockout gave the Giants an edge during their Super Bowl XLVI-winning season.
Veteran quarterbacks in new places like Tom Brady are holding their own camps, returning quarterbacks learning new offenses like Jones need to gain familiarity, and Darnold wasn’t going to get complacent without major change to the Jets as the idea was “all him on his own,” a league source told The Post.
“You want to get the timing down,” said Racioppi, who trains multiple quarterbacks out of TEST Football Academy in New Jersey and was scheduled to work with Jaguars starter Gardner Minshew before COVID-19 restricted travel.
“Everybody has a preference like, ‘On this route, I want you to speed cut it instead of squaring it because I want to throw in this window.’ For a quarterback, you are trying to pick up how receivers break routes: What mannerisms and indicators do you give me to know that you are going to break, so I can anticipate and throw to a spot?”
The missing ingredient from true OTAs and minicamp is the defensive presence to disturb routes, even in non-contact drills.
“The one thing you are going to miss when doing this stuff is making decisions,” Racioppi said. “It’s a great time to get your fundamentals and timing down. Then you go to decisions and chaos, with the defensive line around you and blitzes.”