The Key to Increasing Justin Herbert’s Efficiency

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As Oregon’s season rapidly approaches, all eyes are focused on Justin Herbert. Many believe the team’s success will hinge largely on how much the gifted quarterback improves this year. Although some believe the gunslinger regressed in 2018 (his completion percentage fell from 67% in 2017 to 59% last year), one thing I expect Herbert to excel at this fall is his accuracy.

Despite all the talk about wide receiver drops, believe it or not, some of Herbert’s passes were dropped last season because he threw inaccurate balls. Here are a couple of examples for us to review.

In the video above, Herbert is trying to connect with Dillon Mitchell in the end zone. The main reason Herbert’s pass fell incomplete are his mechanics. He relies entirely on his arm strength, and doesn’t use his hips or legs on this throw.

Passing 101

A quarterback must properly set his feet if he wants to throw an accurate pass. But what constitutes properly setting his feet?

Closed Hips

From Video

Closed Hips

Let’s start with the concept of closed hips and open hips.  In the picture above, when Herbert is setting his feet, his feet and shoulders are parallel to each other (green lines), indicating his hips are “closed.”

From Video

Open Hips

When Herbert starts to throw the ball, as he does in the picture above, he rotates his hips in the direction he is targeting his pass. This is indicates his hips are “open.” While Herbert’s hips are pointed towards the sideline that Jacob Breeland is running to (open hips), his front shoulder and his front foot are still parallel to each other as he steps into his throw.

When he releases the ball, the direction his front shoulder and his front foot are pointing will be the direction the ball will travel to (where Breeland catches this pass before falling out of bounds).

Let’s look at the play on video (below).

Did you notice the difference between the two passes?  Take a look at the first video again. As he releases the ball, his hips are facing the goal posts while his front shoulder and his front foot are pointed at the sideline. Herbert didn’t rotate his hips while he was releasing the ball. They were already “open” and the ball went behind Mitchell as he ran towards the pylon. In the second video, he keeps his hips “closed,” then rotates them as he steps into his throw.

The Good News

Herbert can work on his technique before, during, and after practice, and he more than likely worked on improving his accuracy at the Manning Passing Academy this summer. Fortunately, Herbert uses his feet well, and improving his accuracy should be a minor adjustment.

This season, when you watch Herbert throw, pay particular attention to how he sets his feet. Look to see if he keeps his hips closed until he begins his throwing motion.

Mike West
Las Vegas, Nevada                                                                                                                                                Top Photo by Kevin Cline


Spencer Thomas, the Volunteer Editor for this article, is an attorney for the Social Security Administration in Atlanta, Georgia, and coaches High School Football for Hillgrove HS in Powder Springs, GA.


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