How Anthony Richardson improved his passing accuracy ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft

Experience and accuracy are the two biggest deterrents to Anthony Richardson becoming a star quarterback in the NFL. Experience will come with time. He must deliberately work to be more precise.

In his first season as a starter in college, Richardson completed 53.8% of his passes, but Florida’s offense and receivers played a part in that alarming number. The scheme didn’t involve a ton of easy bubble screens, but instead featured deeper shooting plays, and the Gators didn’t have receivers that opened up deep or tracked passes well. Still, Richardson’s film features clear missteps on his part, and when they did occur, they were often ugly.

Luckily for Richardson, unlike other taller, long-lever quarterbacks, his accuracy issues won’t require a massive relearning of mechanics (like what Josh Allen experienced coming from Wyoming). Richardson’s problems start with his feet, a problem that’s more easily fixable than re-sequencing his entire throwing motion. Richardson is under no illusions about what he needs to improve. He worked with Will Hewlett, who is considered one of the best private quarterback coaches in the country, to fine-tune his mechanics. Hewlett works with the Quarterback Collective, which partners with several NFL coaches, including Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, and helps college quarterbacks prepare for the draft with 6 Points and Tork Sports.

In preparation for a movie shoot with Hewlett, I selected clips that represent the most common types of Richardson misfires. Hewlett has broken down the mechanical issues with each clip, and we’ve explained how he and Richardson fix those issues.

“There are definitely some hiccups about the movie, and I don’t think anyone – including him – is denying that,” Hewlett said. “I think that was part of his process: finding out who he was as a pitcher, identifying two or three really targeted areas where he can get his bearings and dig in, and then move from there.”

Forefoot stability/over-rotation

Hewlett called Richardson one of the best deep-pitch pitchers he had ever seen. Richardson is usually very good at down throws when he needs to pull a receiver in a certain direction. But I chose this clip because you can see how a breakdown in his lower body causes him to overcompensate with his arm.

“See how the front foot moves,” Hewlett said. “It’s hard to see, but the foot actually twists. He turns. Imagine trying to hit someone in a pair of shoes on the ice. You don’t have to dig anything in the ground. You have no way to transfer the force. It’s an energy drain. You’re not creating torque, so you compensate by moving faster uphill.

Because his front foot was unstable, Richardson was unable to rotate his hips in the throw. Hewlett wants him to “get the job done early,” which means he should turn his back hip more in the throw so he doesn’t have to rely on his arm too much. The hips should move first, and the arm should accompany the ride. Many of Richardson’s misfires come from late acceleration of his arm or excessive rotation of his body past his aiming point.

“Your hips are like a flashlight where you want to put the ball and then if they keep rotating after the throw, that means there’s energy going into the football that’s going to pull it in a different direction – so more like a shot, firm finish,” Hewlett said. “One of the biggest training cues with Anthony was planting the lead foot with all the studs in the turf — because he had a tendency to get under his toes – so he can feel the stability of the front leg and just turn into that aggressively. It would give (his hips) a much more sudden stop.

Dr. Tom Gormely, who works with 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, is part of Richadson’s coaching staff. He is an off-road mechanics trainer who works on torque. Gormely structures lifting and plyometric drills that target areas where an individual quarterback wants to improve, so those ideal movement patterns can be more easily transferred to the field.

During Richardson’s heavy days of plyometric training on the net or on a wall, the emphasis was on getting his front foot firmly on the ground so he got a feel for the movement without having to worry about throw a real soccer ball. Hewlett said this made it easier for Richardson to identify the corrections he needed to make when a throw went off.

(Video courtesy of Will Hewlett)

Throw while running to his right

Richardson was prone to inaccuracy when running to his right. They weren’t bad misses, but his placement would be off, which led to drops or limited run-after-catch opportunities.

“That was an area we had to work on and spend time on, ironically: right-wing deployments,” Hewlett said. “That front side is open fast, and it gets a lot of what we call ‘cast’, where the arm drifts a bit too aggressively. There’s not enough aggressive flash in the front of the shoulder and near of where the ball somehow dies on him.

When Hewlett talks about keeping the front shoulder closed, he means keeping the front shoulder perpendicular to the target. This allows the quarterback to properly load the ball and throw it from the hips.

Here you can see Richardson running to the right, his shoulder opening naturally towards his target. It is unnatural to curl your closed shoulder, but it is necessary to create torque. In the clip, Richardson’s shoulder opens too quickly, so he tries to throw with all his arms, and the ball dies on him.

(Video courtesy of Will Hewlett)

In this clip, Richardson does a much better job of rolling his front shoulder and throwing from the hips as he throws the ball. This throw required a lot more power than the previous clip, which ties into one of Richardson’s other problems: He was too hesitant when it came to throwing the ball with a lot of power in college, and trying to hold back led to mechanical errors.

“Mentally, for him, one of the things we had to work on a lot was letting him rip on short stuff,” Hewlett said. “He was, like, just hesitant to throw the ball with a lot of speed on short to intermediate throws, which is precisely why we kind of designed part of his warm-up to get him down the vertical court quickly.”

Let go and open up

By having Richardson throw vertically as soon as possible in his warm-up, Hewlett and Gormely sought to put him in the mindset of letting go, which naturally reinforces proper sequencing (the order in which his body moves in throwing mechanics).

“Ant had been coached a few times in Florida not to throw the ball so hard because (his receivers) couldn’t catch it, which is a terrible signal to give a QB with a big arm,” Gormely said. to NFL Network reporter Cameron Wolfe. . “Even here he would sometimes throw babies. He was getting ready to let go, and you can see him slowing everything down, picking up his elbow, going long and baby that throw. He did not arrive there. It faded or it was behind. We told him to let it go – it’s the NFL, they’re going to get it.

Hewlett and Gormely noticed that Richardson held back, especially when throwing at stationary targets, which caused problems with his arm acceleration. On those types of throws, Richardson also needed to open up more towards the throw.

“Here, he’s just the one who needs to be more open,” Hewlett said. “So the motion capture tech told us he would close on directional throws, and so that’s a good example of where he needs to open his hips more, open his front side more with his foot front more clear to get his hips through, and it ends up being a better streak.

Diagram of Richardson from motion capture technology (Courtesy of Will Hewlett)

Richardson’s front foot placement sometimes made it difficult for his hip to go through when throwing, which led to an awkward back kick, one of his most common mechanical failures.

“You see that back kick in there — it’s an indicator of when your hips aren’t fully firing,” Hewlett said. “So think of it as just starting and stopping too soon. If you go back and watch the Malik Willis movie, he had a really aggressive hip roll and stopped, and then that foot kicked every time. If you get a hip arrest, it’s like a sequencing issue. It’s also too closed, so its front side is too closed, and that’s probably why the hip stops early, and that will result in some sort of sequencing issue in the arm.

While these issues may seem nuanced and complicated, they’re much easier fixes than when a quarterback also has major upper-body issues — think Tim Tebow and even Trey Lance. Richardson’s upper body mechanics are pretty solid, and we’ve seen through recent examples – Allen and Patrick Mahomes – that the lower body mechanics are much more fixable.

“It’s not necessarily a drastic change,” Hewlett said. “It’s one that you would consider a shift in awareness. So first we’re going to train the hips with the plyometrics, then get comfortable with better foot placement, better front lower body clearance. And then on the pitch, again, we’re going to be sure to highlight that as we go.

“You need to have less variables on the bottom to be able to have more variables on the top in terms of arm angles.”

(Video courtesy of Will Hewlett)

In this training clip, Richardson launched a loop, the kind of stationary route he previously tended to close to. You can see that his front foot placement and stability allows him to bring his back hip forward and open towards the target effectively. He didn’t hold back and fired an accurate dart.

Of course, training and casting in a controlled environment is only the first step. Even though his coaches add layers of complexity to their drill work, nothing simulates the speed of play, and Richardson just hasn’t played many games. He will need these new patterns of movement so ingrained in him that they translate into Sundays. It is not guaranteed, which is why it is considered a risky choice.

But if Richardson develops as Hewlett hopes, he would offer a team the ultimate and rare reward of a true elite quarterback.

(Photo: David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Leave a Comment