SEATTLE, Wa. The hush around the field at the Dempsey Indoor facility while Jake Locker went through 40 different throws with three receivers for the coaches, scouts, and media in attendance resembled that of a coronation.
And while Locker didnt quite meet those figurative standards with his performance on Wednesday afternoon, he came as close as could be expected in the context of the development expected of any quarterback in the pre-draft process. And just two months after a Senior Bowl week in which he resembled a third-round draft pick much of the time, Locker most likely solidified his status as a first-round quarterback with 38 completions in those 40 throws.
That Senior Bowl week was where Locker showed most of the traits that have bedeviled him though his time at Washington the inaccuracy, the questionable decisions, the forced throws. But postseason work with former NFL quarterback (and current quarterback guru) Ken OBrien in Irvine, CA., paid serious dividends when Locker showed at the scouting combine in late February with a sureness on the pocket he hasnt had before. And in this pro day, he showed a much greater and more consistent handle on the short-to-intermediate throws that have generally been mysteries for him.
I think it went very well, Huskies quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier said after the fact. He just showed who he is. The reality was that we did a bunch of stuff the guys in the National Football League are going to want to see him do, and stuff hes already put on film.
Hes had time to just continue his development. Ive said all along his best football is still ahead of him. I think today was just another indication (of that). You watch how crisp his drops were, his footwork, the things everybody says he doesnt do well, but you watch the improvement, you watch the progression (hes a) special, special player.
The progression was obvious right from the start, as Locker displayed a deft touch on the flat routes and bailout throws hell no doubt need at the next level. Square-ins and quick outs to DAndre Goodwin and Dorson Boyce were high at times, but the performances of Lockers receivers matched his own; you could tell that the guys around him wanted Locker to succeed as much as they wanted to show what they could do.
He occasionally threw behind his receivers on timing routes upfield, and when asked to drop back or run boot action and throw at a 45-degree angle away from or across his body, he seemed to still need that extra millisecond to reset it was on these types of throws where he struggled to keep his throws in bounds. But when he rolled out and threw to his right, he not only threw darts accurately upfield, he also showed that he could take a bit off and give a little more touch to the throws, putting receivers in position to take passes in over chasing cornerbacks.
Locker still struggles with crossing routes at times; you can tell that timing on certain NFL throws, even with receivers hes used to in tow, is still a work in progress.
When asked how much the home cooking may have affected his performance in a positive sense. Locker pointed more to the guys catching those passes. I think the level of comfort comes more from the guys Ive been throwing to for four years. You know how they run routes, and how they come out of breaks, and that makes a difference. Its always nice to be home, but I think the familiarity with the guys helps me that much more.
And about the mechanics hes been working to fix with OBrien? Just focusing on fluidity in the drop, he said. Getting my feet on the right spot, and one of the things I worked with Ken on was bringing my hand over the top as quickly as I could, rather than dragging my hand I had a tendency to do that at times. When I bring my hand over the top, and really point that finger, Ive been spinning the ball a lot better, and its coming off my hand a lot better.
Jake Locker is still a work in progress, but NFL teams (and there were representatives from at least 16 teams, including Pete Carroll, John Schneider, and several Seahawks scouts) had to have been tremendously impressed with the growth curve. Some draft prospects wilt under the pressure of the need for sudden and obvious improvement, but for Locker, it just seems to spur him on.