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A Matter Of Accuracy

Posted Nov 15, 2011

Being on-target crucial to development of Cards' quarterbacks

Quarterback John Skelton scrambles in search of a receiver Sunday in Philadelphia.

The Cardinals have seen accurate up close and personal.

Former quarterback Kurt Warner set the NFL record for accuracy in a game during a humid September day in Jacksonville back in 2009, completing 24 of 26 passes (92.3 percent) against the Jaguars that highlighted a career where Warner finished as the second most-accurate passer in NFL history.

“This day and age, accuracy from a quarterback is rare,” Warner said last year during an appearance on the NFL Network. “I’m talking about true accuracy — the ability to put the ball where it needs to be to give the receiver a chance.”

That’s what the Cards want a little bit more of these days. It was missing too often when Kevin Kolb was playing and now that he is hurt, you can still hear it in coach Ken Whisenhunt’s voice when he talks about John Skelton converting more of the plays that are available to him.

Skelton made the throws when he needed them Sunday in Philadelphia, on the final drive. The rest, well, “you learn from your mistakes,” Skelton said. The last two throws of the previous drive illustrate that concept.

The Cardinals had set the Eagles up perfectly on a slant-and-go with Larry Fitzgerald, who faked out his defender and was wide-open down the field – only to have Skelton’s pass sail well over his head. On the next play, Early Doucet ran a perfect route and again, Skelton airmailed the pass, and it was intercepted by Nnamdi Asomugha.

“I kind of drifted away threw off my back foot and dropped my elbow,” Skelton said. “As soon as I let it go I knew it was high. I don’t know how Nnamdi caught that, because as soon as he turned around, it hit him right in the chest.”

Learning, though, Skelton executed a solid final drive. He put the perfect touch on the fourth-down floater to LaRod Stephens-Howling; he hit Larry Fitzgerald deep when he had to when he set up the game-winning score.

“There are definitely ways to improve (accuracy) by improving your mechanics, but ultimately it’s something you have or don’t have,” Skelton said. As for his self-assessment? “I do think I have it.”

There are going to be incomplete passes, and thinking Skelton or Kolb will click to the level of, say, Aaron Rodgers – who is completing an astounding 72.9 percent of his passes this season is unfair. The NFL league-wide average is 60.2 percent. Skelton has completed 54.7, Kolb is at 56.8.

It isn’t the tough throws that are noticed, it’s the wide-open ones plainly missed. Those are the ones that coaches can’t handle.

Kolb opened the season by completing 66.7 percent against the Panthers and was over 64 percent against the Seahawks. His last three starts before his injury, however, his completion percentage fell to 50.5.

Skelton has made strides; he completed just 21-of-40 passes in Philadelphia but in his two victories as a rookie, he didn’t reach 50 percent in either game and he completed 20-of-35 when he beat the Rams (57.1).

“I don’t think John is necessarily an inaccurate thrower,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “He throws a pretty good ball and he’s accurate with it. I think some of it is just getting used to the game speed and the tight windows that you have to try to throw it in.”

Since Warner retired, he has since been passed up by Drew Brees and Rodgers on the accuracy list, trailing all-time leader Chad Pennington (66.0 percent). The game has evolved into one where high completion percentages are the norm.  

Skelton, for one, believes he will get there consistently. There are passes – like a perfect toss to Andre Roberts in the third quarter that dropped perfectly into a zone for a 20-yard gain – that seem to show that.

“Throws like those, the throw to Andre, the one Larry caught over his head,” Skelton said, “I ultimately think those are the ones quarterbacks are supposed to make.”

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