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Getting Into The Habit

Posted May 3, 2012

Now that coaches working on-field, McNulty trains quarterbacks

Quarterbacks coach John McNulty (left) explains some footwork on dropbacks to Kevin Kolb during Thursday morning's workout.

The time for creating habits is right now.

No defense. No helmets, although Kevin Kolb sported his ubiquitous Cardinals ballcap. There’s an offseason this time around for the quarterbacks, and a new position coach – John McNulty – to harp on the fundamentals.

So as Kolb, John Skelton and Rich Bartel began their on-field work with coaches this week, they start with the basics. In warm-ups and beyond, Kolb said, he hones in on footwork, trying to make good habits his habits.

“You watch film, ‘Hey your release is here, your feet are here, and look how tight your ball is on that throw,’ ” Kolb said after Thursday’s session. “You start catching on, day in and day out.”

The Cardinals are in the second phase of the offseason. Coach interaction allows on-field teaching, and the Cards are working with the passers and receivers in the offense on routes and timing. More importantly, McNulty – promoted to quarterbacks coach this offseason after Chris Miller was let go – gets his first chance to affect change.

Perhaps change is the wrong word. McNulty knows his quarterbacks got to the NFL for a reason. What he strives to teach is efficiency in the pocket, so that each play is executed the same way.

“Any wasted steps or wasted movement is important,” McNulty said. “There is enough that goes good, bad or whatever during a snap. As long as you have a rhythm, like a golf swing, then you have a much greater chance to have an accurate throw.”

McNulty talked, when he got the job in early February, of taking a “ground-zero approach” to teaching the quarterbacks. Part of that had to do with the lack of offseason they got last year. Part was a start-fresh approach after the up-and-down performance Kolb and Skelton provided.

Rookie Ryan Lindley will get a chance to work with McNulty away from the veterans at first with next weekend’s rookie minicamp. Coincidentally, Lindley said his biggest personal project has been fixing his footwork.

He’ll fit in well.

“In years past, it seemed like, if the ball’s on the money and where it needs to be, we could let everything else slide,” Skelton said. “Now, I am throwing some good balls but my feet are messed up and that’s when I get coached up. Not only with coach McNulty but coach (Whisenhunt) back there and coach Mike (Miller) sometimes.”

There had already been some video review from last season. But McNulty acknowledged that nothing can beat actually getting on the field and working on the techniques. Then, he said, he can really get a sense of what concepts he is teaching are sinking in, and what might need more work.

The players also immediately go upstairs to watch video with McNulty right after the workout to see what improved and what still needs improvement.

“It’s a great time to lay a foundation,” Bartel said. “It’s imperative, even at the professional level. You always need to revisit that stuff.

“Consistency is everything. The only way you can be consistent is to be efficient as possible, so every time you drop back, it’s not a new experience every time. The more redundant we can be, the better.”

There are other benefits. Kolb talked again about his comfort level within the Cards’ scheme, which had been improving before his toe injury and concussion wrecked the second half of his season. There should be better timing with receivers.

The Cardinals believe that better habits, however, will cure a lot of what ailed them.

“The more they keep hammering it,” Skelton said, “the more it stays in your brain.”

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