Philip Rivers has been one of the league’s primetime players since assuming the starting reigns is San Diego back in 2006. After being drafter by the Chargers in 2004, he spent his first two seasons learning the game behind Drew Brees. Once Brees left, Rivers took over the huddle and did not disappoint. Here’s a look at his stats over his first five seasons:
- 2006: 61.7% Completion Percentage; 3,388 Passing Yards, 22 Touchdowns, 9 Interceptions
- 2007: 60.2% Completion Percentage; 3,152 Passing Yards, 21 Touchdowns, 15 Interceptions
- 2008: 65.3% Completion Percentage; 4,009 Passing Yards, 34 Touchdowns, 11 Interceptions
- 2009: 65.2% Completion Percentage; 4,254 Passing Yards, 38 Touchdowns, 9 Interceptions
- 2010: 66.0% Completion Percentage; 4,710 Passing Yards, 30 Touchdowns, 13 Inceptions
In 2011, Philip Rivers production took a real hit. He threw for over 4,600 yards and tacked on 27 touchdown passes. However, his completion rate dipped (62.9%) and he threw a career high 20 interceptions. Rumors ran rampant that Rivers’ subpar performance was due to an undisclosed injury. He denied those claims, and his late season play was more on par with the numbers he established earlier in his career.
Greg Cosell of NFL Films took some time to share his thoughts and analysis on what he saw when reviewing Philip Rivers’ 2011 game tape. When analyzing aspects of a quarterback’s game that makes him “elite”, Cosell came to the conclusion that Rivers stands out more than any other QB in one area:
To understand how to evaluate NFL quarterback play, you must begin with a basic premise: The position is played, first and foremost, from the pocket. Many characteristics, each of which can be tangibly identified and quantified, are necessary to do just that.
One critical measure can be summarized as pocket toughness. There are a number of factors that define it. In the NFL, you have to be able to throw the ball effectively when the pass protection, for any number of reasons, is not sturdy and secure. It could be a stunt in which a looping defensive lineman is not blocked. It could be a blitz scheme in which a rusher is not accounted for and gets in clean. In either scenario, the quarterback must look down the gun barrel and release the ball knowing he is going to get hit. More often than not, it’s a situation in which the pocket gradually closes in, and the functional space to deliver the football is significantly reduced. The overriding point is you must throw the ball in the eye of the storm. It’s a compulsory attribute to play the position at a high level.
Rivers does this better than any quarterback in the league. He plays in a Norv Turner offense that puts a premium on intermediate and downfield throws. That features a higher percentage of five- and seven-step drops. The ball, by design, does not necessarily come out quickly. The ideal timing of a five-step drop is 2.1 seconds; a seven-step drop is 2.6 seconds. (By contrast, the ball should come out on a three-step drop in 1.5 seconds.) More time in the pocket means more time for the pass rush to diminish space and minimize that comfortable cradle. Rivers does not flinch in the face of pressure. Even when it’s present, he still steps into his throws and delivers the ball with accuracy and velocity. And he has been doing this since 2006, his first year as a starter.
If you’ve ever marveled at the play of Philip Rivers, chances are his proficiency with the deep ball has caught your eye. He has made beautiful music going long with his receivers over the years. He made those same connections last season, but it brought about mixed results.
Philip Rivers definitely has the tools and skillset to bounce back from his subpar 2011. I’m just hoping he has enough surrounding him to realize his true potential. Losing Vincent Jackson is a huge drawback for the Chargers passing game. Mike Tolbert worked wonders for the Charges offense in short yardage situations and bailed them out repeatedly on 3rd downs, but he’s in Carolina now. With Antonio Gates getting older, fatter and slower as the years pile on, and the up until now unreliable Ryan Matthews the focal point of the running game, Philip Rivers will need to be at his absolute best for this team to succeed.