Lions breaking Hendon Hooker's old habits, developing new ones

Lions breaking Hendon Hooker’s old habits, developing new ones
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After being sidelined with ACL rehab for a majority of his rookie season, many are hoping that Hooker can firmly plant his flag as Detroit’s backup entering 2024. However, Hooker’s inconsistencies throughout the offseason program revealed he’ll require additional time on task before one could reasonably feel comfortable throwing him out there in a regular-season pinch.

Of course, there is plenty of additional time for Hooker to grasp the finer points of the offense throughout training camp and preseason, where he will get every chance to hone his craft. But it’s fair to say that his areas for potential improvement are quite clear.

“Be on time, be accurate, understand the situation,” quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell told reporters at the end of OTAs and minicamp.

While it was a popular talking point among Hooker’s detractors during his draft cycle, it has perhaps been underestimated just how different an NFL offense — particularly that of the mad scientist Ben Johnson — is compared to the one Hooker was asked to run at Tennessee, which was based heavily on one-read throws and generally lacked the requirement for Hooker to go through a variety of progressions and make a throw on time.

Passing-game coordinator Tanner Engstrand said Hooker was “almost standing still” on a lot of his dropbacks in college.

“He comes from a different system at Tennessee in college where really he was almost standing still — almost like sitting in cement at times where there was no movement going on and he’s just waiting,” Engstrand said. “Where now it’s — things are in rhythm, in timing, the routes should be coming open at a specific time in his drop and the ball needs to be thrown at those times.

“So for him to really have that where he’s not having to think about what drop I’m taking, it’s just naturally flowing. ‘I’m in this drop, this is the concept,’ and we can get rid of the ball on time and in rhythm. So I think just as that becomes second nature to him, you’ll continue to see the improvement there. For sure."

And some positivity

But there’s even more optimism in the fact Hooker has progressed in other areas that are new to him, such as huddling for the play call and a majority of the pass concepts in general.

“His understanding of our concept and the intent of the plays that are being called by Coach Johnson and what we’re trying to accomplish. He just has a much better feel at this time than he did a year ago, of course, and that comes with just getting reps,” Brunell said.

“He’s actually able to go out there and play football. And with that, he’s made a lot of mistakes, he’s done a lot of good things, but we have seen some growth in such a short amount of time.


This is why I think Hooker has a long ways to go and is no certain thing. It is why Suds is still here.

He comes from a different system at Tennessee in college where really he was almost standing still — almost like sitting in cement at times where there was no movement going on and he’s just waiting,” Engstrand said.

“Where now it’s — things are in rhythm, in timing, the routes should be coming open at a specific time in his drop and the ball needs to be thrown at those times


Which makes me keep wondering, why take a developmental guy that is older if they aren’t going to be able to play any time soon?

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Because if he is capable, you got a heck of a guy in the 3rd round that would have been in the early 1st round if not for the age and injury…

It is hard to be a capable NFL QB and so few do it at a high-level. The bust rate is extremely high. If Brad Holmes thinks he has a chance and can get him in the 3rd round, you are minimizing your risk. Would they have preferred he was younger? Yes.


He had 58 TD’s and 5 int’s at Tennessee, so in that environment he was both accurate and protected the ball. We have some excellent route runners who have proven they can be at the spot quickly, like the shallow cross patterns for St Brown and LaPorta fill ins, with dump offs to the RB is what I would like to see in his preseason games. Quick read and throw type routes. It may have been a mistake to take him, anyone’s guess right now.

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We must have seen his upside as worth it. And if we’re right, it will be one of the best picks of Brad’s career.

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Which goes to throwing in a rythem and the right time.

Remember as well, which I don’t think the article discussed at least directly, not pointed at you 1C, that this is Ben’s offense which is based on play action.

Which means he has to put his back to the defense for a second or two, footwork has to be there. Then look back at the defense and understand what he is seeing all in 2-3seconds while the defenders are bearing down on him.

I get that, but I also think with Hooker or any backup you want to start off with the high percentage completion plays with shorter routes and dump off possibilities. The tell for him for being successful with his reads IMO will be if he is able to do his own line calls. Know what you’re looking at before the ball is snapped.


And we got at a minimum imho a high quality back up for his rookie contract

And trade bait if need be

And Hooker might be able to perform if God forbid Goff went down. Having backups like Blough, Tim Boyle and Sudfeld was terrifying to think about.


I have some short video clips of the coaches being hard on Hooker. I had to be stealth to get these guys. Hope you appreciate.

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It’s true that pre-snap reads are important, but I think most NFL QB’s can make a pre-snap read. That’s class room stuff from a still photo.
Coaches will have every QB recognize coverages and coached on where to go when they see it.
But NFL defenses often often change from the pre-snap coverage once the play begins.
The big thing for Hooker will be adjusting to the speed and timing after the ball is snapped.
Can he make reads and get the ball out accurately and ON TIME when defenses are rotating out of the pre-snap looks, jamming receivers and blitzing from all angles.


Golly mister, I thought Blough was a swell backup.


Ur either blind or
my neighbor lmao

Blough my Boyle

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If an OC uses motion successfully….

there is little a defense can so to disguise man vs. zone.

That is a huge advantage if the QB can process that info…
even if zone blitzes add a layer of complexity to the read.

In addition… good OCs can use that motion to create leverage on half of the field… which also minimizes the QB’s need to read the entire field after the snap.


It is very easy to convert or disguise a man look to zone.
Just because a DB follows a motioning receiver doesn’t require that player to cover him in M2M.
I have my DB’s rotate or “follow and zone” all the time.
The motion changes the formation often necessitating a rotation or shift.
Motion can make it difficult to disguise a M2M coverage but that is possible also if you have proper personnel.
My players make a verbal or hand signal to communicate the switch in responsibility.

Offenses get one motion after they are set.
Defenses are constantly moving, communicating and shifting before and more importantly at, and after the snap.
Pre-snap reads are important and can assist a QB in selecting matchups.
But a QB’s success is determined by how they process, react, and execute once the ball is snapped and bullets start flying.
A good DC with an experienced defense can change the coverage from the pre-snap read on EVERY play if they want.
Sometimes you change it and sometimes you don’t to switch it up.
Sometimes you don’t have to because it isn’t necessary or you don’t want to put too much on film for future opponents.
I love playing against QB’s who pre-determine the plan before the snap and aren’t good at reacting to change. I can then dictate play and create a lot of turnovers.
I and my players know where the QB will try to throw the ball on certain coverages. You then drop a player into that window or switch coverage responsibilities in M2M coverage.


This is very rarely shown on any NFL game breakdown….

either on TV or even when youtube scouting analysis videos show a defense reacting after the snap.

I’d love to see some examples of ANY college or NFL defense faking a coverage by following pre-snap motion… or NOT following pre-smap motion… and then playing the opposite coverage that one might expect.

I believe All22 identified the Packers doing this to us on Thanksgiving.