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In-depth on Leinart with Texans QB coach Knapp

Posted by Nick Scurfield on November 26, 2011 – 11:39 am

On Friday, I sat down with Texans quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp to discuss Matt Leinart, T.J. Yates and Matt Schaub.

Sitting in his office two days before Leinart’s first start since 2009, Knapp talked at length about Leinart’s preparations, his strengths as a passer and how he fits in the Texans’ offense. You can listen to the entire thing in this podcast. Here are some of the highlights from the interview:

On how excited he is for Leinart: “Very much excited for Matt. He deserves an opportunity to play, and unfortunately, it’s in a tough circumstance for us because of all the respect we have for Matt Schaub, but Matt Leinart has put the extra work in required to be a starter in this league. He’s won games in this league as a starter and just came into a tough situation there where it didn’t work out for him as well for him in Arizona, so the fact that he’s been fortunate enough to be in a position to get a chance to play again, he’s very excited about it, just like we’re excited for him.”

On the “extra work” Leinart has put in: “It started last year. When he first got here, he came here after training camp, so he would meet with me at 6:15 in the morning before we started our 7 o’clock meetings with the players, and he would start learning little bit parts of the offense and we’d watch practice tape on him and his footwork and his mechanics and we’d try to start working his knowledge of our system along with the physical part of our system for him to improve in his game. He did that throughout the 16 weeks of last year’s season, and then after practice on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and also on gamedays, three hours prior to kickoff since he was the third quarterback for us, he came out and worked on individual mechanics on the field with different receivers, tight ends and sometimes just with the other QB, worked on his little nuances of dropback play that we felt were important to improve his game.”

On how much the Texans’ play-action game fits Leinart’s skill set: “It fits him real well. I’m kind of in a unique position here because I was with the Oakland Raiders when Lane Kiffin got the head job. Lane had just finished being the co-offensive coordinator at USC when Matt Leinart was there… and so the offense that he put in at Oakland was similar to what we do here. And so it was very familiar for me to see the different types of play-calling and plays they used with what we do here, and I’ve known for a fact that USC studied a lot of Gary Kubiak’s offense over the years. So, sometimes in this business like it is in any other profession it’s not so much when you get drafted but the right fit, and maybe Arizona wasn’t the right fit once they changed head coaches there from Denny Green to Ken Whisenhunt. Here, it seems to be the right fit for him from a scheme standpoint.”

On the year Schaub was having: “He really did a great job of protecting the ball. He had only one interception in the last five games before he got hurt here. It was a 2.1 interception percentage, so he was going towards that direction of a 2.0 or better, which is outstanding in this business. He had his highest touchdown percentage passing so far in his career as a starter at 5.1, and when he unfortunately got his injury, he was second in the NFL in yards per pass play… You really can evaluate a guy by what is his yards per pass play, and he was second in the NFL at that and had a top-five QB rating. He was playing very well and doing the right things with the ball in his hand and helping this team stay on schedule, as we say, on first and second down and get us a top-five ranking in third-down conversions.”

On Yates’ development: “He’s done a very good job at practice. Now, you never know until live bullets, but as the season has progressed, you can see him growing with confidence, a feeling of acceptance that he deserves to be here. It’s still an unknown factor for us, at what level can he play when he becomes a starter, but obviously as a rookie you’re always going to have some growing pains. But as far as when we handle him in the classroom and he answers the questions right, and the way we quiz our guys and keep ‘em on top of their progressions and what the defenses are doing, he’s very much into the game. He has a natural trait to be able to get rid of the ball pretty fast in the pocket and sees the field well. So far, he’s shown us the right things you want to see from a rookie quarterback. Obviously, what he lacks is playing experience.”

On how comfortable Leinart is with the playbook: “He’s proven to us on the classroom and in the practice time that he’s had, he’s got a good understanding of the majority of the offense. I wouldn’t say as much as obviously as Matt (Schaub) did, but it’s not like we’re cutting back a whole lot. We’re making sure that whatever he’s not comfortable with, we don’t need to put in. So he’s really handled a majority of what we normally would do, and so we expect him to kind of just step in there like every other position on this team has had to do, it seems like. The D-line, the linebackers, the receivers at one time, the running backs one time, some guy’s had to step up. And Leinart has seen that, and he feels like, ‘It’s my turn to do that. Don’t slow down for me; you didn’t slow down for those other guys. Let’s get this ship going in the same direction.’”

On Leinart’s leadership on the field: “He’s got a switch that goes on when he’s in charge of the huddle. He really takes command and has good eye contact with everybody, gives the little reminders to them. It reassures the players in that huddle that he’s got a good grasp of our offense because of the little reminders he gives and the way he eye-contacts the different players. If he makes a mistake, he’ll be the one that goes and tells that receiver or that lineman that, ‘Hey, I didn’t take the right drop,’ or, ‘I made a bad pass.’ He doesn’t try to point fingers at anybody else other than himself. He always starts with himself if there’s a mistake, and he wants to know if he can make it better for the team. So by doing those little things on a daily basis, no a play-to-play basis, the players will play harder for you.”

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