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2020 Senior Bowl: Interview W/ Zebra Technologies

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We take another peek behind the curtain of the company that handles analytics at the Senior Bowl

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

At this year’s Senior Bowl, I got another chance to interview the Vice President of Zebra Technologies, John Pollard.

Zebra Tech is the analytics company that handles the Next Gen Stats brand for the NFL along with handling the data for every player at the Senior Bowl.

They do all the data tracking via chips in shoulder pads and in the footballs. Analytics have been the new trend in football for some time now as teams look to maximize every inch of performance that they can get. Zebra Tech is a company has expanded further into the analytics field in football.

Also, as a special gift for us at Addicted to Quack, they were gracious enough to send some data from the Senior Bowl a couple of weeks ago.

USC WR Michael Pittman, Jr - Max speed was 19.73 mph on Day 1.

Utah DB Terrell Burgess - 20.11 mph max speed on Day 1. Which was 10th fastest of any player regardless of position.

Colorado LB Davion Taylor - 19.8 mph, which was fastest for the linebackers for both sides.

UCLA RB Joshua Kelley - 18.35 mph max speed

QB Justin Herbert - 15.07 mph on Day 1 and 13.19 mph on Day 2.

OL Calvin Throckmorton - 2,576 yards of total distance covered. 13.04 mph max speed. Third fastest out of 20 total OL on Day 2.

Day 1 + 2 QB Data

note: according to the nextgenstats.nfl.com site, they define “zones” as follows: behind the line of scrimmage (Zone 1), the LOS to 10 yards (Zone 2), 10 yards to 20 yards (Zone 3, and 20 yards and beyond (Zone 4).

As you can see in the chart, Justin Herbert had the shortest max air time on his throws compared to the other quarterbacks in the past three Senior Bowls. He also ranks very high in terms of maximum speed on his throws. Not to get all physics but the more rotations the ball has, the more likely the arm strength is enough to make all the NFL level throws. He compares favorably in terms of arm strength to Josh Allen. Physically, he was the most impressive quarterback this year. What’s concerning is the low height of his passes but it seemed like he was guiding his passes more than just letting them go full bore (which is understandable given the lack of cohesion between all parties).

Context Alert

  • Anthony Gordon (Washington State) and Shea Patterson (Michigan) reverted to their natural selves even after leaving the natural systemic confines i.e. the short passing game with a few deep concepts. The outlier being Jalen Hurts who has some arm strength questions with a Drew Brees (a similarly sized passer) like stare up and windup with a Russell Wilson stance like motion on his passes from the pocket. I’m not saying he’ll be on the level of either of those two elite QBs but it’s what I see in terms of mechanics. Also, Oklahoma’s offense is the best schematically designed offense I’ve seen since the Chip Kelly days in Eugene.

For comparison’s sake here is what Zebra Tech charted for Utah State QB Jordan Love (the other physically talented yet inconsistent QB in Mobile).

The Interview

(sorry for the audio quality, I was in a bit of a time crunch so the editing was kinda poor on my part)