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Clayton Tune is no ordinary rookie QB

Why Tune may be able to start games sooner, rather than later

NFL: Preseason-Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

At the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City, when Clayton Tune was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the 5th round at pick #139, he said to the Arizona media that he believes he is the best QB in his draft class.

I don't know about you, but I was impressed that Clayton Tune felt the urgency to set the bar that high. It wasn’t as if he was just happy or relieved to be drafted. He was setting high goals for himself and responding as if the moment wasn’t too big for him.

Tune’s Production at Houston:

For the record, in some respects, Clayton Tune may have a point —- here is how his college numbers match up against the 4 top QBs taken at #1, #2, #4 and #33 in the draft:

  • Bryce Young (Alabama): 625/949, 65.8 %, 8,356 yds., 8.8 ave., 80 TDs, 12 ints., 162 rushing yds., 1.2, ave., 7 rushing TDs, 165.0 rating.
  • C.J. Stroud (Ohio St.): 575/830, 69.3 %, 8,123 yds., 9.8 ave. 85 TDs, 12 ints, 136 hoards rushing, 1.7 ave. 1 rushing TD, 182.4 rating.
  • Anthony Richardson (Florida): 215/393, 54.7%, 3,105 yds., 7.9 ave, 24 TDs, 15 ints, 1,116 yds. rushing, 6.9 ave., 12 rushing TDs, 133.6 rating.
  • Will Levis (Kentucky): 497/738, 64.9 %, 5,876 yds., 8.0 ave. 46 TDs, 25 ints, 742 rushing yards, 2.4 ave., 17 rushing TDs, 145.6 rating.
  • Clayton Tune (Houston): 956/1,497, 63.9 %, 11,994 yds., 8.0 ave., 104 TDs, 41 ints., 1,248 yds. rushing, 3.0 ave., 15 rushing TDs., 148.6 rating.

Some will say that Tune played against a weaker schedule and played longer, so his stats may not be comparable to QBs who starred in the SEC or Big Ten. However, a natural counter to that argument is that Clayton Tune was not throwing to can’t-miss 5 Star All-Americans —- and he wasn’t given the kind of WR depth or as comparably talented offensive lines to protect him.

Regardless, Clayton Tune's college production was prolific.

Assessing Clayton Tune’s NFL Preseason Action:

When Tune got his first taste of live action, facing the stout Broncos’ defense and then the 2022 Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs’ defense, the moments for him there did not seem too big for him.. He was champing at the bit and looked like he was relishing the opportunity. At times, he was a little too revved up. But, playing with adrenaline and passion is a good thing. And so is the ability to persevere through mistakes.

Clayton Tune’s play throughout the pre-season showed steady promise —- and it also indicated that he does not appear eager to stand on the sidelines holding a clipboard when the real games begin. In other words, Tune was trying to build a case that he is fit to be the Cardinals’ starter during Kyler Murray’s absence.

Tune’s Preseason Stats:

  • ARI 18 DEN 17 : 13/23, 135 yds., 5.9 ave., 1 TD, 1 INT, 4/9 yds. rushing, 3-19yds. sacks, 70.0 rating

Tuning on a Dime:

  • KC 38 ARI 10: 12/24, 133 yds., 5.6 ave., 0 TD, ) INT, 6/35 rushing, 0-0 sacks, 66.8 rating

Good tempo during the 2 minute drill.

JG recognized how Chiefs’ outstanding DC Steve Spagnuola was throwing an array of coverage looks and blitz schemes at Tune to try to rattle him, but Tune was able to use his keen pocket awareness and mobility to avoid getting sacked.

  • ARI 18 MIN 17: 9/12, 85 yds. 7.1, 0 TD 0 INT, 1-16 sack, 94.1 rating

Clips from the joint practices and game:

Tuning in on Another Dime to the Post

Throwing between the hashmarks is Tune’s forte: Just ask Tank Dell, Greg Dortch, Davion Davis and Kaden Davis.

Extending the play and delivering a strike on the run to Michael Wilson.

Deep out pass for TD to Greg Dortch (not overthrown like in Week 1):

Out pass with perfect touch to TE Blake EWhitheart —- no problem.

Tune’s feel for open areas within the pocket and his nifty Tom Brady type footwork:

Early Setback in the Game:

Tune’s Answer:

What was extremely impressive after Clayton Tune got blindsided for a strip sack TD, was how he bounced right back with his very next sna, while leading the Cardinals on a 59 yard drive that led to a Matt Prater 38 yard FG:

Drive Sequence (thanks to ESPN):

1st & 10 at ARI 21

  • (8:56 - 1st) C.Tune pass deep left to G.Dortch ran ob at ARZ 47 for 26 yards.

1st & 10 at ARI 47

  • (8:19 - 1st) K.Ingram right end to MIN 48 for 5 yards (T.Dye, T.Reeder).

2nd & 5 at MIN 48

  • (7:43 - 1st) (Shotgun) C.Tune pass short right to K.Davis pushed ob at MIN 41 for 7 yards (J.Williams).

1st & 10 at MIN 41

  • (7:09 - 1st) C.Tune pass short left to N.Togiai to MIN 34 for 7 yards (B.Whitley, T.Dye).

2nd & 3 at MIN 34

  • (6:32 - 1st) (Shotgun) K.Ingram right end to MIN 23 for 11 yards (J.Ward).

1st & 10 at MIN 23

  • (5:52 - 1st) (Shotgun) C.Tune pass short right to K.Ingram pushed ob at MIN 20 for 3 yards (K.Barnes).

2nd & 7 at MIN 20

  • (5:22 - 1st) (Shotgun) C.Tune pass incomplete short middle to G.Dortch.

3rd & 7 at MIN 20

  • (5:19 - 1st) (Shotgun) C.Tune pass incomplete short middle to D.Davis (S.Day).

4th & 7 at MIN 20

  • (5:10 - 1st) M.Prater 38 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-A.Brewer, Holder-N.Cooney.

It looked like Tune’s pass to Dortch over the middle was catchable and could have kept the chains moving in the Red Zone.

What’s Impressive about Clayton Tune:

  • He’s played a ton of high volume, highly productive football.
  • Pocket poise.
  • Feel for pocket pressure.
  • Footwork to maneuver in and outside of the pocket.
  • Natural throwing motion.
  • Best accuracy and zip over the middle between the hash marks from a Cardinals’ QB, imo, since Kurt Warner.
  • Natural escapability.
  • Resiliency.
  • Bounce right back at the defense ability, much like Carson Palmer.
  • Competitive fire.
  • The chemistry he develops with an array of receivers.
  • Ability and penchant for mixing up snap counts to keep the defense off balance and without drawing his own OL off-side.
  • Ability to get the ball in the hands of the team’s playmakers.
  • Adept at converting QB sneaks.

And best of all, for the first time in a while, the Cardinals not only have a QB who is in complete command of the pocket, one who steps up into the pocket like the offensive linemen prefer, he plays poised and doen’t look skittish or panicked in the pocket or while running the ball. He’s got a Joe Burrow type of relentlessness. Plus, he is a legitimate running threat at any given time and tucks and secures the ball the way ball carriers are coached.

Improvement areas:

  • Better timing and accuracy on boundary passes created by squaring his shoulders to the target.
  • Footwork after taking direct snaps from under center.
  • Better depth and footwork off play action bootlegs and waggles.
  • Making his throws a little. more compact amidst pressure.
  • Looking off safeties.
  • Reading blitz packages.
  • Forcing the ball into the tightest of windows.
  • Can hold the ball sometimes a little too long —- but once he develops trust with his receivers he will make quicker throws off their breaks.

Could Clayton Tune Start Right Away?

I believe Clayton Tune has just as good a chance to succeed at starting games right away as Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson. Obviously, he is going to have to adjust to his reads and learn from some mistakes. But, if the coaches are worried that Clayton Tune might get demoralized or shell shocked, I don't think that’s in his nature. His resiliency is one of the key aspects that makes him a cut above the average QB.

Against the Broncos, he struggled early, settled down and made key adjustments. Against the Chiefs, who were trying to intimidate him with exotic looks and blitz packages, he adroitly managed to sidestep and escape pressure. Against the Vikings he was strip sacked on a blitz he did not see coming —- and fumbled because of a direct helmet hit on the ball —- and then he tried like crazy to get up and go after the ball —-but it was scooped up and run in for a TD. So, Tune brushed himself off and answered the bell by marching the offense down the field.

if the Cardinals clearly have a better option, then sure, it would make sense to go with a veteran to start the season. However, Colt McCoy has not moved the ball while throwing a steady diet of short passes, making the new offense look a lot like last year’s offense. The question is, how healthy is Colt’s arm?

While Joshua Dobbs has two more career starts than Clayton Tune, he’s been in the NFL for 6 years and knows the game preparation routines. Yet, can he develop chemistry with his new set of receivers in two week’s time?

David Blough has engineered two come from behind 4th quarter wins this preseason and has 7 career NFL starts, albeit without a win yet. Blough is a gamer. But, is his arm in the best of shape right now?

Given those options and the fact that Joshua Dobbs is fresh on the scene, could Clayton Tune be the best choice to start Week 1 versus the Commanders?

In my opinion, if the coaches decide to start one of the veterans, I hope they are prepared to run Clayton Tune into the game if the starter is struggling. I am surprised that the coaches didn’t play Tune more with the starters in practice and games —- although he did get some good reps with them during the joint practices with the Vikings.

The way Marquise Brown and Zach Pascal have been virtual ghosts this preseason, while Rondale Moore was being relegated to being thrown 3 yard passes —- some QB has got to find a way to engage and sync up with them. If not, I would be more than happy to see Clayton Tune mesh with the receivers he’s already developed a rapport with, like Michael Wilson, Greg Dortch, Andre Baccellia, Blake Whiteheart, Davion Davis and Kaden Davis. Those dudes are already in game shape and look hungry.

ROTB Question of the Day:


Do you think Clayton Tune would be too overwhelmed and overmatched to start Week 1?

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