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Clausen goes on the defensive

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Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 1, 2010

Blog excerpt from washingtonpost.com/redskinsinsider

To hear ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay tell it, former Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen lacks leadership skills and maturity. Other than that, Clausen apparently is a pretty good guy.

"I have no idea why he says that," Clausen said Wednesday in a lengthy phone interview. "People are just going to say what they want to say. But at the end of the day, I am who I am. And the people who really know who I am, know the type of person that I am -- a loving, caring person [who's] a pretty good football player and a great leader on the field and off the field."

On Wednesday, McShay was covering pro day at the University of Texas and unavailable to comment, an ESPN spokesman said. Draft analyst Mel Kiper, McShay's ESPN colleague, has praised Clausen, saying he grew into an outstanding leader at Notre Dame. And Vinny Cerrato, formerly Washington's executive vice president of football operations, recently expressed confidence Clausen could become a top NFL signal caller.

The Redskins are scheduled to conduct a private workout in South Bend, Ind., with Clausen, widely considered the second-best quarterback in the draft behind former Oklahoma star Sam Bradford, on April 15. Bradford seemed to solidify his status as the No. 1 overall player Monday at his pro day. However, he did not play in a pro-style offense as Clausen did at Notre Dame.

"I think the biggest upside that I have, and one of the things that I have over all the quarterbacks in the draft, is I've played in a pro-style offense," Clausen said. "I know how to change protections. I know how to make alerts to get to a better play. Sometimes you call two, three plays in the huddle. You have to know whether [the defense] is in an over front, even front or if they're in an off front. I know how to call the Mike ID every single time. I know my hot [reads] and my side adjusts. It's just a lot of different things that in different offenses, spread offenses, that you wouldn't see."

Even McShay has acknowledged Clausen might be the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year's draft class because of Notre Dame's offensive scheme under former coach Charlie Weis, who played a role in the development of Pro Bowl quarterback Tom Brady when Weis directed the New England Patriots' offense.

"Just being able to be taught by Coach Weis, and understand how to study film, not just to go in there and watch the film but really understand it, really helped me," Clausen said. "To be able to look at the fronts, look at how the linebackers are lined up, see if they're in the bubble, or if they're in the A-gap . . . that's important for our team. To look at the leverage of the corners, and the depth of the safeties, and understand what they're doing is important."

To be sure, Clausen produced at Notre Dame despite the team's overall lack of success under Weis, who was fired after last season. Despite being battered behind a line that struggled in pass protection, Clausen improved statistically each season. He declared for the draft after a junior year in which he completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 3,722 yards with 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He had a 161.42 passer rating.

As a junior, Clausen was elected team captain. He also displayed his mettle in playing most of the season with toe ligaments he injured in September. He had surgery after the season and has resumed his normal workout routine. Bradford missed most of last season after suffering two shoulder injuries during a span of six weeks.

If being elected as a captain and playing through pain doesn't show what type of person he really is, "then nothing will," Clausen said. "If I was as bad of a leader and as bad of a teammate and person that [McShay's] portraying me to be out there, I don't think anybody would have voted for me as a captain.

"To be honest, I don't think my receivers would have come out to stay at my house with my family for a week last year before the past season in the summertime. There are just a lot of things he says that I really don't get. But that's just another person who really doesn't know who I am as a person."


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