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Original Issue

Grooming a Young Passer Jim Zorn works on more than mechanics with Charlie Batch

There were still 51 seconds left in the second quarter of the
Lions' game with the Cardinals on Nov. 1, when Detroit
quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn began preparing rookie Charlie Batch
for the following week's game against the Eagles. After throwing
his third interception of the half, Batch took his spot next to
Zorn on the Detroit bench. Zorn was about to tell Batch that he
was being benched for the first time in his six-game NFL career,
but before that Zorn wanted Batch to understand why his pass had
been picked off.

"What did you see?" Zorn asked. Batch explained that he was
throwing over the middle to tight end David Sloan. Zorn then
produced a photograph of the defense on that play (shot from
upstairs). Batch hadn't realized that the Arizona defenders were
taking deeper drops than usual, and the result was an easy
interception by Cardinals free safety Kwamie Lassiter. "For this
defense that was not the right read," Zorn said.

The coach was more concerned with how his pupil would react to
the benching. "I told him, 'Don't overreact. Let's watch films on
Monday and see what took place,'" says Zorn, an NFL quarterback
of 11 seasons who played for the Seahawks, Packers and Bucs.
"First thing Monday at the quarterbacks meeting, I had to see how
he felt about being pulled and get him to talk about it."

As soon as Batch and fellow quarterbacks Frank Reich and Scott
Mitchell took their seats, Zorn addressed the class pup. "You
are not always going to be benched when things go bad," Zorn
told Batch. "At some point you are going to have to play through
it." Batch's response was just what Zorn wanted to hear. "That's
what I wanted to do, keep playing," Batch said. "I got us into
trouble. I wanted to get us out."

Convinced that Batch had the right mind-set, Zorn spent much of
the rest of the week trying to break two of the rookie's
destructive habits. Batch has repeatedly missed receivers on
corner routes because he throws to a spot before considering
what impact the defender's positioning might have on the
receiver's angle. "He can't anticipate," says Zorn. "He has to
wait for the receiver to break." Batch has also been
unnecessarily checking off at the line after misreading
defensive adjustments. The best remedy for this deficiency is
experience. "When I explain these things to veterans, I'm just
refreshing their memories," Zorn says. "Batch is learning it for
the first time."

Batch was back for some on-the-job training on Sunday. He
completed 14 of 27 passes for 146 yards, and while he didn't
throw any interceptions, he didn't get the Lions into the end
zone either. He did drive them 40 yards in the final 3:23, but
the Eagles hung on for a 10-9 win when Jason Hanson's 58-yard
field goal attempt fell short. "He's a rookie, and we're going
to wade through," Lions coach Bobby Ross said afterward. "We're
struggling with some things, relative to reads. But we're going
to work through that."

--Richard Deutsch

COLOR PHOTO: VINCENT MUZIK Zorn (right) tries to help Batch understand the mistakes the rookie has made. [Charlie Batch and Jim Zorn]