NFL Film Breakdown: Allen Lazard’s Growth and Potential in Green Bay

The Green Bay Packers struggled to find a reliable target outside of Davante Adams all season. They had four different players between 400 and 500 yards receiving including the aging Jimmy Graham and running back Aaron Jones. That leaves just two receivers who managed to get to the 400 yard mark for the Packers outside of Adams: Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Valdes-Scantling clearly grew out of favor with the coaches and had a total of 5 catches on 19 targets and just 36 yards after week 7. Allen Lazard on the other hand, started to come on strong towards the end of the year. While he only had 477 yards and 3 touchdowns, he showed good growth and started to carve out a role for himself as a reliable second receiving option in Green Bay.

Note: If you prefer to watch a video breakdown, scroll to the bottom of this article.

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While he isn’t the most explosive, his route technique and knowledge grew throughout the year. He started to look more polished, became a frequent target on RPOs, and was a really solid blocker. At 6’5″ and 227 lbs, he’s got to be a guy that can win with his frame, strength, and attack the ball in the air. He won’t win on pure athleticism so he has to match his physical tools with sound technique and smart play to have consistent success.

We’ll start with his blocking because if you’re going to play in Matt LaFleur’s system, the bigger body you are and the more willing and capable of a blocker you are, the more chances you’re going to have to be on the field and thus, the more opportunities you’re going to have to make an impact in the passing game. His upper body and core and hip strength are really impressive and allow him to stay square on defenders. He’s able to move his feet and despite his tall frame, he maintains good leverage. He can knock smaller corners off the ball and uses a wide and solid base that helps him maintain power and push while staying in front of defenders and avoiding holding calls.

If you’re an undrafted guy it always helps to show great effort. Lazard has committed to the blocking game, has been in the right place for Aaron Rodgers, and makes plays like these where he’s sprinting down the field to help make a block.

While his blocking is consistent and has gotten him more reps, he’s isn’t going to blow defenders away with his athleticism so he needs to use his large frame to win routes. As mentioned before, he has a size advantage on most DBs and he does a really good job of attacking the ball in the air and has started to use that frame to his advantage. He rarely lets the ball get into his body which allows him to win contested catches and enables him to maintain his stride for yards after the catch.

While he attacks the ball and has begun to use his frame, he can still struggle with jams and getting out of his breaks with physical defenders. He shows inconsistent hand usage when trying to defeat bumps and checks at the linebacker level and in press.

Instead of using his hands, he typically takes his shoulder away from the bump attempts. It can be subtle but it reduces the surface area the defender has to attack. With the smaller surface area, it’s harder for the defender to get a powerful jam and allows for more fluid releases when the defender is less aggressive at the line.

One area he’s started to excel at are his slants. Earlier in the year he could get a little too wide on his initial outside stem and once he had the defensive back beat, they’d be in his slant path which would then throw off the timing of the route. He gets the corners hips to turn here but because he got too vertical, he has to flatten his slant to get to open space and he isn’t open when Rodgers is looking which results in a throwaway.

Compared to the last few games of the year, he looks much more polished with his releases and initial stems and pushes to the outside on his slants. He’s more careful not to over-run his stem and leaves space so he can get underneath them once he’s pushed up onto their toes and forces them to turn their hips. Especially when you have a corner walked up in man coverage, it’s important to threaten them vertically on any route you run. The last thing they want is to get beat deep. To take advantage of that, you have to get up close to them and sell a vertical route which is what Lazard has started to do really well. His initial track and stem of his route is as if he’s running a fade down the sideline. Defenders have to respect that and once they turn their hips to the outside to run with him, it leaves space underneath for Lazard to attack. It can be quick or more elongated based on the coverage and timing of the play but he has begun to put the pieces together to be able to get himself open and manipulate defenders in man coverage.

He’s also begun to integrate other route techniques that aren’t quite as polished but it does show that he’s starting to translate technique to games. In zone coverage, if at all possible, you’ve got to attack defenders blind spot. When corners turn in towards the quarterback with their back to the sideline, there’s a window a yard or two away from them where they lose visibility if the receiver gets up on them. You can see him attempt that exact technique but he shorts it a little and is still visible by the defensive back. The issue is that he takes a poor initial track towards the rotating safety and enters the blind spot late. The Packers are running a play-action shot here and the run action is going to the left. While it happens, a late out-breaking route away from a run action is a really long throw and the defensive back has eyes on the quarterback in case that happens. So to the sell from an inside stem back to a deep out, comeback, or corner when Rodgers is on the opposite hash is a pretty tough throw and allows the DB to have more time to break on it. Because of this, he doesn’t need to immediately react to it. With Lazard entering into and staying inside the corners vision until the very top of the route, Lazard is closing the window for the throw by bringing himself closer to the safety while simultaneously keeping himself within vision of the defensive back that’s in cover 3. If he stems instead a little to the outside or runs on a line, he can widen the corner, stay away from the safety, and more feasibly enter the blind spot of the DB.

With Lazard’s lack of true deep-threat speed or explosive athleticism, he’s got to be super polished with his route technique and a disciplined player that uses his body and size to win contested catches. He’s started to do both of those things which is encouraging but he’s definitely not there yet.

For an undrafted free agent in only his second year, Allen Lazard has shown promise. His tenacity in the blocking game will get him on the field and allow him to grow into a more precise and advanced route runner. As he develops into the system and hones his skill set while developing chemistry with Aaron Rodgers, he can serve as a solid #2 or #3 receiver. If the Packers end up running more 12 or 22 personnel with running backs and tight ends, you only have 2 or 3 receivers on the field anyways. Green Bay’s need for receivers might be the hot topic of conversation, but Lazard is able to produce and has shown good chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. If he continues to develop alongside Devante Adams, the sky is the limit for a Packers offense that is otherwise full of top talent and is ready to push for a Super Bowl appearance.

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Najee Harris: From The Bay To Bama

A five-star recruit coming out of high school in Antioch, California, Najee Harris headed to Tuscaloosa to win a national championship and become the next great Alabama running back. While he won a national championship as a freshman, he waited until his junior year to really explode as he rushed for over 1200 yards. Many believed he would declare for the 2020 draft, but he came back to school in hopes of winning his second title. However, as we all know, we don’t know what the hell is going to happen this season.We do know that Harris’s chances of being a high draft pick are pretty good. At this point, he is my top running back in this class and a true three-down player who can play in any scheme.

Positives

Tough to tackle

At 6-2, 230 pounds, Harris is a big man in the backfield and sometimes looks like a man amongst boys. He has no issue running over players, but will also display the athleticism to hurdle over them as well. You’ll quickly become a favorite of the coaching staff if you’re able to break tackles, which is why Harris has seen a good amount of carries every season. He’s one of those guys who’s never truly down until he’s on the ground and will drag multiple defenders with him. I don’t want to be cliché by comparing him to fellow Bay Area native Marshawn Lynch, but they both run with so much force that there are definitely some similarities in the way they run. Don’t think you’ll be able to attempt arm tackles against Harris without him running right past you.

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Threat as a pass catcher

Typical power backs like Harris don’t have such soft hands which makes him that much more dangerous. His 27 catches in 2019 may not seem like a high total, but he isn’t given too many opportunities and is part of a running back by committee at Alabama. When he was thrown the ball however, he displayed nice hands and great route running. It wasn’t always dump-off passes he was catching either. He ran out routes and wheel routes to perfection. It’s interesting to see a guy of his stature be such an excellent pass catcher because oftentimes big college running backs are much further behind in development as a pass-catcher than the smaller and more nimble running backs. He’s a true three-down player.

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Vision

While he might not be the most explosive athlete, Harris makes up for that with excellent vision. He knows how to properly read his blockers in front of him and diagnoses when to bounce outside or cut it up field. He never seems to be in a rush when the ball is in his hands, which he plays to his advantage. The SEC is known as the strongest football conference and, in particular, the strongest defensive conference in the country. So the skills he’s developed, like his vision, are key to his success at the next level.

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Negatives

Runs high

When you’re a tall running back, the chances of you running high are almost a certainty. Even productive running backs, like former Alabama stud Derrick Henry, have trouble with pad level but it doesn’t affect their overall game. What running high does is leave you susceptible to more punishment in the middle of your body as well as allowing defenders more room to hit you. Like I said, this isn’t a death sentence on his career, but it’s not ideal.

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Pass blocking

For a player of his size and strength, Harris should be an excellent pass blocker. However, Harris has struggled on several occasions and put his quarterback in harm’s way. To me, it looks like a problem with being flat-footed and not attacking the blitzer. Rather he lets the defender get too close where they can bull rush him or make one move to get around. To be honest, not many college running backs are good at this, so there is hope for improvement. This is a skill that’s worked on over and over again at the professional level as the league is relying more than ever on the passing game.

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Lack of long speed

While Harris might run through you or even over you, he’s not going to outrun your defensive backs or even linebackers. He has good enough agility and probably has a good enough 10-yard split, but he doesn’t have that breakaway speed. Many of the all-time greats didn’t have that explosiveness and had incredible careers. When you have other skills like Harris does, you’ll be fine in the long term and can get away without being a home run threat every time you touch the ball.

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Conclusion

Of any running back I’ve looked at until this point, none have the pure power Harris possesses but that isn’t what makes him so special. It’s the fact that he can run so angry, yet be such a developed runner and pass catcher that makes him as pro-ready as they come. Personally, I don’t think he has much more to improve upon at the college level but can’t blame someone for wanting to get that second ring. I think barring any unforeseen circumstance, he’ll be at worst a second-round pick and figures to be a scheme-versatile player.

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Travis Etienne: A Tigers Roar

Back to back 1600 yard rushing yards has put Clemson’s Travis Etienne on the map as one of the best running backs in the nation. Many experts believed that Etienne would declare for the 2020 and be one of the top backs in the class, but decided to go for one more national championship run for the Tigers. He had moments where he looked like the best player on an offense full of NFL caliber talent and scored in all but two games in 2019. He plays more of the Robin to Trevor Lawrence’s Batman and because of that, it allows him to fly under the radar when he is an immensely talented player. While he does have a few things to work on, his draft stock is unlikely to rise too much, but the chance to win a second championship is tough to pass up.

Positives

Receiving Ability

Etienne has seen his catch total rise every year, with him totaling 37 in 2019. He does have the advantage of being paired with a skilled quarterback and a spread offense that allows him to get open on short routes. Once he gets the ball in his hands in open space, he is a shifty runner and has great vision that allows him to gain big chunks of yards. He also holds his own for the most part as a pass blocker but will have lapses where he looks average in this department. I think of all of the running backs in this class, he could be the most versatile and dynamic in the passing game.

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Acceleration

While I don’t think he has great long speed, his short-area explosion is off the charts. I am looking forward to looking at his five and ten yard splits at the combine as on film it looks like he’s elite in terms of quickness. Most coaches value short term acceleration rather than long speed, so I suspect that Etienne will be highly coveted and RB1 for most teams. He has quick feet and utilizes this to get the edge on outside runs, which makes him able to run any route or succeed on any carry.

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Downhill runner/breaking tackles

Coaches at every level say, “Always keep your legs moving” and Etienne is a textbook example of that. He is a tough runner despite not being a “big” back and will rarely go down easy. He’s a downhill, north-south runner who will get you any yards that he can. It seems like many runners are more about finesse nowadays, relying on speed and craftiness rather than running through a defender. In the open field, Etienne is especially hard to bring down because any arm tackle that comes his way will be easily broken.

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Negatives

Patience

If Etienne wants to be an effective runner at the next level, he needs to trust his blockers more and be more patient behind the line of scrimmage. Too often he would not let the play develop and end up running right into a crowd of defenders. It seems like he gets too excited or just lacks a feel of his surroundings. He could also be a lack of vision he displays as there were a few times were a cutback lane was open, but Etienne moves too quickly and misses that chance. Hopefully, he can develop into a more well-rounded running back and trust his linemen to do what they are supposed to do.

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System RB?

Is he a product of Clemson’s offense or would he be great on any team? No one knows, but I do feel like he is the beneficiary from having a star like Trevor Lawrence as his quarterback. Defenses will gladly let him beat them while focusing their efforts to shut down Lawrence and the passing attack. This doesn’t mean he’s a scrub or not worthy of his success, but it’s something that I think you have to taken into account when watching his film.

Conclusion

Etienne has probably the highest floor of any running back in the 2021 class but might not have the highest of ceilings. His draft stock is unlikely to change to be honest, but there are still plenty of things to work on. I have three running backs (Etienne, Hubbard, and Najee Harris) all clumped together with none being the clear cut top guy in this class at this point. If Etienne can further develop his feel for the position and can become a more patient running back, he can sneak into the the first round and could be a relatively high pick. He can play in any scheme and he has the one thing you can’t teach, which is being a winner.

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NFL Film Breakdown: Robert Woods is the Most Versatile Weapon in the Rams Offense

Since signing with the Rams in 2017, Robert Woods has 3,134 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 232 receptions. Throw in 38 carries for 284 yards and he’s the absolute model of consistency and production. In 2019 he had six games where he was targeted over 11 times, and gained 50 or more yards in 9 of the 15 games he played in. He’s a bit of a jack of all trades but master of none. He has reliable hands, good speed, can snap off routes, is a willing blocker, and uses good route technique. He doesn’t dominate in any one category though and because of this he can sometimes struggle to create separation and can get a little too caught up in route stems and moves when they aren’t applicable.

Note: If you prefer to watch a video breakdown, scroll to the bottom of this article.

https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/rams-wide-receiver-robert-woods-returns-to-the-team-status-vs-ravens-in-week-12-remains-uncertain/

Be that as it may, the numbers don’t lie and McVay makes a very conscious effort to involve Woods in every game. They love running him on screens and he shows excellent vision and patience after the catch and can weave through blocks and defenders. McVay does a good job of window dressing a lot of his concepts but the end result is the same – get the ball to Woods in space and let him work and gain yards. It’s an easy throw and catch and is a good way to guarantee production from one of the best players on your team.

In almost every game, McVay also uses Woods in a tight Ace bunch formation and has him chip and block a defensive end. After showing this once, he’ll run the same formation and have Woods fake the block and release into the flats. It’s a simple concept that takes advantage of over-aggressive defenses, relies on Woods’ blocking ability, and shows effort to scheme Woods into the game and get him in space where he can go to work with room to maneuver.

This concept works because Woods is an aggressive and willing blocker. He’s definitely not shy of being physical or initiating contact and it allows McVay to utilize him in a lot of ways.

Woods shows really good understanding of route technique and applies them consistently to game scenarios. He does an excellent job of hand removal — especially when already into his route. It helps him create separation, prevents defenders from feeling him while having their eyes on the QB, and allows him to maintain his speed. It’s incredibly hard to get hands on him and playing press man would be a big ask for any DB that’s lined up on him.

He has just enough speed to keep defenders honest and can speed cut really well. He maintains speed and is really good at deep outs, pushing up on defenders, and cutting underneath them while losing very little speed.

While he incorporates all the right route running techniques into his routes, a minor nitpick is that he struggles pushing onto defender’s toes and making them respect those moves. The stems and moves at the top of your route are great but if the defender doesn’t feel threatened and you haven’t closed enough space, all they’re going to do is slow you down and defenders won’t bite or be moved. It’s subtle but you can see here how he gives a hard move and jab to the outside when the defender still has 4 yards of cushion on him. It doesn’t threaten him and the defensive back doesn’t bite on it.

When a receiver isn’t threatening the leverage of the defensive back quickly enough or the DB isn’t scared of their speed, it makes it really difficult to move them and get them out of position which you can see crop up with Woods at times.

Compare that now to similar moves when he’s on the defender’s toes and threatening them vertically. Once he’s hip to hip with the defender he looks over the wrong shoulder and gives a quick move to the inside. The defender has to respect this move because if he doesn’t, he has less cushion and time to recover. This gives him just enough separation off his cut to open a window for the ball. The difference is night and day when he can get up to defender’s toes and really threaten their spot and attack their leverage. 

He understands how to push defenders and the power of stemming and looking, he just doesn’t threaten DBs consistently enough for it to help him get separation all the time.

He can also struggle with directional releases. His desire to stem and push defenders one way to open up space can sometimes backfire. When releasing from the line of scrimmage, you want to give yourself the best leverage possible. It’s not an inflexible rule, but generally if you have an in-breaking route, you want to release inside of the defender, if you have an out-breaking route, you want to release outside. Woods doesn’t do this on a consistent basis. If you can work back on top of your defender or stem them to open up space, it’s great, but when you don’t win or threaten them, you’re running yourself into being covered. You can see on these how his releases are setting him up in disadvantageous situations and how he’s struggling to navigate through chips when he takes the wrong release.

Woods is definitely capable of applying all these techniques appropriately, he just needs some small tweaks to take his game to the next level.

All together, Robert Woods is a highly efficient receiver for the Rams. He doesn’t blow you away athletically, but he applies coaching really well, is heavily involved in the scheme that the Rams run, and is a smart and disciplined player. While he struggles to combine it all together on a snap-to-snap basis at times, for every poor release and route strategy, there’s an equally good one. He’s clearly a top target in that offense and while McVay’s system may rely on longer developing play-action, it also incorporates quick screens, jet sweeps, and additional touches for its receivers. While he isn’t poised for an even greater breakout and may be maximizing his productivity, if Woods can continue his growth in LA, there’s no indication his production will dip and he’ll help the Rams compete for a very tough NFC West crown.

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Rashod Bateman: Ready To Rumble

Rashod Bateman made the wise business decision by opting out of the 2020 college season in order to prepare for the 2021 draft. He was a key member of the Minnesota football resurgence in 2019, a team that won 11 games and finished ranked in the top ten. Bateman is a prototypical possession receiver who seems to make at least one big play a game that helps his team win. To keep it simple, he’s a football player and does all the little things well. Could he have used one more season? Of course, but with all that’s going on this was the best decision for his future. I would say he’s more than likely a late first-round pick, but a good combine would shoot him up the board.

Positives

Run after catch

While he’ll never be mistaken for an Olympic sprinter, Bateman is dynamic after the catch. He’s tough to bring down due to his toughness as a ball carrier and his resiliency. When I say he’s a football player, it shows up when the ball is in his hands. There are many times where he should have been tackled, but refuses to go down. He also has a high football IQ and sees the field well, which makes up for his lack of speed. I made this comparison on our Twitter, but he reminds me a lot of JuJu Smith-Schuster after the catch. Neither are dynamic athletes but are true football players who make things happen with the ball in their hands.

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Fearless and Smart

Bateman will make a killing at the next level over the middle, which isn’t a place on the field where many receivers want to be. In the middle of the field is where most of the heavy hitters on defense are and there are going to be many times where you have to prepare to take a big hit. Bateman caught many of his passes on slants and dig routes (which we’ll cover later) and he never shows any hesitation or have what some call “alligator arms”. In addition to his toughness, Bateman is a smart player. Since he runs so many routes over the middle, when he notices things breaking down for his quarterback, he’ll make himself more easily available. I see a lot of receivers, at all levels, stick to their route and not come back to the quarterback. This rarely happened with Bateman, as he has his eyes on the quarterback and will go get the ball no matter the cost.

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Route running

Like I mentioned earlier, Bateman runs a lot of routes over the middle and runs them very well. He’s great at fighting off press coverage and uses his body to his advantage to get inside and open. Once he’s established himself on those routes, he’ll run a double move and get open deep. At the next level, he’ll be a great possession receiver who will be a quarterback’s best friend on third down since he can get open on intermediate passing situations. Even though he’s opting out of this season, he’s a relatively pro-ready route runner who will be able to step in and produce.

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Negatives

Pushed around on deep routes

For being so physical on short and intermediate routes, Bateman struggles to get separation on deep routes, more specifically go routes. A go route, or a fly route, is essentially just the receiver going straight down the field. On this route, you want to gain separation from the corner, while also giving your quarterback a spot to throw you the ball. So, it’s imperative to not let the corner push you towards the sideline too much because then there’s a tiny window to fit a long pass into.

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Long Speed

Bateman several times couldn’t gain that separation going deep unless it came from a double move or a lapse in coverage. This is a speed and agility issue that needs to be worked on over the next several months of draft preparation. There were times where he had a lot of green grass in front of him and was tracked down by defensive backs and that’s due to his lack of breakaway speed. He has several months to work on his 40 yard dash time, so this issue can be hopefully taken care of.

Conclusion

I don’t think Bateman will ever become a superstar, but I see him being a good player for a long time. He’s a guy that doesn’t rely on his athleticism to do well, which bodes well for his longevity. I would almost be surprised if he didn’t have multiple 1k receiving yard seasons when it’s all set and done as long as he’s with the right quarterback. He’s more than likely never going to beat you deep but will kill you in a west coast system or one that relies on a short and quick passing game. Like I said earlier, I think he’ll still be selected towards the end of the first round with teams like the Saints or the Ravens being great fits.

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NFL Film Breakdown: Miami’s Xavien Howard has All the Tools to be a Shutdown Corner

Xavien Howard, drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft, cashed in on a 5 year, 72 million dollar contract in the summer of 2019. At the time, he was coming off of a pro-bowl year where he had a league high 7 interceptions, allowed a 52.4% completion percentage, and a 61.2 QB rating. Although plagued with injuries like fellow teammate DeVante Parker, when he’s healthy, he’s a huge contributor.  While not the most physical corner, Howard is one of the best at closing on routes and reading receivers. He shows efficient footwork, sound technique, and is really good when he can play off and close on routes with vision.

Note: If you prefer to watch a video breakdown, scroll to the bottom of this article.

The Baltimore Sun

            The problem is the Dolphins ran a ton of man coverage with single high looks to help with their porous run defense. Howard struggles with his jam punch and he can get caught peaking in the backfield in man coverage. His excellent closure grade and poor collision ability make him incredibly susceptible to double moves. That being said, he does a good job of keeping his cushion deep and almost never gets beat over the top in zone. He can play outside or in the slot if needed and when he’s on and in the right defense he can completely eliminate a receiver or one side of the field.

            Howard’s technique when turning and running with receivers is really impressive. He is able to stay in the pocket of receivers as they cut, close the throwing window on them, and is almost always in a position to make a play on the ball or an immediate tackle. Whether he’s in man or zone coverage, he does a good job keying their eyes and hips, playing tight to their routes, and contesting catches. You can see the efficiency and fluidity in his movements as he changes direction and plants to get out of his backpedal. He has truly elite change of direction which gives him good flexibility as both a man and a zone corner.

            Howard does a good job of stacking on top of receivers and widening and washing them towards the sideline. He closes the available window for the quarterback to throw to, has the quickness to break on backshoulders, and isn’t afraid of getting beat deep. You can see the receivers start on the numbers and get washed all the way to within a yard or two of the sideline.

In man coverage he plays tight with good hand usage, and can keep up with even the fastest of guys like Marquise Brown of the Ravens. He shows good discipline not to over-run routes and shows efficient footwork on his breaks. While he tracks the hips of receivers in zone, he plays off their eyes in man which helps him to locate the ball when his back is turned.

Because of his quick closing ability and keying of eyes, this sets him up for double moves and route stems from receivers and he can get caught peaking at the QB at times even without head fakes or the set ups for double moves.

One of the first plays that Dallas ran was a double move on Howard with Amari Cooper running a slant corner. Howard also struggled with getting hands on receivers in man and giving a top tier receiver a clean release in man is asking a lot of your physical abilities. He lets Cooper release and get on his toes before breaking to the Slant. As soon as he turns his head for the slant, Howard is already beat and is looking back at the QB for the ball. A few steps into the slant stem, Cooper rounds out and back to the corner and Howard is completely lost in coverage.

The Cowboys and Cooper didn’t stop there though. Almost every route caught on Howard during the game was some form of double move. Howard’s tendency to close on routes fast was used against him throughout the game and he didn’t have an answer for it.

Double moves obviously take a little more time to develop though and to help combat this, he needs to be more physical at the line of scrimmage when walked up in man or flat zone coverage. Either he gives no jam and re-routing attempt or has an incredibly weak punch which barely influences receivers. He’s athletic enough to get away with it most of the time but to take the next step he does need to be a little more physical.

Without a jam, this lets the receiver dictate the route, doesn’t put time pressure on them, and often can get Howard in tough situations. When he lets receivers get on his toes with no contact, he’s put in a really difficult position and it’s impossible for almost anyone to cover consistently when you allow that to happen.

He is entirely capable of being physical, he’s just incredibly inconsistent. He has all the tools in his bag and just needs to fine tune the technique. He doesn’t need to be a dominating force, but he does need to make receivers uncomfortable more consistently at the line of scrimmage.

Xavien Howard has the ability to be a dominant corner in the NFL. Team are going to have to decide between throwing at him or free agent pickup Byron Jones and they’re going to have a tough time. His closure ability, route recognition, and fluidity are all elite. I think he’s a better fit as a zone corner because of his lack of physicality but he can absolutely hold his own in man coverage. Even though Howard only played in 5 games last season, he did handle Marquise Brown, Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon, and Keenan Allen and held them all to just 237 yards total. As Dolphins fans can probably tell you, if he can stay healthy and fine-tune his press technique, he’s going to be worth every penny of that 72 million dollar contract and help the Dolphins ascend to the top of the AFC East.

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Chuba Hubbard: Canada’s Cowboy

Not only is Chuba Hubbard the best name in college football, but he’s also the best running back in college football. After rushing for 2,000 yards as a sophomore, Hubbard figures to once again lead the Cowboys high-powered attack. The offense runs through him, which doesn’t happen too often for a running back at a major D1 school. Hubbard is an accomplished track star and he might be the biggest home run threat in the nation due to his incredible speed. As the running back position is losing value in terms of high draft selections, it’s tough to gauge where Hubbard will be selected. I do have him ranked as one of the top three running backs prospects heading into the year and hopefully he can continue to rise up boards.

Positives

Speed

It’s easy to see that Hubbard is a former sprinter when you watch him on the football field. There are very few players at any level that will be able to keep up with him, which makes him that much more dangerous. A three-time national champion 100 meter sprinter for his age group, Hubbard has that second gear once he sees green grass in front of him that enables him to take any carry all the way to the end zone. He will always have a place in the NFL as long as he has his elite speed, as the need for home run hitters are an offensive coaches dream.

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Vision

For being such a speedy back, Hubbard displays great vision and feel for the game. Oklahoma State runs a lot of outside zone, which perfectly fits Hubbard’s style (more on this later). He lets his blockers dictate where he needs to run and rarely misses any open holes. You’ll never see an elite running back with poor vision as it’s such a crucial part to their success. However, this shows that Hubbard doesn’t rely on just his speed to win, rather he is a complete back.

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Patience and Acceleration

Many runners think they’ll see an opening and try to run through it with reckless abandon despite it not being the proper read. Hubbard almost always allows his blockers to set the play up for him and then when he finally gets his opportunity, he goes from 0-100 quick. This is why I feel like he’s best suited for an outside zone blocking scheme, similar to what Shanahan runs in San Francisco. The system allows runners to get outside, gets their blockers on the move, and then allows them to make one cut to get up field. Runners in this system, like Hubbard, need to be patient and trust the guys in front of them. Hubbard also has moments where he reminds me of Le’Veon Bell, who is known as a very patient runner, where he will take his time behind the line of scrimmage before taking off upfield.

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Negatives

Ability in the passing game

Anyone who is a football fan knows that the NFL is more reliant on the passing game now than ever before. While he is a prolific runner, Hubbard isn’t great in the pass game at this point in his career. He did have 23 catches this past year, but mostly on off dump-offs that required minimal route running. Then, as a pass-blocker, I’m not sure if he just doesn’t care or simply isn’t physical enough, but it was tough to watch at times. He just looks overall out of sync and uncomfortable when the ball isn’t in his hands. The pass catching part I’m not overly worried about, but the blocking needs to be coached up. No team will trust him on third down trying to protect their most valuable asset if he can’t pick up a blitzer.

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Fumbles

While he does have a lot of carries over the past two years, he has nine fumbles which is way too many. He averages a fumble every other game and while only two of those nine have been recovered by the other team, he needs to work on this. Many running backs have overcome fumbling issues early in their careers and, like Tiki Barber claimed, it’s a small technical issue that is easily fixable.

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Workload

Is this a negative or positive? Depends on who you ask. In my eyes, his 452 rushing attempts (and counting) could limit his longevity, as running backs careers are getting shorter and shorter. Does this affect him on his rookie contract? I would say no. But thinking for the future, it’s something to keep in the back of your head. This doesn’t affect his draft stock in my eyes, but if people were talking about it with Jonathan Taylor this past year, they’ll be saying the same with Hubbard.

Conclusion

Hubbard will be more valuable for teams that run a more balanced offense and don’t overly rely on the pass. I still think he would do best on an outside zone offense, but any team that runs a lot of stretch plays or tosses will still fit Hubbard’s skill. Teams like the Rams run a stretch based running game where they want their linemen to get out in space before the running back can find a hole. I would suspect he’s more than likely not going to be a first round pick unless he becomes more dynamic as a pass-catcher, but I think he will be a multiple time 1k rusher as long as he can get in the right system.

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NFL Film Breakdown: Josh Allen’s Growth in Buffalo is Almost Complete

After a shaky start to his career in 2018, Josh Allen made big strides in year two with the Bills. Buffalo made it back to the playoffs and Allen cut down on the interception rate, dropped his bad throw percentage by 5.7%, and gained 510 yards on the ground. Allen showed really good understanding of blitzes, made good decisions and reads, and actually showed good touch on a lot of throws. He struggles a bit with anticipation but he moves through full-field reads with ease and he has the arm strength to push the ball into windows despite his lack of anticipation. However, his 58.8% completion percentage was dead last in the NFL and it was that low for a reason. His mechanics are wildly inconsistent and lead to a number of accuracy issues. He might be deciding to throw to the right guy, but getting it there reliably is a whole other issue. He’s reading like he’s Peyton Manning and throwing it like he’s Brock Osweiller.

Note: If you prefer to watch a video breakdown, scroll to the bottom of this article.

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 24: Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills holds the ball during the first quarter of an NFL game against the Denver Broncos at New Era Field on November 24, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

Usually these things happen in reverse and young quarterbacks have the physical tools but can’t read defenses. In this case it seems to be the opposite. His mind is recognizing things faster than his body can respond and because of that, his footwork goes out the window.

Despite a growing reputation as a scrambler, Josh Allen does a really good job of keeping his eyes up when he gets out of the pocket. Because of his supreme arm strength, it doesn’t matter which direction he’s rolling to or scrambling to. He can throw to just about any spot on the field – across his body, deep, short, it doesn’t matter. If you’re open, he’ll find you. He shows good patience allowing defenders to flow and stays calm when outside the pocket.

He definitely can put a little too much heat on some throws but that doesn’t mean he isn’t able to take some velocity off and drop balls over linebackers or let receivers run under throws. It’s something he’ll continue to have to work on but from year 1 to year 2, he’s improved his touch throws a lot.

Allen does a good job of getting through his reads and understanding the framework of the defense. He’s rarely confused and makes really solid decisions. Here you can see him key the flat defender and look at the quick out to Beasley before going to the corner behind. This is really supposed to be a rub route to the flat to Cole Beasley here by the Bills with the receiver that’s on the line of scrimmage working to rub his defender and prevent him from chasing to the flats. Instead, though, the Texans switch and the outside corner comes to crash on the flat which leaves the corner route open with a ton of leverage on the inside defender and no safety help. Allen recognizes the defensive framework, who to read, and delivers a strike.

These kinds of reads pop up over and over again when watching Josh Allen. You can see one of his best anticipation throws right here. On the snap, he turns and is watching the safety and overhang defender to check for a rotate. As soon as he sees the overhang defender come up on the sit route, he delivers an anticipation throw to the dig in the cleared zone.

Little nuances like this play against the Texans shows that Allen is really dialed in mentally which is super encouraging. Out of empty, teams often like to blitz with the inside slot defender since they’re stacked close to the line and there’s no extra protector to help out. That’s just what Allen is looking for. As the ball is snapped he gives a quick peak over to the slot corner to see if he’s blitzing and if he can throw hot to that side. When he sees the corner run in coverage, he comes off it and back to the slant on the other side.

He’s got all the mental tools, we know he has the arm, so why is he missing throws and what are the issues holding Josh Allen back? To put it bluntly, his lower body mechanics are really bad. He is so inconsistent with his footwork it’s almost impressive. His base tends to be really wide, he struggles to line up his legs and feet with his throws which prevents hip rotation and accuracy, his drop is almost never synched up to routes which forces him to bounce in the pocket and cause vertical accuracy issues, and whenever his footwork is rushed or when he’s trying to get the ball out fast, his base crumbles.

You can see here he’s mentally processing everything and his eyes are moving through his progression, but his feet are staying. He’s finding the right route but he’s not ready to throw it.

His biggest issue is not lining up his feet to receivers. When you aren’t lined up to throw, it makes it incredibly difficult to have consistent accuracy. You can see here how he’s aimed directly down the middle of the field and trying to throw to his right. It’s tough to get any hip rotation and sound lower body mechanics from this position. You’re off balance with no platform to make the throw from. As a result, the ball sails high.

You can see again how he’s misaligning his feet and stepping horizontally instead of at his receiver. His feet are pointed towards the sideline and he can’t get his hips into the throw and the ball goes into the ground. He has the arm talent to make these throws but without a consistent base, it’s hard to have good ball placement from a down to down basis.

This especially crops up when he’s running RPOs or quick throws. On most quick passing schemes he does a backpedal drop which usually results in him being off balance. He’s falling away from throws, can’t plant with his back foot, and ends up being more inaccurate than not.

When you have no platform to push off and deliver form, you’re relying all on your arm to make the throw as your body is trying to compensate for the momentum and mechanics of your throw. Balls will end up high, low, or behind receivers a ton on these quick throws.

It’s all about the feet and the feet aren’t matching the routes or where he’s throwing. The few times he does a pure dropback, he throws on time, with anticipation and looks really good.

The problem is that’s the exception and not the rule. 90% of the time he does a skip drop where he’s sitting and waiting for receivers to get open or is in the middle of hopping when receivers are coming open. It’s just not good football and not playing within the system and is equal parts to blame on Brian Daboll the OC. You can see that by the top of these drops almost all the time receivers aren’t even looking and Allen has to wait or come off his read. Combined with Allen wanting to see stuff open instead of throwing with anticipation and it’s a recipe for poor mechanics and mistimed throws.

He can also be a little quick to bail from pockets and makes very large moves when he is in the pocket. There isn’t much subtly. He doesn’t need to be Tom Brady with small side steps and movements, but it does get a little wild sometimes and he moves himself into pressure when he is perfectly safe inside the pocket which causes him to miss throws or run into sacks.

Josh Allen is far from a polished quarterback but there is reason to be optimistic in Buffalo. He’s making good decisions and mentally is clearly capable of being a top quarterback in the NFL. The mechanical issues and footwork are a huge concern and if they don’t get fixed, he’ll never be a consistently accurate quarterback. With offseason work and time dedicated to targeting and fixing his wide base, pointing his toe, and syncing his drops with route concepts, you could see a quick turnaround for Josh Allen. We know he’s there mentally and has more than enough arm talent to succeed. Once he puts it all together we may be looking at a quarterback that runs the AFC East for the next 10 years.

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

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