Caleb Farley: Next Top CB?

Caleb Farley was one of the first players to opt-out of the 2020 season to prepare for the draft and it was a move that made a lot of sense. He’s already entrenched as one of the top cornerback prospects in the class and was on a Virginia Tech team that doesn’t have national title expectations for the season. At the end of the day, you have to take care of yourself and your future. Farley is pretty inexperienced at the position, coming to Virginia Tech as a wide receiver, but has impressed in his two years as a Hokie. I think he’s solidly a first-round prospect due to his upside, but with a good combine and pre-draft process, should become the first corner drafted.

Positives

Lockdown Pass Coverage

If you’re going to be a high draft pick as a cornerback, teams must believe that you have the chance to be a lockdown cover corner. While teams might value other skills like tackling or special teams versatility, it’s being able to shut down the passing game that will earn you your money. Farley might have the highest upside of any player in this class when it comes to being a great man corner. Being a former wide receiver, he anticipates routes and thinks like a receiver so he knows the nuances of the position. He has the speed to keep up with smaller, shiftier guys yet the length and strength to battle with bigger opponents. He’s seemingly always in the hip pocket of receivers so it’s tough to gain separation from him.

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Turnover Machine

Six interceptions in twenty-six career games might not seem like a gaudy amount, but it proves to me he has the awareness and anticipation to be a ball hawk in the NFL. As previously mentioned, he’s a former wide receiver, so you know he has the hands to not drop any easy picks. When he turns his head around (more on that later), he does a great job of keeping his eyes on the quarterback and jumping routes. Many of his interceptions came from his excellent coverage skills, in that wide receivers are unable to break free from him.

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Physicality and Athleticism

At 6-2, 200+ pounds, Farley has excellent size for a corner, but it’s how he uses his size that makes him a top prospect. He battles in coverage and isn’t afraid to be physical with receivers. I honestly didn’t see him in press coverage too much, but when he did it, he held his own. In addition to his size, he runs very well and displays good short-area quickness. For what he lacks in refinement and experience, he makes up with with athleticism.

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Negatives

Raw and Inexperienced

He came to Virginia Tech as a wide receiver and played quarterback in high school, so he doesn’t have much experience at the cornerback position. There are times where his inexperience shows up though. Now that he won’t have a third year of tape, there will be some questions. He might not produce immediate results as he continues to learn the position, so an organization needs to be patient and trust their coaching staff.

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Doesn’t Turn Head Around

This is my biggest pet peeve for defensive backs and it happens at all levels. You’re taught as a corner to stay close to your receiver but at a certain point turn your head around. Farley got cheap penalties or gave up big plays because he lost track of the ball. You can probably say this is a result of inexperience, but some players never develop this instinct.

Bites on Double Moves

Because he’s so aggressive, Farley will bite on double moves. You have to take the good and the bad with aggressive corners, but this leaves you open for a big play against. Maybe being put into a system that utilizes a deep safety over the top will help Farley’s play as it’ll allow him to be aggressive but still have some help in case he gets beat.

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Conclusion

Farley was a pleasant surprise and impressed me when watching his film. He has a good chance to develop into a top corner in this league but a team will have to be patient with his development. He has the skills that you can’t teach and projects to be at worst a mid-level starter in the NFL. With the growing importance of the passing game, good corners are in high demand. I expect him to go right in the middle of the first round, where he has the chance to get some playing time early.

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.

NFL Film Breakdown: Matt LaFleur is Scheming Things Up for the Packers Offense with the Mesh Concept

The Green Bay Packers are 2-0, have over 1,000 yards of offense, and have scored the most points in the NFL through two weeks. Matt LaFleur has integrated more schemed looks and plays to keep Rodgers on rhythm and he’s looking every part of an MVP candidate. They’ve run 74 pass plays, and 13.5% of them have been the Mesh concept or a move off of the Mesh concept. On these plays the Packers and Aaron Rodgers are 9/10 for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

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

Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

At its core, the Mesh concept is a man beater, with two shallow crossers that are rubbing defenders and forcing them to navigate through traffic. It stresses the defense horizontally and provides an easy completion with room to run after the catch. It’s a simple play, but how the Packers get there can differ from snap to snap. It can be used to get a running back into the flats, exploit match-ups on linebackers, and force the defense to communicate on switch calls. Matt LaFleur has done a great job of setting it up and creating formations that prevent it from being predictable and that have attacked defenders in space while getting the ball to his most dangerous players.

So far, the Packers have almost exclusively run Mesh against man defense and called the concept on shorter down and distance with the greatest yardage to go being a 3rd and 6 against the Lions. To make the concept work you have to be able to get your two shallow crossers to intersect and pop out of the other side of the formation in a reasonable time. As a result, you see a lot condensed formations or tight splits from the receivers when you’re running Mesh. Here the Packers are running Mesh for Davante Adams. In every call, there’s a player that is designated to go under and one that goes over. These crossers are what make the Mesh concept. The rest of the routes are add-ons or variations that teams can use to exploit different things in the coverage. So here, you have Davante Adams going under Allen Lazard. Lazard is going over and will be working to rub the defender trailing Davante. Lazard wants to force that defender to go over him and navigate traffic which creates natural separation for Adams underneath.

Layered behind that deeper rub, the Packers will often run a cross sit or spot route that acts as a secondary rub route and that can exploit zone coverage. It’s not a viable route to throw in man, but it creates another hurdle for defenders to navigate over to get to the shallow drag on the other side of the field. You can see all the traffic that the defender has to get through to be able to track that shallow drag down. Without a jump call from the safety or a linebacker to help pick it up, it’s almost impossible. Usually, as far as the reads go, the quarterback should be looking at the initial leverage of the defenders. If a defender has outside leverage, meaning they’re lined up outside of that receiver, that’s usually the guy you want to get the ball to in the Mesh concept. It’s just more distance for that defender to close on and catch up.

While Davante is clearly wide open on this play, since you often call Mesh versus man, you are also guaranteed some one-on-one matchups outside with your Mesh add-ons. Here, Rodgers likes the matchup outside to their tight end Jace Sternberger and chooses to take the shot on the fade with one-on-one coverage. For me, it’s bad read with a larger safety on your tight end and what ends up being a double A gap blitz from the Vikings. With no linebackers in the middle of the field to jam up the drag, it’s even more open than normal. Rodgers needs to recognize this and get off that read and get to the designed concept when Jace doesn’t win off the line.

The Packers obviously saw how open Davante was because a series later, they call the same Mesh concept out of the same formation and get a nice gain out of it. It’s the exact same down and distance – 2nd and 5 and the Vikings give the exact same double A blitz. The rubs on the defense aren’t as clean, but it’s still an explosive play as defenders have to navigate traffic and make a tackle in the open field.

Now in a short yardage situation on the five yard line where the Packers are again seeing man, the Packers run Mesh out of 12 personnel with two tight ends. This time though, Vikings safety Harrison Smith recognizes the Mesh and comes down to pick up Davante Adams. However, the Packers want to work the rub to the running back at the bottom of the screen with an automatic release which they hadn’t done in the previous two plays. The base routes are the same here but Robert Tonyan has to understand the concept and what he needs to accomplish to make it work because he messes this play up. Normally, he’s running that cross sit to impede the flowing defender over Davante Adams but when a running back is releasing to your side, you have now have to rub the defender responsible for the running back because that’s the guy you want to attack here. He needs to get in front of Eric Kendricks and wall him off with his cross sit so that Jones has room to operate in the flats. Instead, he takes the easy inside release and rubs neither Kendricks nor the Safety that is robbing the drag on Davante Adams.

While the film starts in the middle a little late here, you can see how Tyler Ervin does a better job of rubbing the defender responsible for the running back here with his cross sit. He works directly up to the linebacker who is trying to flow and gives Aaron Jones space to work with once he’s caught the ball.

The Packers will also run Mesh out of an Empty formation with the goal to get the ball to Aaron Jones who is matched up with a linebacker. That’s a matchup you like if the Packers even if you don’t have a Mesh or man-beating concept called up. Just like we saw with the Vikings, the linebacker has to flow over the top of one defender and then navigate a second rub from MVS and the result is Aaron Jones all alone in the flats.

The Packers have loved Mesh to the RB in goal-to-go situations these first two weeks. We have that same goal line concept we saw earlier with the Vikings where Tonyan didn’t rub the linebacker. Usually when teams see these tight split bunch formations with the RB on the same side, they’ll box it out. What that means is that the defender lined up close to the line of scrimmage here would take the first player to go out, the corner would take the second player to go out, and then the two inside defenders would progressively take the first in-breaking route and the second in-breaking route. That way you don’t have to work around these rub concepts when you’re in man. But, the Lions chose to stay with their straight man coverage and not switch assignments. The two inside defenders run into each other, Lazard does a good job selling a quick screen that forces linebackers to flow over, and Davante Adams runs a corner route which forces the defender to turn his back to the play. Aaron Jones is alone in the flats and walks into the endzone.

The only time the Packers ran Mesh against zone coverage was here. The Lions do exchange routes to the top of the screen. The corner has deep third and will take any deep routes, the defender in press is responsible for the first route to the outside, and the inside defender will carry the first inbreaking route. On the backside of the play the Lions have a lock call which means they’re in man coverage with the linebacker on Jones and their rookie Jeff Okudah on Marquez Valdes-Scantling. You can watch to the top of the screen as all the defenders transfer zones and how that now allows the cross sit to open up behind it. With defenders picking up the shallow drags, that leaves space in the middle of the field for Robert Tonyan. The linebacker to the bottom of the screen is late to pick up Lazard on the drag and Rodgers hits him for a good run after the catch opportunity.

To finish things off we’ll look quickly at two of the counters the Packers have thrown out there off of their Mesh concept. Both are pretty simple and really the goal is to make things look like Mesh, and then attack the space that that leaves after the defense reacts. Here the Packers are in empty with some more tight splits – an indicator that they might be running Mesh. They run the shallow drags with Jamaal Williams and Tyler Ervin except they convert what would be the drags and the mesh concept into two Whip routes where they push in like they’re running those drags and then bounce out. The hope is to get the defender chasing in man to over pursue to the drag and then get lost when they bounce back outside. It doesn’t work perfectly because the corner is playing off on Ervin and therefore has time to recover to the whip but the concept is there.

Lastly, while the full Mesh concept isn’t there to the bottom of the screen, to the top of the screen you have what looks like what the Packers beat them with for a touchdown earlier in the game. A corner from the receiver on the ball, a shallow drag by MVS coming in quick motion, and the running back flaring to the flats. The Packers are hoping all the defenders fly to those routes that they saw earlier in the game. MVS converts his drag into a drag seam which is trying to catch the corner coming down to chase the shallow drag and now turn up-field on him, the flat route by the running back pulls the linebacker out of position, and then Tonyan runs that corner route that Davante did earlier except he snaps it off for a corner stop once the DB is chasing him and he ends up wide open for a touchdown.

Mesh is a simple concept and the Packers are running simple variations of it but it’s incredibly tough to defend. By mixing up who is running what route, out of what formation, and what defender to target, the Packers are forcing defenses to adjust and react. Whether it’s the DB chasing across the field, a linebacker trying to transfer zones and pick up a receiver running full speed, or tracking a running back into the flats over traffic, the Packers are running Mesh and they’re running it with deadly efficiency. It’s only a small piece of the puzzle to what the Packers are doing but rest assured, if you see man coverage and a tight split from the Packers, your eyes better dial in and be ready because the Mesh will come at some point and good luck trying to stop it.

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.

Jamie Newman: The Great Mystery

After announcing that he was transferring to Georgia from Wake Forest, Jamie Newman became a name to look out for in the 2021 draft as someone to possibly sneak into the first round. However, due to concerns over COVID-19 and tough competition from fellow transfer J.T. Daniels, Newman decided to opt-out and prepare for the draft. Newman is currently QB4 or 5 in this class but could have seen his stock elevated with more tape against elite defenses. He has all the physicals tools to become a starter in the league, but still needs a lot of work. Despite this, there’s still a good chance he will be a Day 2 pick as long as he can impress teams in workouts and meetings.

Positives

Arm Strength

One thing that really impressed me about Newman’s game was his strong arm. He’s not afraid to push the ball down the field and lets it rip with the best of them. On deep balls, he gets enough loft on his throws that allows the receiver to run under it. Then, on out routes and other passes outside of the numbers, he displays good velocity that enables the ball to get there before the defender can get a hand on it. Despite his game having a lot of questions, his ability to make long throws and stretch the defense out isn’t one of them. Pro Football Focus had Newman has the highest-rated deep-ball passer in college football in 2019, so the advanced analytics support the film.

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Pocket Presence

One skill that sets apart good from great quarterbacks is how they can throw in the pocket. Newman is one tough cookie and even if he feels the blitz closing in around him, he’ll hang in the pocket and deliver the throw. He completed 48% of his passes when under pressure, which may seem low but was well above the NCAA average. Due to his sturdy build, he can absorb hits better than a smaller quarterback. Because of this, he will hang in the pocket for as long as he needs to and find the open receiver.

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Athleticism

While he may never be mistaken for a world-class sprinter, at 6’4 230 pounds, he offers versatility as a ball carrier. Wake Forrest runs a lot RPO and zone-read where Newman is asked to run the ball several times a game. He typically won’t run unless there’s a lot of green grass in front of him, but in the red zone, he was used effectively as a short-yardage grinder. He’ll lower his shoulder and run guys over on his way to a score. This is a vital part of his game and the possibilities open up as the field gets shorter.

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Negatives

Accuracy

Ball placement is so important for every quarterback, but it’s the biggest concern in Newman’s game right now. Simply put, he struggles to make the throws that someone of his skill level should be making no problem. It may be a case where his arm is too strong and he has trouble controlling it. This is a very troubling trait and he needs to spend a lot of time correcting this before he can see meaningful NFL snaps. Since he’s so talented and seems to feel comfortable in the position, there is hope that this can develop and improve. But, as it stands, it’s going to be the main reason he won’t be hearing his name in the first round.

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Decision Making

Eleven interceptions may not seem like an eye-popping number, there were too many times where he blatantly made the wrong throw. He has a tendency to stare down a receiver too long and not pull the trigger quick enough, which allows the defenders to get in place to make a play on the ball. Part of this could be coaching directing him where to look. As a first-year full-time starter, mistakes will happen. It would have been good for him to get more snaps so he could improve upon this, but he’ll just need to spend more time in the film room these next few months doing mental reps.

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Unique Offense

Wake Forrest’s offense is… unique. It’s almost all shotgun based and utilizes 3-4 receivers on every play. Then, they’ll run a lot of zone read and RPO, but it’s really slow-developing and this style wouldn’t carry over to the NFL where the game is much quicker. Newman will have to practice more traditional formations and plays in order to help his development.

Conclusion

Like almost any prospect, Newman has had his shares of ups and downs. His talent is very intriguing, which is why I currently have him in the lead for the QB4 spot. It’s unlikely that he gets any higher than that, but to his benefit, quarterbacks almost always rise come draft day so he should still get a relatively good draft slot. Whoever picks him must be patient with his development and allow him to sit a few seasons before putting him in starting contention.

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.

NFL Film Breakdown: How Sean McVay Put Together a Masterful Game Plan vs. the Cowboys

The Rams opened up their season in a new uniform, a new stadium, and as home underdogs. Going against a Dallas defense that has one of the best fronts in the league with Everson Griffen joining DeMarcus Lawrence, Dontari Poe, and Aldon Smith, the Rams and McVay had a tall task in front of them considering their offensive line ranked 31st in 2019 according to PFF. McVay put on a game planning clinic that attacked the Cowboys’ aggressive and talented front with his use of outside zone, pre-snap motion, and screen game. The Rams were able to rack up 422 yards of total offense including 153 on the ground.

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

Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

The McVay offense struggled at times last year with the issues on the offensive line and became a little one-dimensional with the use of 11 personnel 72.7% of the time. While it seemed like the McVay offense had stagnated and perhaps been “figured out”, the Rams showed that was far from the case in week 1 as McVay used layered plays that built on each other through drives and through the game. What can make McVay’s offense so difficult to defend against is that everything looks incredibly similar.

McVay started off the game with exactly that premise in mind. A big misconception is that you have to run the ball well and run the ball often to set up play-action. Data shows that that just isn’t the case. Play-action is impactful and effective regardless of your ability to run the ball. So, known for being an outside zone team, McVay started off the game with a naked bootleg off of that outside zone look. You may notice right off the bat that the Rams are in 12 personnel with two tight ends which is already a departure from their base 11 personnel from 2019.

Almost all of the play-action off of the outside zone that McVay runs ultimately looks the same. All he’s doing is creating a flood concept to one side of the field. That just means that there are three receivers at three different levels. One in the flats, one intermediate, and one deep which usually acts as a clear out and opens up space for the crossers and flats underneath it. The quarterback reads from one in the flats, to two as the crosser, and then 3 or an alert for the deep ball. If there’s someone in the quarterback’s face, it’s usually the flat defender, so they’re taught to immediately dump it off to the flats because that means there is nobody there to cover.

The Cowboys are in match cover 4 here which at its core originated with Belichick and Saban back in Cleveland. The corner is matching the #1 receiver and carrying them if they go vertical. If the receiver, goes inside under 5 yards, he lets him go and they’re picked up by an inside linebacker. With the motion, that means that #27 is matching vertical with the tight end, who is running the clear out. With that corner matching vertically, the safety to the play-side then has to locate any crossing routes or the number three receiver from the backside coming to his area of the field, which in this case is the tight end.

To the top of the screen, the #1 receiver who is covered by the corner and who has the same vertical match responsibility, is crunching across to sell a block in outside zone. That qualifies as being under five yards – which means he would pass it off the linebackers to pick it up – namely Jaylon Smith. However, with Smith and all the linebackers flowing incredibly hard to the run action, nobody is left to cover Robert Woods in the flats. Woods is wide open and easily picks up a nice gain with nobody there to pick him up in coverage. And all this happens without ever establishing the run first. This is the first play of the game and is setting the table for what McVay wants to accomplish during the game.

To follow that up, McVay runs the exact same formation, with the exact same pre-snap motion, but it’s now to the same side as the outside zone. This is to create as much horizontal flow as possible in the defense. If you look at these two plays synched up, they look exactly the same at the time that Goff is extending his arm for the handoff. So as a defense, you’re put in an incredibly difficult spot. The Rams just ran this same look and got 20 yards on a boot action but if you stay home or over flow to the jet motion and potential play-action, you’re leaving open gaps in the run game for their outside zone. That’s what the whole system is based on. Have your bread and butter play, then work counters, then work counters to your counters.

The outside zone stresses the defense and their ability to run sideline to sideline. The running back is aiming for the outside leg of the play-side tight end and reading the down linemen from the outside in. Backs are taught to take five steps and then they have to get vertical. If the outside end seals off, the running back shifts his vision inside sequentially until there is an opening. Even if you’re not getting a ton of yards off of it, you’re forcing the defense to flow and react which then builds into McVay’s next play-call. A screen to the jet motion.

This time, McVay calls the same jet motion with an outside zone fake to the same side just like the previous play. He releases the playside receiver on a deep over route just like we saw from the tight end in the first play of the game. It’s common to drag that guy from the backside on these naked boot actions to force defenses to transfer zones as they go across the field. So McVay is giving every tell possible that he’s running that same bootleg that he ran to open the game. A small little nuance is that you can also see Goff short change the play-fake. He sticks out the ball but doesn’t nearly get to the stomach of the running back and pulls the ball away early. This is because he wants the defense to see that it’s a run fake and boot action. They’re showing the same deep over, they’re showing the same run  action, and they want the defense to flow the other way to that boot because now they’re going to screen to the jet motion that is sitting all alone in the flat.

Both the corner and the safety run with the deep over leaving nobody on the left side of the field. The center and two guards release and it’s all open field for Robert Woods. So again, now we’ve seen three different things from the Rams that all look almost exactly the same from a blocking scheme standpoint, from the running back track, and from the quarterback run action.

These same looks continue to build throughout the drive and throughout the game. They then run the same tight ace formation with three receivers and give the same run action and run the actual boot this time. Again you have someone deep, someone crossing from the backside, and someone in the flats. The quarterback reads flats to crosser to deep and since nobody is covering Woods in the flat, it’s an easy dump off. This is McVay’s system at work.

They cap their opening drive off a few plays later with a touchdown on an inside zone that works as one of their run game counters to get vertical movement instead of the normal horizontal flow of outside zone.

From there, the looks only build. Later in the first quarter, they run a similar screen that they did to the receiver on the jet motion but now they throw it to the running back off the same outside zone play-action look. Again, they run their receivers using the typical flood route concepts with one clear out, one intermediate, and one in the flats. Off the fake, Goff wheels around to throw the screen to the running back that he initially faked the outside zone too. The defense flows with the bootleg and leaves a whole lot of green grass for the screen.

In the 3rd quarter they also ran the same look but threw the screen to the sniffer who they also used throughout the game in pass protection, leaked out on boots, and used in run blocking. Everybody is fair game to get the ball and that stresses defenses to cover and stay home while simultaneously respecting the horizontal stretch and flow from the outside zone.

McVay protected his offensive line with quick pass game concepts out of empty and shotgun and then using play-actions and screens to slow down the rush. Throw in some hard counts and he was able to mitigate the impact of the Dallas front seven.

While the defensive line was its own issue, the Rams still had to deal with a really good linebacker in Jaylon Smith. They rarely end up giving the ball on jet sweeps and orbit motions, but once is really all it takes to force the defense to stay honest. As soon as a defender isn’t holding that edge or the linebackers aren’t respecting the motion, the Rams will give on the jet sweep or run those naked boots. It’s their way of keeping that unblocked defensive end in check and keeping the linebackers honest.

As soon as you show the give once, defenses are more willing to move with and respect that motion which opens up lanes and causes issues with gap integrity for linebackers. All that jet sweep is intending to do is pull one and a half guys. If a linebacker takes a step out of position, that gives the line a beat longer to be able to climb up and seal them off for big gains in the run game.

McVay’s offense builds. It looks very similar, gives false reads and window dressing, and forces defenses to stay disciplined. He came in with a plan against the Cowboys that stayed true to his philosophy while simultaneously adapting to his personnel, addressing issues with predictability in 2019, and attacking a strength of the Dallas defense. His use of 21 and 12 personnel grew, he protected a line that was a weakness in 2019, and he built layers to the offense and called them at the perfect time. If McVay continues to grow and adapt and that offensive line starts to gel, the NFC West better pump the brakes on crowning the Cardinals, Seahawks, or 49ers, because the Rams are coming for another Super Bowl run.

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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Jaylen Twyman: Pitt Pride

Jaylen Twyman wears #97 to honor former Pittsburgh Panther and current Los Angeles Rams superstar Aaron Donald. When you look at them, they actually look very similar on the field. Both undersized but stout defensive tackles that became All-Americans. Twyman is an exceptional pass rusher who totaled 10.5 sacks as a sophomore before opting out of the season to prepare for the 2021 draft. While he could have used another season of film, it was smart to not take any risk of injury and instead work out for the next few months in preparation for the combine and team workouts.

Positives

Pass Rush

This is where Twyman will make his money. His 10.5 sacks in 2019 was amongst the nation’s leaders for interior linemen. Oftentimes he was downright unblockable. His go-to move is a devastating swim move and an effective push and pull technique that allows him to get in the chest of the offensive linemen then quickly disengage by using his quickness. He rushes almost exclusively from the inside and didn’t see many snaps lining up over the offensive tackle (4 or 5 technique). He is good at stunts as well, but Pitt didn’t utilize stunts in their defensive scheme as much as they should have. Forcing pressure in the middle can rattle a quarterback and force them into making bad decisions, something that we see the best interior rushers do well. Twyman will regularly get pressures and even if they don’t result in sacks, they’ll change the outcome of the game.

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Athleticism

If you’re an undersized defensive lineman, chances are you have above-average quickness. Twyman, however, has doesn’t havejust above-average quickness, he has elite quickness that he uses to beat much bigger opponents. He explodes off the snap and has good wiggle for a 290-pound guy, which makes him tough for an offensive lineman to keep in front of. In addition to being quick, he can quickly diagnose plays and rarely will make the wrong read. Teams in the NFL run a lot of play-action and RPO’s, so being mentally strong is almost as important as being physically strong.

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High Motor

There’s one thing you can’t teach, and that is heart. Twyman has plenty of that and you see it every snap he’s on the field. He will give 100% on every play and hustle to the ball, never giving up on his teammates. This kind of behavior is infectious and will make him a role model on whatever team selects him.

Negatives

High Pad Level

Despite being on the shorter side, Twyman has a lot of issues with his pad level. Keeping your pads low helps you get leverage, which on the defensive line is very important. At times, Twyman would stand straight up after the ball was snapped, which makes it very difficult to gain any penetration. Some guys are very successful despite playing high, but they’re either much taller (thus more arm length to use for separation) or stronger than Twyman is. This can be fixed through repetition and coaching, but it’s something that has to be changed soon.

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Strength In Run Game

I don’t doubt that he’s a strong person, but he gets pushed around way too easily in the run game. Rarely does he push the offensive lineman into the backfield and he is usually either stood up or driven backwards. At this point, he’s more of a pass rush specialist because he would be a liability as a run stuffer. The high pad level is part of this problem, but he needs to build more strength if he wants to be an all-around lineman as a pro.

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Pass Rush Counter Moves

While a few of his moves are excellent, his counter moves at this point left a lot to be desired. When his swim or push/pull moves are stopped, he doesn’t have anything to counter that with. These moves may work most of the time, but if you want to be a high-level pass rusher at the pro level then you need to add more tools in your toolbox. He’ll try a spin move on occasion, but didn’t have much success. I think gaining more strength would also help with this as it could give him a better bull rush.

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Conclusion

Right now Twyman can do what teams covet, which is getting to the quarterback. He’s going to be an impactful rusher from day one, which is going to be very appealing. He still has a lot of work to round his game out which makes guessing where he will be selected at a tough one. I’d expect he’ll range anywhere from the mid-teens to the second round and his combine performance will play a huge factor in this. He’s probably best off as a traditional defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense, but could possibly fit as a 3-4 end despite not having the desired length.

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NFL Film Breakdown: Mike Gesicki Could be Miami’s Secret Weapon

After a lackluster rookie season where Mike Gesicki had only 22 receptions for 202 yards, his sophomore year saw him earn the second most targets on the team with 89 and more than double his yardage total with 570 yards and 5 touchdowns. He showed progress in his route running and started to become a more physical receiver and was the 4th best TE at winning contested catches. While he is listed as a tight end, Gesicki is really just a big slot – one of the positions that more and more teams are adding to their arsenal. He can be impactful there but it does limit his versatility in the offense. Things may change with Chan Gailey as their new offensive coordinator, but in 2019 the Dolphins ran pass plays on 80% of the snaps where Gesicki was in. In part because he’s a good pure receiver and in part because he was absolutely atrocious at blocking.

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

https://dynastyleaguefootball.com/2019/05/13/mike-gesicki-fantasy-monster-in-the-making/

Gesicki shows flashes of good route running and when he can get up to speed, he’s hard to keep up with as he does well on speed cuts and routes that don’t require starting and stopping or huge change of direction. He can consistently torch linebackers in man but at times he struggled to out-physical smaller defensive backs when they covered him. His straight-line speed is impressive for guy as big as he is and as he works more release techniques and route nuance into his game, he’s going to be tough to stop. Even this little stutter go where gives a small jab to the inside like he’s running a slant can be enough to give him separation on linebackers

Through the season he showed a slow improvement at manipulating the leverage of defenders and working up onto their toes and then exploiting that leverage to get himself open. He gives some quick foot fire to hold defenders and is able to accelerate, lean and cut to the outside and create separation.

This foot fire stutter mid route once he gets onto defenders’ toes is one of his best moves. It holds the defender and stops their feet while still allowing him to accelerate and use his straight-line speed. Here he even gives a head and shoulder nod which helps sell the slant and opens him up vertically.

If you’re flat footed or guess wrong as he gets to the top of his route he’s too big and fast to slow down and he will 100% run right by you.

He also uses that speed to help him to stack defenders when they don’t get their hands on him and try to run with him. Stacking means that you’re getting directly on top of the defender in coverage. You’re stacking on top and getting back on the line on which you originally started. This gives you a two way go at the top of the route and the defender is in a terrible position and often has to guess on your break. He does that here against the Eagles where he’s taking a wide inside release to avoid the jam and then working to stack back on top as he cuts to the corner. This gives him leverage for any ball over the top and allows a bigger window for the quarterback because the defender is in trail position and can’t look back for the ball.

The problem is, he struggles with starting and stopping. So, on most of his routes he’ll round into his cuts and use a speed cut technique to get to his landmark. It keeps him running full speed and doesn’t make him break down and then speed back up. Especially against smaller or less athletic defenders, his speed cut is really effective and he can eat guys alive.

Since he struggles to start and stop, a lot of defenses started to jam and re-route him at any opportunity whether he was inline or split out and he was pretty awful at defeating it. He had really poor hand usage when defenders would attempt to jam and re-route him. Often, he ran right into the contact and when he gets slowed down, it’s hard for him to start back up.

It really is tough to watch sometimes. For being such a big guy and for managing to win so many contested catches, he really is not physical in his route running. When he can get clean releases, he’s fine, but when teams bump and run with him he starts to really struggle.

He really gets slowed down and without being able to threaten with his straight-line speed or speed cuts, he doesn’t get much separation.

Because he isn’t overly physical, he can also have some issues matching up with corners. They’re fast enough to keep up with him and if he isn’t going to overpower them, then he loses his advantage outside of being able to win a jump ball with his large frame.

That being said, he is one of the best contested catch tight ends in the league. If you give him a 50/50 ball when he is covered or fighting for position, more often than not, he’s going to catch it. And that’s the power of having a guy with his speed and frame on the field. Sometimes even when he’s not open, he’s open.

While winning contested catches is great, the lack of physicality really becomes an issue with blocking. His straight-line speed would be amazing on deep shots for play-action. The problem is… he can’t block. So, he can’t sell that he’s in to block and keep the defense honest. As mentioned before, the Dolphins passed 80% of the time when he was in the game. And when they did ask him to block, it didn’t go well. He plays with poor pad level, doesn’t drive his feet, and gets blown off the ball – especially when he’s playing in-line with his hand on the ground.

Even with corners he can have trouble because he’ll take poor angles to the block or be unable to sustain long enough.

He can have a tendency to lunge at defenders and as mentioned before, that lack of foot movement and quickness gets him in trouble when he’s trying to block just as it can in starting and stopping on his routes.

A sort of perfect encapsulation of him as an athlete is here where he runs right by the defensive back and wins on the route with a quick outside stem. It’s a walk-in touchdown if he gets the ball. As a result, though, he’s downfield for what would be a scoring block… and completely misplays it and allows the one defender that could make the tackle to make the tackle without Gesicki even touching him.

There are bits and pieces of his game that you look at and you think “this guy might be really good” he started to show more nuanced route running and releases like pulling his shoulder to avoid those jams that can give him trouble.

The Eagles and Jets respected him enough to line up Jamal Adams and Malcolm Jenkins on him through the bulk of their games and Gesicki was able to win some routes on them – especially when they gave him cushion to protect against his speed.

Mike Gesicki has all the tools to be a great receiving tight end in the league. Even if the blocking never truly gets there, he has eerily similar combine stats and measurables as Jimmy Graham and he did just fine for years and was a huge weapon in New Orleans and early on in Seattle. What’s exciting is his growth as a route runner and seeing him start to put together indications of physicality. The contested catches are the start. Using his body to create leverage and being more physical in his routes is the next step. Balance and consistency are what he needs and if Tua is down to give him more jump balls, the Dolphins may have a secret weapon behind DeVante Parker who can gash you over the middle, be too physical for corners, faster than linebackers, and bring some fireworks down to Miami.

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Penei Sewell: Best Tackle Prospect in Years???

If there’s going to be a player not named Trevor Lawrence picked at number one overall, it’s probably going to be Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell. Sewell looks and acts the part of a franchise tackle, who seems likely to be able to step in right away to protect a quarterback’s blindside. A behemoth of a man, Sewell moves with grace and has that nasty streak you love to see in an offensive lineman. Some are calling Sewell one of the best tackle prospects ever. I don’t want to go that far just yet, but I will say he’s the best tackle prospect in the past five years. Get him protecting a young franchise quarterback and you have a strong pairing for your offense for a long, long time.

Positives

Strength

This young man is STRONG! He rarely gets pushed back and not many were able to successfully bull rush him. His upper-body strength is elite and you can tell how powerful he is when he stonewalls a defender. He packs a lot of pop in his hands and Oregon loved to run behind him where he can clear lanes by himself. Against Auburn, he did extremely well against Derrick Brown, a 2020 top-ten pick, who weighs over 300 pounds and did well against SEC opponents. Ultimately, being an offensive lineman comes down to moving your man from point A to point B. Being as strong as Sewell is, you know you’re going to get positive yards running behind him.

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Mobility

People who are 6-5, 330 pounds like Sewell should not move as quickly as he does. Oregon runs a very “college” offense, meaning there’s a lot of shotgun and a lot of screens. They rely on getting the ball into the hands of their quick playmakers, so the need for athletic linemen is crucial. Sewell was able to get to the second level frequently and when blocking a defensive back or linebacker it’s just unfair. There were also plays where he was used as a lead blocker by pulling. We normally see this used with guards, but with an athletic tackle like Sewell, this was the way to go.

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Pass Protection

The purpose of an offensive tackle, particularly one that plays on the left side, is to protect the quarterback. I didn’t see Sewell give up a single sack in the games I watched and he didn’t allow many pressures either. He does a great job of moving his feet and anchoring in to get his body in front of defensive linemen. He’s just so big that once he gets his arms and hands locked in on you, it’s a wrap. You’ll rarely see an offensive lineman in college be a high-level blocker against the bull rush and the speed guys, but Sewell is an all-around beast.

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IQ

From what I saw, Sewell is an intelligent blocker and seems to be a leader on the Oregon offensive line. He and his left guard (current Giant Shan Lemiuex) did an excellent job on stunts, perfectly passing along defenders to each other. He would also risk his body to block two guys on a play sometimes — ensuring that his quarterback would stay upright. Sewell knows that one false step or read and his quarterback is on the ground and it results in a negative play. A true master of his craft.

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Negatives

Balance

Is this me nit-picking to find a negative? Yes. But, I did notice that way too often, Sewell ended up on the ground more often than I would like. It seems his lower body is a little behind in terms of strength in relation to his upper body. Sometimes, he would lunge and get off-balance, missing the block. Is this concerning? Not really. Offensive linemen aren’t ballerinas and can’t be expected to be so nimble.

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Conclusion

Sewell is as legit as they come. He’s the complete package at left tackle, a position of high value in football. He’s most likely a slam dunk top-five pick and I’m willing to go as far as saying he’s probably a top-three selection. The only player that will probably be ahead of him on most big boards is Lawrence, which is saying something. I think Cincinnati, Washington, or Carolina would be excellent fits for Sewell and would immediately allow him to start from day one.

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NFL Film Breakdown: Darren Waller – The Bludgeon of Las Vegas

Darren Waller has arrived. After overcoming difficulties in his personal life, he made sure the Raiders were rewarded for taking a chance on him by catching 90 passes and racking up over 1,100 yards. He had the 3rd most targets for tight ends at 117, the 2nd most receiving yards, and had the third best rate of yards per route run with 2.87. He’s a physical monster. He can run with corners and is big and aggressive at the point of the catch. He’s a tenacious blocker who can take on 1-on-1 assignments in pass pro and is more than willing to stick his nose into the run game. The Raiders offense would not be able to function at nearly the same rate as it did without him on the field. He’s an incredibly versatile player and what may be worrisome for the rest of the league is that the former college receiver may only be at the tip of the iceberg as far as his potential.

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

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Waller’s work as a blocker is where it all starts. In pass protection, he shows surprising strength for a tight end and can be hard to root out on bull rushes and has good feet to protect against guys getting around the edge.

He has good hand usage and is constantly replacing and working to get into the chest of defenders. This allows him to maintain position, control the defensive end, and prevents holding calls which can pop up when guys grab outside on the shoulder pads.

He understands pass blocking schemes and the Raiders even feel confident enough in his abilities to slide away from him at times and leave him in a true one-on-one with a defensive end. Here, the Packers are showing seven potential rushers but five guys on the line of scrimmage. The offensive line is sliding to the left towards the middle linebacker #50 Blake Martinez. That leaves five offensive linemen responsible for the five defenders to the left of Darren Waller. All protections want to maximize the number of 2 on 1s or 3 on 2s against the defensive line and slide protections help do that. As a consequence, though, Waller is left isolated against Preston Smith, who had 12 sacks on the year and is a legitimate pass rusher. Waller is put in the hardest position possible because he is away from the slide. The running back is coming across to give help if needed but because Smith is lined up so wide, Waller has to kick outside to meet him. Smith has a lot of space for a two way go but the RB is responsible for any inside move. This frees up Waller to set more to the outside. Smith goes for the straight bull rush and you can see Waller constantly fighting for hand position. While losing ground, he is able to anchor enough to give Carr time to throw. Is it a perfect rep? No, but this is a tight end against one of the best defensive ends in the league right here and he holds his own just fine.

On some of their play-action plays where they’re showing a split zone look, the Raiders will crunch Waller across the formation to pick up the defensive end. Usually, they’ll chip this end with a receiver or someone before he gets there, but he still eventually ends up in one-on-one situations against true pass rushers. The Raiders clearly have no qualms about him holding up in pass pro and it allows him to do a lot more things in that offense.

He did have some issues picking up stunts a couple times on the defensive line though. If the edge defender spikes inside, you’ve got to be aware that someone else is probably coming around outside and he was late with his eyes in picking that up. This isn’t a great pass blocking rep for the left tackle either because he slides down to the linebacker which leaves Waller alone with two defenders and he’s late to pick up the inside stunt from the man lined up over Waller.

He can pass protect along with the best tight ends in the league but he’s also very good in the run game. He moves his feet well, shows good strength, and takes good angles and adjustments when defenders move. The same crunch scheme we saw before is used a lot but instead of for pass pro, it’s used to seal off the backside on split zone run plays. Split zone is just a zone running scheme but with the H back, Darren Waller, coming across the formation to seal off the backside end who is typically left unblocked. This allows for larger cutback lanes for the running back.

Just like he can pass protect, he can also block straight up on these run plays and work double teams with other tight-ends, handle frontside reach blocks, climb to the second level, and create movement at the line of scrimmage.

I’m talking about his blocking so much because one, the Raiders are a ball control team and believe in the run game and two, it really opens things up for him in the passing game. He’s a legitimate threat in the run game and in pass pro so when he sells those on delayed releases or as part of the passing scheme, players have to respect that he will dominate them if they don’t attack run first. He runs a lot of these delay release flats where he’s lined up as if he’ll handle the defensive end. He’ll make good contact and then release into the flats. Often, it’s enough to make linebackers drop away in coverage and he’ll be sitting all alone for a yards after catch opportunity.

They also run him on those same crunch blocks that we saw for pass pro and split zone but now slip him into the flats after a hard play-action which gives him a ton of room to work with and keeps the defense honest.

Honestly, he doesn’t have to open himself up a whole lot. The scheme and his effectiveness as a blocker do that mostly on its own. The Raiders will split him out wide with relative frequency though and he’s big, fast, and a matchup issue for a lot of teams. He’s a natural hands catcher and has the speed to run with corners. A lot teams didn’t even try to put a linebacker on him because it’s such a clear mismatch.

Despite being a receiver at Georgia Tech, he really only has one consistent move. He loves to use foot fire at the top of his routes and he’s incredibly good at removing defenders’ hands when they try to jam him and slow him down. He’s able to defeat jams incredibly fast and a lot of corners and safeties that guard him have a tough time slowing him down through his route. As soon as he feels contact from defenders whether it’s at the line or during his route, he violently removes their hands so they can’t slow him down or run with him while keying the quarterback.

So if you jam him, you’re ultimately just going to have to run with him because he’s going to defeat it at the line of scrimmage, if you play off, he’s going to work up onto your toes with his speed and give a foot fire before breaking off his route. It’s his way of stopping defenders’ feet while keeping himself and his hips pointed forwards or allowing him to breakdown and explode out of the cut instead of leaning into it at full speed.

Here he shows one of his more polished routes that incorporate both his hand usage and foot fire but also add on a stacking technique into the route. On the snap, he receives an immediate jam attempt which he removes. He then fights to stack and get back on top of the defender by the top of his route. Once he’s in that position, he’s able to foot fire and the defender doesn’t know which way he’s going and it helps him get his feet under him for his break to the outside. He’s physical, fast, and shows just enough route running nuance to open himself up when needed.

There shouldn’t be any doubt of his physicality because of his blocking but if you’re a smaller DB and you get caught up with him, things are going to end badly for you.

While the physical tools are definitely there and he has a few route tricks to work with, they’re far from being an every down thing. He can sometimes mistime his foot fire steps. The foot fire only really works if you’re up onto the defenders’ toes. With too much space, they’re not threatened by you vertically and have space to break on whichever direction the route is going.

When he doesn’t use that foot fire, he’ll often show some body lean as he rounds into his routes which gives defenders easy keys to break on. He may be strong enough to create separation but he can also initiate it unnecessarily. He’s fast enough that if he’s not contacted he’ll run right by you so fixing these things are the next step in his growth.

Waller is so fast and physical that he really doesn’t need any more tools other than his occasional foot fire and some route stemming. He blocks well, he can get open, and he consistently wins contested catches. The guy is a monster and soon we’ll be talking about him in the same vein as Kittle and Kelce. The dude is that good. There are a few inconsistencies with his blocking and the Raiders would give him a running back to help chip most of the time but he adds so much versatility to that offense. He opens up the run game, provides a sure-handed outlet in Gruden’s ball control offense, and can beat you deep with speed. He’s everything you’d want from a tight end and with the weapons that Raiders now have, big things may be on the horizon in Las Vegas.

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Rondale Moore: The Human Joystick

One of the breakout stars of the 2018 college football season was Rondale Moore, a small yet explosive receiver from Purdue. He took home various awards, including being a consensus All-American and the Big Ten Freshman of the year. Unfortunately, he suffered a relatively serious hamstring injury that cut his 2019 season down to just 4 games. As a result, the Boilermakers struggled mightily on offense and could not replace his production. Before the Big Ten decided to cancel the 2020 season, Moore elected to opt-out and prepare for the 2021 draft. While it may end up being the wise decision for him to rest his body and prevent any future injuries, there’s still a lot of question marks for his game. When he’s on the field, he’s like a cheat code and is incredibly exciting to watch. However, he’s small and missed a large part of a season so there are plenty of questions about his durability.

Positives

Dynamic Athlete

It’s obvious to see from his film that Moore is fast, but what sets him apart is how well he can control his body. What I mean by that is on one play he can juke you out of your shoes and the next can break a tackle from a guy who has forty pounds on him. When it comes to making cuts and being able to stop on a dime, he is one of the best I’ve ever seen do it at the college level. Seriously, there are times where I think I’m watching Reggie Bush in his USC days when I’m watching Moore. He’s truly an exceptional athlete who does stuff that most football players are not able to do.

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RAC Ability

Because of his athleticism, Moore is dynamite after the catch. Whenever the ball is in his hands, there’s a legitimate chance that he takes it to the end zone. He’s able to find open space with ease and has no problem using one of his many tricks to break away from defenders. Because he’s on the shorter side, he’s able to use his low center of gravity to run through defenders. A fearless runner, I was surprised to see amount of tackles he broke because he ran physical and unafraid. Of course, he will most likely be effective at the NFL level because of his speed and shiftiness but his ability to get past you in several ways is impressive.

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Slot Work

Some may think Moore being a slot only guy is a negative, but the way he operates from the position makes him so valuable. He runs great routes and is willing to work all three levels of the field. From the slot he will run a lot of jet sweeps that can open the play-action game. He’s probably too small to play as a boundary receiver, but with a creative play-caller who will use him in motion to get him out of press coverage, he could thrive in any system. There’s no route he can’t run and in particular, he’s a machine over the middle of the field on crosses and slants.

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Negatives

Lack of Size

Listed at 5-9, 180 pounds, Moore is very undersized. He may be able to add some muscle, which would go a long way to his longevity, but he has to make sure he doesn’t lose any speed. There are a few times you’ll see him take a big hit and in the NFL, the guys are only bigger and stronger. Like I said earlier as well, he won’t win often in press coverage because he’s just not strong enough nor has the length to battle off the line with bigger corners. This is why he’s not seen as a top 15 pick as it’s tough to draft a receiver early who might not be able to be physical enough to battle with 6-2 defensive backs.

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Injuries

He only played in four games in 2019 because of a hamstring injury. While you can’t totally predict if a player will get injured at the professional level (look at Frank Gore who went through two major surgeries in college and is still playing today), but the fact you missed over half a season with a hamstring injury isn’t a good sign. I hope he uses this time to prepare for the draft to get stronger and take care of his body because it would be a shame to not see this guy healthy on Sundays.

Conclusion

In what looks to be a very strong wide receiver class, Moore comes with some baggage but also does things that the others can’t do. He’s such a special and exciting player, that all it would take is one catch or carry for him to change the outcome of a game. Assuming he stays healthy, I think he can have a long career working out of the slot. The health part is huge though. Will he end up like Tavon Austin or end up like Tyreek Hill? I don’t have that answer, but I’m willing to bet he’s right in the middle of the two. I’d love to see him in a more spread system or with a creative play-caller who will utilize him on jet sweeps and screens.

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NFL Film Breakdown: Bears Wide Receiver Allen Robinson is so Good He’s QB Proof

Allen Robinson has flown under the radar with the Chicago Bears but he’s hard to miss once you turn on the film. In 2019, he had 98 receptions for 1,147 yards, was the 5th best receiver on contested catches, and is one of the more nuanced route runners in the NFL. As you might expect with winning contested catches, he has great body control, attacks the ball in the air, and is physical at the point of the catch and that’s all great, but he didn’t even need to use that ability very often. He has a great feel for finding open zones and sitting behind flowing linebackers, he always has a plan of attack at the line of scrimmage, and he consistently sets up defensive backs to open himself up. It doesn’t really matter whether he’s working against zone or man coverage. He shows high football IQ and understands of how to manipulate defenders within the framework of the defense.

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

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It might seem simple but he does a great job of working off flowing defenders in zone. It takes an understanding of what defense you’re looking at to understand who to work off of and where the soft spot in the zone will be. The Broncos here are running a variation of cover 6 with an initial inside out bracket on Robinson. Cover 6 is a combination of both cover 2 and cover 4. So to one side of the field you have cover 2 with a deep half safety and a corner in the flats. On the other side of the field you have two deep safeties taking deep quarters. The Broncos nickel corner is aligned pretty deep to bracket the first vertical route that appears to dissuade any inside release before he comes down to the flat. As soon as that defender flows down, Robinson breaks off his curl a yard past the sticks for what would be a first down on 3rd and 8. Not an easy concept and coverage to read and diagnose on the fly but Robinson shows good understanding of the down and distance, coverage, and who to key off of while he’s running the route.

He reads these defender keys incredibly quickly — especially in the underneath game. As soon as flat defenders run by him and clear space behind, he immediately snaps off his route and sits down. You can see as soon as the ball is snapped here he looks at the nickel back who has flat responsibilities. As the defender takes steps towards the flats to cover the running back, Robinson sits immediately behind him in the soft area of the zone coverage for an easy completion.

It’s a simple concept, but it makes for efficient football and it’s a really easy and basic read for the quarterback. It demonstrates an understanding of what’s going on, film study, and is part of the reason why he was able to get almost 100 receptions on the year.

Even if he’s not sitting or snapping his route off, he uses the flow of defenders to signal when to look for the ball and when he’ll be open. Here, the Packers are doing a late rotate by bringing one of their safeties down. As soon as the safety clears him towards the flats, he turns his head expecting the ball. He knows the window where the ball will come to and is prepared and is processing these things incredibly fast.

So, he understands how to defeat zone but to be an elite receiver, you have to be able to win against man and be able to attack man concepts within zone coverage.  His ability to win contested catches and attack the ball certainly help him here and he’s not afraid of taking a hit. He has elite body control along the sidelines and is great at high pointing the ball.

Where Robinson really separates is with his releases and his work in his route stem and breaks. He has a variety of releases that he uses for different situations and defenders and while most receivers have an “A” release and a “B” release that they use most often, Robinson is pretty diverse in his combination of releases. He’s really good and quick at giving a good slide or skip release that pushes the defender opposite of the way he intends to break. He uses this a lot when defenders are walked up on him but aren’t pressing. He works that release right here which gives him more route side space and gets him up on the toes of the DB. The closer he gets to the defender, the less cushion and time they have to break on the route. So if you’re gaining ground AND stemming outside, it’s really hard for guys to recover. He does an excellent job of staying low on these releases too. Once your body sinks, DBs key on that and your hips to help them break on the ball more quickly. By staying at the same level the whole route, he takes that read key away.

Now, once he’s set up that quick stem release, he can work a double to get to a fade which is what he’s doing here. He’s getting up on the defenders toes, stopping their feet with the first jab, and keeping his hips pointed vertically. Keeping his hips vertical allows him to maintain speed and explosiveness while the defender has to turn and run with him.

This stemming concept and pushing defenders away from route-side space doesn’t have to be at the line of scrimmage either. He also uses it when he’s into the route and facing off coverage. Here he pushes the defender inside and gives a jab which opens up more space for him to operate on the outside while simultaneously removing the defenders hand and then working to stack on top of him before breaking off to the corner.

He’s got these stem releases down where he’s pushing defenders away from route side space but he’s also really good at removing defenders’ hands when they do try and bump or re-route him. The cleaner the release, the quicker he can get onto his route track and the quicker he can get open.

Sometimes he’ll just use a bench release and overpower defenders if they’re close enough to the line of scrimmage and he needs room to operate.

He also uses this at the top of his routes with subtle pushes to use the defenders momentum against them and create space for himself. Once he gets an inside release he then leans back outside to create contact with the defender and give himself leverage. In sync with his plant and burst, he also chicken wings to push the defender and propel himself the opposite direction.

He does this horizontally but he can also do it vertically on curls and comebacks. He sells vertical really hard and on his breakdown to come back to the ball, he also pushes the defender by to create that extra separation.

All compiled into one here, the Raiders are running cover 6 just like the broncos were earlier and Robinson is working on the outside corner. It’s a designed double move so he has to sell post and he knows he will get help from Chase Daniel with a pump fake since it’s zone coverage and the defenders will have eyes on the quarterback. With the DBs eyes in the backfield and only having the Robinson in his peripheral vision, Robinson works up on to his toes and into his field of vision before giving a hard shoulder and head nod. Since he’s gained ground and is on the DBs toes, the defender has less time to recover as he converts to a fade. The defender isn’t in terrible position but Robinson is still able to high point and attack the ball in the air and get two feet down.

Robinson is a pretty polished and complete receiver but there were some weird instances of a lack of effort scattered through the film. He’s a more than willing and capable blocker most of the time and uses his length and size to overpower corners and drive them out of the play.

But then in the Broncos game you get plays like these from him where he’s just 100% not wanting to participate in the play at all. He’ll make no effort to block and run right by guys when the play is coming at him.

He literally jogged an entire route while not once looking back for the ball or making himself available for the quarterback. Even if he’s a designed clear out there’s no play on planet earth where you jog 20 yards downfield and don’t turn around on a pass play

Again here he’s running half speed and doesn’t once look back for the ball or to adjust to the quarterback.

It’s wildly confusing because it contradicts everything else he’s put on film. He’ll block, run hard, is disciplined with his route running and is clearly a dedicated player that comes prepared every week so it was surprising to see a whole game where he looked like he had no interest in being there. The good news is these types of low effort plays didn’t pop up much in other games throughout the season.

Allen Robinson is a complete receiver and it’s time for him to get some recognition. He’s incredibly technically sound, is a smart and efficient player, has great hands, and sells out for the ball. It almost doesn’t matter who’s throwing to him because he’s just that talented. As the Bears try to figure out who’s going to be behind center, there’s one thing that’s for sure: Allen Robinson is going to be open.

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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