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.

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.

Bring your Football Knowledge to the Next Level

[jetpack_subscription_form subscribe_placeholder=”Email Address” show_subscribers_total=”false” button_on_newline=”true” submit_button_text=”Subscribe” custom_font_size=”16″ custom_border_radius=”0″ custom_border_weight=”1″ custom_padding=”15″ custom_spacing=”10″ submit_button_classes=”has-text-color has-white-color has-background has-medium-blue-background-color” email_field_classes=”” show_only_email_and_button=”true”]

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.

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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 video releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Subscribe to the YouTube channel 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.

Bring your Football Knowledge to the Next Level

[jetpack_subscription_form subscribe_placeholder=”Email Address” show_subscribers_total=”false” button_on_newline=”true” submit_button_text=”Subscribe” custom_font_size=”16″ custom_border_radius=”0″ custom_border_weight=”1″ custom_padding=”15″ custom_spacing=”10″ submit_button_classes=”has-text-color has-white-color has-background has-medium-blue-background-color” email_field_classes=”” show_only_email_and_button=”true”]

NFL Film Breakdown: The Best Tight End in Philly Isn’t Who You Think

The combination of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert was the lifeblood of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2019-2020 NFL season. Together they combined for 146 receptions, 1,523 yards, 11 touchdowns, and averaged 10.5 yards per reception. Defensive backs aren’t physical enough to get off their blocks or stay with them in coverage, they present a mismatch in the run game, and both are deadly on play-action. A lot of the time, the Eagles put them both next to each other on the same side of the formation which forced defenses to declare how they’d cover them. If you want to put two DB types over there, they’ll run strong at their tight ends. If you want to stack up defensive ends and linebackers on them, they’ll just run weak. Numerous times Dallas Goedert was able to handle the likes of Jadaveon Clowney and Demarcus Lawrence one-on-one in both the run game and in pass protection. The Eagles have something special in Goedert and while both tight ends can struggle to create separation at times, their physicality, strong hands, and ability to block make the Eagles offense go.

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

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

It all starts in the run game. Both Ertz’s and Goedert’s ability to block set up big plays in play-action and screens. They are legitimate threats blocking and defenses have to respect their ability to do so. While Goedert is the better and more consistent blocker, Ertz is no slouch either. Here Goedert is one-on-one in pass pro against Demarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys best pass-rusher. He washes him down into the interior, moves his feet, and stays engaged.

Goedert also washed down on Jadaveon Clowney multiple times and took him completely out of plays.

Now if you put a safety over him like the Seahawks did in the run game. He’ll just drive him to the sideline. He churns his feet, maintains leverage, and uses his arm length to wash #30 Bradley McDougal all the way to the sideline and open up a hole for Boston Scott.

When the Eagles run a wing set with both tight ends on the same side, it can be tough for defenses to match up. Ertz drives out #30 the strong safety and Goedert climbs to #50 KJ Wright. Both create drive and are able to wall off their defenders, opening up lanes in the run game.

Now that we’ve established their impact in the run game, let’s look at how the Eagles use them off of that in play-action and screens. You can see how below in the play-action out of a two tight end set against the Cowboys, who are running cover 3, the middle linebacker #54 flies to the run game and vacates space over the middle for Goedert who ends up being wide open. Ertz, operating on the backside of the play blocks to a delayed release which keeps the safety down low in the flats to cover him and opens up even more space behind for Goedert. The corner is run off by a deep curl on the outside, the strong safety flat defender comes up on Ertz, and there’s a window open for Goedert as he comes across on a deep drag.

Here’s another example of play-action with Ertz and Goedert, this time when they’re both on the same side. The Eagles had been gashing them out of this formation in the run game all day and here, the defenders fly up to stop it. Ertz sifts right through and is open deep on a corner route while Goedert ends up getting the check-down in the flats. Ertz does a great job of releasing inside like he’s trying to pin a linebacker or get an angle on a block which sells to the defense that it is a run.

Since the Eagles often leave Goedert in on pass protection and even let him go one-on-one against elite pass rushers, now they can also screen to him out of those situations. Below, Goedert pass sets like he’s staying in to block and then “whiffs” and turns around for the screen. While Goedert isn’t thought of as being particularly athletic or a run after catch guy, he looks pretty agile in the screen game.

So they block, play-action, and screen well. Let’s take a look at their actual route running. Goedert may be viewed as more of a generalist and is easily the better blocker, but his route running technique and ball skills are quickly catching up to that of Ertz. Ertz is more polished at this point with good hand fighting through his routes, physical running, and the creation of separation at the top with leaning and creating a chicken wing motion with his arm instead of full extension that would result in OPI. Below, Ertz does a good job of all three. He constantly removes the hand of the defender, gets in close, leans, and extends to create some separation at the top. He’s not going to run away from anyone so he has to be technical in his route technique.

Below he again does a great job with his hands and eating up space until he’s stepping on the defenders toes before snapping his route. Without being able to get hands on him and allowing cushion to be closed, the defender has no chance in sticking with him and preventing the reception.

While, he does sometimes seek out contact unnecessarily which slows down his routes and can cause him to be unable to create separation against stronger defenders, sometimes he can just absolutely bully guys and run right into them and they bounce off.

Whether it’s a linebacker, safety, or corner, Ertz presents a matchup problem. Below he’s one on one with a corner and easily beats him on a slant without even using his physicality.

As mentioned before, Goedert might not be quite as polished of a route runner, but his hands are just as good if not better than Ertz’s.

He’ll high point the ball, isn’t scared of contact, and has great eye discipline.

As the season progressed, his routes became more nuanced with more leaning and exploding off of cuts which helped him create separation.

However, like Ertz, he also creates unnecessary contact at times and doesn’t take advantage of his frame and leverage to create separation and instead just tries to overpower the defender.

That being said, sometimes his length is so much greater than that of the defender that it doesn’t even matter and he can sttill make the catch.

Together, Ertz and Goedert create issues for defenses. Both have the ability to attack the ball in the air, have surprising athleticism, and are capable blockers. The Eagles love to use 12 personnel and attack defenses with their two tight end sets. They mirror Ertz and Goedert off each other with high / low concepts, use them with effectiveness in the run game, scheme them open in play-action, and kill teams with screens that really stretch defenses and their ability to match up. While they have been specializing in different ways – Ertz in the passing game and Goedert as a blocker — Goedert has begun to encroach on the targets and snaps that Ertz typically gets. Goedert adds a little more flexibility in the formations, packages, and plays that the Eagles can call. If you’re looking for a future super star, hop on the Dallas Goedert train right now. If the Eagles get a weapon or two outside at receiver, this tight end pair and offense could be unstoppable with a rising star in Miles Sanders and a franchise QB in Carson Wentz.

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.

Follow Weekly Spiral

Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.

[jetpack_subscription_form show_only_email_and_button=”true” custom_background_button_color=”undefined” custom_text_button_color=”undefined” submit_button_text=”Subscribe” submit_button_classes=”undefined” show_subscribers_total=”false” ]