The draft is done, the free agents have been signed, the coaches have met their players. Now there’s not much to do but wait for training camp. While we wait, it seemed like it might be fun to evaluate and rank the NFC East position-by-position.
Last off-season, Hogs Haven published articles that focused on ranking position groups and head coaches in an effort to identify what the division would look like in 2018. This year, we’re going to look at the division again, but we’re gonna try to ramp things up a bit by adding some film review to some of the position group reviews.
Click here to read previous Ranking the NFC East articles
Just a few years ago, the NFC East was chock-full of high profile wide receivers. Dez Bryant, Pierre Garcon, Odell Beckham Jr., and Victor Cruz all added luster to the division’s marketability.
I’m not sure the skill level is lower now than it was before, but the marquee power seems to have fallen off a bit.
As we enter 2019, the Eagles may feature the most recognizable names with fans across the NFL with 32-year-old Desean Jackson, coming back for a second run in Philly, Alshon Jeffrey, who first built his reputation in Chicago, and Nelson Aghlor, who experienced a breakout season a year ago being joined by 2nd round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. If Carson Wentz can return to his 2017 form and stay healthy for 16 games, this Eagles receiving crew could lead the division in statistical production.
The Redskins probably have the least recognizable names in the division, even though the squad features former first round pick Josh Doctson and last year’s relatively high-profile free agent signing, Paul Richardson. The Redskins’ highest profile receiver from 2018, Jamison Crowder, is now a New York Jet.
Non-Redskin fans could be forgiven if they were unfamiliar with Cam Sims, Trey Quinn, Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon, though the latter two, taken in the 3rd & 6th rounds of April’s draft, got a lot of good press during the pre-draft buildup this year. If the Redskins are going to make any noise in the division, they will need at least two of their mostly young and unheralded receivers to hit big in 2019, and they will need a quarterback — either veteran Case Keenum or rookie Dwayne Haskins — to be throwing the ball effectively. It could happen, but it requires a lot of things to go right for Washington that didn’t go right in 2018.
Speaking of needing things to go right, Dave Gettleman shocked the NFL world (or didn’t, based on which Twitter reports you were reading and believing) by trading Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland. The team is left with newly-signed the veteran free agent, 30-year-old Golden Tate (who, for the record, I wanted the Redskins to sign in free agency this year) as the apparent top receiver on the roster. Sterling Shepard, the Giants’ 2016 second-round pick, has probably not yet lived up to the high expectations that surrounded him when he was drafted, but he went for 872 yards and 4 TDs in 2018. Corey Coleman, Cody Lattimer and Russell Shepard all have a chance to make an impact, though 5th round draft pick Darius Slayton will possibly keep one of them off the roster this season. Unless Eli Manning, who has averaged 3,800 yards, 20 TDs and 12 INTs over the past two seasons with OBJ on the field with him for 16 games, can find some magic in his 38-year-old arm, the Giants’ receivers are unlikely to make a big dent in the league receiving statistics.
The Cowboys’ 2018 season turned around completely when they traded for Amari Cooper, who, playing in his 5th year option season in 2019, is in a contract year and looking to get paid going forward. Last year’s 3rd round pick, Michael Gallup adds a speed element to the team’s receiving corps, which was further bolstered this off-season when the Cowboys signed former Green Bay Packer Randall Cobb during the veteran free agency period. The crew gets a bit motley after that, with some late-round draft picks and NFL veterans. Former Jacksonville Jaguar Allen Hurns, who hasn’t been able to break 500 yards in a season since 2015, when he put up 1,031 yards and 10 TDs, is probably the headliner of the bottom half of the depth chart. The Cowboys receivers may have the most talent and productivity potential of any group in the NFC East, but, with the Cowboys’ run-centered offense, and Dak Prescott’s limited pass production (he averages 3,625 yards and 25 TDs per season in his career), this group is unlikely to put up truly big numbers in 2019.
Let’s get a closer look at some of the wide receivers of the NFC East.
The film room: Andrew’s analysis
In this section, we’ll offer a look at a few of the top players in the division, with an analysis of their styles, skills and limitations written by Andrew York, who has volunteered to help me with this series.
Andrew is a self-taught film analyst with a pretty impressive resume. He has a PhD in Experimental Particle Physics and has spent several years doing research with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, and now does R&D work as a US government contractor. He will put that analytical brain to work this off-season helping to analyze some of the top players in the NFC East.
He will break down film from 6 NFC East wide receivers, in order:
- Amari Cooper
- Golden Tate
- Alshon Jeffery
- J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
- Paul Richardson
- Terry McLaurin
Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys
Amari Cooper was selected 4th overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2015 draft. At the Combine, he had posted a very good 4.42s 40-yard dash (showing good deep speed), but also produced an elite 6.71s 3-cone drill (agility), and 3.98s 20 yard shuttle (acceleration). At 6’1” and 211 lbs, he also has very good (though not elite) size for a WR. That good deep speed, with elite agility and acceleration shows up on tape as well.
His time with the Raiders was productive, but wildly inconsistent. Although he managed more than 1000 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons, most of those yards seemed to come in about 30% of his games. He was traded to the Cowboys in the middle of last season (the 4th year of his rookie contract) for a 1st round pick in 2019 draft, and Cooper had an immediate impact, seemingly jump-starting the Cowboys offense and helping them to a division championship.
In the video I reviewed of Cooper (all after the trade to the Cowboys), he looked like a very good WR, just one step down from elite (not quite a Julio Jones or Antonio Brown). His only obvious weakness is as a blocker in run support, where he doesn’t quite have the strength and physicality to excel. Other than that, he is good to elite in all the traits of a WR.
He is an excellent route-runner, excellent (and prolific) at selling fakes, and has elite change-of-direction ability to shake DBs loose in order to get open or break tackles. He is also a much tougher and higher-effort player than I had previously realized, able to hang on to make contested catches, and often reaching forward after contact to gain a few extra yards.
He has good deep speed, but is more of a home run threat due to his ability to get open and break tackles, rather than just because he just runs past everyone. Still, he forces teams to respect the deep game, and I often saw him get an easy completion on a crossing or out route because the DB gave him a lot of cushion in order to defend the deep routes.
Amari Cooper can play every WR position: X, Z, and slot, and the Cowboys used him all over the field to exploit matchups. The only reason I put him below elite is that he rarely faced double teams, but was neutralized by them when he did.
Cowboys @ Eagles, Week 10 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
Posted by Bill Horgan on Sunday, July 7, 2019
[2:21] Cooper (bottom of screen) runs forward to act as a blocker, but whiffs on his initial attempted block and can’t really get push on anyone. Cooper did a poor job on the few plays I saw him used as a blocker, and seemed to get pulled from the field by the coaching staff on many running plays.
Everyone can ignore this (and more to follow). I just needed a place to publish some GIFs that I want to embed elsewhere.Posted by Bill Horgan on Sunday, July 7, 2019
[5:16] Cooper lines up outside and fakes a break outside, causing Jalen Mills to bite hard on the fake, and leaving Cooper wide open when he redirects inside. Cooper does a good job after the catch of fighting hard and leaning forward for a few extra yards, despite having already made the first down. This play highlights Cooper’s ability to sell fakes (he’s excellent at selling fakes to get open) and his toughness and effort in fighting through contact for extra yards.
Cowboys vs Redskins, Week 12 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
Everyone can ignore this (and more to follow). I just needed a place to publish some GIFs that I want to embed elsewhere.Posted by Bill Horgan on Sunday, July 7, 2019
[7:17] Cooper, in the slot, runs a slant route, blowing by Fabian Moreau to get open and secure the catch; he then does a good job redirecting outside to break Moreau’s poor tackle and run free. Once he’s free, nobody in the secondary can catch him. This home run ability forces defenses to guard the deep field against Cooper and sometimes causes CBs to give up short crossing and out routes to him because they are afraid of him running deep. Note, however, that he didn’t make the big play by simply running past everyone with deep speed, but, rather, by using his sudden acceleration and route running ability to get open, and then using his agility to break tackles until the defenders were left behind.
Cowboys @ Saints, Week 13 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
ignore thisPosted by Bill Horgan on Sunday, July 7, 2019
[1:45] Cooper does a great job seeming to run deep and selling a slant route inside. Marshon Lattimore buys it at first, and gives enough cushion to allow Cooper to get open when he redirects outside. Lattimore is so fast that he closes in for a tackle as soon as the ball arrives, but Cooper does a great job making the catch through contact and keeping his feet in bounds for the reception. This play highlights Cooper’s ability to make tough catches, as well as the awareness and body control to keep both feet in bounds for the reception. It also highlights his ability to get open on crossing and out routes because CBs have to guard against the deeper routes so diligently.
Golden Tate, New York Giants
Golden Tate has consistently been one of the NFL’s most underrated WRs. Drafted by the Seahawks in the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL draft, Tate signed with the Lions in FA in 2014, was traded to the Eagles in 2018, and signed with the Giants in free agency this offseason.
Undersized at 5’10” and 199 lbs, Tate doesn’t quite have the measurables of a WR1, but excels as a WR2. Tate is a good route runner, an extremely reliable catcher (2nd fewest drops among WRs in 2018), and most importantly is one of the NFL’s best WRs at getting yards after catch (YAC). In addition to that, he is experienced running routes from any WR position, though he favors the slot.
Watching tape of Tate really reinforced what a YAC monster he is. There doesn’t seem to be just one reason he is so good at this, but rather a combination of factors that all work together.
He is a nuanced route runner, so he excels at running his routes in such a way that he has leverage over DBs and can get quick separation after his break. Although his deep speed is only good (not great), he has elite quickness/acceleration and change-of-direction ability. He often uses his quickness to get immediate separation once the ball is in the air, and uses his change-of-direction ability to juke an initial tackle attempt and turn uphill for extra yards. Lastly, he is more physical than one might expect from an undersized WR and never gives up on a play, so he will often drag a tackler for several yards and excels at improvising after a play breaks down to get open when other players thought the play was dead.
Tate is rarely asked to block in the run game, but is a willing and physical blocker when put in that role.
Lions @ Cowboys, Week 4 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[1:53] Tate lines up in the slot, but maintains outside leverage on the CB Jourdan Lewis (stays on Lewis’s outside shoulder) so that he can break outside uncovered on a comeback route to get open for the catch. He then changes direction uphill so suddenly that Lewis overshoots him on the tackle attempt. Tate then stares down safety Jeff Heath and fakes inside to set him up before cutting outside, breaking another tackle attempt as he accelerates quickly to the endzone. This play shows Tate’s nuanced route running, elite change-of-direction ability, elite quickness, and ability to shake tackles to get YAC.
[9:18] Tate lines up outside this time, fakes an out route, but then redirects to run deep and accelerate quickly while CB Anthony Brown’s head is turned to the QB, allowing him to get yards of separation and an easy catch that he turns into a TD. Tate only has good speed, but has elite quickness, and plays like this highlight his ability to get separation quickly when in tight coverage if the DB doesn’t maintain constant eyes and leverage on Tate. Tate also does a good job maintaining awareness of the QB and tracking the ball almost the entire time it’s in the air.
Eagles vs Redskins, Week 13 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[1:05] Tate lines up in the slot on a crossing route, but sees the play break down as Wentz breaks the pocket and changes directions so quickly that CB Greg Stroman slips on the grass trying to cover him. Tate gets wide open and signals Wentz for the TD. In addition to showing Tate’s change-of-direction ability yet again, this play shows his improvisational ability and persistence. He never quits on plays.
Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, July 11, 2019
[6:10] Tate lines up outside and runs an out route, changing direction uphill immediately after the catch so quickly that Stroman whiffs on his tackle and Tate gets tons of YAC. Tate freezes safety DJ Swearinger with a subtle fake inside before finally being brought down by HaHa Clinton-Dix, dragging him several yards before going down. Once Tate has the ball in space, he is truly hard to bring down.
Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles
Alshon Jeffery was taken by the Bears in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. At 6’3”, 216 lbs, and running a 4.48s 40 yard dash, he checked a lot of the boxes for a WR1 in the NFL.
Known as a jump ball and contested catch specialist, he was a favorite target of Jay Cutler, who often didn’t care about throwing into double and triple coverage so long as he trusted his WR. Jeffery rewarded Cutler’s trust with two 1000-yard seasons in his first 3 years in the NFL, though he hasn’t been able to replicate that production since, due to repeated nagging injuries he seems to suffer every year. In 2017, the Bears let Jeffery leave in free agency, and he signed with the Eagles.
Jeffery is the closest thing to a WR1 on the Eagles’ offense. Although Doug Pederson’s scheme spreads the ball around rather than funneling it to a specific target, it’s clear that Jeffery is the most trusted target on many Eagles plays. He has enough speed to get open deep, but also the physicality and jump ball ability to make himself open in contested short-yardage plays.
He looks, to me, a lot like a poor man’s Julio Jones. That might not sound like a compliment, but it is intended as such, as I consider Julio the best WR in the NFL. Like Julio, Jeffery is tall, long-limbed, physical, fast, and a good route runner. Jeffery is just a bit less gifted in each of these areas than an elite player like Julio Jones, and isn’t really elite in any area.
But he is good in all of these areas, and is a very reliable WR - one a quarterback can throw to in almost any situation, particularly in the red zone.
His only real weakness to me is that he depends on physicality to get open quickly, as he lacks the short area quickness to get open purely based on acceleration. He loses close to the line of scrimmage to CBs like Josh Norman who are even more physical than he is.
Eagles @ Giants, Week 6 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[2:09] Jeffery runs right at his CB (Eli Apple), using his long arms to shove him back, then breaking inside to get open and get the catch and first down. Alshon Jeffery doesn’t have elite quickness, but uses his physicality to get open on short routes like this instead of relying on quickness and change-of-direction ability. However, this makes him a poor matchup on physical CBs like Josh Norman who can shove back harder.
[7:06] Very clever play design by Doug Pederson. Jeffery lines up on the outside in a bunch formation (3 WRs all bunched up on the same side), but at the last second moves inside as if he’s moving to the slot. He’s not moving to the slot; the ball gets snapped while he’s in the process of transitioning, allowing him to catch the ball in the backfield while the other two WRs act as blockers for him. I wanted to include this play for 2 reasons. First, as much as Jim Schwartz’s defense makes life difficult for the CBs, Doug Pederson’s offense makes like easier for the WRs. Although it’s an offense that deflates WR stats by distributing the ball a lot, it’s a cleverly designed offense that gets WRs open. Second, this is clearly a play designed to get the ball to Alshon Jeffery in the red zone. He is not just the first read on this play, he’s the only read. Doug Pederson trusts Alshon more than any other WR to be his TD threat in the red zone.
Eagles vs Panthers, Week 7 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[2:32] Jeffery lines up outside with the CB giving him lots of cushion. Jeffery rushes forward and head fakes inside, but the CB doesn’t bite and stays with him outside. Despite this, Jeffery turns on a dime and immediately locates the ball in the air, leaping up to get the catch and first down. This is one of those plays that shows even when Jeffery is covered, he’s open. He shows excellent ability to redirect himself, locate the ball in the air, and great leaping ability to go up to get the ball. It’s difficult to overthrow Alshon Jeffery, he can often jump over a DB to make the catch.
[8:53] This is the danger Jeffery can present going deep. Although he’s a big, physical WR who is good at contested catches, he is also fast enough to blow past some DBs when going vertical. Here, the CB decides to take the flag on pass interference rather than risk Jeffery getting loose behind the secondary.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Philadelphia Eagles
Jose Joaquin (JJ) Arcega-Whiteside was born in Spain, the child of two professional basketball players. In addition to football, in high school he was all-state in basketball and placed highly in track. He committed to Stanford, and although red shirted in his freshman year, became an increasingly important part of the offense after that, catching 63 passes for 1,059 yards in 2018 (top 5 in the nation). Although not invited to the NFL combine, JJ had a good pro day, measuring 6’2” and 223 lbs, and running a 4.49s 40 yard dash. Although big, long, and strong on tape, his 40 time was a surprise to many who saw him as lacking deep speed.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside does an excellent job using his size, strength, and body positioning to box out CBs and make contested catches (making him a big red zone threat).
He also does a great job using fakes to misdirect opposing CBs and create lots of early separation at the release. His lack of deep speed often shows up after that, as opposing CBs will close that distance fast. However, JJ has tremendous ability to stay open even when covered, using his big body, long arms, and good hands-catching ability to reach out and grab the ball out of the CB’s reach, even with very little separation.
JJ is also a good route runner and solid (though not aggressive) blocker. Overall, he is big, strong, has good hands, and is nuanced at many aspects of playing WR, but shows a lack of deep speed on film.
The more I learn about certain recent Eagles draft picks, the more it seems like they are perfect long-term replacements for some of the star players on the Eagles roster. Derek Barnett has a very similar skillset to Brandon Graham. Dallas Goedert was likened to Zach Ertz even before the draft. Andre Dillard is a clear successor to Jason Peters. And J.J. Arcega-Whiteside seems like he was chosen to be the eventual replacement for Alshon Jeffery. Both are big, strong, physical WRs who are great at making contested catches, highpointing the ball, and serving as their team’s WR1. Jeffery plays with more speed than JJ, but JJ plays with more strength and has less of an injury history.
Stanford @ Oregon, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside plays 2018 on YouTube
[1:17] Arcegna-Whiteside makes a great fake outside to over-commit the CB, then uses quick feet to explode inside and get great initial separation. The CB starts to close the distance, but can’t stop JJ, who does a great job locating and tracking the ball in the air and catching it. He makes a perfect hands catch, reaching out and securing the ball away from his body (and away from the DB), then tucking it under his outside arm to run. This was a 37 yard play. Despite lack of deep speed, JJ was often able to make big plays like this one using fakes, quick feet, and good hands-catching ability.
[1:32] This is an example of being open when covered. Despite no separation in the endzone, JJ uses smart body-positioning and use of hands to maintain inside leverage and box out the CB in the endzone. Then he makes a tremendous leaping catch, using his long arms and sure hands to highpoint the ball and secure it away from the CB for a TD. JJ is excellent at using his strength, big body, and smart positioning to block out CBs and make catches in contested spaces like this. His basketball roots are also evident on plays like this.
Stanford @ Notre Dame, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside plays 2018 on YouTube
[2:08] Here is another example of using excellent body-positioning to box an opponent out, but this time against a much better opponent: Julian Love (taken by the Giants in the 4th round of the 2019 draft). Love is draped all over JJ, trying to muscle him — even having the awareness to reach out when the ball is in the air to break up the pass. But the ball is perfectly placed where only JJ can get it, and he again reaches out and uses his long arms and sure hands to secure the ball beyond the reach of the CB for a tough TD catch. This is a perfect example of why hands-catching is necessary against NFL-caliber talent, where the few inches of separation created by catching the ball arms’ length away is the difference between a big catch and an incompletion.
[3:49] This time, Love wins the matchup, getting a hand in to break up the pass. JJ has an extensive bag of tricks, using good fakes and foot quickness to get open at the release and good body positioning to make tough, contested catches. But against NFL-caliber talent, it might not be enough. Love was smart enough to avoid being fooled by the route, allowing little separation and having enough physicality to prevent getting boxed out. I think smart, physical CBs will give JJ trouble in the NFL as well, at least early in his development.
Paul Richardson Jr, Washington Redskins
Paul Richardson Jr was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL draft. With combine measurements of 6’0” tall, 175 lbs, and running a 4.40s 40 yard dash, Richardson has the height and speed of an NFL WR, but is greatly lacking in body mass. In addition to that, he had a bit of a college injury history, missing several games to injury his sophomore year, then redshirting his entire junior year due to a torn ACL. He has NFL bloodlines as his father, Paul Richardson, played several years as an NFL wide receiver as well.
Richardson’s injury history served as prologue to his time in the NFL. He suffered a 2nd torn ACL in 2014, and, in the 5 years he has been in the NFL, he has only played 16 games once (2017, his contract year with Seattle). However, when healthy, Richardson is a very capable pass catcher.
On tape, Richardson’s quickness and speed stand out. He is a capable deep threat, not quite as fast as DeSean Jackson or Terry McLaurin, but fast enough to break big plays and force defenses to respect the deep pass. He primarily (though not exclusively) seemed to be used as a deep threat option in Seattle.
However, Richardson is also a good route runner and is quick and nuanced enough to operate well on all routes in the route tree. Richardson is smart and aware enough to attack the seams in a defense, and he is a great improviser, working hard after the play breaks down to keep himself open as a viable pass catching threat.
Richardson also has good hands, and I think his somewhat low career catch percentage (58.7%) is more a function of running deep routes than any lack of pass catching ability. Richardson is very much a team player, and will always do his part in a play, even if the ball isn’t going his way.
Richardson’s negatives almost entirely have to do with his strength and injury history. Richardson is prone to being jammed at the line of scrimmage, and I often saw him positioned behind the line to avoid getting jammed. On the plus side, defenses respect his deep threat ability so much that opposing CBs often backed up away from the line themselves, where they were not in a position to jam him.
Richardson is a weak (though willing) run blocker. He also doesn’t use deception and fakes as aggressively as he could in his routes, possibly because he is accustomed to simply running past opponents.
Paul Richardson Jr
Seahawks vs Texans, Week 8 highlights | NFL 2017 on YouTube
[2:35] Richardson lines up outside (bottom of screen) behind the line of scrimmage. It looks to me like he’s supposed to run a corner route, but when he finishes the route and looks back to Russell Wilson he sees him scrambling. Without missing a beat, Richardson sees the wide open endzone in front of him and runs across, accelerating so quickly that the safety can’t keep up in order to get the easy TD.
Richardson is a very smart WR, aware of the field and good at improvising to keep himself open as a viable option when the play breaks down (he made a similar TD off of improvisation against the Panthers last year). This play also shows off his acceleration and route running. His routes are smooth and fluid, and once he turned on his jets near the endzone, the safety couldn’t keep up.
[10:15] Richardson absolutely blows past his CB running deep. He does a great job turning on a dime to locate the ball in the air, then boxes out the deep safety Marcus Gilchrist to keep him out of the play (though Gilchrist isn’t able to change direction in time anyway). Then Richardson makes a great leaping catch, highpointing the ball and securing it at maximum extension away from the DB. This play highlights Richardson’s deep threat ability, change-of-direction, ball tracking, body positioning, leaping ability, and strong hands at the catch point.
Paul Richardson Jr
Redskins vs Packers, Week 3 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube
[0:32] Richardson runs a deep route, subtly faking outside to get inside leverage on the CB, then turning the route back inside to split the CB and S, get open, locate the ball in the air, and dive for the catch. This play shows good awareness by Richardson to read the defense and split the defenders, as well good speed (notice how quickly he runs by them) and good ability to locate the ball and adjust to it.
[4:15] This is a well designed and executed pick play where Richardson springs Vernon Davis open for a huge gain. Richardson lines up outside (top of screen) with Davis lining up inside as a potential blocker (though it doesn’t look like the defense buys that for a second). After the snap, Richardson soon breaks inside on his route while Davis (a little behind him) breaks outside, allowing Richardson to “incidentally” block the DB mirroring Davis and let Davis run free up the sideline for a huge gain. Richardson plays his role very well here, and I think it shows not just his intelligence and attention to detail in getting the timing and nuance of a play like this down right, but also his selflessness in working hard to execute a play that ultimately benefits another pass catcher.
Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins
Playing on a loaded Ohio State offense, McLaurin only caught 35 passes in 2018, but did a lot with his opportunities (20.0 YPR average). He also tested extremely well at the combine, achieving a 95th percentile SPARQ score. Although he is a bit undersized for a boundary WR at 6’0” and 208 lbs, he has good agility (7.01s 3-cone), good quickness (4.15s 20 yard shuttle), and elite deep speed (4.35s 40 yd dash), as well as impressive strength (18 BP reps). These traits were evident in his game tape as well; he plays more fast than quick, and uses physicality or deep speed to get open more often than agility.
Terry McLaurin flashes elite traits, but has enough problems in his tape that I can see why he fell to the 3rd round.
He is a very good runner, his routes are crisp and he does a very good job breaking them deep enough to ensure a first down if he makes the reception on most plays. He does an excellent job locating and tracking the ball in the air and adjusting his routes to match the ball’s trajectory (which was important, because he was often so fast that he got underthrown on deep routes). He has enough deep speed that he can completely blow past most CBs given a few seconds to run in a straight line, though he doesn’t have the lateral agility to juke a DB out of his shoes, nor does he utilize fakes to misdirect opponents and get free early. He has surprising physicality for his size, often fighting through contact on a contested catch to get extra yards.
Overall, it seems like he relies on out-athleting his opponents, beating them with deep speed or strength rather than using the nuances of the WR position to win, which won’t be enough at the NFL level. Perhaps most problematic, he is more of a body catcher than a hands catcher. That is a difficult habit to unlearn at this point in his development, though I saw enough hands catches to think he can develop.
Lastly, no discussion of Terry McLaurin is complete without discussing his blocking and special teams value. McLaurin is a very willing blocker in the run game and has the physicality to do it well, though his technique (body positioning and angles) need work. He is also an ace gunner on special teams and the Skins reportedly had him ranked as the number 1 ranked special teams player in the draft.
Overall, I think Terry McLaurin is a somewhat raw WR who flashes elite traits and potential, but will probably take a while to see the field on offense, except as a one-dimensional deep threat. He shows enough effort and skill in route running that I think he will develop into a capable NFL starter under good coaching, but I think his immediate value will be on special teams, where he already has the ability to make an impact.
Ohio State vs Indiana, Terry McLaurin plays 2018 on YouTube
Everyone can ignore this (and more to follow). I just needed a place to publish some GIFs that I want to embed elsewhere.Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, July 8, 2019
[0:38] McLaurin does a good job blocking on this play, eventually blocking his guy to the ground. The Indiana DB matched up on him seems to sniff out the run play right away and immediately tries to break through for the tackle. McLaurin gets a poor angle on the block because of the DB’s speed, but nevertheless uses his strength to hold his man in place and eventually follow him to the ground, forcing the defender to reach out for an attempted shoestring tackle. McLaurin is an extremely willing and tough blocker, even if his technique could use some work, and is generally willing to do the “dirty work” necessary to help his team succeed.
ignore thisPosted by Bill Horgan on Monday, July 8, 2019
[1:24] Great job by McLaurin turning a simple out route into a first down with yards to spare. First, notice that McLaurin recognizes Indiana 14 is matched up on him. McLaurin runs to the DB’s outside shoulder, knowing that this will give him outside leverage when he eventually breaks out on his route. McLaurin also breaks his route at around the first down line, ensuring that he has a good chance of getting the first down if he makes the catch. He makes the catch (though it’s a body catch, not a hands catch) and shows great strength and body control breaking the initial tackle to run for several more yards. This play shows excellent route running ability, strength, and effort, though it would be nice if he trusted his hands enough to make the catch without using his body to corral the ball.
Ohio State @ Maryland, Terry McLaurin plays 2018 on YouTube
[1:43] This is why the Redskins drafted Terry McLaurin. He takes off and blows past his DB to get about 6 yards of separation vertically. He does a good job locating the ball, but realizes he’s been a bit underthrown and slows his route down to adjust to the ball and make the catch (another body catch). Then he shows good awareness of the defense in sprinting away from defenders to get the long TD. This play showcases his deep speed and big play ability, but also his ability to locate the ball and adjust to the throw.
[2:13] McLaurin takes off deep again, almost immediately beating the CB, and the CB knows it. McLaurin does a good job turning around and locating the ball in the air, but the ball is again underthrown, so he has to slow down, allowing the CB and an assisting safety to catch up. Despite pass interference from the CB (and what looks like an uncalled facemask penalty), McLaurin fights through the contact to make a tough catch and get the first down. McLaurin shows good body control, contorting his body around in the air to make the catch despite his momentum. This is a play that could have benefited from a fake inside before starting the route though, and notice this is again a body catch.
A look at the top of the depth chart for each team
Of course, no position group consists of just one or two players. In a sport that is as physically demanding as football, one in which player injuries are common, the unit depth is as important a factor as the skill of the star players.
Here, we’ll take a look at the top of the depth chart for each team — the pool of players from which the ones on the final 53 seem likely to be chosen. Not all the players listed will make the team, and I might easily miss — especially for the Redskins’ division rivals — players who will make the Week 1 roster, but this list should give some idea of the relative depth of the four positional groups.
- Amarie Cooper
- Tavon Austin
- Allen Hurns
- Randall Cobb
- Michael Gallup
- Josh Doctson
- Paul Richardson
- Terry McLaurin
- Kevin Harmon
- Trey Quinn
- Cam Sims
- Golden Tate
- Sterling Shepard
- Corey Coleman
- Russell Shepard
- Darius Slayton
- Alshon Jeffery
- Desean Jackson
- Nelson Agholor
- J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
- Mack Hollins
- Shelton Gibson
Who is the best wide receiver in the NFC East?
This poll is closed
Which NFC East team has the BEST wide receiver group in the division?
This poll is closed
Which NFC East team has the WEAKEST wide receiver group in the division?
This poll is closed
Which of these Redskins players is likely to have the highest number of receptions in 2019?
This poll is closed