clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ranking the NFC East, 2020: Wide Receivers

Hogs Haven looks at all four teams in the division in an effort to identify the best and the weakest of the NFC East

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 in an effort to identify what the division would look like in 2019. This year, we’re going to do it again.

Click here to see all the Ranking the NFC East articles

NFC East Positional overview

The wide receiver landscape in the NFC East has changed dramatically over the past couple of seasons. The 2018 version of this article focused on players like Odell Beckham Jr., Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder, Terrance Williams, Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, Nelson Agholor and Mike Wallace - none of whom will be discussed in this article, just two years later.

I suspect the best-known group of receivers in the division is the Cowboys receiving corps, headlined by Amari Cooper and featuring the just-drafted CeeDee Lamb.

The Redskins seem to have a very high-quality group on the field, though the only well-known name in the bunch is Terry McLaurin, and his fame doesn’t extend far beyond the fantasy football community...yet.

Eagles fans were decrying their lack of receivers in the latter half of 2019, and hope that the addition of first-round pick Jalen Reagor will be a partial answer to their concerns, even as they hold out hope that the light will come on for last year’s second-round selection J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and that the aging speedster Desean Jackson can remain healthy for more than the opening week game against the Redskins.

If there were a vote for the “most anonymous” group in the division, I suspect that it would be won by the Giants, whose WR corps is headlined by Golden Tate and was not supplemented in the April draft, in which Dave Gettleman selected three offensive linemen and three linebackers, while every other team in the division drafted at least one new receiver. It’s a big change from the pre-Gettleman Giants, who, for a while, fielded one of the highest-profile receiving groups in the league.

The NFC East has three new head coaches and a young group of quarterbacks; it’s probably no surprise that it has more young and promising receivers than older established veteran receivers. In an unusual season that, due to global pandemic, may turn out to be unlike any other, the wide receiver position seems to offer an interesting and potentially exciting year to fans of the NFC East.

What do scouts look for in NFL wide receiver prospects?

Last year, the Giants fan site, Big Blue View, published a very good series on the topic, “What do scouts look for?”

I’d like to quote heavily from that series here. What follows is the BBV discussion of what scouts look for in running back prospects.

Many make the mistake that if a wide receiver is big and fast that he immediately becomes a top NFL prospect. Having a terrific big muscular body for the position and running a great 40-yard dash time are wonderful attributes, but it doesn’t always translate to success in the league. We are seeing more and more taller receivers that run well in a straight line, but aren’t great at changing directions, fall lower and lower in the draft. Offenses are based on timing and need to get the ball out quick. NFL passing games want quick-hitting routes rather than long developing ones downfield. Being able to abuse coverage with slants and out routes over and over is more valuable than a receiver that can occasionally win deep downfield.

Speed is great without question and true speedsters that know how to use it terrify defensive coordinators. But in today’s NFL, it is better to be quick with great acceleration out of a break or a cut. If you look at all the players at this position that have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, you might be shocked that a good percentage of them are not elite speedsters. Instead, they show the attributes listed below.

3. Beating The Press

It is well known in the scouting community that when watching tape of college wide receiver prospects, it is imperative to analyze every snap against press man coverage. Often at the college level, receivers see very little in-your-face physical man coverage, so watching what we can and analyzing it very closely is extremely important. Because you know what happens when a rookie receiver enters the league? Well, they are often doing battle with excellent man coverage cornerbacks. This is almost a right of passage and wide receivers must show the ability to win at the line of scrimmage and make defensive coordinators pay for playing them in this manner. Sure, there are ways to use formation and motion offensively to help receivers get away from press. But the problem is when the book is written that a wideout can’t get off the jam, the opponent knows this as well. One of the first things a receiver needs to do at the NFL level is to win against outstanding press man coverage. Otherwise, young receivers can fade away fast in this league.

2. Route Running

To say a wide receiver is a great “Route Runner” means a lot of different things and there are a wide variety of routes that are run, some of which accentuate different skill sets. But those wide receivers that have been most successful of late early in their career are the “Route Runners.” These are guys who are exceptional coming out of their breaks without losing too much speed, have repetitive and repeatable routes time after time so their quarterback knows where they are going to be and can create separation by setting up a cover man and making every route look the same from the beginning. Cornerbacks and safeties are smart in the NFL and can read route tells extremely well. Many of the recent early-round busts at this position came from wide-open spread attacks that only asked the wide receivers to run a few routes and when these young receivers adjusted to the league, they were just not close to being well-rounded enough in all aspects of running an NFL route tree.

1. Ball Skills

While gaining separation through great route running is fantastic, there are some great receivers like DeAndre Hopkins that just win time and time again at the catch point despite not gaining a lot of separation. “Ball Skills” is a combination of how a pass-catcher uses his body to shield defenders and put himself in the best position to haul in the football combined with showing soft, reliable hands to catch the ball away from his frame. In the end, if a wide receiver has everything else you want at the position but can’t consistently bring the ball in and gain yardage, he isn’t much good to his team.

PFF Comparison on selected NFC East wide receivers

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 co-author this series with me.

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 of some of the top receivers in the division:

  • Amari Cooper
  • Jalen Reagor
  • Terry McLaurin
  • Darius Slayton

Click here to read the 2019 review of wide receivers which includes Golden Tate, Alshon Jeffrey and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside as well as last year’s look at Cooper and 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 coupled with elite agility and acceleration shows up on tape as well.

Of the players I reviewed last year for the Ranking the NFCE series, my opinion on Cooper is that he is among the least changed. He is a smart, high-effort player and among the best in the NFL at his position. Cooper can play every WR position: X, Z, and slot, and the Cowboys use him all over the field to exploit matchups and get him paired with slower DBs.

He primarily uses a combination of route running, short-area quickness, and savvy (with fakes/misdirection and ability to find the soft spot in zones) to get open and make plays. He has enough deep speed that opposing DBs have to respect the deep pass and will often sell out to defend it, giving Cooper a good amount of cushion. However, his best athletic trait isn’t his deep speed so much as his short-area quickness. Cooper is one of the best in the NFL at building up speed on the route stem as if he’s going to go deep, then stopping on a dime and cutting in a different direction so suddenly that the DB is backing up several feet away before he realizes he’s out of position. This ability combined with the fact that less athletic DBs give him plenty of cushion to guard against deep routes makes Cooper very good at getting open on high-completion crossing, out, and curl routes.

One minor difference in his game from last year is that I think Cooper has visibly improved in run blocking. In 2018 tape I thought he was severely lacking as a run blocker, sometimes just phoning it in or getting brushed aside by a DB, but in 2019 he looked much improved in both effort and technique. He’s still only an average run blocker, but that’s a step up from what he was and traditionally means a lot to the Cowboys offense.

The only times I saw Cooper struggle were in press man coverage against fast and experienced DBs. Cooper isn’t weak, but he’s not especially physical, and pressing him at the line can disrupt his routes. Staying close and allowing little separation early in the route also allows those DBs to keep Cooper covered when he breaks inside on a crossing or curl route. Playing like this opens up the risk of Cooper getting behind them if he wins the foot race on a deep route, which is why only equally fast DBs can play him this way. Cooper’s ability to sell a fake will still get him open against younger DBs, which is why it really takes an experienced and fast DB playing press man to shut him down. Not many teams can present such a matchup, but the NFCE faced two such DBs last year in Darius Slay and Stephon Gilmore, each shadowing Cooper in their respective games. Slay held Cooper to 3 catches on 8 attempts for 38 yards (a 38% catch rate). Gilmore held Cooper to no catches on 2 attempts (one of which went for an interception).

Amari Cooper

Cowboys vs Vikings, Week 10 highlights | NFL 2019 on YouTube

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, May 7, 2020

[1:46] This play is one of two that is very representative of how Cooper gets open.

He lines up on the boundary at the top of the screen opposite Vikings CB Mike Hughes. Cooper releases as if he’s running deep down the sideline. The CB flips his hips downfield and starts running with him, expecting a deep pass. Cooper suddenly breaks and reverses direction on a comeback route. The suddenness with which Cooper changed his direction and the degree to which the CB committed deep make it impossible for the CB to redirect in time, and Cooper gets open for an easy catch.

This play highlights Cooper’s ability to sell the deep route as well as his short area quickness to stop and turn on a dime to get open.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, May 7, 2020

[7:50] Cooper again lines up top of screen opposite Mike Hughes. Cooper again runs down the sideline and seems to get open by selling the deep route, but breaking it back to shake loose. However, note that this play seems designed explicitly to get the ball to Cooper. Dak breaks to his right (Cooper’s side) almost immediately after the snap despite little pressure and is looking for Cooper the whole time.

This shows how much the Cowboys trust Cooper to be a red zone weapon. Also, Cooper’s ability to keep both feet inbounds as he secures a catch right on the edge of the sideline showcases his body positioning and control.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, May 7, 2020

[12:06] This is the second of two plays that are representative of how Cooper gets open on many occasions. Cooper again lines up opposite Hughes, this time at the bottom of the screen. Building on his success earlier in the game, Cooper fakes another deep route down the sideline, then stutter-steps inside on a slant route. Hughes gives a generous initial cushion to prevent getting beat deep, which allows Cooper to get an easy reception for a first down and then some.

Cowboys @ Lions, Week 11 highlights | NFL 2019 on YouTube

Posted by Bill Horgan on Friday, May 8, 2020

[0:41] This is almost a mirror of the first play shown above against the Vikings. This time, instead of Mike Hughes, Cooper (top of screen) is facing off against Darius Slay.

Running a sub-4.4 40 time himself, Slay isn’t afraid of getting beat deep, and keeps his eyes moving between Cooper and Dak the entire time he runs with Cooper. As a result, Slay does not get fooled when Cooper stops and turns around to catch the ball on a comeback. Slay is in position to easily break the pass up instead.

This is an example of the trouble Cooper has when facing off against top CBs who are as athletically gifted as he is and aren’t afraid of getting beat deep.

Jalen Reagor, Philadelphia Eagles

Jalen Reagor became the focal point for TCU’s offense in his freshman year (2017), leading the Horned Frogs in receptions (33) and receiving yards (576). He built on that success his sophomore year in 2018, with 72 receptions for 1,061 yards.

However, starting QB Shawn Robinson decided to transfer to Missouri after the 2018 season, leaving the Horned Frogs scrambling for a replacement. The starting QB for the 2019 season was inexperienced freshman Max Duggan, causing Reagor to statistically regress to 43 receptions for 611 yards, which still lead the team.

Despite the down year, Reagor had a pretty good Combine, measuring in at 5’11”, 206 pounds, and running a 4.47 second 40 yard dash. It should be noted that Reagor was listed with a 195 pound playing weight at TCU and the extra weight at the Combine may have slowed him down. He ran an unofficial 4.28 second 40 time at a private Pro Day after dropping some of that weight.

Reagor was selected by the Eagles in the 1st round of the 2020 draft. Watching Reagor play, I would describe him as explosive, sudden, fast, smart (good at recognizing coverages and exploiting soft spots in zones), and a good route runner.

Although Reagor is a deep threat, I think he’s similar to Amari Cooper in that he’s a bit more quick than fast; defenses have to respect his deep speed, but his suddenness in changing direction is actually more of a threat than his ability to take the top off a defense. Reagor also looks a bit like a running back with the ball in his hands, juking and finding running lanes to get yards after catch. Complimenting his speed, Reagor shows good ball-tracking ability and ability to adjust to the ball once it’s in the air.

Reagor is a bit more physical than you might expect from a playing weight under 200 pounds, though he still struggles a bit with press coverage. He does a good job of positioning his body to box out CBs and gives himself the leverage advantage in making plays on the ball.

Reagor has weaknesses though. Although he suffered from poor QB play in 2019 (40.2% of passes thrown his way were uncatchable, 3rd worst in this year’s draft class), he also had a terrible 9.8% drop rate, one of the highest in this year’s draft class. Sometimes he would make an incredible contested catch, then in the same game have the ball hit him in the hands and bounce into a nearby DB for an interception.

As mentioned before, he’s a bit small for a WR and can be pressed at the line. He’s a high effort blocker, but his technique and power are below average.

Also, I’m not sure how much this will translate to the NFL, but I literally saw Reagor yelling at his QB after some plays where he expected a different read or better ball placement. I expect that won’t be an issue with Wentz throwing to him, but it’s worth noting that Reagor has a temper and it showed on the field.

Reagor is also a skilled kick returner, with 12 kick returns for 312 yards (a 26.0 average) in 2018 and 5 kick returns for 72 yards (a 14.4 average) in 2019.

Overall, I think Reagor is a skilled, explosive playmaker who can stretch the field vertically while also taking short passes or handoffs for big gains, using his sudden cuts and quick acceleration to juke defenders and get yards after the catch. I expect him to have just as much utility in the screen game as he does stretching the field. His biggest problem is his drop rate, which will need to improve in the NFL if he is to become a trusted target of Carson Wentz.

Jalen Reagor

TCU @ Oklahoma State, all Jalen Reagor plays | CFB 2019 on YouTube

Posted by Bill Horgan on Wednesday, May 13, 2020

[0:01] Reagor shifts from the left slot to right boundary, helping his QB to diagnose zone coverage because the slot CB doesn’t travel with him.

Another WR on the same boundary runs vertically to clear out the DB there, leaving Reagor with a lot of open grass in front of him as he receives the short pass.

You can see Reagor’s style with the ball in his hands is similar to a RB, with sharp cuts and good vision picking out running lanes to get 19 yards after the catch. However, he also ended this play with a mistake I saw him make a few other times too by slipping and falling without contact. He doesn’t do it often enough to be a big issue, but maybe because his cuts are so sharp, he seems to trip himself up and miss out on extra yards now and again.

Still, this was overall a very positive play for Reagor. Not only did he gain an impressive number of yards after catch with his explosiveness and quick cuts, but this play seems designed around getting the ball to Reagor, whom the coaches clearly see as their team’s number 1 weapon. Giving him an easy pass like this and clearing his way also makes things easy on their freshman QB.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Wednesday, May 13, 2020

[2:38] Reagor does a good job as he approaches the CB of faking inside with his head and shoulders and planting his left leg inside, getting the CB to flip his hips inside. Then Reagor explodes off that planted left leg to go outside and uses a bit of a shove to knock the CB off balance and shoot past him.

Once Reagor has passed the CB he shows great acceleration getting down the field quickly and showing good use of inside leverage, keeping himself between the CB and the QB so the QB has a clear path to throw to him inside.

Despite not getting much separation, Reagor’s use of inside leverage keeps him open and he does a great job highpointing the ball, bodying the CB out of the play and catching it away from him, so there’s no chance for the CB to make a play on the ball.

This was a poorly placed ball — it should have been lower and inside to make it harder to intercept and easier to catch — but Reagor did a great job tracking the ball and adjusting (leaping) to the high throw to bail out his QB. Though he’s only 5’11”, Reagor’s leaping ability allows him to go up pretty high to make a catch.

Note that Reagor got injured earlier in this game and looked to be in a lot of pain, but came back and played through it very effectively (as shown here). Playing well through injury is one way scouts measure football character.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Wednesday, May 13, 2020

[3:34] Reagor again goes deep, this time going inside (maintaining early inside leverage against the boundary CB), then outside a little later (maintaining outside leverage against the deep safety).

He recognizes the Cover 2 Zone defense and runs his route perfectly along the soft spots between zones the whole way. This time his QB delivers a well placed ball and Reagor makes an easy catch outside, with good separation from any defenders due to his good route running and ability to recognize and attack the weaknesses of the coverage.

Jalen Reagor

TCU vs Baylor, all Jalen Reagor plays | CFB 2019 on YouTube

Posted by Bill Horgan on Wednesday, May 13, 2020

[1:04] This time the defense is running man coverage. Look how much cushion the CB opposite Reager (bottom of screen) gives him, clearly afraid of getting beat deep.

Reagor again runs a good route, faking outside as if to run down the sideline and getting the CB to turn outside, but then breaking inside to take advantage of the cushion with nobody near him.

Although the ball is placed right on his hands, he makes an ugly drop and misses out on a big play. Reagor dealt with some poorly thrown balls and did an amazing job adjusting to them as shown earlier, but he also had too many easy misses and drops like the one shown here.

Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins

When I reviewed McLaurin’s college tape for this ranking last year, I noted that he was a tremendous athlete, good route runner, and a willing and physical blocker. However, I noted he had a few flaws in his game that I thought would cause him problems. I thought he wasn’t as shifty as one might expect for a player so fast, he was a body-catcher rather than a hands-catcher, and he relied too much on out-athleting his opponents using speed or physicality to get open, which wouldn’t necessarily work at the next level. He grew in almost all of those areas as a WR in his first year, putting to bed my concerns about how he would translate to the NFL.

His most impressive area of improvement was in his catching ability. In his college tape, he almost always corralled balls into his body after getting several feet of separation from DBs. In his rookie year in the NFL, he did an excellent job reaching out and catching the ball away from his body (hands-catching), which is critical to keep the ball safe from DBs that rarely allow as much separation as in college.

Even better, he displayed strong hands, winning quite a few contested catches. He still doesn’t have the short-area-quickness or suddenness to juke DBs out of their shoes, but he showed better ability to get open in tight spaces using fakes and body positioning.

In addition, his strengths are still his strengths. He can still run past many opponents, is more physical than many DBs (he’s surprisingly strong for his size), and shows a lot of effort in run blocking. He is also still an excellent route runner, running crisp routes with a tremendous sense of timing and anticipation of the ball’s arrival.

Watching tape of McLaurin’s 2019 season, it became clear that other teams saw him as the number one threat in the Redskins passing game. Opposing defenses either shadowed him with their best CB or shaded coverage in his direction to account for him.

Whenever defenses left him 1-on-1 against non-elite CBs, he was able to get open for a big play, though he was often missed by inaccurate Redskins QBs early in the season. Indeed, the only games where he had less than a 50% catch rate were against the Patriots and Lions, where he was shadowed by Stephon Gilmore and Darius Slay respectively. However, he fared better against those CBs than Amari Cooper. After watching both WRs in those matchups, I think the difference was McLaurin’s physicality and ability to win contested catches. Neither WR got consistent separation against those CBs, but McLaurin was harder to jam and had stronger hands wrestling away 50/50 balls.

McLaurin is an ideal Z receiver, though not quite big enough to play X and not able to consistently beat the best CBs in the NFL. However, this is all based on his rookie year alone, and he is still developing.

Terry McLaurin

Redskins @ Eagles, Week 1 highlights | NFL 2019 on YouTube

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, February 27, 2020

[3:05] This was the play that introduced McLaurin to a lot of us.

He’s matched up against Rasul Douglas 1-on-1 at the top of the screen. Douglas is not the fastest of CBs and is playing a few yards off, so he can’t jam McLaurin at the line to disrupt his route.

Basically everything about this matchup is tilted in McLaurin’s favor, and I think it’s the type of matchup he isn’t likely to receive now that teams have had a look at him. McLaurin releases and expertly fakes outside, causing Douglas to flip his hips outside while Terry turns back inside and easily runs past Douglas in the 1-on-1 matchup and gets open to make a big catch.

Despite having plenty of separation, McLaurin extends his hands to catch away from his body, showing better form than the hands-catching I noted in his college tape. Once he’s caught the ball, this play is over, as McLaurin is too fast for any Eagles defenders to catch him.

This play showcases McLaurin’s acceleration, route running, hands-catching ability, and top-end speed.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, February 27, 2020

[4:48] This time McLaurin (bottom of screen) is matched up with Ronald Darby 1-on-1. Darby is a much better (and faster) CB than Douglas and runs with McLaurin down the sideline, but Terry turns back at just the right time, quickly locates the ball in the air, tracks it, and reaches out to make a very tough contested catch. He even manages to keep his feet in bounds when he lands despite a shove by Darby, showing excellent body control and awareness.

This play showcases McLaurin’s sense of timing (looks back just as the ball should be arriving, making it tough for Darby to react in time), toughness, contested catch ability, body control, and situational awareness (to stay in bounds).

Terry McLaurin

Redskins vs Lions, Week 12 highlights | NFL 2019 on YouTube

[7:30] This time, McLaurin lines up in the slot. Lions shutdown CB Darius Slay follows him into the slot, and indeed shadowed him all game. McLaurin seems to try to fake outside, but Slay doesn’t bite, instead following McLaurin as he releases inside.

Although McLaurin isn’t able to get much separation from Slay, he is able to body Slay out and break open just as the ball reaches him. McLaurin again does a good job catching the ball away from his body (and away from Slay), keeping it safe.

This play shows again that McLaurin has more ways to win than just speed, and even against the best of CBs, he found a way to get open through physicality, smart positioning, and excellent route running and timing. Also, the fact that the Lions had Slay shadow McLaurin all game, even traveling with him into the slot, shows the respect they had for him. It also helped the other players on offense by giving them easier matchups and complicating the Lions defense (if Slay had to travel, then other DBs had to travel or adjust their responsibility accordingly).

Terry McLaurin

Redskins vs Eagles, Week 15 highlights | NFL 2019 on YouTube

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, February 27, 2020

[7:59] McLaurin lines up opposite Jalen Mills at the top of the screen.

This ends up being a running play for Adrian Peterson, who breaks his run to McLaurin’s side of the field. McLaurin keeps track of the play, and when he sees Peterson coming to his side of the field, does a great job blocking Mills out of the play.

This was the TD that tied Walter Payton’s career rushing TD record, and Adrian Peterson gave Terry the ball after the play because he knew the TD wouldn’t have been possible without his blocking. Unlike many other speedy WRs, McLaurin is tough and physical enough to support the run game.

Darius Slayton, New York Giants

Darius Slayton was not only an All-Region receiver out of high school, but also a state sprint champion in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. He committed to Auburn and was a big play threat throughout his college career, but didn’t get to show much versatility in a simple offense with poor QB play for much of his college career. Slayton tested extremely well at the 2018 NFL Combine, posting good size (6’1” and 190 pounds), explosiveness (vertical and broad jump), and speed (4.39 second 40 yard dash). Slayton was taken by the Giants in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL draft.

Slayton started out slow in 2019, riding the bench in weeks 1 and 2 and playing less than 50% of snaps in weeks 3 & 4. He really emerged after that though, acting primarily as a deep threat early in the season, but leveraging his early success to get more snaps, run a few more routes, and demand more attention from opposing defenses. He finished the season with 48 receptions for 740 yards. He was also a competent kick returner, with 9 returns for 189 yards (21.0 Y/R).

Watching him play, Slayton seems like a great athletic prospect who still needs a lot of refinement. He looks like he has all the size, speed, acceleration, ball tracking, and sharp cutting ability to be great in the NFL. However, he has a limited route tree and doesn’t show much subtlety in terms of using fakes, counters, leverage, body-positioning, or physicality to get open. He runs basic routes that get him where he needs to go, but show very little nuance (in terms of exploiting zones) or subtlety (in terms of using fakes and timing). I also think he’s not especially physical and will have trouble against press coverage.

Right now Slayton is relying almost entirely on his athletic traits to find success, which is enough to get him pretty far against some teams, but limits his versatility and allows him to be shut down by the more athletic CBs in the NFL. However, I think Slayton has a very high ceiling and could be really good if he continues to develop.

Darius Slayton

Giants @ Eagles, Week 14 highlights | NFL 2019 on YouTube

[1:52] Slayton lines up bottom of screen on the outside.

Look at the difference in cushion the Eagles give him vs the other boundary WR at the top of the screen! They respect his deep speed and he takes advantage by breaking inside on a crossing route with nobody around him.

As Slayton makes the reception, he stops on a dime and cuts so hard back outside that the CB whiffs on the tackle. Slayton then quickly runs away from the FS Rodney McLeod, easily outpacing him to the endzone.

This play really shows off Slayton’s physical traits; he’s got speed, acceleration, and quick change-of-direction ability for days. It also shows how much teams have to respect his deep-threat ability and how that opens up opportunities for short passes. He doesn’t need a lot of subtlety here though, his athletic traits are what allow him to win.

[5:06] The Eagles had no answer for Slayton in this game and it may point to why they prioritized adding speed to their defense in the offseason.

They bring two DBs down to bracket Slayton (bottom of screen). Slayton still just runs past them and gets several yards of separation, doing a great job looking back and tracking the ball in the air to get a long reception for a TD.

This play shows Slayton’s deep speed, ball tracking ability, and ability to haul in long passes.

As an aside, I think this play also highlights problems with how the Eagles scheme up their secondary. CB #21 (Ronald Darby) looked fast enough to run with Slayton and almost caught him at the end. But forcing him to start so far off essentially gives Slayton a running start as he passes Darby. It would have made more sense for Darby to press Slayton at the line, disrupt his route, then run with him and have the other DB start further back to act as insurance if Darby gets beat. Having both DBs start in the same position but not allowing them to press doesn’t give them any advantage.

Darius Slayton

Giants @ Patriots, Week 6 highlights | NFL 2019 on YouTube

[7:19] Slayton lines up on the boundary top of screen opposite Stephon Gilmore.

Gilmore starts close to the line and runs with Slayton, looking back to see when Slayton cuts back for a curl route. Gilmore is on top of him the whole way and cuts back just as hard as Slayton, wrapping him up as the ball gets to him and knocking the ball away.

This play shows what happens when Slayton is matched up against a CB who is just as fast and quick as he is and allowed to play close. Slayton doesn’t have much in the way of counters, tricks, or physicality to get open if his athleticism isn’t enough.

Slayton had success early in this game when he was matched up on other CBs, but got completely shut down once Gilmore moved to shadow him starting with this play.

[9:35] Gilmore again lines up opposite Slayton at the top of the screen. With very little separation, Slayton runs down the sideline on a fade route, looks back, sees the ball in the air and reaches for it, but Gilmore bats it out of his hands.

Again, Slayton does the basic job necessary to run his route and make a play, but doesn’t employ any subtlety or counters to beat a CB as athletic as he is. Slayton doesn’t fake inside before breaking outside, he doesn’t fight for inside leverage while running down the sideline, he doesn’t body out Gilmore when he jumps for the ball, he doesn’t grip the ball strong enough that Gilmore can’t knock it out of his hands.

Slayton has all the athletic traits of a very good WR, but needs a lot of refinement added to his game to allow him to win when athleticism isn’t enough.

A look at the top of the depth chart for each team

Of course, no position group consists of just one star player. 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.


  • Amari Cooper
  • Michael Gallup
  • Cee Dee Lamb
  • Cedrick Wilson


  • Alshon Jeffrey
  • Desean Jackson
  • Jalen Reagor
  • J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
  • Greg Ward
  • Marquis Goodwin
  • John Hightower


  • Golden Tate
  • Stirling Shepard
  • Darius Slayton
  • Corey Coleman
  • Da’Mari Scott


  • Terry McLaurin
  • Steven Sims
  • Kelvin Harmon
  • Antonio Gandy-Golden
  • Cody Latimer
  • Trey Quinn


Who is the BEST Wide Receiver in the NFC East?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    Terry McLaurin
    (379 votes)
  • 45%
    Amari Cooper
    (348 votes)
  • 0%
    Michael Gallup
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Alshon Jeffrey
    (3 votes)
  • 4%
    Desean Jackson
    (31 votes)
  • 0%
    CeeDee Lamb
    (6 votes)
770 votes total Vote Now


Which NFC East team has the BEST WR group (taking backups into account) in the division?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    (138 votes)
  • 71%
    (488 votes)
  • 7%
    (49 votes)
  • 1%
    (7 votes)
682 votes total Vote Now


Which NFC East team has the WEAKEST WR group (taking backups into account) in the division?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    (97 votes)
  • 0%
    (2 votes)
  • 20%
    (138 votes)
  • 65%
    (447 votes)
684 votes total Vote Now


Which of the following Redskins receivers will have the most yards from scrimmage in 2020?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Steven Sims
    (338 votes)
  • 16%
    Kelvin Harmon
    (104 votes)
  • 25%
    Antonio Gandy-Golden
    (156 votes)
  • 2%
    Isaiah Wright
    (14 votes)
612 votes total Vote Now