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Anatomy of a WR – Justin Hunter

By G.Stryker

Justin Hunter entered the NFL as a productive receiver at Tennessee. Hunter is a towering receiver at 6’4” with a 196 lb frame. He’s also shown great speed to go with his excellent size, after running a 4.36 second 40 yard dash at the combine. He also has big hands and great leaping ability, since he cleared 11’ in the broad jump.

Justin seems to have all of the tools to be a productive receiver in the NFL. He has a nose for the end zone, and excels at fighting for the football in traffic, yet something seems to be holding him back. His yards and receptions have decreased each year from his 2014 career totals. Perhaps, it may be that he just needs a better QB, who will give him a chance to make plays?

I broke down Mr Hunter’s highlight reel to give us some insight on his receiving tendencies.

Follow along with the highlights below

0:16 Running a deep route his left hand is not facing the ball. Catches it with his right, and nearly bobbles the ball when he goes to secure it. With better left hand positioning, this is a clean catch.

0:29 comes back with a hop step, pinkies together and both palms open to the ball. He quickly secures it to his body for the catch. Great inside-out move to split the D and use his speed for the TD.

0:45 Love this catch. He comes back to the ball and jumps to catch it at it’s highest point. This created some space from the defender. Thumbs are together, and his palms are in perfect position for a clean catch. This is a big receiver using all of his size to catch a contested ball.

0:53 Nice adjustment to a ball thrown behind him, he did a good job of opening his body up to the ball, but his hands are in terrible position. Both palms facing toward him as he traps the rebound off his chest for a body catch. It was a tough play to make, but he was also fortunate that the ball didn’t bounce off his body.

1:00 This is a great example to show young receivers how hand placement should be on throws to the waist. He keeps his thumbs together, by reaching over top with his right hand. This opens both palms to the ball and he catches it cleanly. I’ve seen many receivers try to catch this ball with pinkies together, but at the waist, inevitably, your lead hand can get in the way of a clean catch. So the mantra is, below the waist pinkies together, waist or above, thumbs together (when facing the ball).

1:12 Excellent adjustment on a tipped ball. The ball is fluttering and he changes his pattern to match the new trajectory, without breaking stride. Though is right palm is facing away from the ball, since there isn’t much velocity on the ball after being tipped, he’s essentially creating a basket catch while facing the ball. Though securing the ball looked a little clunky, this was due to his hand placement not being perfect. Still a very nice adjustment.

1:20 Fights though the hand check to high point the ball at full extension, while leaning back. Defender has no chance to make a play on this ball in the air. Thumbs and palms wrap around the ball securing it immediately. Great fade catch, and shows you the importance of high-pointing the ball on a fade.

Another perfect catch by catching it at its highest point, thumbs in, both palms on the ball.

1:40 Pinkies together, palms open, and jumps to meet the ball. He then makes a nice jump cut to split the 2 defenders.

1:50 Nice basket catch. His pinkies are together and his elbows are tight against his body. Great stride and had a good chance to score.

2:02 This was a body catch. Both palms away from the football and 3 point trapped it with his hands against his body. Sometimes, body catches are the right catch selection, especially in heavy traffic. He could have extended his hands to catch it with both palms on the ball, but the body catch was probably the right move, since the defender looked like he could have made a play on his arm if he extended them toward the football.

2:06 Nice high point jump and extension, perfect hand placement, palms to the ball and does a great job of controlling his body positioning to rotate and tap both feet inbounds. Fades appear to be a strength for Hunter.

2:13 Justin jumps toward the football to make a 3-point body catch. Both hands are in good position here to keep the ball in place, and he was in traffic, so a body catch is a valid option. This is a good example of using your body and hands together to catch the football, as opposed to letting the ball hit your body, and catching the ball after it rebounds off of it, which is a much lower percentage play.

2:19 This is a low thrown ball on a wet day with a defender draped all over him. Does a great job of extending his arms, pinkies are together and both palms secure the catch. Under these conditions, this is the only way the receiver can make this catch. High difficulty reception, helped by perfect hand placement!

2:29 This is a body trap, using his gut to deaden the ball as he simultaneously wraps his hands around it to secure it (not as clean as a 3-point trap). He was expecting to be hit, as his body is braced to receive an impact, and he rolls toward the end zone with a vice grip on the ball. Being at the goal line, he is right to be ready for a big hit. None came, but he was prepared. I’ve seen Antonio Brown make the same catch in goal line situations.

2:33 I like this angle, because it shows Justin’s hand placement. Thumbs together, palms open, and wrapping the ball. His left thumb is nearly on the point of the football, and usually you want the thumb open a bit wider to allow the point of the football to wedge in the opening between the thumbs and forefingers.

2:37 This catch is tough to see clearly, but it appears to be great hand positioning thumbs in, palms toward the football, over his head, to immediately secure the football.

2:40 not a fan of the quick speed cam, but this is a textbook basket catch. Pinkies together, palms on the ball, elbows into his body.

2:43 jumps and high-points the football between 2 defenders, thumbs together, palms on the ball, and pulls it down quickly for the TD. Excellent catch, than only an aggressive receiver can make in double coverage.

2:50 The only thing I don’t like about this catch are his hands are a bit too wide apart, and his elbows are not as close to his body as they should be. He still secures the ball with both palms and pinkies together. I’m nit-picking here, but it’s the difference between a clean catch and ‘losing concentration’ on a drop.

3:00 I had to view this full screen, because it appeared to be an underhanded body trap. When blown up, he clearly gets his body facing the ball, has both hands in perfect thumbs together position and secures the ball with his palms. Nice adjustment to the ball in the air, and makes a nice extension to try and score the TD.

Before watching his highlights, I really didn’t have much of an opinion on Justin Hunter as a receiver. What this video shows me, is Justin has a beautiful stride, good to great speed, and seems to make good adjustments when the ball is in the air. I like his aggressiveness when he is catching balls in traffic, and using all of his frame to catch fades in the end zone. His only knock is sometimes his hand positioning shifts and he has a propensity to body catch. Looking back at his stats, he’s not known as a person who has a problem dropping footballs (5 career drops though he did have 4 drops in 2014). Bryant was right to text Sammie Coates the day the Steelers picked up Hunter. He appears to be the same receiver. After watching these highlights, I’d have to say Hunter has an advantage in fighting for the ball in traffic and on fade routes.

If Hunter can continue to show his aggressiveness and body extension on receptions in camp, he may make a case to be added to the Steelers’ roster.

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What JuJu Smith-Schuster Brings to the Steelers Offense

Check out this article on GZ Sports Report

In the 2nd-round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Steelers surprised many by selecting receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. After only meeting with the USC stand-out briefly at the NFL Combine, it didn’t appear that Smith-Schuster was on the Steelers’ radar at all.

Funny how quickly things change.

Fast-forward to the present and it is easy to imagine the potential impact Smith-Schuster can bring to the Steelers’ offense early on in his career. In a crowded stable of receivers, Smith-Schuster has the chance to make a name for himself early. This chance will likely come in the slot. With Antonio Brown returning on a new 4-year extension and Martavis Bryant’s return from suspension, the starting jobs are 100% secure at this point. Everything behind them, not so much.

Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, and Cobi Hamilton will all be fighting for depth spots on the outside behind Brown and Bryant. The real competition, however, will be in the slot, where Smith-Schuster, Eli Rogers, and Demarcus Ayers will be battling it out for the starting job.

Rogers and Ayers compare to each other in very similar manners. Rogers (5’10”) and Ayers (5’9″) are both diminutive receivers that excel in space and create separation by using superior agility to evade defensive backs. While this is more of a traditional description for a slot receiver, Smith-Schuster breaks this stereotype by being the opposite.

At 6’1″, 215 lbs., Smith-Schuster is a big, strong, physical receiver that doesn’t get manhandled by defensive players often. Big slot receivers big pose a completely different threat to defenses than their tiny counterparts based on their ability to rely on crisp routes and to box out defenders when the ball is in the air. Smith-Schuster is no exception to this. He demonstrates a knack for being fearless across the middle of the field and is constantly aware of where defenders are around him. This allows him to find open spaces in coverage and make the catch when the ball is thrown his way. Additionally, he can stretch the field vertically, which gives the Steelers another danger down the field that isn’t Brown or Bryant. Rogers showed he could accomplish this last season, but there is no denying Smith-Schuster’s size bonus in this area.

Another strength of his game is his big, strong hands that seem to always find a way to grab the ball when it is in his vicinity. This is especially crucial for 50/50 passes where Smith-Schuster must find a way to go over the defender and fight for the ball so it doesn’t get knocked away or intercepted. While this can be useful in the slot, it also can be indicative of his ability to play on the outside, a place where he saw most of his time at USC.

Smith-Schuster lacks elite speed that most of the Steelers receivers possess, but this does not mean he won’t have the ability to also play on the outside at times if needed. Even though he doesn’t always get great separation from cornerbacks, his ability to be physical when the ball is in the air helps alleviate this deficit, as well as his great route running.

But back to the slot talk.

As a big, physical receiver, that does not always mean that you can block. This is not the case for Smith-Schuster. When watching him on tape, his blocking is reminiscent of Hines Ward and Anquan Boldin. He is selfless in the run game and could be the difference maker to spring a long run. Not only that, but by having a receiver that is able and willing to be a decent blocker means that defenses must respect this and adjust accordingly. Simply put, Rogers and Ayers, while both willing blockers, don’t have the size to be a consistently excellent run blocker.

Slot receivers also typically excel in their ability to make plays after the catch. Big slot receivers, while deceptively elusive, must make plays happen in other ways. A good way of examining this is with screen passes, something the Steelers are notorious for doing. Luckily for Smith-Schuster, he also did some of this in college. Small slot receivers typically rely on their agility and quick movements to make defenders miss on these types of plays. Big receivers, including Smith-Schuster, instead make an initial move at the line and then out-physical would-be tacklers. Smith-Schuster specifically has used a strong stiff arm to ward away defenders trying to make a tackle. This could give the Steelers another option in their screen game that they haven’t had or used since Ward was still around.

While Smith-Schuster should be able to come in and compete right away (and he likely will), how quickly he consistently sees time on the field over the likes of Rogers and Ayers will depend on how quickly he can build chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger. It has been well documented that Big Ben and Brown have a relationship unlike any other in the NFL. Will Smith-Schuster get to that point with Roethlisberger in one year? No. But he also doesn’t need to be there right now. Smith-Schuster’s work ethic and drive to succeed will make him all that more prepared to handle whatever gets thrown his way and to find a way to mesh with Roethlisberger.

Smith-Schuster has the chance to break the mold of recent “conventional” Steelers receivers. He is built and plays like a receiver we haven’t seen in the Black and Gold since Hines Ward and Jerricho Cotchery. His physical playing style will be more than welcome as a compliment on offense and as a different type of target for Big Ben.

It’s just a matter of “when”, not “if”.

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For future updates, follow me on Twitter at @GZSports_ZM and follow GZ Sports Report at @GZSportsReport or on Twitter at @GZSportsReport

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Anatomy of a WR – Demarcus Ayres

By G Stryker

Demarcus Ayres was drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 draft, thanks to an extra pick the Steelers gained by trading Brad Wing to the Giants. He was a small receiver at 5’9” and 182lbs, and timed a lethargic 4.72 40yd dash in predraft workouts. He had an excellent 2015 season for Houston amassing 97 receptions for 1221 yards and 6 TD.

Ayres was also a successful returner, making the all AAC team in 2013 for kick returning, and also becoming their punt returner in 2015. His measurables and size dropped him in the draft, but by watching his film, there are some really nice things to get excited about. He plays quicker and faster than his recorded 40 yard dash speed, and he has nice wiggle as a ball carrier. Let’s take a look at his 2016 highlights to
see what his tendencies are as a pass catcher in the NFL.

Below are his 2016 Highlights. Follow along with me below.

0:14 Catches a sideline pass with both palms on the ball and his elbows are inside his body frame. This is an excellent catch, using his body to shield the defenders, and immediately
catching the ball with excellent hand placement. Having both palms on the ball secured the possession even after being hit immediately.

0:20 Running full stride, the ball is thrown slightly low to his center, hand positioning is pinkie to pinkie placing both palms on the football for another immediate secure on the catch. Finished this off with his first career TD. This was the best hand positioning he could have to open his palms to the ball, in this situation.

0:36 This was a sideline out route that he came back toward the ball for. By doing this, he created space from the defender and secured the ball pinkie to pinkie putting both palms on the ball for an immediate possession. Elbows were also in, creating the best rotational hand placement he could have. At 40sec on the replay, you can see his foot positioning was perfect to keep in bounds to secure the catch. This play looks like a veteran receiver, not a rookie.

0:44 I’m not sure if he hand checked to gain space or adjusted his route, but he did create space from the defender. As he moves toward the catch, he leans back, opening his body to the ball, placing both thumbs together to open both palms to the football. He finishes the play with a nice stiff arm to gain a few extra yards. This play was important to the Steelers season, as Ayres was on the field and contributing on the game winning drive, in his first game, to help the Steelers win the division.

Runs a nice route, coming across the field on the drag, he adjusts his route to avoid Eli Rogers on the cross and catches the ball in space with room to run. The ball is thrown slightly
behind him, but he doesn’t slow his feet down. He places both hands to the left of his center mass, pinkies together, opening both palms, and follows the ball with his hands to secure the football in stride. The only thing I can nit pick, is I think he brings his route too far toward the line of scrimmage to clear Eli. He already had the depth, and lost depth coming back to the ball in open space.

1:00 Attacks the football by going up to get it, thumbs touching, palms open, secures the ball
immediately, and takes a good hit. Being aggressive to the ball gave him this possession. Anything less would have been defended.

1:08 Same pattern as 0:50. Does a better job of not losing depth running this cross past Eli
Rogers. It looks like he opens both palms with his thumbs together to immediately secure it, and with great hand positioning, it allows the receiver to immediately secure the football and
tuck it away. He turns into a runner after the 2yd reception, stops his momentum and cuts up field as the defender passes by him. Also showed nice wiggle at the first down line to create 5 more yards when he splits the defenders.

1:20 Both hands up thumbs in, palms open, basically secures the ball entirely with his right hand
and hand placement is so perfect, that the tuck is immediate. He takes a 3 yard route, stops his momentum to the middle of the field by cutting outside, gaining 8 more yards and the first down. (Eli Rogers has a nice block on that play as well).

1:30 is down field blocking and continues with the block through the entire play. He shields his
man so Bell can score untouched. This is a nice block rarely seen by rookies. (since rookies usually give up blocking after 2-3sec on a running play), and even more rarely seen by receivers
his size.

1:40 Faces the ball, thumbs together, both palms on the ball. Ayres is hit quickly, but with both
palms on the ball, possession is again secured.

1:45 Opens his body to the ball. Pinkies are together, both palms are open, and looks like he
uses his body as a third point on the football at the catch. If it wasn’t for a nice shoestring tackle by the defender, this would have been a big gain. This was the same play as his TD earlier in the game. The Steelers liked what they saw on this play so much, that they went back to it on 4th down in overtime, to extend the drive and eventually secure the win. What I see here is a receiver with a compact catching window, who increases his catching percentage by placing 2 hands on the ball and opening his palms to the football. He has excellent hand placement, he keeps his elbows inside his body, and runs well after the catch to gain more yardage. I think he can work more on his routes, and coming in and out of breaks, but as an NFL WR, he passes the eye test, and does not look like a rookie, let alone a 7th rounder.

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The Steelers’ Tight End Depth is a Free-For-All

Check out this article on GZ Sports Report

Heading into training camp, many of the Steelers starting positions are set and won’t involve any type of camp battles. Tight end is no exception to this. But just as many positions with depth that has yet to be set in stone, the depth behind starting tight end Jesse James is still very much in question.

During the 2016 NFL offseason, the Steelers made a splash by signing uber-athlete, vertical threat tight end Ladarius Green. On paper, Green possessed all of the traits that the Steelers would want in their big-play offense. Unfortunately, Green’s full potential will never be seen with the Steelers after multiple injuries derailed the young tight end’s time in Pittsburgh, leading to his release.

Jesse James showed plenty of progress as an all-around tight end during the 2016 season and figures to continue that development into 2017. While James doesn’t have the athletic traits that Green offered, he still is a huge target that will allow the Steelers to move the chains, similar to the type of impact that Heath Miller brought to the Black and Gold.

Behind James, things aren’t as cut and dry. As it stands currently, the players behind James are as follows:

  • David Johnson
  • Xavier Grimble
  • Scott Orndoff
  • Phazahn Odom

Each player listed brings a different set of skills to the table that could prove to be valuable to the Steelers offense.

David Johnson is the veteran of the group and, quite frankly, has the most secure spot on the roster of any of the tight ends on the roster not names Jesse James. Why? While he doesn’t offer much as a receiving threat, Johnson played a large role in Le’Veon Bell’s explosion last season. While Roosevelt Nix was one of the most underrated fullbacks in the NFL last season, Johnson served as the Steelers primary inline blocker, sometimes even when Jesse James was still on the field. His ability to seal the edge and quickly work up to the second level easily makes him the Steelers best blocking tight end on the roster. James is not far behind him blocking wise, but at this point it is safe to say that the Steelers will likely keep Johnson on the roster for the cheap amount that they signed him for until James can become a more refined blocker.

Xavier Grimble was the pleasant surprise of the Steelers tight end corps last season, showing flashes of playmaking ability that could lead to a more prominent role in the Steelers’ pass game this season. Grimble still has a long way to go as a blocker, but as we saw last season, the Steelers were not afraid to trot him out onto the field during two-tight end sets and send him down the seam. A perfect example of this came against the Steelers’ Christmas game against the Ravens when Grimble scored his first career touchdown by showing off great athleticism, speed, and decision-making. Grimble’s spot was far from secure before the Steelers released Green, but at this point, it appears that he will continue to be the Steelers #2 receiving option behind James. Although, his spot is still far from secure depending on what the Steelers see in their two undrafted free agents Scott Orndoff and Phazahn Odom.

Of the two, Scott Orndoff is almost the definition of a prototypical NFL tight end and might have the best chance at making the 53-man roster over Grimble if he performs well enough. At 6’5″, 253 lbs., Orndoff was asked to do it all while at Pitt, showing flashes as a receiver and as an inline blocker. While his yards per catch numbers at Pitt are unrealistic to replicate in the NFL due to the jump in talent and his athletic limits, he still has shown the ability to make difficult catches when needed and was a reliable route runner. When called upon, Orndoff was used as an inline blocker to lead the way for 3rd-round pick James Conner. But what really stands out to me about Orndoff is his resemblance to Steelers’ great Heath Miller in one important aspect of his game: Orndoff never shies away from taking a big blow from a defender down the field.Whenever he has the ball in his hands, he is not afraid to lower his shoulder and whenever he is evident that he is going to get laid out immediately following the reception, Orndoff hangs in there tough and makes the reception, sacrificing his body for the sake of the offense. That has “Steeler” written all over it. Orndoff has an uphill battle ahead of him to make the roster, but if you compare him to where Grimble was at this point last season, it appears that Orndoff has the leg up.

When looking at all of the tight ends on the Steelers roster, Phazahn Odom stands above all of them when it comes to pure physical traits. At 6’8″, 250 lbs., Odom is a huge target that has shown the ability to display athleticism all over the field with ridiculous length and strides. If would-be tacklers try to go low to tackle him, he easily does his best Le’Veon Bell impression and simply steps over them. If they try to go too high on him, it proves to be too little to bring him down. While his receiving capabilities have been noted, Odom is still an extremely raw blocker that often avoids big contact with defensive players in the run game. Odom compares to Xavier Grimble coming out of college: an athletic tight end in the pass game and an abysmal blocker. With Odom, the Steelers might be enticed with his potential in the pass game as a pass target which is a large reason why they brought him on board in the first place. Odom has a chance at making it onto the roster behind James if his ability as a receiver proves too valuable to stash away, but realistically, he is the biggest long-shot to make the roster.

When the dust settles and the season begins in September, it can be expected that Grimble and Johnson will see the most time at tight end behind James. With Johnson’s blocking abilities and Grimble’s athleticism as a receiver, the Steelers have some solid choices behind James’ all-around game. Orndoff and Odom will both have their chance to prove their worth, but the practice squad will likely be the landing spot for one, if not both, of them.

At the end of the day, though, we won’t see who is backing up James until Week 1 and it will be one of the closely watched battles of training camp.

Join the discussion at!

For future updates, follow me on Twitter at @GZSports_ZM and follow GZ Sports Report at @GZSportsReport or on Twitter at @GZSportsReport

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Anatomy Of A WR – Sammie Coates

By G.Stryker

Sammie Coates is a good sized receiver at 6’2″ and 200lbs. He has good speed (4.43 range) to go with his size. Before last season, it looked like he packed on some muscle, to help get him ready for the 2016 season. Since Martavis Bryant was suspended for the year, Sammie, only in his second season, seized the opportunity to become the #2 option early in the year. He started the season on fire, with 19 catches for 421 yards and 2 TDs ranking him in the top 10 for receiving yards for the league. Then a broken hand sidelined his productivity as he remained a special teams contributor, but only tallied 2 catches for 14 yards in his next 9 games.

Sammie also had 5 drops last season to go with his 21 catches. With such a small number of receptions, the number of drops is significant. Another telling statistic was his 42.9 catch percentage, which was the lowest catch percentage in the league for players with 4 drops or more.

Sammie’s season was a tale of 2 halves. Very productive NFL receiver, vs running the routes, but not making plays. So what happened? The injury did play a part, as his fingers did not heal back to normal, and his pinkie now bends away from his hand. Though I think it comes down to hand placement and his catching tendencies. Let’s take a look at his highlights to see if we can break down some tendencies that would hinder him from becoming a great receiver.

Here are Sammie Coates’ highlights.

20sec Elbows are wide apart. If you get contact, the ball goes right through the hoop. Which happened in the NE playoff game.

30sec was a good catch in stride using his speed. Arms were in a better locations, both palms facing the ball over his shoulder.

40sec Excellent catch. Perfect hand placement, elbows in. With contact, no chance of dropping it.

50sec A one handed body catch with his other palm facing away from the football. He made the catch, but this is bad hand placement

1:00 Perfect hand placement, both hands up, palms facing the ball.

1:10 I’m not going to fault his hand placement here, because he had to jump over a defender to attempt to make a play, which he did. Pinkies were together (which is good) and he made a snatch at the ball, pulling it into his body. It’s a lower percentage play, but he made it and it looked amazing.

1:16 He adjusted his route to basket catch (pinkie to pinkie) this ball moving away from the defender. He could have high pointed to face the ball with his thumbs, but I think he made the right call using his body positioning and speed to make sure the defender couldn’t make the play. Since it was a soft ball thrown by Ben, this was the right way to catch the ball. If the ball was a laser, his right hand positioning is much smaller and could get in the way of making a catch.

1:23 I’m nit picking here, but his palms weren’t facing the ball, they were only about 40% facing (you want over 45degree angle). He’s being defended on the catch, so he kind of grabbed the ball like a rebound. Again, he made the play.

1:53 Good full extension catch with great hand placement. Getting the toes in also was a plus. This should have been incomplete, but he made the play for Landry.

2:00 a Scoop body catch. I hate these catches. He is waiting for the ball when he could have attacked it. In the NFL, these passes are usually defended, but Ben did drop it in perfectly between the defenders, and Sammie did slow up his route to adjust for the ball to drop in his body scoop.

2:14 Nice slide to adjust to a low ball downfield. This is when he was playing with swagger and confidence. When he went down he still snatched at the ball too quickly to pull it in, and his left hand was at a bad angle, but he made the catch. This snatching at the ball when his pinkies are together is now a tendency that can be fixable.

2:24 is a great example of poor hand placement, and a good look into why he drops balls. It’s a pancake snatch. He’s essentially clapping his hands on the ball with the pinky side edge of his hands facing the ball, and he snatches at it. He is wide open, and has no reason to make a play on the ball this way. If he high points it, thumbs out, he has a chance to spin and make a play with his legs. When you don’t have your palms facing the ball and also have a tendency to snatch balls, this creates a very short precise time period you have to make a play on the ball. He’s actually working against himself to give him the lowest hand timing to make the catch.

2:30 Again his elbow placement was a little far out, and he didn’t make a perfect reception though his hand placement was good, but he had to quickly pull it against his upper chest to secure it. If your elbows are in, it improves your palm placement, and you can go immediately to a tuck after the reception.

2:36 He has good hand placement, thumbs together, palms facing the ball. But then he does a quick snatch, like ripping down a rebound to secure. I’m not sure if he thought the defender was closer and he was making sure to secure it quickly, but the snatch move is now well documented.

These highlights show me 3 tendencies and both are correctable with proper coaching:
1. hand placement. Work to get the palms facing the football at all times, whether you have your pinkies together or thumbs together. More surface area for your hand to make contact with the ball, and you increase your catch percentage.
2. quickly snatching the ball toward your body. In traffic, this can be seen as a plus. When you’re open, it is setting yourself up for potential drops. Securing the ball with your hands first will assure possession and cut down on the need to secure the ball with your body each time.
3. Elbows in. When making basket catches, bring the elbows in toward each other. This rotates your hands to get them parallel, increasing palm surface area and gives you a second chance to secure the catch with your arms should the ball slip through the hands.

Sammie has the size and speed to be a good to great NFL receiver. With just a few adjustments in his technique, the sky is the limit for his potential to shine.

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Vince Williams Will Be Just Fine as the Steelers’ Starter at Inside Linebacker

By Zach Metkler of GZ Sports Report

Check out this article on GZ Sports Report

With the 15th pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Steelers selected Lawrence Timmons, who began his career as James Harrison’s backup at outside linebacker. By 2009, he had become the Steelers starter at inside linebacker and would retain that role for the next 8 seasons. During his 10 year tenure as a Steeler, Timmons put together 126 starts (including 112 straight from 2010-2016) while not missing a game since 2009 and only missing 2 during his career (both in 2009) 981 total tackles, 6 seasons with 100+ tackles (including 5 straight seasons from 2012-2016), 35.5 sacks, 43 passes defended, 12 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 13 forced fumbles.

At 31 years old, Timmons’ time with the Steelers came to an end this offseason after signing with the Miami Dolphins. Timmons had noticeably lost a step as he continues to age, but he will likely find a place in Miami as his career dwindles down.

In 2013, the Steelers used one of their two 6th-round draft picks to select Florida State inside linebacker Vince Williams. Hailing from the same Alma Mater as Timmons, Williams was expected to be nothing more than a depth inside linebacker and, at best, a two-down linebacker with plus run-stopping ability. After getting snubbed by not receiving an invite to the 2013 NFL Combine, Williams missed a golden opportunity to show his potential as an athlete on one of the biggest stages of the NFL offseason. A lack of a Combine invite paired with Williams’ below-average NFL size and lack of true “athleticism” led to his slide into the 6th-round.

Williams began his career as a surprise, starting 13 games during his rookie season in replace of the injured Larry Foote. After Foote departed for the Arizona Cardinals during the 2014 offseason, it appeared that Williams would step up to be the full-time starter next to Timmons in the middle in 2014.

That was until the Steelers used their 2014 1st-round pick on Ryan Shazier.

Almost immediately, Shazier was inserted into the starting lineup ahead of Williams and would remain there after showing flashes of the exciting playmaking ability that he showcased at Ohio State. From that point through the 2016 season, Williams would serve as the Steelers primary backup and rotational inside linebacker and would start just six games in relief of the oft-injured Shazier.

This has quickly changed heading into 2016.

Before the 2016 regular season kicked off, the Steelers rewarded Williams with a 2-year contract extension that translated to a 3-year, $5.5 million deal. However, this did not stop the Steelers from searching for further help during the 2017 offseason. After flirting with some high-profile free agent inside linebackers during the offseason, namely Patriots’ linebacker Dont’a Hightower, the Steelers ultimately signed no one. Following this, they chose to not pick an inside linebacker during the 2017 NFL Draft. This all made one thing extremely clear.

Vince Williams is their guy.

Williams’ playing style is that of a thumper due to his stocky, solid frame. There have always been questions about his ability to be a three-down linebacker in the NFL, as he lacks the desired athleticism that you look for in the position. But Williams’ work ethic and hard-nosed playing style will be more than welcome on the Steelers’ defense. Beyond that, I believe that Williams’ coverage skills are better than people have given him credit for. At worst, Williams will be no worse than Timmons in coverage, which realistically wasn’t that great over the past two seasons. But he can likely do much better than that. When dropping back into zone coverage, Williams reacts quickly and effectively when receivers and tight ends come into his zone. While his speed might prevent him from matching up one-on-one with fast receiving threats, the Steelers don’t need him to do that. Shazier’s athletic ability and safeties Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis’ ability to play in the box mean that the Steelers can free up Williams to do other things for the defense. Williams has the ability to be an effective blitzer up the middle through the A-gap because of his smaller frame and quick burst off of the snap. The Steelers have been using different blitzing schemes and Williams can fill the role that Timmons served in that capacity as well.

Against the run, it is obvious that Williams is a highly effective run-stopper. On the snap, he excels in making quick, split-second decisions to come down and fill running lanes like a torpedo. Throughout his time with the Steelers, Williams has also shown that he can deliver a big blow, especially on special teams. During his time as a spot starter, he has flashed the potential production that he is capable of. During a two-game span in 2016 replacing Shazier due to injury, Williams tallied 25 tackles and 2 sacks, with 16 of those tackles and one sack coming in one game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Shazier and Williams have the potential to form a lightning and thunder pairing on the inside that could be exciting to watch.

While Williams’ performance on the field is solid, it’s off of the field where he really shines. He is an unquestioned vocal leader in the Steelers’ locker room. In this capacity, he often makes comments about aspects of the league that he feels passionately about. One moment that comes to mind is when Vontaze Burfict openly celebrated injuring Le’Veon Bell after a controversial hit during a 2015 matchup with the Bengals that led to Bell missing the rest of the season due to injury. Williams came out and made comments about the issue and continued to stand by his beliefs even after being criticized by the media. Williams is firm in his beliefs and is willing to defend his teammates and handle media responsibilities in a critical but positive manner.

In short, Williams is a big part of the locker room and overall Steelers chemistry on and off of the field, which is huge for a football team that is trying to make another run at a Super Bowl victory. But at the end of the day, retaining a player like him and giving him a chance to hold down a full-time starting spot is a chance that Williams will take and run with.

Some players are naturally gifted and take starting spots with ease. Others must strive each day to get an opportunity to prove themselves. Vince Williams is a walking example of what hard work, effort, and patience can do for a player on the football field when becoming a starter in the league. Just like late-round and undrafted players before him, Williams has shown how being a late pick and developing on special teams and shining in the chances that you’re giving can often pay off handsomely down the road.

Some people will miss Timmons in the middle. Some people will wish that the team had signed a high-profile free agent. Some people will wish that the Steelers had drafted an early-round inside linebacker.

But rest assured, Vince Williams will be perfectly fine as the Steelers starting inside linebacker.

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