The Career Near-Death Experience. This is one of my favorite Bloomisms of football writing. A Bloomism is what I call the slang that Footballguys and Bleacher Report Draft Analyst Sigmund Bloom (who is also a medalist in some Writer-Olympiad) creates to encompass various football experiences, states of mind, or rights of passage in the sport.
The Career Near-Death Experience is an event where a player faces his career mortality. All players face it at some point. Those that don’t cross to the other side discover a new and better way to approach the game. Former wide receiver Cris Carter had a career near-death experience as drug addict when playing with the Philadelphia Eagles and Coach Buddy Ryan helped save the receiver with a southern fried reprise of the ghost of Christmas Future.
The career near-death experience can also manifest in the form of competition for a starting role. Chris Wells might have had his career near-death experience last spring when the Cardinals drafted Ryan Williams. Wells had his best NFL season and played hurt – showing grit that most believed he lacked. Now it is Williams who is trying to turn back from his own career near-death after suffering a torn patella tendon.
One player who might provide some inspiration for Williams is Arkansas wide receiver Greg Childs. Before suffering a patella tendon injury in November, the 6’3″, 219-pound wide out was among the best skill position prospects to play in Fayetteville in the past decade. A healthy Childs possessed hints of Chris Henry’s untapped athleticism. Whispers of Andre Johnson’s inside-out, physical style. Echoes of Randy Moss’ deep prowess.
His game made my colleague Cecil Lammey exclaim, Child Pu-lease!
Childs returned to the team after surgery and wasn’t even sporting a brace. However, he wasn’t the same player. I watched him against LSU this year and he looked like he might as well have been running in a pool.
But this spring the rehab finally did its magic and Childs’ Pro Day workout was a revelation:
- 4.41 – 40-yard dash
- 4.18 – 20-yard shuttle
- 6.73 – Three-Cone Drill
- 40.5″- Vertical
Many observers believe Childs looks like the player he was before his career near-death. If you didn’t see Childs before his injury, here’s a glimpse.
Routes: A Master Class in Sales
The first play is a stop-and-go route that ends with Childs falling to earth after tripping over the cornerback’s feet. It doesn’t sound like a praise-worthy play, but it is. This play is a 1st and 10 pass from a 22-personne, 1×1 receiver set with 12:22 in the half.
Childs had a CB playing six yards off him at the far side of the field and the Arkansas receiver sells the first half of the route as well as any double move I’ve seen in quite some time. The first half of the route is a hook route. Most receivers will hint at a break, few will actually make one and then act out a reception. This is what we’re about to see from Childs, who comes off the line with good explosion to lead the CB to believe he’s going to run a deep route, which is what a receiver wants a defender to believe when he drives hard off the line.
Childs’ strong hook with a good plant and turn forces the CB – who has already turned his hips down field to begin to run with Childs after the receiver’s strong initial burst off the line – to react to the hook route. But Childs takes this double move a step further than most. He acts out the break back to the ball.
Childs then does a masterful job of acting out his attempt to break towards the QB with an extra shuffle towards the passer. However, what Childs doesn’t anticipate is the CB breaking as close to the receiver as he does.
Although end result did not match the effort, Childs’ fundamentals on hard breaks and selling a route were apparent on this play.
Speed to Burn And Concentration in Tight Quarters
Childs’ third catch is a 54-yard reception on 1st and 10 with 4:10 in the third quarter from a 12-personnel, 1×1 receiver set. Childs is the X receiver lined at the bottom of the screen just outside the left hash.
Although much of the Auburn front bites on the elaborate play fake, the CB covering Childs does not. He remains stride-for-stride and tight to the WR’s back as the ball arrives.
Childs turns his shoulders back to the ball while on the run and he extends his arms for the ball, making the catch with his hands while the defender is wrapped around the receiver’s back and arms.
The catch is a 40-yard reception with momentum taking Childs and the CB another 14 yards. These are the kind of tight-quarters plays that are common in the NFL deep passing game.
Transitions From Receiver to Ball Carrier
Childs gains 13 yards on a 2nd and 12 reception with 0:59 in the third quarter from a 2×1, 11-personnel shotgun set. The pass is a throw-out to Childs on a one-step hitch.
Childs not only catches the ball with is hands away from his chest while facing the QB at the numbers of the line of scrimmage but he also works his way to the ball.
This may seem meaningless to the casual observer, but that extra move helps Childs generate the momentum necessary as a runner to beat the CB to the inside. He turns inside the CB in the flat and accelerates past him while switching the ball to his inside arm to keep it away from that CB’s pursuit.
Good thinking. Childs gains eight yards and then does a fantastic job of preparing to meet the Auburn safety head-on with terrific pad level.
Childs runs through the hit, keeps his legs moving, and falls forward another four yards when Nick Fairely wraps the receiver from behind. Childs finishes the play extending the ball beyond the first down marker.
Excellent pad level, physical finish and leg drive. Nick Fairley’s hit in the back drove him forward, but still it was a good effort.
A Reception Versus Impending Contact: A Money Catch
Childs’ next target is another 13-yard gain with 11:44 left on 1st and 10 from a 2×1 receiver, 11-personnel pistol.
Childs runs a 13-yard cross from the outside spot of the twins side at the numbers. He has to make a diving adjustment on the ball thrown over his head with the CB behind him and over top.
Childs route begins like most crossers, but the blitz is going to forces an errant throw. Instead of running through the pass, Childs must now adjust to the ball with the knowledge that he has a defender looming over top.
Childs makes a grab with strong technique as described in the photo (click to see magnified version).
This catch versus contact is about strong hands, concentration, will, and courage.
Even in the face of a violent, split-second confrontation, Childs has the presence of mind to tuck the ball in the arm away from the defender’s reach.
If this is the old form we should expect from Greg Childs after an impressive Pro Day, his career resurrection will be a bargain for a discerning NFL team.
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