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There was a time that Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin thought about red shirting to prepare for the 2012 Olympics as a long jumper. Once he learned that NBC was covering the games, he decided competing for a Longhorns team that might slip below .500 in the Big 12 was more appealing. Truth be told, I haven’t watch the Summer Olympics at all so I can’t really take the smug stance of an arm-chair media critic.
However, I can critique Goodwin’s game. Most long jumpers have world class speed and Goodwin doesn’t disappoint here. However, as highlighted this spring with Stephen Hill’s game – Speed Kills, Now Learn How to Aim! – Goodwin has to refine what he does with his natural separation skills to become a dangerous NFL receiver. Here is the first of two posts - one play each in the December bowl game versus Cal – that illustrate my point. Each post illustrates why a knowledge of angles is just as important as speed.
Maintaining Separation by Establishing Position on the Opponent
Goodwin was targeted on a wheel route from the slot on 1st and 10 with 4:30 in the half, making the catch at his back shoulder inside the boundary. In fact, Goodwin makes a nice adjustment to the ball and demonstrates awareness of the sideline during the act of the reception as falls away from the field of play.
Despite good sideline awareness in the act of the catch, Goodwin did not show good awareness on the route. Earlier in the route he steps out of bounds before he turns back for the football, which nullifies the reception due to an illegal touch penalty. Goodwin had a step on the corner with the ball in the air, but he did not use that separation to get his back ahead of the defender.
Goodwin could have eliminated the defender’s angle to cut off the pass. Instead, he allows the defender to get into his hip. I link to this video regularly, but this coaching session from former Packers’ receiving great Sterling Sharpe is the best explanation why an understanding of establishing good position after initial separation is vital to winning the football.
Goodwin’s lack of awareness to go the extra step and cut off this inside angle allows the corner to jump into path of the pass and force Goodwin outside the boundary.
Once the speedy wide receiver needs to learn how to establish position after initial separation to ensure he is the only one capable of legally catching the ball, he’ll become a consistent force in the vertical passing game. He’ll make more catches or draw more interference penalties – both huge positives in the NFL. Read Part II – Goodwin’s issues versus press coverage.