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Texas Longhorns receiver Marquise Goodwin is a world-class long jumper with track star speed. Earlier this week, I broke down a play of Goodwin’s that shows how he had to do a better job of using his body to prevent a defender from gaining access to his hip pocket as the ball arrived. Here is the second of the two posts I promised. This is also from the December bowl game versus Cal and it underscores the importance of body position to maximize his speed. It also illustrates my oft-mentioned point that athleticism might be a game changer in college football, but it’s merely a baseline for the NFL.
The play is a 1st and 10 pass for a 47-yard touchdown with 8:20 in the third quarter. The play begins from a 2×1 receiver, 11 personnel pistol set. Goodwin is the single receiver to the near side of the field in single coverage at the line of scrimmage.
When a receiver has single coverage in the NFL, especially tight man as seen above, this should be a “win” for the offense. Goodwin’s job is to get quick separation. With his world class speed, the most vital part of this route for Goodwin is getting free early.
After the snap, Goodwin releases straight at the defender. This is good because the defender is trying to read the receiver’s early movements while guarding the sideline because if he gives the receiver outside position, there is not even a remote chance he can get help from a teammate. If he can force the receiver inside, at least he has a fighting chance to get position in the flat and sideline when the ball is in the air. There’s also a chance a safety with good speed can work to that side and help.
Goodwin makes a jab outside with his third step, which forces the corner to plant his inside leg and turn his hips outside.
Although Goodwin demonstrates that he is quick enough to avoid most of the contact off the line as he breaks inside the defender, the technique he uses to do so is raw.
Goodwin does a solid job of turning his outside shoulder away from the contact, but this is not the optimal technique for the situation. If Goodwin kept his pads low out of his release and used a similar “drive phase” off the line of scrimmage that we see from sprinters to generate speed, the receiver accomplishes two things: reduces the surface area for the defender to access with a jam and increases his burst for immediate separation.
When Goodwin leans away from from the defender and turns his shoulder to the outside he’s opening himself up to trouble when projecting this decision to what he’ll encounter in the NFL. Goodwin may still be faster than most cornerbacks in a footrace, these defenders will eat him alive if he gives them a free target for them to place their hands. Recovery speed is a last resort skill for defensive backs, Goodwin might have the speed to sustain separation as well as any prospect in college football, but he’ll have to earn that separation first.
On this play, Goodwin does get that separation with the shoulder turn and a swim move with his outside arm.
By the time Goodwin is seven yards down field he gains two steps on the Cal cornerback.
The quarterback immediately spots Goodwin and releases the ball, hitting the receiver at the 14. Goodwin looks the ball into his hands over his back shoulder with a four-step lead on the defender and takes it the rest of the way.
Perhaps the cornerback thought he had help from the safety in the middle of the field and the play wasn’t supposed to be as as simple as Goodwin beating one man. If so, this would make Goodwin’s technique even more vital, because the sooner he separates from the corner, the better chance he has to beat the safety over top. It won’t be this easy for Thomas against the likes of Richard Sherman or Brandon Browner jamming him at the line and Earl Thomas playing center field.