Aspire For The Catch, Settle For The Trap

Marqise Lee demonstrates why good technique matters. Photo by James Santelli.
Marqise Lee demonstrates why good technique matters. Photo by James Santelli.

Marqise Lee, Gator Hoskins, and, provide good examples why extending the arms to catch the ball is important.

Draft is a wonderful source for viewing cut-ups of games. When I don’t have a game I need from my own growing library of recorded games (probably in the thousands by now) this site filled with YouTube cut-ups is an excellent resource.  Aaron Aloysius and the fellas at Draft are worth your eyeballs and minds.

I encourage anyone still using soundtrack heavy highlight videos for a “serious” understanding of a player’s game to end that practice and head to Draft for videos that are often as brief as the “fan boy tributes”, but show the good, the bad, and the ugly of prospects within the proper context of that game.

Periodically, I’ll be accumulating these tips to place on page on my site. Here’s the first.

Tip No.1 – Aspire For The Catch, Settle For The Trap

The number of NFL receivers who trap the ball to their bodies as their primary method of catching that ball who have produced in starting lineups since the 1980s is tiny. The ones I can recall since I began studying players with the RSP’s formal process is even small. I can name most of them without looking at my database: Golden Tate, Early Doucet, Robert Meachem, and Darius Heyward-Bey.

Only Golden Tate looks like he might emerge from career statistical mediocrity and that’s no guarantee. One of the reasons is Tate – like Doucet – actually can use his hands as a reliable resource to catch the football. When watching’s  library of cut-ups on receiver and tight end prospects, this 3rd-and-15 pass on a crossing route to Marshall tight end/receiver hybrid Gator Hoskins is a visual example of why trapping the football is not the ideal way to secure a pass in most situations.

Hoskins finds the open middle in the zone as the inside trips receiver on the right side of this formation after working outside the linebacker and under the safety. The ball arrives on time for Hoskins to make the catch at the left hash at the first down marker.

Ideally Hoskins should turn his pads to the quarterback’s throw and extend his arms towards the ball. The reason behind this is to attack the ball at the earliest window of arrival. The earlier a receiver can make contact with the ball on its flight to the receiver, the more chances he can create to make the catch.

We all say that the ball bounces funny as an excuse for plays that don’t work out. It’s often true. However, the techniques I’m showing you also lower the incidence of the “Oblong Ball Factor”.

Squaring the pads and extending the arms to the ball provides a three-sided environment for the ball that helps a receiver herd the ball into his body if his hands fail him. If he isn’t square to the ball, the ball sails away from his frame and gives his opponent a greater opportunity to make the play.

If he doesn’t extend his arms to meet the ball early, then his choices are limited if he doesn’t catch the ball on the first try. Here’s a great example of what I’m talking about with Marqise Lee on a two-point conversion against Stanford this year. Watch the replays.

Lee whiffs on the ball at its earliest window, passing between his hands. But the framework he establishes with his arms and chest gives him a second chance to trap the ball as he’s leaning towards the boundary. This is an excellent catch and good technique that serves as a redundancy when the attempt to catch the ball at the earliest window goes awry – and it does for even top receivers.

For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2013 Rookie Scouting Portfolio.The 2014 RSP will available April 1 and if you pre-order before February 10, you get a 10 percent discount. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the 56-page Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2014 RSPs at no additional charge and available for download within a week after the NFL Draft. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.

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