I’m a believer that it’s easier to enhance a player’s strengths. A well-timed stiff-arm could enhance Wes Saxton’s game.
During my RSP Film Room episode with Chad Spann, I asked the pro running back what was involved with executing a good stiff-arm. Spann specifically mentioned placement on the head or face of the defender, because when the ballcarrier can move the head of an opponent, the body will follow.
What Spann didn’t mention, but equally important to the success of a stiff-arm, is timing. Throw one too late, and it’s more difficult to generate leverage. Throw it too soon, and the defender can avoid it.
Tight end Wes Saxton has potential to develop into an NFL H-Back. At 6-4, 235 pounds, the South Alabama Jaguar demonstrates fundamental skills as a receiver, blocker, and runner. Although not explosive, he’s nimble and he has the balance to bounce off hits int he open field for extra yardage.
In addition to gaining weight so he can compete in the NFL as a potential H-Back, one of the best things that Saxon address is developing better timing with his stiff-arm. Right now, he telegraphs this move. If he can throw it at the optimal moment with good placement, Saxton enhances his balance, creates more opportunities to accelerate into the open field, and instills confidence in his quarterback that he can turn a four-yard reception into a eight-yard reception and move the chains to sustain drives.
This 2nd and 5 with 6:05 in the third quarter from a 3×2 empty shotgun set with the ball at the the left hash of the 41 is a good example Saxton is inside trips right, just a step inside the hash versus a defense with a single deep safety and nickel linebackers spread to the ends of each line.
Saxton runs a simple stop route. His turn on the break is fast, but not sudden. Improving the speed and economy of his break is a moderately easy issue to address with consistent work.
The Jaguars tight end, who had a good week at the Shrine Game practices, squares to the quarterback, catches the ball four yards down field, and takes a step backwards to avoid the first hit.
After running through the wrap from that first hit, Saxon works outside, with a defensive back bearing down. Saxon’s extends the free arm, when the defender is at least three yards away. This is way too soon.
You don’t want to give a defender nine feet of space to adjust his attack. Optimal timing, in terms of space with a defender running at a decent clip, is more like 3-5 feet–less than two yards. The telegraphing of this punch limits Saxon to a two-yard gain.
While the stiff-arm isn’t the most vital aspect of most prospects’ games, I’m a believer in building on strengths. Saxton’s blocking is pretty good for his size, but unless he sports unusual weight gain, he will never be more than a move tight end. His best chance of making plays for an NFL team comes as a receiver and enhancing every potential strength of his game as a pass catcher and ballcarrier is probably the easier track.
While he’ll have to address several areas of his game, continuing to hone strengths as opposed to ignoring them while focusing on weaknesses won’t be enough. Saxton improving as a blocker will help him get on the field, turning short receptions into longer gains will keep him there.
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