Courtland Sutton: Why Route Running Matters by Broncos CB Chris Harris

Courtland Sutton: Why Route Running Matters by Broncos CB Chris Harris

Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio shares Broncos cornerback Chris Harris’ thoughts on rookie receiver Courtland Sutton’s game. 

Nicki Jhabvala tweeted this quote she got from Chris Harris about Courtland Sutton’s game after a week of facing him in training camp:

He’s a good jump-ball, 50-50 guy. He’s got to learn ALL the routes. In the NFL, you can’t just day I’m going to run a deep ball and expect that to work for 17 weeks. It’s not going to work in the NFL. He has to get comfortable running every route other than a fade. But those 50-50 balls, he’s up there with (DeAndre) Hopkins, Dez Bryant – those guys. He can go up there and get them just like them or better. So seeing that right there is going to be a huge plus for us, but he’s going to hvae to run all the routes, You can’t just make it easy. If I know you’re going to run a fade route every time, then it’s pretty easy for my job.

This is exactly why Sutton was not rated as an instant impact starter for me in the 2018 Rookie Scouting Portfolio. I gave Sutton a grade of an instant contributor, but one who will need his usage tailored to his limited skill set.

Whether it’s a big and fast receiver who can rebound or a big and fast defensive end with a great spin move — but only a spin move — you must have a well-round game to have a long career as an NFL starter. Sutton is in a great situation to develop into a primary receiver, but this is a balanced and sober reminder through the media from Harris that Sutton has a ways to go.

I’d even suggest that while Harris has the experience of covering Sutton, he likely hasn’t studied Sutton’s game up close from a purview where he has noted some of Sutton’s technical flaws as a pass catcher. It’s possible Sutton has addressed these prior to being drafted or during camp — I hope that he has.

However, until I see it, I’m defaulting to the possibility — no, the likelihood — that we’ll see these flaws appear during the regular season.

Why do I think there’s a possibility we’ll see Sutton drop more passes during games than the way he has dominated practices on fade routes?

It comes back to the nature of performance. There’s a difference in pressure between practice and performance and minor flaws are exposed more frequently on stage. This is why I’m still feeling circumspect about Sutton’s first-year impact despite the training camp hype.

While Harris may see Sutton making plays like Hopkins and Bryant up close, sometimes that hip-side seat isn’t as advantageous as a monitor with a remote. I haven’t seen Sutton in practice so I can’t tell you if he’s improved this aspect of his game yet.

What we know right now is that Sutton will get to be paired with Demaryius Thomas to one side of the field, earn free releases and get a chance to win the ball in the air without fighting to earn position until he’s under the ball. Less often will there be defenders disrupting his flow off the line.

Sutton will excite this year and his future looks bright based on his early performance, his athletic ability, and his environment in Denver. However, if he begins dropping the ball against contact in games and the media acts like this is a surprise, you won’t be shocked.

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