Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens: (Panthers) D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel–Flat And Grounded

Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens examines two routes of Carolina’s receiving duo of D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel to illustrate the value of running flat breaks and maintaining a grounded position from the break and through the catch point. 

This post isn’t about which Carolina receiver will have a better fantasy season. However, if both players consistently exhibit similar skills with little improvement from what I observed last year, Moore will remain the superior all-around option despite the recent love for Samuel’s late-season production in 2018 and his training camp highlights this summer.

This post is about the difference in production when a receiver works out of his break and through the catch point with optimal technique. In this case, D.J. Moore is doing the optimal work and Samuel is not on similar in-breaking routes during the same game last year.

Both are excellent open-field runners. However, the more consistent producer after the catch on the big-boy routes was Moore because his technique that sets up transitions from the catch to the open field was better.

Here’s Samuel running an in-breaking route with a break that angles a little too far downfield and a catch where he leaves his feet for a target that arrives chest-high and could have been caught without jumping.

The angled break towards the safety costs Samuel space. It’s a slight difference in movement from what you’ll see below from Moore, but it’s enough to minimize an opportunity to make the defender miss.

The hop to the ball compounds the issue because it costs Samuel time and space to dip away from the defender. When a receiver unnecessarily leaves his feet, there are a pair of potential root causes:

  • The receiver mistracked the target and overreacted to the trajectory as the ball left the quarterback’s hand.
  • The receiver broke the route off too soon and didn’t flatten the break. Now the ball is arriving behind his trajectory and he must slow his pace to catch the ball square to the target and the leap is to slow his pace.

A deeper stem would have pushed the defensive backs downfield another step and, with good craft with the stem, maybe even turned the defender’s hips for a vertical route, and his break would have been on-time. Even if he doesn’t turn the hips of his opponents, there was enough cushion to run the stem a step or two longer and make the break later.

It’s a small difference that would have led to yards after the catch. D.J. Moore demonstrates a flat break and grounded catch point with a similar route. Note that he’s bending the break towards the quarterback as he makes the catch with his feet on the ground.

Although Moore gets caught by the underneath the defender he initially veered toward during his break, it doesn’t happen for another 20 yards. The most important thing is that Moore beat the two defenders closest to him and forced the defender the furthest from him make the tackle.

The most technically proficient receivers at the catch-point move their hands and arms towards the ball first and the feet only rise off the ground after hands and arms don’t have the reach to win otherwise. This is why drills with receivers catching the ball on their knees or standing in one spot while pumping the arms may isolate a singular aspect of the job but can become mindless exercises that do little for the player once he’s developed the basic techniques for his hands.

It’s all about learning to think and act at least a step ahead of each process. If you don’t intentionally practice the game so you’re focusing on how each technique leads to the next and how to sharpen it, you’re losing chances to maximize your athletic ability at the highest tiers of the game where the gaps between athletes are minimal.

For the most in-depth analysis of offensive skill players available (QB, RB, WR, and TE), get the 2019  Rookie Scouting Portfolio. If you’re a fantasy owner the Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2018 RSPs at no additional charge.

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