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Tee's Corner: Can't Get Open, No Separation

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The 2014 edition of the New Orleans Saints had problems! Some from coaching, defense, and offense, combining to stymie any progress that was made as the season chugged along. I did notice that the wide receivers were not getting open regularly and we'll chat about this factor today.

Return of the Graham Slam
Return of the Graham Slam
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What's up Who Dats, it's Tee and I'm back with another Tee's Corner! Today we'll take a look at the New Orleans Saints receiving corps of 2014 and try to find out which details prevented them from excelling during the season. To understand the basic problem with the WRs is to simplify their jobs on any given play where a route is run. There are a few basic techniques that WRs use to get out of the blocks and get open, let's discuss them here.

Breaking Free

Cooks

Cooks Breaking Free

In working with receivers on a youth level, I address stance and release, so at an NFL level, it's going to be work on the release that a player must invest time. The release will be impacted by the defender and his initial reaction to the receiver's movement. The chess match begins! The WR must anticipate a jam or some form of contact right away, so his plan must be to beat the jam with hand movements or body movement to impose his will on the defender. Big WRs have less struggles with cornerbacks who, on average, are smaller in stature. Mid-sized to smaller sized WRs must rely on technique and quickness to get off the line and into a route. The inability to get off the line cleanly was on full display this past season for the Saints.

The reality of it is, when you have a QB like Drew Brees who relies on good blocking or quick separation, if the blocking is breaking down and there is no separation, the results are mediocre on a good day. We saw our fair share of blitzkrieg sacks and off target short passes in 2014! The Saints receivers have to start beating DBs off the line to give the passing game a chance to excel. My simple recommendation, same as always, do the work. Spend time 'chicken fighting' with DBs and commit to improving in even the tiniest details. Even Jerry Rice, in his twilight years, spent time working on the small details that gave him the advantage.

The Route Tree

Route Tree

Learn It, Live It

The next area that I address is developing a solid command of the route tree. It is obvious that every guy will have his 'money' route that he runs best, but more work must be done in the flawed areas. Shifty receivers tend work deep well and on combo routes because their agility allows them to maneuver through the defense and find soft spots. Bigger receivers are often the work horses, who move the chains by collecting passes in the short to mid range.The Saints have a variety of receivers with body types that lend to different areas of opportunities. Most of the guys on the roster have areas that could be improved to get more opportunities to catch passes.

For example, Marques Colston is a great target for 2s, 3s, 4s, and 6s because his big frame and moderate agility will shield DBs from the football in most cases. He can perform the fade route in goal-to-go situations. Jimmy Graham is ideal for 2s, 6s, 7s, and 8s because he is athletic and agile for his size and on average draws DBs who are slower, mis-match nightmare (had to say it!). Graham could be a fade monster as well. Kenny Stills and Brandin Cooks have similar skill sets, but different abilities. Stills has the 3s, 4s, 7s, 8s, and 9s under wraps but struggles when faced with contact off the line. Cooks has shown a command of the entire tree because he is more athletic than Stills but also shiftier in space. The unfortunate reality for the Saints is that other than Cooks, there are a lot of one or two trick ponies on the roster who drop easy passes at times. The areas of opportunity abound and some good old fashion hard work will go a long way in improving the Saints receiving corps.

What's Next?

The Saints roster is littered with potential at the wide receiver position and I am a firm believer that even professional athletes require development. If you take a look around the league, you will see that there are teams who specialize in developing players at various positions. The 49ers are currently known for developing linebackers, the Packers keep producing solid receivers, and the Seahawks have the defensive backs title. The Saints don't need any title, just a solid level of development at each position. Aaron Kromer was the closest thing to a position-guru the Saints have seen in a while. If the work won't come from the coaching staff, then the players themselves have to kick butt before camp and get this thing pointed in the right direction.

Tell me what you think guys, can the Saints receivers get better or do we need to see some roster turnover to get some better production?

Thanks for reading and Be Cool Who Dats!