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Grading Alshon Jeffery’s 2017 Campaign

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Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has a brand new contract after betting on himself this off-season by signing a one-year “prove it” deal with his new team.

There will be plenty of discussion around this extension concerning the cost vs. value, in fact, we discussed this on the Locked On Eagles emergency show. This debate isn’t going anywhere and personally, I’m more dispassionate when it comes to these types of arguments. I’d rather dig my head in the film and get myself re-acquainted with the finer details our wide receiver in regard to how he has performed from an evaluation standpoint.

What follows is a breakdown of the details of Jeffery’s game based on the film from his 2017 campaign with the Eagles. I’ll grade each critical factor and check-in with how it matches up with my evaluation of him in the summer, which you can find (here).

I’ll start this with a disclaimer, “Route Running” is not being graded here in a singular sense as it’s an extremely broad concept. When you say a player is a “good route runner”, what exactly does that entail? What information am I gleaning from that statement?

Route running has many different elements. It starts with the release, works through the initial phase of the route stem, includes nuance or physicality at the top of the route stem (breakpoint), quickness as you break into the next phase of the route, and refers to body positioning as the route is finish.

We will cover release, separation quickness, and body control here, which all speak to different aspects of route running. There is also a grade for “Find Void” that speaks to the ability to find soft spots in coverage. This can refer to voids in zones or an understanding of the CB-SAF-LB relationship based on coverage to recognize when he is uncovering.

Not all wide scope factors like mental processing, athletic ability, and competitive toughness will be covered. While these are incredibly important factors, I covered them in my previous evaluation of Jeffery (here) and they have remained largely unchanged since then.

RELEASE: 5/7

Jeffery isn’t the most explosive off the line but he wins in other ways. He still utilizes his feet well to get on the toes of the defender whether it be press or off coverage and he does well to attack the leverage of a defenders shade.

His biggest wins come against overaggressive corners who attempt to stop him dead at the line of scrimmage. Jeffery has a full toolbox to deal with the press, whether it be with his feet, hands, or play strength. In the above video, Arizona Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson clearly intends to jam, but Jeffery widens with his outside foot and reduces his strike zone by dipping his shoulder through the contact to create clean win.

In the summer I graded this a 6/7, but where I’ve seen him be less successful is when releasing vertically from a plus split (outside the numbers). There have been less instances where he has won at the line by releasing through the cornerback as opposed to around the cornerback. This causes his vertical routes to get stacked and cut off, limiting his effectiveness.

SEPARATION QUICKNESS: 4/7

When not presented with an opportunity to use his play strength at the breakpoint, Jeffery does a solid job creating space with quickness. Let me clarify here, Alshon is not the most explosive athlete and shifty is not a term I would use to describe him, but watch how smooth he is at the breakpoint:

He wins this route by being a technician at the top of his route by setting up the defender with a jab step inside without getting his feet too far out of his frame. This keeps his hips unlocked and allows him to break to the outside without a hitch in his movement.

Think of it this way: ski instructors teach the “pizza fries” method to children. You “pizza” when you want to slow down, turning your skis out at a wide angle. You “fries” to go faster, keeping your skis straight and compact.

via GIPHY

In football, if you “pizza” at the breakpoint, you’re going to lock your hips and limit the burst you can achieve out of your break. If you “fries” at the breakpoint by keeping your steps compact, it gives your hips the fluidity necessary to maintain speed and create separation.

In summation, Jeffery doesn’t possess the lateral agility to break away from defenders, but he has the technique at the top of his route that allows him to create windows.

FIND VOID: 6/7

From my previous evaluation of Jeffery:

“Very good at finding seams; diagnoses CB-SAF relationship in live action with very good play speed and alters routes accordingly. Regularly finds soft spots in short-to-intermediate zones by processing coverage quickly.”

HANDS: 4/7

Through two years Jeffery’s drop rate hangs right around the 5-6% range, which isn’t good or bad. Ideally, you want that below 5%, but he makes enough contested catches to keep him above average in this regard.

He has been less consistent this year bringing down “50/50” balls and has some drops on slants where he lets the ball get to his body, but mentally he recovers well from these and displays good positioning and play strength to be effective in this area.

BODY CONTROL: 6/7

From my previous evaluation of Jeffery:

“Quick reaction time and capable of contorting/reaching back for throws behind his frame… [creates] windows at the catch-point with nudges, shoves, late hands and good concentration to provide DBs less reaction time for potential breakups.”

There’s a difference between creating separation and creating space at the catch-point. Jeffery consistently does well in creating space at the catch-point by putting himself in a position to win via body positioning in conjunction with his hands. This allows throws to tighter windows to be completed at a higher percentage.

COURAGE/CONCENTRATION: 6/7

Regardless of the results, which have been much better recently, Jeffery possesses a fearless mentality in the air with incoming contact.

Seeing as he won’t separate from defenders like Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown, it’s required of Jeffery to be able to absorb contact from tighter coverage. You won’t see him alligator arm in traffic or shy away from extending from a high ball knowing he’s going to take a jarring shot in the back.

YARDS AFTER CATCH: 2/7

You’ve heard of “get what you block for back”, meant to knock a running back for his lack of ability for creating on his own or for getting extra yards otherwise.

Jeffery is a YAC what you scheme for receiver.

He lacks creativity after the catch and the agility/quickness to escape pursuing defenders. The physicality that permeates the rest of his game vanishes with the ball in his hands and he is content to simply fall forward for a few yards when there are defenders encroaching on his, to use a Madden term, “tackling cone”.

SUMMARY

In the summer I graded Jeffery as a starting X WR that you can win with, and after reviewing the film this year, that hasn’t changed. He took slight knocks to his numerical scoring in his separation quickness, release, and hands, but outside of his YAC ability, he remains solid or above for every critical factor.

Starting wide receivers that can be tethered to the line, beat press, and be effective to the degree that Jeffery has do not grow on trees, something Eagles fans should know all too well due to to the struggles the team has had finding consistent production from the position.

 

Michael is an NFL Draft enthusiast, aspiring scout, and grandson of longtime East Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS football coach John P. Kist. He hosts Locked On Eagles and writes for Inside the Pylon & Breaking Football.

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