Turn On The Jets is back in the film room today to break down the tape on New York Jets wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Clyde Gates. Recently acquired (for the third time since 2009), Edwards has a good chance to walk into major reps because of how thin the team’s depth chart is. Gates was a role player last season who is off to a strong start in training camp, leading to some thinking he can be a major factor in 2013. For this article we went through their 2012 offensive reps, let’s see what we found…
Braylon Edwards - Edwards joined the team before week 15 last season, playing an astounding 143 snaps over the final three games. That number is astounding because it is extremely unusual for a player to join a team so late in the season and immediately be thrown into a starter’s level of reps, which speaks heavily to the Jets receiver situation in 2012. Through those three games, Edwards was targeted 16 times, finishing with 10 receptions for 125 yards, with a long reception of 19 yards.
Over the nearly 150 snaps, Edwards was moved around the formation a good amount but frequently targeted on crossing routes, in-cuts and a few comeback routes on the sideline. The Jets would occasionally look to take a deep shot to him, but outside of drawing a pass interference penalty against the Chargers, didn’t have much success. As he did in 2009-2010, Edwards played aggressively, particularly in the running game as a blocker. Overall, he flashed as a very competent receiver in the short to intermediate passing game who has a lost a step or two and no longer serves as a deep threat.
Early in the Titans game, Edwards gets himself wide open on a 15 yard dig route, thanks to a good stick move and sharp in-cut. Unfortunately, Mark Sanchez put the ball too far in front of him and Edwards failed to make the diving catch. With the separation Edwards created, this had the potential to be a big play if Sanchez puts the ball where it needs to be.
A few plays later on third down, Edwards shows good awareness against the zone. The Jets run him on a short crossing route. He properly finds the window between the linebacker and corner on the far side and does a nice job just sitting (2 yards below the 40 yard line at the bottom of the screen). This allows him to be wide open, instead of continuing his route into the corner who is sitting in the short zone waiting for him. Edwards catches the ball with enough space to turn up field and get the first down.
Edwards money route from his earlier stint with the Jets was the slant route. He does a nice job pushing off the line, driving the defender into his backpedal and then turning his frame to give Mark Sanchez a big target. Later in the game (and pictured below the slant route), the Jets run him on what appears to be a skinny post only to have him snap back into a curl at about 14 yards. Edwards works back to the ball and makes a terrific catch away from his body on a poorly thrown ball behind him. Both the successful slant route and making a tough catch on the deep curl are needed regular occurrences for a good possession receiver.
As mentioned earlier, Edwards lacks the speed and acceleration that allowed him to be the team’s primary deep threat in 2009 and 2010. The Jets attempted to run him on a deep post corner route a few times over his three games last season and he couldn’t shake the corner to the outside. He struggled with this because he isn’t running by people on his deep post routes anymore. The Jets also tried to work him up the sideline but didn’t have much success. Here against Buffalo, Edwards has a tough time dealing with man press, as he allows the corner to get his hands on him and gradually widen him to the sideline. Edwards didn’t show the burst in 2012 to regularly beat aggressive man coverage, particularly for deeper routes.
Overall, Edwards still has the make-up to be a solid possession receiver for the Jets in 2013. He has a good feel on how to find soft spots in the zone and use his size to make himself a viable target in the short to intermediate passing game. He remains effective on the slant route, short to intermediate in-cuts and the occasional comeback route. Edwards can be a weapon on third downs and in the red-zone. However, at this point of his career, he is no longer a consistent deep threat. The deep posts, go-routes and post-corners he used to run with regularity in 2009-2010 will likely be better served going to somebody with more straight ahead speed like Stephen Hill or maybe even Clyde Gates…
Clyde Gates - Over 11 active games with the Jets last season, Clyde Gates played in 239 snaps. He was targeted 36 times and only managed 16 receptions, a very poor percentage that was partially his fault and partially the fault of bad quarterback play. Gates finished with 224 receiving yards, with a long of 42 yards. The Jets didn’t put a ton on his plate in terms of routes, basically relegating him to go-routes, comeback routes after running a few go routes and deep dig routes in hopes he could create space using his speed. Gates does have terrific speed, without question. Yet, throughout 2012 he ran sloppy, undisciplined routes and also demonstrated inconsistency catching the football.
In week 3 against the Miami Dolphins, the Jets sent Gates on a deep dig route. Ideally, the receiver pushes to the post, then plants hard, snaps to the inside and works on a straight in-cut across the middle. On this play, Gates rounds off the top of his route and starts drifting away from the quarterback, instead of working directly across the middle. As he is fading away, the corner aggressively cuts in front of him and intercepts the pass while Gates makes a weak effort to come back to the football and break it up. This wasn’t an ideal pass but was also a very, very poor route.
Later in the season against Seattle, Gates runs a stop route on 3rd and 9. What he should do is push to 11 yards and work back to 9. Instead he runs to about 8 yards and sits…almost literally. He crouches down, doesn’t work back to the football and makes himself a smaller target. Seattle’s corner completely whiffs on what could have been an easy interception and the Jets actually complete this pass and get the first down. However, that doesn’t mean it was a good route or a well executed play. More times than not, this pass is either batted down or intercepted. It is imperative for the receiver to always work back to the football and push his routes to the proper depth.
Against Tennessee on Monday Night, the Jets tried to run Gates on an “under” concept. Basically he lines up at split end and the slot receiver runs a vertical route to clear out space for him. Gates is supposed to push up to 5 yards and run a sharp in-cut, catch the ball and get upfield in the area vacated by the slot receiver. Reggie Wayne has made a living out of this play for the Colts. When the Jets try to run it with Gates on a 2nd and 4, he pushes up to about 4 yards, hesitates and starts to work somewhat back towards the quarterback on a 45 degree angle. This allows the corner to get on his hip and easily break up the pass. Gates needs to take advantage of his world-class speed, make a sharp cut and beat his corner across the middle of the field.
Gates had his positive moments last season. In week 8 against Miami, he does a nice job of pushing the corner deep on a dig route on a 4th down. At the bottom of the screen, just below the 30 yard line, he works on a straight line into the empty zone and makes a big conversion catch. Later in the season, he uses his athleticism to attack the football at the highest point and make a tough catch on an under-thrown pass.
Gates has unique speed and is a very good athlete. Coaches salivate over those kind of natural attributes, particularly when you are thin at a position. Gates issues are with route running and consistency, particularly at understanding defenses and catching the football. Fortunately, as we discussed in our Stephen Hill breakdown those are things that can be improved on with a dedicated off-season. The early reports out of Cortland are that Gates has polished his route running and is catching everything in sight…both very encouraging signs. We obviously need to see it in the pre-season and then regular season but Gates could potentially become a valuable part of the Jets wide receiver rotation.