Grinding The Tape: Bucs WR Gage Edition

Welcome again to a different version of “Grinding The Tape.” This week, we are going to proceed our take a look at Bucs’ offseason additions, this time with a concentrate on new broad receiver Russell Gage.

Gage just lately signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Bucs. He’ll slot in because the Bucs’ WR3 as soon as Chris Godwin totally recovers from his knee accidents from final yr. Till then, Gage tasks as Tampa Bay’s second receiving possibility behind Mike Evans. And Gage has expertise as a second possibility, having spent a superb portion of final yr as such with the Falcons. Throughout a lot of that marketing campaign, he was possibility two behind tight finish Kyle Pitts in Atlanta.

Over Gage’s four-year profession, he has developed a fame as a brief yardage, move-the-chains kind of receiver. This has been attributable to two causes. First, Gage has spent nearly all of his reps within the slot. Of his 1,393 profession passing snaps, over 60% have been from the slot.

Secondly, Gage’s utilization has been largely relegated to shorter chain-moving routes. That’s to not say he can’t win deep (extra on that later), simply that he hasn’t been requested to take action an excessive amount of. That has led to Gage posting a lackluster 10.7 yards per catch over his 193 profession receptions.

Final yr, lots of that modified, because it was the primary yr since his rookie marketing campaign that he performed lower than 50% of his snaps from the slot. Final yr additionally marked the very best common depth of goal since his rookie yr as properly.

Over the course of at this time’s column, we’re going to take a look at six (!) totally different areas of Gage’s recreation as they relate to what he might be requested to do within the Bucs’ offense. They’re his skill to create separation, get deep, make contested catches, carry out from the slot, create with the ball in is fingers and block.

I watched 4 of Gage’s video games from final yr. They have been Week 1 in opposition to Philadelphia, Week 13 in opposition to Tampa Bay, Week 15 in San Francisco and Week 18 in opposition to New Orleans. Now, let’s dive in!

Creating Separation

I might argue that is crucial a part of enjoying broad receiver as of late. Straight up, are you able to get open? The reply with Gage is most actually sure, he can. In response to the NFL’s NextGen Stats, Gage registered a median of three.1 yards of separation on his routes in 2021. This ranked No. 33 amongst broad receivers with a minimum of 40 catches. The tape backs this up. Gage makes use of a robust drive off the road to create strong burst, in addition to a suddenness in his cuts and breakdowns to go away defenders scrambling to remain near him. And he is ready to do it via quite a lot of routes.

Curl Route

Let’s begin with a easy curl route, we could? Now, on this play, Gage is reverse the play aspect learn on the skin. Matt Ryan by no means sees him as a result of the play isn’t supposed to return to his aspect. However that doesn’t imply it isn’t an amazing instance of the type of separation Gage can create. Towards tender protection from the nook, Gage drives out of his stance with energy. He is ready to break down from that drive rapidly. Had the learn been to Gage, Ryan might have had a simple completion for 9 yards.

This a part of Gage’s recreation actually shines via most. It’s in all probability a giant purpose why, for a lot of his profession, he has been used on most of these routes which are designed to select up small chunks of yardage with little alternative to create after the catch. Gage’s skill to interrupt down from a full dash is extraordinarily spectacular.

Hitch Route

Now, let’s check out a detailed cousin of the curl route. The hitch asks a lot of the identical from the receiver. It’s simply designed to evolve over an ever shorter distance.

Once more, Gage is being requested to do lots of the similar issues because the final play. Drive off the road with drive. Break down rapidly. This time, it’s taking place over about 5-7 yards relatively than 9-10. And once more, he isn’t the first learn. It seems to me like he would have been the second learn within the development. On reflection, he was the higher learn as his nook carried the slot receiver vertically and the nickel learn the out route by the tight finish completely. This led to Pitts getting hit instantly because the ball arrived whereas Gage had nobody round him for 5 yards on the backside of the display.

Out Route

Now let’s take a look at how Gage creates separation once we add a horizontal aspect to his routes.

Hopefully you’re beginning to see a pattern with Gage’s go off the road. The immediacy of his skill to get to full pace put each the nook and security right into a full-court press to cease him deep. So, when Gage cuts to the skin, there may be over 4 yards of separation between him and the nook. You’d like to see Ryan pull the set off on the go only a second sooner and this may have been a primary down. As a substitute, he delays his launch, and it winds up being a 3-yard acquire. You must think about on a play like this, Tom Brady is getting the ball out sooner and the play goes for a much bigger acquire.

In Route

Okay, he can create room for himself to the skin. However can he do it to the within the place there may be extra site visitors? Completely. It is a man who has made his dwelling off of working in site visitors.

Right here, Gage is on the backside of your display as the skin receiver to the sturdy aspect. Philadelphia is enjoying a robust beneath zone bundle. Gage runs a deep in. Because the tight finish Pitts releases outdoors, he attracts each the skin nook and the within nickel to him. Ryan goes along with his first possibility in Pitts. However let’s return Gage. His deep in route is broad open attributable to him spacing the route for optimum room between the deep security and the linebacker, who has to account for the slot receiver on the quick cross.

Dig Route

Now, let’s put a number of components collectively. Let’s go horizontal in each instructions.

Right here, Gage’s route initially seems like a slant, however then he cuts it off. It virtually looks as if he’s supposed to sit down on it. However then, you see him open it as much as the skin for a dig. Why the gradual growth to the route? From what I can see, I believe it was intentional. Since that is play-action, it’s going to develop slowly. If Gage snaps his route instantly, he’s going to be preventing the sideline by the point the ball will get to him. By slowing the transition, he provides himself and Ryan loads of room to permit for a simple catch and a few YAC. In any occasion, take a look at his defender as he does all of this. Oh wait, what defender? There’s nobody close to him.

Shake Route

Now to completely spherical out Gage’s skill to get open all through your entire route tree, let’s take a look at him operating a shake route.

A shake route is finest executed when faking a nook path to get the cornerback to open his hips. Towards a single-high appear like this, the deep security is unable to cowl the bottom created by the within leverage when the receiver then strikes inside on the eventual publish. And you’ll see Gage execute this in opposition to the Bucs and Pierre Desir masterfully. Desir bites on the skin transfer, and Gage slides proper into the Bermuda Triangle of open house between him, Ross Cockrell, and Lavonte David. Whereas this wasn’t a catch, it wasn’t for an absence of Gage being open.

Gage As A Deep Risk

As I lined earlier, Gage has been primarily used as a short-to-intermediate weapon over his younger profession. It didn’t make sense to me, as he has legit 4.3 pace. So, what was stopping Atlanta from utilizing him as a deep menace? I want I knew. I don’t have any insightful evaluation for you. The man will be efficient in that function.

Towards New Orleans, he’s operating a deep 9 route. Because the nook is enjoying up, Gage decides to launch inside. As he will get about ten yards deep, he encounters the protection who got here down on the play pretend. Watch intently for the hip wiggle. This causes the protection to interrupt in, fearing the opportunity of the crosser. However no, Gage retains carrying the route vertically, leaving the protection to successfully cowl 15 yards of pure nothing. Because the play nears its conclusion, Gage hasn’t created a ton of room between him and the nook, however he does have the within leverage. A greater thrown ball would have probably led to a giant completion.

Right here is yet one more. It’s a high-low idea in opposition to quarters protection. The route is an effective name in opposition to this protection, because it places a ton of strain on the skin nook to resolve which route he’s going to decide to. Gage is the entrance aspect of the stack on the prime of your display. He’s going to run the excessive route. Clear launch with good acceleration. He will get to his mark, making a ton of room after the nook bites on the low. It’s my hope after watching Gage that the Bucs give him extra alternatives to function vertically this yr.

Contested Catch Skill

The Bucs offense doesn’t scheme gamers open as a lot as different offenses within the NFL do. It requires its receivers to win one-on-one extra usually. In doing so, it requires receivers to have the ability to make contested catches in an effort to achieve success. Does Gage have this skill? Completely. As Jon Ledyard famous in his Bucs Briefing again in March, Gage caught 58% of his contested catch alternatives in 2021. And the tape backs this up a ton.

Watch how he does it twice in San Francisco on the identical fade route, with one leading to a improbable landing seize.

First off, kudos to the nook on each performs. You’d be hard-pressed to seek out any fault in how he lined these fade routes. He’s draped throughout Gage in each cases. Gage simply Moss’d him each instances. I used to be notably impressed with the primary one. Look in the mean time Ryan decides to make the throw. There isn’t any separation. And but he has all the religion on the earth that Gage can go up and get it. And go up and get it he does.

Additionally, for enjoyable in that clip, take a look at how Gage beats the press. His first step is definitely to take his proper foot and slide it behind and to the within of his left foot. It gives the look that he’s blocking. He then throws his outdoors shoulder inside earlier than swiping the nook inside to get him the room to get off the road on the fade. I don’t know if this was taught to him or if he developed it himself, however it’s actually cool and I hope to see him put it to use with the Bucs.

Gage In The Slot

Gage has intensive expertise within the slot. And that theoretically ought to be an enormous boon for the Bucs. Late final yr, the offense had bother adjusting to life with out Chris Godwin as a result of lack of a robust possibility “B” for them within the slot. Tyler Johnson simply couldn’t do the issues that Godwin might, and with the significance of that function within the offense, the workforce suffered. Whereas Gage has expertise as a slot receiver, it has been in a distinct kind of slot function. So, can he do what Godwin does? You wager.

The Bucs offense asks their slot receiver to not win on fast timing routes that scheme the receiver open for YAC. It asks the receiver to win vertically. Above, you may see Gage on one other shake route pushing him deep. However this time, he does it from the slot place. It’s all there. A robust launch off the road. The nook pretend that opens his defender’s hips to the skin. The transition to the nook route beneath the single-high security. The one factor lacking right here was the catch. The ball wasn’t thrown completely, however that’s a catch Gage ought to make.

Numerous what Gage was requested to do from the slot in Atlanta’s offense was to sit down on hitch routes. With the Bucs, he might be requested to hold the seam extra. Search for him to excel on this function.

Beating Press Protection

You noticed Gage beat press protection on each of his contested catch reps earlier. Right here’s yet one more for good measure.

Watch as Gage fakes an out of doors transfer earlier than driving his shoulder via the nook’s jam for inside leverage. Masterclass. The remainder of the rep is spectacular as properly. He will get the nook off stability on the prime of his route with an inside pretend earlier than turning for the nook. Lastly, he exhibits nice ball expertise holding on via contact whereas dragging his toes.

Creating With The Ball In His Palms

Final yr, Gage recorded a median of 4.1 yards after catch, in line with NextGen Stats. This was No. 38 amongst broad receivers with a minimum of 40 catches. It additionally represents 0.4 yards per reception greater than anticipated. It’s not the strongest a part of his recreation, however he’s nonetheless solidly above common in it.

Right here, he will get a pop go from Ryan whereas in movement. This whole play is centered on Gage’s skill to get yards whereas the ball is in his fingers. Watch as the protection crashes right down to blow up the play. Gage’s response? “Not at this time, Devil!” He calmly hurdles the protection, retains his stability, generates one other 4 yards earlier than shaking the linebacker trying to sort out him from behind. Gage follows this by redirecting inside and lunging ahead for an additional couple of yards. He turned what ought to have been a 4-yard acquire right into a 16-yard explosive play.

Right here’s one other instance of Gage’s skill to get up-field with the ball in his fingers. It is a designed flat to him that doesn’t begin properly. Proper off the snap, the receiver within the slot to his proper instantly will get pushed backward, reducing off Gage’s horizontal path. In the meantime, the proper sort out pushes Shaq Barret into excellent place to carry Gage down. With Sean Murphy-Bunting gaining outdoors leverage, Gage has no selection however to chop up-field and attempt to shake Barrett. He is ready to efficiently accomplish that whereas holding his stability, breaking Carlton Davis’ would-be sort out with a spin transfer. From right here, it’s simply unbelievable to look at him stay upright and acquire additional yardage with one other spin transfer to forestall Antoine Winfield. Jr. from bringing him down. I’m positive the Bucs are comfortable he might be doing issues like this for them in 2022 as a substitute of in opposition to them.

Gage As A Blocker

In case you are a receiver within the Bucs offense, you will be anticipated to dam. And Gage has the products right here as properly. He isn’t a spotlight reel machine on this space, however most broad receivers aren’t. And along with his skinny body, it will be troublesome for him to create pancake blocks. However he combines a willingness with a superb understanding of physique positioning. This results in him being efficient on this space. Listed here are two examples of simply that.

Within the first, he makes use of his complete physique to get into Murphy-Bunting’s core and push him away from the play. He does the identical factor with the second in opposition to New Orleans, with some added oomph to essentially stick the skin nook.

When the Bucs signed Gage this offseason, it took most everybody without warning. Nevertheless, trying via his tape, it’s clear to see that he’s an ideal match for what they search for in a receiver. He supplies wonderful depth on each the skin in addition to within the slot. And I’m personally actually excited to see how offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich can unlock his skills additional in 2022.

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