Grinding The Tape: Bucs WR Gage Edition

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

Gage lately signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Bucs. He’ll slot in because the Bucs’ WR3 as soon as Chris Godwin absolutely 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 status 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, quite a lot 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 best common depth of goal since his rookie yr as nicely.

Over the course of at the moment’s column, we’re going to have 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 capability to create separation, get deep, make contested catches, carry out from the slot, create with the ball in is palms and block.

I watched 4 of Gage’s video games from final yr. They had 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’d argue that is a very powerful a part of taking part in broad receiver nowadays. Straight up, are you able to get open? The reply with Gage is most actually sure, he can. Based on 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 at the least 40 catches. The tape backs this up. Gage makes use of a robust drive off the road to create stable 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 by quite a lot of routes.

Curl Route

Let’s begin with a easy curl route, lets? Now, on this play, Gage is reverse the play facet learn on the surface. Matt Ryan by no means sees him as a result of the play isn’t supposed to return to his facet. However that doesn’t imply it isn’t an amazing instance of the sort 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 shortly. 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 by most. It’s most likely an enormous cause why, for a lot of his profession, he has been used on a lot of these routes which are designed to choose up small chunks of yardage with little alternative to create after the catch. Gage’s capability to interrupt down from a full dash is extraordinarily spectacular.

Hitch Route

Now, let’s check out an in depth 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 identical issues because the final play. Drive off the road with power. Break down shortly. 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 screen.

Out Route

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

Hopefully you might be beginning to see a pattern with Gage’s go off the road. The immediacy of his capability to get to full velocity put each the nook and security right into a full-court press to cease him deep. So, when Gage cuts to the surface, 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 might 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 an even bigger acquire.

In Route

Okay, he can create room for himself to the surface. 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 screen as the surface receiver to the robust facet. Philadelphia is taking part in a robust beneath zone bundle. Gage runs a deep in. Because the tight finish Pitts releases outdoors, he attracts each the surface 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 max room between the deep security and the linebacker, who has to account for the slot receiver on the brief 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 nearly looks like he’s supposed to take a seat on it. However then, you see him open it as much as the surface for a dig. Why the gradual improvement to the route? From what I can see, I believe it was intentional. Since that is play-action, it will 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 offers himself and Ryan loads of room to permit for a simple catch and a few YAC. In any occasion, have 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 capability to get open all through all the route tree, let’s have a look at him working a shake route.

A shake route is greatest 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 submit. And you’ll see Gage execute this in opposition to the Bucs and Pierre Desir masterfully. Desir bites on the surface 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 coated 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 velocity. So, what was stopping Atlanta from utilizing him as a deep risk? I want I knew. I don’t have any insightful evaluation for you. The man could be efficient in that position.

Towards New Orleans, he’s working a deep 9 route. Because the nook is taking part in up, Gage decides to launch inside. As he will get about ten yards deep, he encounters the security who got here down on the play pretend. Watch carefully for the hip wiggle. This causes the security to interrupt in, fearing the potential for the crosser. However no, Gage retains carrying the route vertically, leaving the security 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 possible led to an enormous completion.

Right here is another. 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 stress on the surface nook to determine which route he’s going to decide to. Gage is the entrance facet of the stack on the prime of your display screen. 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 Capacity

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 typically. In doing so, it requires receivers to have the ability to make contested catches with a purpose to achieve success. Does Gage have this capability? 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 unbelievable landing seize.

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

Additionally, for enjoyable in that clip, have 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 in depth 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 position within the offense, the workforce suffered. Whereas Gage has expertise as a slot receiver, it has been in a unique kind of slot position. So, can he do what Godwin does? You guess.

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’ll be able to 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 surface. 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.

A whole lot of what Gage was requested to do from the slot in Atlanta’s offense was to take a seat on hitch routes. With the Bucs, he might be requested to hold the seam extra. Search for him to excel on this position.

Beating Press Protection

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

Watch as Gage fakes an outdoor transfer earlier than driving his shoulder by the nook’s jam for inside leverage. Masterclass. The remainder of the rep is spectacular as nicely. 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 reveals nice ball expertise holding on by 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 response to NextGen Stats. This was No. 38 amongst broad receivers with at the least 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 complete play is centered on Gage’s capability to get yards whereas the ball is in his palms. Watch as the security crashes all the way down to blow up the play. Gage’s response? “Not at the moment, Devil!” He calmly hurdles the security, retains his stability, generates one other 4 yards earlier than shaking the linebacker trying to deal with 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 capability to get up-field with the ball in his palms. It is a designed flat to him that doesn’t begin nicely. 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 best deal with pushes Shaq Barret into good place to convey Gage down. With Sean Murphy-Bunting gaining outdoors leverage, Gage has no alternative however to chop up-field and attempt to shake Barrett. He is ready to efficiently accomplish that whereas preserving his stability, breaking Carlton Davis’ would-be deal with with a spin transfer. From right here, it’s simply unimaginable to look at him stay upright and acquire further yardage with one other spin transfer to stop Antoine Winfield. Jr. from bringing him down. I’m positive the Bucs are joyful 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’ll be anticipated to dam. And Gage has the products right here as nicely. He isn’t a spotlight reel machine on this space, however most broad receivers aren’t. And along with his skinny body, it could be tough 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 below are two examples of simply that.

Within the first, he makes use of his entire 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 actually stick the surface nook.

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