The Deep Threat: A Misconception in the NFL
Matt Jones (Phil Coale/AP)
Matt Jones (Phil Coale/AP)
Contributor
Posted Sep 26, 2008


If there is one common trait that’s thought of about wide receivers and being a deep threat, it’s game-breaking speed. It's widely believed that in order for a wide receiver to be a deep threat in the NFL, they must possess sub-4.4 40-timed speed. Many will argue that this is why the Jacksonville Jaguars cannot go down the field, because they have no "deep threat" type of wide receivers.

The notion that a wide receiver must posses 4.4 speed or less to be able to get down the field is one of the biggest misconceptions in all of sports. Some of the very best wide receivers in the NFL do not run sub 4.4 40 yard dashes, but manage to be phenomenal deep threats. A few examples of these receivers are Terrell Owens (just under 4.6), Larry Fitzgerald (4.50), Anquan Boldin (4.61), Marques Colston (4.5), Plaxico Burress (4.60), Brandon Marshall (4.50), and Reggie Wayne (4.46) just to name a few. Even the greatest of all time, Jerry Rice, ran a 4.63 in the 40 yard dash.

Many will argue that the Jacksonville Jaguars without Jerry Porter, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, lack a deep threat with their current wide receivers. The fastest "timed" player on the field is Matt Jones, who we all know does not play nearly as fast as he was timed. Reggie Williams set the team record for touchdowns last season with 10, yet he is widely considered more a possession/yards after catch type of receiver. Last season, Williams had 13 of his 38 catches go for more that 20 yards, 2 of which were over 30 yards. He caught an 80-yard touchdown catch against New Orleans where he broke no tackles, a 59-yard touchdown catch where the ball was caught about 20 yards downfield, breaking the initial tackle then splitting and outrunning the safeties. He also had a 36-yard touchdown reception against San Diego that wasn't a run after the catch type of long play he's known for. His teammate Dennis Northcutt had 11 receptions over 20 yards with a long of 55, Matt Jones had 4 with a long of 48 in his limited opportunities last season, and the slowest receiver on the team last year who is now on the Dolphins, Ernest Wilford, had 5 receptions over 20 yards for a long of 35. That's a total of 32 receptions between those four players of over 20 yards.

Jaguars quarterback David Garrard explained some of the lack of a deep passing game—

“The thing is, when you have new offensive linemen coming in, it makes it tough for coach to call plays that go deeper down the field because you have to sit back in the pocket a little bit longer. And when you are playing the Colts, you don’t really want to sit in the pocket too long. I think our thing is just moving the chains. When we start pressing for deeper and longer passes, then we start getting out of our character. I think the deeper and longer passes will come. The more our offensive line plays together, they will be more comfortable to pick up all the right protections, all the right blitzes and give me more time to throw the ball down the field. I think that we just have to play Jaguar football and be able to continue to run the ball well. And also, when we have the opportunities to get the ball to receivers, get it to them and sometimes they are going to have to break some tackles.”

While Jacksonville may not have that guy who can just flat our run past the defensive back with Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson sidelined, they still have receivers with the ability to get open down the field. Why it's not happened, I can't tell you. I do know that Jacksonville hasn't really even tried to go down the field except one time against Tennessee, and that was an under thrown ball that was intercepted. The Jaguars need to take some shots down the field with the guys they have, because they can. It doesn't have to be a 50-yard bomb to be considered deep. So far, it seems as if the Jaguars are running nothing but routes that involve the receiver running past the first down marker and turning around. While it works, it eventually will get shut down. Dirk Koetter needs to let the quarterback throw and get back to taking chunks of yardage in the passing game, instead of taking all of the short stuff. The Jaguars have players than can get "deep,” they just need to take the shots.



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