Think of your most embarrassing moment and multiply it by three. That’s what Jerry Jeudy is feeling after he dropped two passes in the Broncos’ loss to the Titans.
Your number one draft pick isn’t supposed to drop passes. He’s supposed to catch them and score touchdowns. Mr. Jeudy knows this, which is part of the reason he dropped them in the first place.
Everyone who watches Jeudy understands his talent. He has impressed his coaches and teammates at every level. Some dubbed Jeudy the “best player on the Broncos” without having seen him take a snap. His route running is superb. His quickness, unmatched. And his hands? Lathered in butter — at least last night.
So what makes a world-class pass-catcher drop an easy catch in an important game? Because Jeudy wasn’t having this problem in training camp. Sure, he had a few drops in August, but for the most part, his hands were consistently good during training camp. So what was it? Why the drops?
Young NFL receivers have a tendency to hurry through their routes, to believe they have less time to maneuver than they actually do. If a route calls for running 12 yards upfield, you’ll often find young receivers breaking at eight, nine, or 10 yards. This alters the timing of the play and makes the quarterback look bad. But in reality, the ball wasn’t late, the receiver was early.
So why do receivers hurry the game up in their heads? Because an NFL football play is chaotic, and the kinetic energy burns like a flame-thrower. You can feel how fast everyone else is moving around you, how urgent the moment is and how imminent an explosion awaits the end of every play. You do not want to get caught in those fireworks.
The same reason that makes you speed up routes makes you drop passes across the middle. The imminent explosion. You come across the middle as a receiver, you’re going to get hit. Hard. Both of Jeudy’s drops came on routes across the middle. Simply put, Jeudy heard footsteps. That’s industry talk for “he was scared to get hit.”
But I think it’s not so simple with Jeudy because of the skills he possesses, his ability to stop on a dime and avoid that explosion, just like he did in the first half.
In a sign of things to come for the Broncos rookie, Jeudy caught a pass coming across the middle, put his foot in the ground and came to a complete stop, almost defying physics, losing his defender and heading up the field in the opposite direction for a good chunk of yards after the catch. He felt the smoothness of this move and wanted to repeat it. He now knows he can do it in an NFL game against the best in the world. That one play was all the confidence he needed to go out in the second half, catch a similar pass and take it all the way to the … whoops. He forgot the “catch the ball” part.
And that is what I think happened to Jeudy last night. He saw the ball coming, and, before it hit his hands, starting thinking about his end zone dance.
One thing at a time, young man. Catch the ball first, then work your magic. You have more time than you think.
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