As we continue to crawl deeper and deeper into training camp, and getting better and more consistent looks at the 90-man roster, a natural consequence of that is the formation of opinions about how certain players are progressing.
Yesterday, during a segment of Steelers.com LIVE on the team’s website, Craig Wolfley and Tunch Ilkin shared their thoughts on how Pittsburgh Steelers second-year player Dri Archer has looked thus far in camp, and while they tend to skew positive, they offered some interesting observations.
Wolfley started it out with the general observation that “the young man has looked pretty good”, recounting some of his recent play, noting a catch and run to end a session yesterday and referencing a run up the middle from the day before in which he eluded Ryan Shazier.
Ilkin jumped in with his own observations, noting his development from last season. “One of the things that I’ve seen that I didn’t see last year is a strong stiff arm”, he said. “He’s lowered his pad level when he runs”.
This all led to one general conclusion in particular, and that is that he is simply feeling more at home with himself. “I think the fact that he’s playing with more confidence, running lower to the ground, playing with a little bit more physicality—I think he’s starting to feel comfortable”, Ilkin said.
Wolfley believes that Archer is doing a better job of keeping his eyes upfield and “letting his eyes carry him to where he needs to go”. For a 5’7” player under 180 pounds, he’s not necessarily going to get to where he needs to go through brute force, so speed, and finding the right path, are critical to his success.
If Archer has truly improved his field of vision from last season, then that will be big for his success, because that was an issue for him not just on offense, but also on special teams during kick returns.
While he admitted that he tended to be impatient on his returns, not allowing the play in front of him to develop, he also chose the wrong lane on more than one occasion, and he’s also done that coming out of the backfield in his limited work from that spot during the regular season.
Archer has been heavily maligned by many throughout the course of his rookie season, in no small part due to the fact that he was drafted in the third round. Many believe that he will never amount to, at best, a solid kick returner, which they view as too high a price paid, given where he was drafted.
But Archer has put his rookie season behind him as he prepares to start over in 2015—evidently, more comfortable, more confident, more powerful, running lower, and with a better stiff arm move.
According to Wolfley and Ilkin, Archer has already shown some encouraging progress, growing from the player that he was last season into one who expects to contribute in year two. Once we start getting into the preseason games, we should get a better feel for how things might pan out.