Jaylen Samuels can pretty much do it all. Carry the ball out of the backfield? That’s what he was drafted for. Move to the slot and catch? Not a problem. Line up at tight end, fullback, even work the Wildcat? We’ve seen it before.
But pass protection? That, for now, might be his kryptonite.
Interviewed on Steelers Nation Radio Tuesday afternoon, Samuels was asked about his pass protection background and the rookie admitted he knows he has a lot of ground to make up.
“In college, I’m going to be honest, I didn’t get too much protection stuff,” he said. “On 3rd down, I was [catching the ball]. That’s the biggest thing I’m going to work on, I need to work on. I’m still learning the protections. Who to align and slide to. Who rushes, who do I got. I’m still working on that in individual drills, the different skill sets. I’ve got work to do.”
That answer was followed up by the reminder about one of training camp’s highlights, the backs on ‘backers drill that really tests a RB’s ability to put his face in the fan and win those matchups. It normally happens twice throughout camp – the first day of pads and the Friday Night practice at Latrobe High School.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Samuels said, though admitted those drills are never set up for the offense to win.
Dave Bryan and I talked about Samuels in pass protection on The Terrible Podcast several weeks ago. He did very little, if any, of it as a senior because, as he said in the interview, his ability to catch out of the backfield was too valuable to leave him into block.
Some of his most work in pass pro came in 2015 when the Wolfpack lost starter Matthew Dayes for the back half of the season. That forced Samuels into that role though even then, he often split time with Dakwa Nichols. The results then were mixed; Samuels showed effort and the ability to stay square to the block but had trouble anchoring and not letting the defender disengage.
That will be one of the biggest areas of his game we’ll be watching for during camp and the preseason. If he can make big strides there, he can make an impact his rookie year, even knowing there will only be a handful of snaps to go around behind Le’Veon Bell.