James Washington has broken out in a big way this preseason, already recording a pair of 40+ yard receptions in the first two weeks. And funny enough, they came on nearly identical concepts. So let’s break them down and how Washington is winning vertical.
First one against Tampa Bay. 3×1, bunch set into the field. Washington is off ball, Eli Rogers as the point man, allowing JW a clean release off the line of scrimmage. The bunch set, as you’ll see below, naturally forces defenses to play off to avoid getting picked and rubbed.
Washington gets upfield but initially stems his route to the outside on the numbers. That creates space for him to get vertical. The RCB is sitting on a potential out route, the reduced split suggests it’s possible, and Washington is able to create room to the inside and stack him downfield.
He’s able to use his speed and stride to win over the top. Had the ball not been underthrown, this may have been a 94 yard touchdown. Still, we get to see Washington’s ability to track and high point the football. Wish I had a better angle for you but the live TV view will have to suffice.
Fast forward to last Saturday. Same thing. 3×1, bunch to the field. Washington’s able to get a clean release and initially stems his route to the outside. He does a really nice job of selling the out route here, freezing the corner, before converting vertical.
Nice hands catch at the end to try and pick up some YAC. Another 40+ yard play.
If corners are going to play bail technique, Washington is going to eat up grass. His route running has improved and he’s shown the ability to get on their toes before making his move. Sell the out route well, plant that outside foot, and explode vertical. With his size, physicality, hands, and leaping ability, he’s a serious threat downfield even without the classic 4.4 speed.
I’d expect to see this concept a couple times on Sunday’s. It’s a good one with the right player to run it.