Chase Claypool spent 2021 with his head in the clouds. There were all the storylines, the drama. Music at practice. Signaling first down on the final drive in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Forgivable in a good year, but not in a down one. Heading into his third year, Claypool has hopefully matured, and in speaking with reporters Thursday, said he also wants to literally keep his feet on the ground more this season.
Claypool was asked what he wants to work on in 2022.
“A lot of the 50/50 balls,” he told reporters as shared via 93.7 The Fan. “I wouldn’t stay on my feet. So I gotta stay on my feet.”
Claypool wasn’t nearly the downfield threat he was as a rookie. His numbers plummeted across the board, and though that may have had a little to do with Ben Roethlisberger’s depleted arm, it wasn’t an issue in 2020. Too often, Claypool tried to sky for the ball but became unbalanced, uncoordinated. Frankly, it became a running joke.
For Claypool to bounce back, he’ll need to be what he was drafted to be. The team’s starting Z-receiver, a consistent vertical threat and someone who can win those 50/50 balls more than 50% of the time. He has the tools and traits to do so, the height, the speed, the overall body type. Improving his technique at the catch point will be key. It’ll also allow him to do damage after the catch.
“I gotta get a little more YAC, I feel like.”
According to Pro Football Reference, Claypool’s YAC per reception fell from 5.3 as a rookie to 4.8 as a sophomore. Staying on his feet will allow him to maintain speed and run through the catch as opposed to being in the air and almost fighting the ball. With an offense that’s unlikely to consistently put up big points, they’ll rely on Claypool and others to provide field-flipping plays.
Claypool concluded by stating one obvious point of improvement.
“I can’t be dropping [any] passes.”
Drops were the least of Claypool’s concerns last year. Though subjective, PFR has him down for five drops and a lower drop rate compared to his rookie year, 5.5% versus 4.8%.
It’s a crucial year three for Claypool. He’s had one solid season and one disappointing campaign. With Diontae Johnson’s future beyond 2022 in doubt, Claypool needs to have a big year. If he can do that, he’ll be the one in line for a long-term deal next summer.