My theory until this past Sunday was that you can always find a way to take a receiver out of the game. You can bracket in and out, bracket high and low, and disrupt his release to affect the timing of the play. It’s something that Lou Anarumo and Bengals planned on doing as well, but in the end, Cooper Kupp destroyed that theory. So now the question becomes, how do I develop my own Cooper Kupp who not only has the physical skills but has a football IQ that’s off the charts.
Here’s an example of Kupp’s intelligence.
Source: Cooper Kupp’s Technical Understanding
Developing High Football IQ
Developing this kind of technical understanding starts in the classroom. Mark Philmore, former WR coach at Eastern Illinois and new head coach at Reynoldsburg HS(OH) starts with teaching a “top-down mentality” in identifying coverages. Here he explains how the teaching begins simply by teaching 1-high or 2-high. He also shares his methodology in how he uses multiple teaching methods to create understanding.
Source: Teaching Coverage ID 1-High/2-High
Arizona Cardinals assistant Jordan Hogan believes in using film to teach key points in the game plan and what to explicit from the opponent. His receivers are taught exactly how to watch film. He explains his methodology here. Of course on top of developing mental intelligence is teaching a mindset that will win in all situations. Holomon Wiggins, WR Coach at Alabama, uses the acronym EDGE to give those players keys to a winning mindset.
Source: Film Review Keys
Getting into the physical side of developing your unstoppable receiver, it all starts with the stance.
Young receivers typically struggle with understanding how to explode off the ball. This is a major issue as the can add .2 seconds on the line of scrimmage with false steps or sinking hips before moving forward.
Why does that .2 seconds matter? Well first, it turns a 4.6 40-yard dash into a 4.8. We all know that is significantly slower and certainly makes it easier for a DB to stay on top. Secondary, it creates timing issues for primary routes ruining the calibration that allows to see that receiver open on the last step of his drop. Del Valle HS head coach Bobby Acosta utilizes a med ball drill to train that proper explosion.
Source: Med Ball Teach Tape
Crisp and precise cuts are accomplished by developing the receiver’s footwork. Here Coach Hogan explains a series of drills he utilizes to accomplish it.
Source: WR Agility Drills
Double Jab Release
As mentioned, stopping a receiver can begin at the line of scrimmage. Arming the receiver with different releases can help him win both at the line of scrimmage and in preserving the timing of the route. Kansas WR coach Rob Ianello demonstrates the “double jab” drill here.
Video: Double Jab
Second Level Release
Releases happen on the second level in space as well. A good release at level two will bring the receiver into space for the throw. It’s something that is key for Kupp. Vikings WR Coach Christian Jones shows it on film here.
Source: Second Level Release
Mentality – Using the Toolbox
After NFL receiver trainer Drew Lieberman equips his players with a toolbox full of techniques for releases and running routes, he teaches them a mentality that he refers to as ”Playing basketball with a Pitcher’s mentality.” Players have to be willing to learn how to Adjust. Winning routes also requires the ability to Adjust.
Correct bad decisions
Inevitably, a receiver will make a bad decision on his route, but as Rob Likens, WR coach at SMU, explains, there is a way to correct that and help the quarterback make a completion. This is a key technique and strategy to teach any receiver who you want to make unstoppable.
Source: Correct Bad Decisions
What does it look like?
Want to see what this looks like on the field? Former NFL offensive lineman Brian Baldinger uses game film to break down the importance of route selections and reading defenses utilizing Hall of Famer Randy Moss and All-Pro receivers Davante Adams and Michael Thomas.
Baldinger’s insight into the techniques used, player’s strengths, and overall play design from different offensive packages make this a valuable course for coaches, players, and scouts. Here he shows Randy Moss running an option route for a touchdown.
Source: Goal Line Option Routes and Go Routes
Once the football intelligence, mindset, and physical skills are developed, it becomes putting the receiver into the concepts and designing those concepts to take advantage of his abilities as well as how the defense will have to adjust to stop him, but that’s a conversation for another time. To see how to build a great receiving core, go here!