Yesterday, commenter Ax asked me what, precisely, the wide receivers actually do at practice. My initial inclination was to say that they run around a lot and occasionally catch passes, but it seemed like a needlessly glib, unhelpful response.
So I promised that I’d have one of the receivers take me through it today, and explain exactly what they do and what to look for when they’re practicing. I had assumed that this would have to wait until open locker room, or later today when the guys are trying to get out of the facility for their night off, but one nice thing about this job is that sometimes you get lucky.
Players walk by where I sit fairly often — they have to pass me to get to the PR and HR offices, two places they all need to visit occasionally — but they don’t always have the time or inclination to stop and chat. Today, though, the person Antwaan Randle El was hoping to see was out of the office (freeing up his time), and he was distracted by the tempting chocolate/hazelnut eggs in my desk-neighbor’s authentic German Kinder Überraschungsadvent calendar (leading him to stop and stay for a bit).
He kindly agreed to take some time and answer this pressing question, which I figured would prevent me from having to offer the dumb glib answer I had initially come up with.
So what, exactly, do you wide receivers do in practice?
“Run. Run, run, run. That’s all we do.” [So much for that hope.]
Run the passing tree? Run routes? Are you learning something new each week?
“We’re not learning something new, per se, or something that we haven’t done. Sometimes we might get a defense we haven’t gone against, and we run routes against it, or we account for something new that they might be doing. But for the most part, we just run. We run, we run, we run.”
You run in position groups, one-on-one drills….
“One-on-one drills, individuals … you run in seven-on-seven drills, we run when it’s a run play. We run. That’s all we do.”
What changes from week to week for you guys? Anything?
“In terms of running? No, we just run.”
What makes a good practice for you?
“Get lined up where I’m supposed to be, know my assignment, be in the spot where I’m supposed to be, and then have a couple of balls come my way. Because if you get the throws in practice, typically you’re gonna get them in the game, unless the defense dictates otherwise.”
Okay, so what the offensive line is learning is the weekly scheme, not new blocking techniques, and–
“Right. They know how to block. It’s taking our scheme on how to block, and learning the assignment to block.”
Right. So what might you be looking for in a given week, as a receiver?
“Every week, we’re looking to see what the corners and safety do versus our formations. If we’re in a three-wide set, if we’re in a three-wide set with a tight end and one back, four-wide with one back, or if we’re in an empty backfield. You have to make sure you can see what they’re doing, because they do different coverages.
“You might get two-high, you might get single-high, you may get cover 8 — that’s four DBs flat across — or you might get man-to-man single-high, but typically teams don’t do that because it’s so vulnerable, they get beat.”
So what position has the toughest time in practice each week, then?
“Gotta be the quarterback, just because it’s so much to know….”
You say that like it would be a bad thing, but you miss it.
“Oh, I love it. I’ll take it. Give it to me, I’ll take it, I’ll run with it.”
So do you run the passing tree at all?
“We don’t run the passing tree, exactly. We run certain plays that we haven’t run in a couple weeks, so we’ll work on those routes because we’re going to be running them in teams — when we all come together and practice as a full team.”
Fair enough. Thanks — I know this talk about practice can be pretty dry.
“Practice has been pretty wet the last couple days, though.”