When a wide receiver measures 6’4”, 238 lbs and runs a 4.42 forty, people immediately think of a deep threat. And his film shows plenty of big plays downfield, but Chase Claypool isn’t just a deep threat. Today in part 1 of a two-part series on the Steelers 2nd round pick, we’re going to look at Claypool blocking and in shorter routes. I’ll be breaking down the routes he ran and showing what he does well and what he needs to improve on. Let’s get to it.
You may have seen some highlights of Claypool throwing monster blocks, driving CBs backwards and essentially body slamming them. Those were mostly from 2017, when he was a depth WR and ST guy. You don’t see many of those in 2019, and that’s fine, because while they may be fun to watch, I’ll take good, smart blocks over just smashing people.
On this play Chase Claypool is lined up to the bottom of the screen.
This isn’t the easiest assignment, Claypool’s job is to cross the safety’s body and keep him out of the run play to the right side. He does a great job.
Claypool is the WR to the top of the screen.
Again Chase Claypool is asked to dig out a safety, and this one is even better. #20 has a good shot at getting to the RB before he crosses the first down line, but Claypool meets him and knocks him backwards, and the RB gains 6 yards before first contact. That’s a pretty good shot Claypool delivers.
Chase Claypool is the WR to the bottom of the screen.
This play is a double screen that the Fighting Irish ran a lot. It requires Claypool to deal with 2 defenders very quickly, driving the CB back with one arm while finding and blocking the LB covering the RB. The right tackle slips out to block for the screen, and there’s no one for him to block. It drew the entire middle of the defense to Claypool’s side of the field, leaving room for a solid gain on the other side.
Claypool adds another really good blocker to the WR room. Like both JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington he was asked to block safeties and line backers in college, but Claypool did it better than either of them.
Chase Claypool didn’t just block on screens though, he was a good target for a screen pass as well.
Claypool starts this clip just off screen to the bottom.
The Cavalier’s defense plays this screen really well, Claypool is in trouble in his own endzone but is able to power through for a four yard gain to give his team some breathing room.
Quick outs and hook routes.
When you are a serious deep threat and defenders back off the line of scrimmage when facing you, you need to be able to make them pay with quick routes for solid yards.
Chase Claypool is the third WR from the top,
That’s a nice smooth cut on the out route, and a good job turning up-field to get a few extra yards. You will hear that Claypool doesn’t play as fast as he times, or that he doesn’t play with urgency. That’s not hard to explain. A 6’4”, 238 lb man can’t start to sprint and cut like that. Chase doesn’t run full speed on most routes, but you can see the point where he accelerates on most of his routes. Here he cuts out and takes off, look at how rounded his turn up-field is compared to his cut outside.
Claypool is second from the bottom on this play.
Claypool was solid on the out routes, so I wanted to show this failed play. Here you can see Claypool’s lack of quick twitch as his team mate is pushed into his path, but not by much. Claypool can’t avoid him, and can’t recover after the contact and the throw is incomplete. This is what you get with someone his size. You can’t be that big and move like Diontae Johnson.
Another tool against off or bail coverage and against zone defense is a hook. On this one Chase Claypool is the 2nd WR from the top of the screen.
Claypool does a nice job of getting off the quick bump from the CB and finding the gap in the zone, he also does a nice job of coming down with a high pass through contact for a big 4th down conversion.
He’s the WR to the top of the screen.
Great job against bail coverage, gets the CB backpedaling, plants his foot and turns for an easy 6 yards. What he does afterwards to get 13 more yards is fantastic. He’s a nightmare for smaller corners to take down, and he basically throws a punch as he spins off the initial tackle. fortunately it takes a lot to get called for unnecessary roughness when you have the ball.
Chase Claypool is the WR to the top of the screen on this play.
It’s hard to see on this one, but the CB starts off of Claypool, and engages him physically in the middle of the route, when Claypool turns the CB is all over it and should have picked this one off.
Engaging Claypool physically in the middle of his route seemed like the most successful tactic to defending him, it will show up more in the second part of this series, but when he faced better CB talent and they engaged in the route he struggled. He isn’t an instinctive hand fighter.
Slants and crosses
The Steelers used a lot of crossing routes in 2019, especially with Mason Rudolph at QB. Notre Dame used them a lot as well, and Claypool was a frequent target.
Chase Claypool is the WR to the top of the screen.
Claypool showed a good sense of speed control, acceleration after the catch and his usual aggressive and powerful running on these crosses. He loves throwing elbows and forearms into defenders.
Chase Claypool is the WR to the bottom of the screen on this play.
Here Claypool turns his head to find the defender he’s gong to hit before he secures the ball. Focus drops are a problem for Claypool, although his hands issues are overrated in my opinion, you get more drops if you get your hands on balls that other WRs wouldn’t even touch. Focus drops like the one above are a problem, but I wouldn’t rate the problem as serious, hopefully someone sends him a jug machine.
The last route that we’ll cover in this article is the slant route.
Chase Claypool is the WR to the right side of the screen.
This is my favorite route for Chase Claypool, he uses his frame well, squaring his shoulders to the throw, making it hard for anyone to come over or around him to play the ball. There’s no jukes to start the route, just a quick hop and accelerate into the middle of the field. This route was one of Calvin Johnson’s deadliest routes, because you either had to defend him with heavy inside leverage or have a line backer sit on the slant to defend it. Chase Claypool isn’t Calvin Johnson, but he can run a power slant, and at his size and speed, it should be a route that defenses have to respect if Claypool and Ben Roethlisberger get it rolling.
Claypool is to the bottom of the screen.
The thing that made the slant so deadly for Calvin Johnson is he would drag defenders and break tackles and turn a hard to defend 5 yard route into 20+ yards regularly. Here Chase Claypool turns a quick slant into 23 yards, albeit against Duke. He wasn’t doing this against better defenses. Love the outside release fake, you don’t see it a lot from Claypool, it’s nice to know he has experience using it.
Chase Claypool is the WR to the top of the screen.
Ouch. The play design doesn’t do Claypool any favors here, the safety is able to tee off on him and light him up. Still you’d like to see him hold onto the ball there like Hines Ward, maybe pop up with a big smile, then 3 plays later go knock that safety into next week. But I digress; the main thing to take away from this one is there weren’t a lot of negative plays on slants.
Chase Claypool is a viable NFL WR without running a single deep route. This isn’t a Martevis Bryant or Sammie Coates, it isn’t even Mike Wallace. Chase Claypool runs a ton of routes, and brings intelligent route running to all of them. he needs to work on the mechanics of route running, like almost every single rookie WR, but he is already competent at running the route tree.
Part 2 will cover what everyone is excited for, the deep routes.