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Is Chase Claypool the deep threat the Steelers are looking for?

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Check out Part Two of the Chase Claypool film room series.

Notre Dame v Duke Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The first part of this film room showed Chase Claypool’s route tree in shorter routes. Chase Claypool ran a lot of routes, showed a solid understanding of speed control as well as being a physical blocker and violent runner after the catch.

In this article we are going to look at Chase Claypool as a deep threat WR, both the good and the bad.


Go routes

A go route is the simplest of routes, run in a straight line toward the end zone. It’s a great route not just for making big plays, but also for stretching the field and creating space for the rest of the offense. Claypool, with his speed and height, seems built for go routes.

Chase Claypool scores a TD on this play, but the best part is the start of the route. Claypool runs right at the CB, the same way he does for out routes, for hooks, the same way he runs when he’s blocking. When he hits the 35 yard line he accelerates and runs outside the CB. That acceleration matters. If Claypool can do that a few times in the NFL, defenses will start cheating safeties back and toward Chase Claypool’s side.

That play shows Chase Claypool using up the cushion he was given before revealing his route, this next one shows him doing it against press coverage.

Claypool wins this release, faking to the outside to change the CB’s target for his bump, then cuts inside and sweeps the DBs hands off of him. He makes a nice catch for a big gain. Chase Claypool can run deep routes if you play off of him, and if you jam him.

But Claypool did have struggles. Most notably when matched up with the better corner backs he faced.

Chase Claypool is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

As Claypool leaves the screen the CB has outside leverage and is in position to physically attack Claypool’s route, while staying over top of the route. his QB throws the ball to the outside of his route, but look at how far to the middle his route has gone, and the CB is right on him, even a perfectly placed ball is going to be hard to catch. Claypool’s biggest weakness is against defense like this, let him get off the line and then physically get into him during his route, as he allows DBs to stay on his hip and also lets defenders move him off his route.

Chase Claypool is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

Again the ball goes to the outside when the defender has outside leverage, but you also see that Claypool doesn’t do well establishing himself when there is contact in his route. I don’t see a WR who has a natural feel for playing through contact, but one who has to change his thought process when defenders attack him in his route.


Out Routes

When defenses are staying in front of a WR with outside leverage a great way to attack them is with an out route.

Chase Claypool is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

Virginia Tech’s CB again shows outside leverage and is staying in front of Claypool. When Claypool cuts outside the CB isn’t in position to interfere because he is staying in front of the route, and because he is leveraged outside and facing the QB he has to turn around to pursue the route, and that creates space.

The CB signals that it was incomplete, but here’s a better view of the catch.

In the NFL you need two feet in bounds, but it won’t be hard for Claypool to learn to keep his left foot back for a sweet two-toe drag.

Now that Chase Claypool has shown he can catch that out route, it’s time to unleash the out and up. Claypool is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

The CB bites hard on the out cut, only to get burned by a double move for 28 yards. Notice Claypool’s acceleration on the second cut. the faster you are moving and the more mass you have the harder it is to change direction, it’s science. Claypool is running slower because he needs to cut, but when he accelerates out of a cut, he creates space quickly.


Post routes

With Chase Claypool’s speed and frame to protect the catch window he’s built to be a menace on post routes.

Claypool is the WR to the top of the screen.

It’s pretty simple, the CB has outside leverage, the safety in the middle isn’t covering deep enough, and Claypool is a big target downfield.

But it isn’t enough to just be big and fast.

Claypool is the WR to the top of the screen.

The CB is right with him and has stayed on top of the route, which allows the defender to limit his adjustment to the ball and it ends up an interception. Again Claypool fails to create space and the defender is able to win the football. Claypool plays big when he’s blocking, in his releases and when he is running with the football, but in his route running he doesn’t physically create space for his route or fight to win the catch point very well.

Claypool is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

This is a lovely post-corner route, and another nice catch from Claypool. It is important to have routes that counter strategies that he is vulnerable to. The Steelers are going to need to have a counter punch ready for when defenses try to take advantage of Claypool’s weaknesses, if they don’t get the opportunity to fix those flaws in the offseason.


Playing to the ball

I’ve shown several different ways where Claypool struggles in route with physicality, and it shows up in a big way on fade routes.

Chase Claypool is the WR to the top of the screen.

It’s not a great throw, but Claypool does nothing to create space for himself to get the ball. In a goal line situation where space is limited I want WRs that play into the defender and then break off of contact into space. In this case I would want Claypool to run more of a straight line into the CB, make contact, then break off to the corner and find the ball, by just running the route Claypool lets the defender come to him at the catch point, instead of Claypool coming off of the defender and gong to the catch point. He isn’t able to catch the ball off the opponent’s helmet, and this drive ends with a FG.

Chase Claypool is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

Claypool starts this route on the numbers, ends up on the sideline with the defender right on him. He doesn’t keep his lane, he doesn’t keep the CB out of his lane, he doesn’t give the QB much room to work with and the catch can’t be made. Even if the throw was perfect, the defender is all over Claypool because he didn’t use his physicality to create space in his route.

Claypool needs to run this route farther away from the sideline, giving his QB more of a margin for error, and giving himself the chance to get off the defender and go get the ball. He can’t let the defender run his route into the sideline.

If you are thinking that pass interference needs to be called here, remember that Chase Claypool is a big man, no CB is close to his size, and he plays a very physical game when he’s blocking, on his releases and running with the ball. Just like Plaxico Burress didn’t get many pass interference calls, Chase Claypool won’t either.

There are counters for physical defense that wants to steer the receiver into the sideline, if the receiver can turn and adjust to the ball. . .

Which Chase Claypool can do.

Claypool is the WR to the top of the screen.

Here the corner is driving Chase Claypool to the sideline, but that just sets him up to get beat by a back shoulder throw for a 21 yard gain on 2nd and 19.

Chase Claypool is the WR to the top of the screen.

This starts like a fade, and the defender is ready for it, driving Claypool to the sideline and putting himself between the receiver and the ball. When Claypool stops and turns the defender overshoots him and it’s an easy TD.


Conclusion and final thoughts

Chase Claypool runs a ton of routes, and he runs all of them pretty well. There’s always room for improvement, but it’s clear that Claypool is not just a deep threat, he can run the whole route tree. Claypool shows good understanding of speed control, and his acceleration out of cuts will be a weapon in the NFL. He does a good job of protecting the catch point with his frame, although not consistently, has really good hands, and shows strong body control taking catches to the ground. He’s strong releasing against press and bump coverage, runs violently with the ball and is a dominant blocker.

His one glaring weakness is not physically establishing his route. As long as Claypool lets defenders interfere with and dictate his routes he will never reach his potential. Diontae Johnson is significantly smaller than Chase Claypool, yet in his college film he would establish his route physically, and when CBs tried to alter it Johnson won almost every time. It is strange to see a big, physical WR like Claypool let defenders win positioning and shrink the field on him with very little fight.

If he can fix that weakness, the sky is the limit.