Marshon Lattimore vs Mike Evans; the rookie has made his mark

Game Film, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Marshon Lattimore has quietly been one of the most impactful players in the NFL this season. The rookie has been a leader of the New Orleans Saints defense that finally looks competent, if not good, half way through the season. The eleventh overall pick in last spring’s draft has quickly developed into a shut down corner, and seems to be overflowing with confidence only months into his NFL career.

The Ohio State product was matched up against Mike Evans during the Saints game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. Evans is one of the most talented receivers in the league. His 6’5, 225 lb frame make him a match up nightmare, but it was more of a pleasant dream for Lattimore.

Evans was held to 13 yards on only one reception on six targets. It was one of the worst games of his career and he spent much of it across from the rookie. Lattimore dominated his opponent and had the better of him on nearly every snap they were across from each other. The defensive back got into Evans head and the tension between them even reached a boiling point in the third quarter.

Evans was somehow not ejected for that hit after the play. It did reveal that he had allowed Lattimore into his head, though, and for good reason.

The two were involved in a physical battle all night. These advantages usually heavily favor Evans and his gigantic frame, but Lattimore managed to fight back to keep him check. On this second quarter play, Evans tried to use his arms and long wingspan to push his man off, but failed.

Lattimore is lined up in press coverage across from Evans like he did for much of the game. Evans comes off of the line and instantly jabs at the corner. Lattimore jabs back and stays in position as the two run downfield. They continue to jab back at each other as the play goes on, even after the ball is thrown.

Physicality isn’t all that Evans brings to the table, though. He is a pretty good route runner, and surprisingly agile for a man of his size. Lattimore almost always had enough to keep up with him, though, including this play later in the quarter.

On this play Evans is quarterback Jameis Winston’s first read. Lattimore lines up in press coverage and give Evans outside leverage presnap. Evans initially deke’s inside off of the snap, the breaks outside. Lattimore quickly jumps outside and path’s behind Evans well. Even though Evans has a step on his man nearly the entire route, there is never a moment when Lattimore is not standing in the throwing lane. The pass rush reaches the quarterback and Winston uses his feet to extend the play. Lattimore stays in front of his man the entire way and absolutely blankets Evans and Winston rolls in their direction. Unfortunately, the rush never reaches Winston, and he is able to get back to the other side of the field and complete an outlet pass for a decent gain.

Lattimore shows excellent discipline for a rookie. He does not bite on double moves, and he plays to the whistle. He understands how to block off a quarterback’s opportunity to throw even when his man is ahead of him. It is hard to beat him off the snap, and even when you do he has the speed and football IQ to blanket you anyways.

Evans tried to beat Lattimore’s press coverage with a double move again on this third quarter play, and it went even worse for him.

The receiver tries to use a hesitation before a double move to throw off Lattimore here. The defensive back plants his feet and just watches him, though. He reads Evans as he breaks outside, and they push off on each other as they run down field. Evans takes one last ditch effort to fling Lattimore away, but he holds on as the ball is thrown the other direction.

Lattimore did a great job making sure that the ball did not go Evans way, but even when he was targeted he managed to keep the ball out of Evans hand.

Evans runs a vertical route on this play. Off the snap he uses a double move to capitalize on the inside leverage Lattimore was already giving him, then broke towards the inside before turning upfield. The safety on that side of the field was drawn upfield by the running back on a shallower route, leaving them one on one heading towards the end zone. Lattimore does a good job holding on to Evans to keep up with him without doing enough to draw a penalty. The corner never has a chance to get his head around and Ryan Fitzpatrick lets it fly towards his receiver. The ball is slightly underthrown and a little off target, but it is still one that Evans had a really good chance at. Lattimore does a good job reading the eyes of his man, though, and gets a hand up to break it up at the last second.

Evans did get the better of Lattimore once, though. His only reception of the day came on a play where the rookie was absolutely beaten.

Evans slowly treads upfield and hesitates on his double move. Lattimore gets his feet lost for a second and has his hips turned the wrong way. Evans breaks back towards the inside wide open for a 13 yard catch.

This was literally the only bad play I could find from Lattimore while watching film from this game, which is extremely impressive for a rookie against one of the NFL’s best.

The Saints have raced out to surprise 6-2 record halfway through the season and are in pole position to win a tough NFC South. Their offense has always been great, and the defense that has held them back for years has finally gotten its act together. Lattimore may be the most important piece to this new formed New Orleans defense, and he could be a huge part of a Saints playoff run this winter.

 

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Header via GettyImages

 

Stefon Diggs is still a threat outside of the slot

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Stefon Diggs is a force to be reckoned with when he is fully healthy. Injuries have nagged him throughout the past two years, and despite a few huge games he has still not yet broken 1,000 yards in a full season. He is back to full health entering 2017, but many feared a drop in production as he will be taking most of his snaps split wide this year and not in the slot where he had seen playing time before.

Diggs silenced many of his doubter’s week one with a huge game against the New Orleans Saints. The receiver had seven catches on eight targets for 93 yards and two touchdowns as the Vikings beat the Saints to open the new season.

He only lined up in the slot twice all game, and all of his receptions came from out wide. Many of his receptions early on came on the same routes he would run out of the slot anyway.

Diggs still has the quick first step and insane agility when split out wide that he has in the slot. On this play, he is lined up towards the inside and makes a quick move off of the snap. His route takes him beneath underneath two other routes and the defender covering him has trouble weaving through the bodies to keep up. He has a few steps on his man and catches a quick slant and turns up the field for 10 yards and a first down.

His first three catches of the day were all on plays that looked exactly like this one. He caught three passes in the first quarter for 23 yards all on slant routes. Diggs is quick and shifty and has the route running ability to always find space when he is in man coverage. He excels on shorter routes as they allow him to make full use of his agility, and usually get the ball before defenders can recover.

His route running also allows him to make plays when running downfield, as well, though.

On this play, Diggs absolutely embarrasses the Saints secondary. He initially turns towards the inside on his route, causing the linebacker and corner back around to creep forward. Diggs quickly changes his course and breaks towards the outside before either can react and finds himself wide open for an easy touchdown. He benefitted greatly from the Saints deep safety being at the other side of the field being distracted by Adam Thielen.

Even when there is a safety on that side of the field Diggs still manages to find space within zone coverage.

Diggs breaks into another corner route on this play after starting his route by taking a few steps towards the inside. Off the snap, the deep safety on Diggs side begins to back pedal, while the corner in front of him begins to sit within his zone to help on a shallower route. The corner facing his hips towards the inside is a telltale sign of zone coverage, which tells Diggs the kind of defense he has in front of him. Once he is beyond the corner and linebacker on the first level he finds the crease in the zone. He makes a quick break on his route to the outside and Sam Bradford finds him in space for an easy completion.

He comes down with the ball while getting absolutely blown up on both sides by the Saints defenders. Diggs is great at making a play on the ball and has great hands that allow him to snag passes out of the air, which he showed on two later grabs.

On his second touchdown of the day, Diggs fights off contact at the goal line before going up and coming down with a touchdown catch over his man. He has always had great hands but in his first few seasons in the NFL he had troubles fighting through contact. Here he uses his agility at the line of scrimmage to get outside leverage and then beats his man over the top for the catch. Diggs also shows incredible balance to come down with the ball and getting both feet in bounds to complete the catch.

His longest catch of the day came despite a defensive pass interference.

Diggs comes off the snap and instantly breaks towards the outside. He runs a vertical route upfield, and even though he has a step on his man he never fully shakes him. Bradford stares at him the whole way and launches a great pass at his receiver. The corner needs to grab on to Diggs in order to recover and hopefully break up the pass. Diggs still manages to make an excellent grab despite the defensive back hanging off his arm.

He may not have been the Vikings top receiver on the day but he was the most exciting of the bunch. The Maryland product used his skills as a slot receiver to make plays over the middle, but spreading him out wide lets him show off his true arsenal of skills. His speed and agility running downfield make him look like a sort of Odell Beckham-lite, and he should only get more comfortable as the season goes on.

One issue that did arise in this game, though, was his limited route tree. Diggs ran 27 routes on Monday night but slant routes, vertical routes and corner routes accounted for 17 of them. All his targets on the day came on those exact routes and he had trouble getting open at all when running any other route.

Slant Verticle/Fly Corner Other
Routes 4 9 4 10
Targets 4 1 3 0
Receptions 3 1 3 0
Yards 23 30 40 0
Yds/ Target 5.75 30 13.33 0
Yds/ Route 5.75 3.33 10 0
TDs 0 0 2 0

 

He was most efficient running corner routes but found a lot of success with the other two as well. His limited tree does make him more predictable though. New Orleans has one of the worst defenses in the league, and they rarely jammed him at the line of scrimmage which seemed to be a weakness for him in the past.

Diggs is taking on a new role for the Minnesota Vikings and he got off to a hot start. It may have been one of the easier match ups he will run into all season, but his performance turned heads around the league on Monday Night Football. Minnesota can have a dangerous passing attack this year, and Diggs may be one of the most important parts of it.

 

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