Let's change the subject.
Seriously, let's start talking about something else. I could talk on and on about how poor Alex Smith was on Sunday. Or how poor the offensive line was on Sunday. OR how poor the playcalling looked on Sunday (though I firmly believe a lot of that has to do with the aforementioned position groups). We could do that.
But I don't think I'm going to tell you anything you don't already know. You know the offensive line is getting absolutely destroyed and it's affecting everything the Chiefs do on offense. You know Alex Smith is panicking under the pressure and not making correct reads often enough. You know the run defense has been awful.
So ... yeah, I'm not going to belabor the points. They're still there. They're still a problem.
Anyway, about that Albert Wilson kid...
Look, let's get a bunch of disclaimers out of the way now. One game as a No. 2 wideout is not a big enough sample size to tell us much. Additionally, if you had 10 guys watch film of a player and give their opinion you'd get 10 different stories. That's just how film analysis is.
We've all wondered about Albert Wilson since the season started. And by wondered, I mean screamed for the guy to get more snaps (rather than the mind-numbingly ineffective trio of Junior Hemingway, Frankie Hammond Junior and A.J. Jenkins). Of course, that doesn't mean much by itself. Every year a guy impresses in preseason and makes fans fall in love with him (in fact, Hammond did that very thing this and last year).
It's when the snaps actually count that things matter. How does a player do when called into action against NFL starters? This rings particularly true at wide receiver, where it's an entirely different ballgame going against corners at the highest level as opposed to "scrubs."
Wilson faced this test on Sunday against a pretty solid Cardinals secondary. I had to look into the results.
First of all, let's get some of the "This is how I do things" out of the way. I went back and re-watched the game on all-22, focusing specifically on Wilson. I charted a bunch of different things:
1) What type of route Wilson ran. I'm not going to get hung up on different terms for different routes or bother to get crazy specific. We're sticking with basic route tree definitions here.
2) The coverage that was against him. It's either zone, press man, or off man coverage. Again, we're going with basics. I'm not Matt Bowen. Matt Bowen is awesome (and, you know, a former player and stuff).
3) Whether Wilson got open or "beat the coverage" (more on that shortly)
4) Whether Wilson was targeted on the play (and a brief notation to myself as to why not if he was open).
5) What the results of his target was and why.
All right, about that term "beating the coverage." Again, if you ask 10 different people exactly what that means you're going to get 10 different answers. Same with "open."
For me (and for the purposes of what we're doing here), a receiver has succeeded and beaten the coverage if an average throw with average accuracy and velocity would be completed to them (barring a drop). I'm not someone to say a WR is "open" if it would take a really good throw to get him the ball. That's the QB succeeding, not the receiver.
With that in mind, here are the numbers I collected on Wilson on 38 routes run that I charted (I did not include one route where he was a blocker on a WR screen, or the last play where I just wrote "WAT").
Types of routes run by Wilson
Wilson ran a much higher variety of routes than I anticipated. Keep in mind we're sticking with general terms and rough "That's what it looked like" observations. The routes broke down as follows:
- In Route- 4
- Slant- 6
- Fly (or Go)- 5
- Crossing- 3
- Wheel (out of backfield)- 1
- Stop and Go (double move)- 2
- Quick out into flat (I hate this route)- 3
- Corner- 2
- Combo: fake out into Fly Route- 2
- WR Screen- 1
- Out- 1
Like I said, Wilson ran a ton of different routes. This was wildly different from what I was expecting. A big issue I've had with Andy Reid was my (erroneous) perception that receivers weren't running every type of route. Clearly, at least in this case, I was mistaken.
Wilson's day in stats
I thought briefly about breaking down Wilson's success in each route. Then I remembered that at some point my wife is probably going to expect me to, like, look up from the computer. So we're going a little more basic.
Wilson faced mostly man coverage, both off and press, the majority of the game. he saw plenty of snaps against both. He also faced a few zones, but Arizona was confident in sticking with man coverage most of the night.
You all know that Wilson had four catches on eight targets for 53 yards. That's pretty basic. However, what film review can tell us is the "why" behind those four "unsuccessful" targets (you know, where there wasn't a catch).
One such unsuccessful target was the now-infamous WR screen near the very end of the game. Wilson got the ball high and fast (Smith had to hurry the throw and get it over the head of a rusher in the throwing lane). He perhaps should have caught it, as he did get his hands on it, but the play was dead in the water regardless as a defender was right there to tackle him had he brought in the very tough catch.
A second unsuccessful target was Alex Smith's pick-six. That was absolutely not on Albert, who was open initially on the play a crossing route and at the time Smith made the throw. It was on Smith, who didn't see the linebacker underneath. Had Smith seen him and placed the throw elsewhere it's a completion.
The third unsuccessful target was a drop by Albert, who ran an in route against off man coverage and had separation (corners were giving his speed respect when they suspected go routes). The throw was not a good one, placed behind Wilson. However, it was much more catchable than the screen I discussed above. Wilson should have brought that one in.
The fourth unsuccessful target was not on Wilson. On the last drive Wilson ran a hitch / comeback route and did a good job creating separation. As Nick Jacobs broke down in his article on the last drive, Alex Smith was late on the throw and didn't put it where it needed to be. Seems as good a place as any for our first screenshot.
Again, Wilson did his job here. If the throw comes in on time it's a nice pickup and Wilson is out of bounds to stop the clock, with either a new set of downs or a much more manageable fourth down distance.
But we're talking about stats now. So to swing back that direction, you need to keep in mind that catches and targets don't tell the whole story with a wide receiver (or a corner). A better way to think of it is in wins and losses. Which is how I arrive at charting whether Wilson beat the coverage or came open. Think of that as a "win."
Of the 38 tracked routes, Wilson "won" on 19 of them, or exactly 50 percent. In other words, on half the routes Wilson ran he got enough separation to where a perfectly average throw would have gone for a completion.
(Quick side note; that doesn't mean Smith should've targeted Wilson 19 extra times. A lot goes into a given play, and receivers aren't going to get looked at every time they run a route. Back to the article ... )
Now, I can't tell you what the league average is in a stat I kinda / sorta just made up. What I CAN tell you is I've done similar charting with multiple other Chiefs (and former Chiefs) and I've never had a receiver create separation against man coverage as consistently as Wilson did in this particular game.
Anyway, "route win percentage" is as far as I'm going, stat-wise. Let's talk about tape.
Albert Wilson tape
Watching Wilson against the Cardinals, there's a lot to like. He was up against a solid secondary and showed up very well despite that. With that in mind, let's start with the areas of improvement Wilson will need to continue to work on.
Wilson's route running isn't particularly impressive. He (at times) rounds his breaks and isn't as sudden as you'd like for a guy with his quickness. If you were to draw out his routes it often wouldn't be with a pair of straight lines but a curve. You want sudden, quick bursts. That comes with footwork, which comes with reps. Many, many reps.
However, than that tendency to round out his breaks, there wasn't much from this game I DIDN'T like. As I mentioned earlier, I counted 13 different types of routes run by Wilson. For a guy who wasn't supposed to be able to run a full route tree, that's impressive. Additionally, Wilson was able to gain separation on more than just the short, quick routes.
Remember Dex? He was able to create separation on very specific types of routes because of his quickness and footwork, but that was it. He didn't have the speed over 10 yards to create consistent separation with anything but quick outs or ins. That's not Wilson.
Wilson displays a burst of speed in his fly routes that force defenders to respect him over the top. That's one thing you notice right away. He also, because of his quickness, keeps corners on their toes for a break into an out, in, or comeback route once he gets them turned and running up the field. In order to create consistent separation a receiver needs to be able to do both (quicker routes and "long speed" routes). It works symbiotically; if a defender can't predict what you'll do, EVERYTHING gets a little easier.
Wilson used his "dual threat" nature in order to keep the corners on him guessing. Several times Wilson ran a stop and go route, and both times it was enormously successful. the first time he created more than enough separation for a throw. The screenshot below catches the moment right after Wilson accelerates following the "stop."
There's already enough separation there that had Smith anticipated Wilson "winning" the route there's more than enough space to drop the ball between the corner and the safety. Wilson only added to that separation over the course of the next half second (an eternity in football), demonstrating a key difference between Wilson and a receiver like Dex; Wilson KEEPS separation once he's gained it due to his superior long speed.
Wilson wasn't targeted on the play (Smith's big scramble for a first down), as he didn't even appear to look at Wilson before taking advantage of the huge opening in front of the line of scrimmage.
The other time I saw Wilson run a stop and go he beat the corner so badly the corner was forced to slam into Wilson more than 10 yards down the field (no flag, unfortunately) to try and keep Wilson from getting wide open. Wilson, to his credit, bounced off the contact and still got separation.
Wilson used mutliple "combo" type routes to get open. Here, Wilson faked a quick out route only to turn upfield in something closer to a go route.
Smith was already looking the other way and wouldn't come back to Wilson on the play, which is a real shame.
One almost got the sense that, despite the eight targets, Wilson wasn't a large part of the gameplan against the Cardinals. There were plenty of snaps where I didn't see Smith even look at Wilson, instead making a quick throw elsewhere in a clearly designed play.
Of course, I could be way off in that assumption, because there were multiple other plays where I think Wilson WAS part of the progression, but because the route took longer than two seconds to develop the OL collapsed before anything came of it. Here's an example.
Again, Wilson fakes an out and goes into a fly route. The screenshot doesn't really do justice to how good a job Wilson does getting separation, because it looks like the corner is at least kind of close. However, Wilson is at full speed and the corner is just getting turned around.
Had Smith had a decent amount of time in the pocket he would have been able to see the corner bite on the fake and (cue half the readers laughing hysterically) could have dropped it between the corner and safety. However, as you can see, there wasn't anything like enough time for that. Smith had a rusher all over him almost immediately.
This kind of highlights the problem Chiefs wide receivers are facing. I actually saw more separation from Wilson and the rest than I anticipated. The problem is that when the offensive line is caving within a second and a half or less, receivers just don't have time to run anything more than quick routes. And when defenses KNOW this, they can sit on those quick routes and remove any real options.
I could show you other screenshots of Wilson gaining separation, but I think you get the point. One thing I saw in Wilson that has me tentatively excited was how he handled a great deal of press coverage. Wilson showed a good "stutter" at the line to keep defenders from getting their hands on him, and when he was bumped he seemed able to handle the contact and stay on his route. In fact, the last screenshot was a play in which Wilson beat VERY physical press coverage.
That last part is a pleasant surprise, as a knock on Wilson out of college was he wouldn't be able to handle the press. Frankly, he's built a lot more like a running back than a wide receiver at 5'9 and 200 pounds (well, that's what he's listed at, anyway. One never knows where he's at after a year in the pros). So while it may seem natural to compare Wilson to Dex or DAT (other short guys), a much more accurate comparison (in size alone) is Steve Smith.
And of course, as we all already knew, Wilson is a natural with the ball in his hands. Check out this article by the matchless Terez Paylor on Wilson. Included are GIFs of Wilson's catches, including a nifty 22-yard gain where Wilson showed his knack for finding space and making defenders miss in the open field. He showed all the appearances of a playmaker.
In short, I came away from Wilson's film liking him more than ever. Of course, that's what I thought upon reviewing Hemingway's limited snaps from last season, so we'll see where it goes from here. Hopefully the rookie gets an opportunity to build on a solid job in his first "real" action.
I'll leave you with a pair of pictures to ponder. This is on two consecutive snaps where the corner is playing extremely aggressive press man and Wilson is running a simple slant. Look what happens in both cases (again, these are back-to-back plays).
Two plays, two presses, two cornerbacks ending up off-balance and scrambling to try and catch up.
What's even more fun is that Wilson did it in different ways. The first play Wilson takes one stutter step then goes onto the route, then using his left hand to push the defender outside as he moves inside. The defender isn't able to handle the push while off-balance and falls. The second play Wilson goes pure finesse, with a couple of steps / jukes that leave the defender staggering behind him.
Andy, Alex ... I'm just saying ... maybe look for Wilson a little bit against the Raiders when he's got man coverage. See what happens. Could be nothing. But it could be something, too.