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Improved protection could unlock Jamison Crowder’s unique deep game (Film)

Jamison Crowder
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Jamison Crowder‘s uncanny ability to create downfield – which was absent in 2019 – could be unleashed in 2020 if the New York Jets offensive line steps it up.

Jamison Crowder proved to be an excellent addition in his first season as a Jet, fitting Adam Gase‘s offense like a glove and building a nice rapport with Sam Darnold. He was one of the most productive slot receivers in the league, ranking fourth in receptions (58), fourth in touchdowns (5), and ninth in receiving yards (648) out of the slot.

Of course, Crowder did most of his damage in the underneath game. With great short-area quickness, he cuts out of his breaks sharply, making him a dangerous route-runner on shallow concepts. He also possesses strong awareness, consistently finding the open space on option routes.

However, one of the most intriguing aspects of Crowder’s game during his time in Washington was his rare ability to produce big plays out of the slot in addition to handling his traditional responsibilities underneath.

Over his final three seasons in Washington from 2016-18, Crowder caught 64.5% of his targets while also averaging an impressive 12.5 yards per reception. He was one of only 11 wide receivers over that span to post a 64.0+ catch rate and 12.0+ yards per reception on at least 150 receptions – a mark of his ability to combine the reliability of a slot receiver with splashy big-play production that is usually not expected from the position.

That did not translate in Crowder’s first season with the Jets. In 2019, Crowder maintained a reliable catch rate of 63.9%, but his yards per reception averaged dipped to 10.7, thus giving him a career-low average of 6.8 yards per target. Big plays were a much less frequent sight.

The primary reason for that decline was Crowder’s freefall in deep production, an area where he is uniquely skilled for a five-foot-nine slot receiver.

On deep passes (20+ yards downfield) from 2016-18, Crowder recorded 15 receptions on 28 targets for 469 yards and five touchdowns (over 40 games). This past season in New York, he caught two of nine deep targets for 70 yards and one touchdown (over 16 games).

Jamison Crowder

The frequency of Crowder’s deep targets dipped a small bit, but it was his efficiency that took a major tumble. By pushing his deep efficiency back up to the level it was at in Washington, Crowder’s overall impact can be even better than it was in 2019. Perhaps he could even flirt with a 1,000-yard season.

Much of Crowder’s regression in downfield efficiency had to do with the atrocious Jets offensive line, which limited the number of instances in which the quarterback had enough time to allow downfield routes to develop or enough space to deliver a clean throw. If the line can improve to a competent level in pass protection this year, Crowder should have a chance to recapture his previous heights as a deep receiver.

Let’s break down the film of Crowder’s deep game. We’ll take a look at some of his best deep grabs in Washington, his flashes with the Jets, and examples of how the offensive line hampered his deep production.

Washington (2016-18)

In this 2016 Sunday Night Football matchup against Green Bay, Crowder lines up slot left on the line of scrimmage. The corner gives him a free outside release on the seam route, expecting safety help. When the safety moves outside to cover the go route on the sideline, Crowder is in the clear. He has enough speed to maintain separation and makes a tough catch on a throw from Kirk Cousins that comes in behind him for the 44-yard score.

Crowder is lined up slot right in what you might even call a Y-flex, as he is on the line of scrimmage and tight to the formation. He runs a switch with the receiver to his right, waiting for his teammate to release inside and then releasing outside behind him. Crowder runs a deep angle route. He sells hard to the outside before cutting vertically towards the middle, schooling the safety, who bites on the outside move. It’s a beautifully executed route by Crowder for a 26-yard touchdown.

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