The role of a wide receiver naturally falls into the skill position category. But being skilled doesn’t mean you lack toughness on the field. From protecting the ball after the catch to dealing with opposing defensive backs, receivers need some tenacity in their repertoire.
Professional football player DK Metcalf knows what it takes to improve your physicality as a receiver. Strengthen your skill set for your next offensive drive with these wide receiver tips.
TIPS ON PROTECTING THE BALL AFTER THE CATCH
One key area where receivers can benefit from added tenacity is with ball security. To gain those vital yards after the catch, you need to protect the ball from defenders. Metcalf says to be mindful of how you carry the ball after the reception for extra security.
“After you catch the ball, I would say keep it high and tight and squeeze it against your chest while you’re running,” he says.
Metcalf also notes to be consistent with your post-catch contact points. If your form is correct every time, this gives your opponent fewer opportunities to force a fumble. If you’re lax with your contact points, defenders can reach in for the strip and flip the game in their favor. “I’ve had two fumbles since I’ve been in the league, and both were caused by me not caring about the ball and not squeezing it and putting it up tightly against my chest so DBs can’t take it away from me,” he says.
BONUS PRO TIP: If your defender forces a fumble, you need to have a plan to regain possession. Don’t give up and keep your offense on the field with this Pro Tips Guide to Fumble Recovery.
TIPS FOR GETTING OFF THE LINE AGAINST PRESS COVERAGE
Toughness can also be helpful for receivers when lining up against press coverage. If you’re faced with a physical defensive back, you’ll need to match that physicality to gain separation for the catch. “If he’s a physical DB at the line, then I’m just going to attack him with my speed,” Metcalf says. “But, you know, if he’s kind of handsy or likes to get out, then I’m still going to attack him with my speed but I’m [also] going to manipulate him with my release a little bit.”
A great way for receivers to manage physical defensive backs in press coverage is with hand combat. “My dad taught me when I was younger that a DB is like an O-lineman and a receiver is like a defensive lineman. So, hand fighting is [really] key,” Metcalf says.
Controlling defensive backs with hand movements can help you release from the line cleanly, setting up more plays downfield. Be sure to practice hand combat with your teammates in your workouts. Metcalf says adding hand combat techniques to your wide receiver training can make it easier to manage defenses come game time.
TIPS FOR SETTING UP DEFENSIVE BACKS
Not every offensive play will call for a pass. So, it’s important to remain tough even when the ball isn’t coming your way. Setting up defensive backs the right way can lead to big gains on the ground. Metcalf says he sets up defensive backs by staying true to his game.
“When the run play is called, I’m doing the same release I would do on a go ball, but I will break it inside,” he says. “So, when they see that release, they’re going to guess like, ‘Oh, he’s going inside,’ but then, I break outside.”
Keeping a consistent grit with your releases can help give your offense the edge. Playing this mind game with an opposing defensive back can help keep them guessing and unable to make the stop. If they’re unable to crack your code, you can even set yourself up for positive receptions later in the game.
Being physical as a wide receiver can lead to big gains throughout your season. Toughen up your gridiron presence with these tips from the football pro. Looking to improve other facets of your receiving skill set? Find the perfect workout for your game with this Pro Tips collection of the Best Wide Receiver Drills for Football.