Falcons tight end Austin Hooper found his stride in 2018, earning his first Pro Bowl nod and becoming a household name in the process. And looking ahead to the 2019 season, Hooper figures to play a prominent, essential role in offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s Falcons offense version 2.0.
Three years ago, Hooper was a Stanford draft prospect with allegedly questionable route running ability. Now Hooper is a seasoned vet, and he’s assumed a definite leadership role. So when he talks, I tend to listen. Hooper shed some light on a small but important change in the Falcons’ offensive approach during a presser last week. Simply stated, the team is asking their receivers to change how they approach route running. (Credit to The Mothership’s Will McFadden for the quote.)
“For example, on route X, I have my inside foot up (at the line of scrimmage),” Hooper said. “And I know once my third foot on my outside leg hits, I break. Just certain little things, instead of being depth-based it’s all just steps-based now. It’s just something new that I haven’t done before, so I’ve just got to work with Matt, and he’s been awesome.”
This is Koetter’s attempt to win the mental battle offenses undertake every week facing increasingly sophisticated and talented defenses. Modern football is a chess game, and if there’s any way to simplify what each man is expected to do, then it’s worth entertaining, at least in theory. Their theory is basically this: if you’re counting steps, you don’t need to look at the yard markers; you can pay closer attention to the defense in front of you.
There’s a glaring problem with this thinking. In short, not every football player can fit into that mold. Some guys count steps because that’s what comes naturally to them. Some guys can’t count and run at the same time. It really comes down to how an individual player’s mind functions. If you’re Julio Jones, then your robotic gps allows you to run each route confidently. But for the mortal wide receivers on the Falcons roster, you hope this isn’t a well-intentioned attempt to fit round pegs into square holes.
Your thoughts about this change to the Falcons offense, Falcoholics?