OK, let's go Browns fans! The Greg Little Film Room is now in session.
In case you care, I'm a little sore and tired today on account of advancing to the quarter finals of a doubles beach volleyball tournament yesterday. While I am a former Division I athlete, I just started playing doubles beach about 6 years ago. I love competition and playing in tournaments because you get to test your progress and your mettle, so I always jump at and relish the opportunity to play against guys like Taylor Crabbe, Stein Metzger or Kevin Wong.
For the Cleveland Browns, the competition at wide receiver will be relentless during the upcoming training camp, but there's a few guys who stand above the rest and Greg Little is one of them.
Little is a relatively big, hard-nosed receiver, who often excelled last season on crossing routes, zone curls, catching the ball above defenders and as a blocker. Little is a gifted athlete. He can high point the ball and has great leaping ability. He shows his pedigree as a running back upon catching the ball: running hard, initiating contact and/or making players miss for YAC. He can definitely get separation from press coverage and has the size to beat corner backs consistently on the outside or linebackers over the middle. Here's a look at his highlights from 2011.
At times throughout his two year NFL career, Little has shown the ability to make amazing acrobatic catches but he has also shown that he sometimes loses focus or concentration resulting in drops - sometimes on wide open, routine plays. Little doesn't show the ability to sink his hips during routes and moves more upright at times. He doesn't possess blazing speed so his route running and technique will need to continue to improve. That being said, Little will be challenged to learn yet another group of route concepts this year under Coach Turner and so far, he seems to feel like the new system is a wide receivers dream.
If Little wants to secure his job beyond the 2013 season he'll need to continue the success he had in the later part of 2012 in improving his ability to consistently finish routine catches as well as those while under pressure. Hopefully having veterans like Davone Bess and David Nelson in the fold will help Little (and the entire receiving corps) become more detailed oriented and focused, as he talks about here. And hopefully with an offensive coordinator who knows how to get the ball down the field, Little will improve his production metrics.
In the film room below, we'll look at Greg Little in terms of the following game-day characteristics: high pointing the ball; route running; catching in traffic; YAC; drops; and even a run.
Greg Little's 2012 Receiving Summary
2012 WR ranking --- 75%+ snap count: Greg Little #24
Greg Little's 2012 Drop Rate: #7
Greg Little Passes by Direction, 2012
First Down Catch vs. Baltimore, Week 9
Here we see an I-formation with Weeden under center; Little and Gordon in a 2 receiver set, split out on the weak side. Little is being called into motion behind Josh Gordon on this particular play, which is critical to the play's success.
This particular play is a play action pass. Baltimore appears to be in man to man coverage with 2 safeties over the top and the outside CB covering Gordon and the inside now covering Little on account of his shift inside during motion. Baltimore sends 3 of the 4 LBs, leaving Gordon and Little with space on the outside.
Here we see Little starting his cut just as Gordon is in position to screen the defensive back's angle to follow Little outside. The timing of the route is key for both receiver. The timing of his cuts is something Little has been getting better at, and we see that here.
Little now has gained separation and has his head is turned around to face the QB. The contact from the "screen" pushes the CB off balance, again helping to create space for Little on the outside which is clearly shown here.
Here we see another illustration of the space that was created as Little locates with the ball following the release from Weeden.
Little does well to go up and catch the ball at it's high point on a throw that was a little off target. Little uses his hands and finishes the play for a first down.
First Down Catch vs. Dallas, Week 11
Here we see Little at the top of the screen with the Browns aligned in a single back, double TE, double WR set. Dallas appears to be in a zone defense underneath with 2 safeties over the top and 9 men at the LOS, including their CBs.
Little immediately gains inside position on his man based on the angle he takes in his route. Both ILBs drop back about 5 yards into coverage over the center of the field and both initially seem to key in on TE, Ben Watson coming across the middle.
Little break his route in the soft spot of the defense and immediately gets his head around to look for the ball. Notice his route has taken him 10 yards, not 8 or 7, but enough for the first down.
Here we see another angle as Weeden recognizes the open man in the soft spot of the zone nearly at the same time as Little gets his head around to look back at his QB.
While Little was wide open, the pass was not on target and sailed a little high. Little does an excellent job maintain body control and concentration to go up and make the catch, exposing himself to defenders.
First Down Catch vs. Dallas, Week 11
Here we see the Cowboys with 8 in the box, bringing their safety down against what they probably feel will be a run. The Browns are lined up in an I-formation, strong side right ( bottom of your screen ) with both Little and Gordon split at the top of the screen. Little will go into motion and he and Gordon will run crossing routes, again showcasing the "screen" that presents itself as a benefit in crossing patterns.
While this looks like a different play, it's not, it's the same play just from the telecast view vs. the Coaches Film cam shot. Here, Little gets called into motion and ( I could be wrong here ) but it appears that the CB, #24, Morris Claiborne, is switching the coverage due to the motion.
At the snap, Little is once again just behind Josh Gordon. This motion can cause the defense to shift, which could help the quarterback identify or read a certain coverage. The LBs are all peering into the backfield but none have really "bit" yet on the play action fake.
As the play action runs its' course behind the LOS, Little and Gordon are already nearly passed the linebackers and essentially, with only one safety over the top, find themselves in a one on one battle with their defenders. At this point Little is still nearly directly behind Gordon who is running straight ahead and looks like he will split the defenders.
Gordon does split the defenders and breaks inside attacking the vertical seem. This is another illustration to my point earlier about crossing patterns helping to create space for wide receivers in the WCO. The outside man breaks inside to follow Gordon over the top and Little uses this crossing screen and immediately turn his route outside towards the sideline and open space.
Here you can see the separation created by the timing of the cut, and you can also see Little locating the ball as Weeden has already released it and it's on the way. At this point he's in full stride.
It's not a step later that he notices the ball is going to be behind him, and he has to adjust his stride, slow down, and begin to turn his body to jump and be in position to make the catch. Pay attention to the body control and concentration needed to change direction and make this catch over the course of the next few snapshots.
A first down even Phil Taylor can be excited about!
Beating Cary Williams: First Down vs. Baltimore, Week 4
You can watch the play on YouTube HERE, or just let these screen shots point out the amazing play made here by Little. As you can see, Little is matched up in one on one, press coverage, and beats his man, Cary Williams, off the snap and to the outside, then completes the play with an amazing catch for a first down.
Little uses his hands and power to beat the jab at the line by Williams.
Here you can already see him looking back at Weeden, knowing that he has a step on Williams or that he can use his body to create separation if Weeden can loft a ball in front.
All in all, still good coverage for Williams who appears to be in Little's "back pocket" and really not that far from being stride for stride with him. At this point the ball is already in the air and Little is tracking it.
Here you can see Little beginning to go up for the ball with Williams all over his line of sight and his arms. Although the angle doesn't allow us to see the ball on this shot, the next shot is more clear. . . but we can see the focus Little needed to make this catch as Williams hand is reached across Little and on his arm.
Just an amazing catch. Here we can see that Little doesn't actually have what appears to be a firm / clean grasp on the ball. In fact he looks like he has his fingertips and palm of one hand pressing the ball against his the palm of his other hand, which could have been caused by the battle of strength and leverage between he and Williams.
Regardless, Little won this battle, hung onto the ball and was able to make an outstanding catch when the team needed a boost.
Ball is secure. . . First down!
TD catch vs. Indianapolis, Week 7
Here the Browns are in a single back power right, 2 WR set with Little split up at the top of your screen. You probably remember this catch because it went for review and because while we waited most of us were thinking: "You better have caught this!" This is the play where Little beats his man to the inside and goes up for the jump ball in the endzone, bobbles it, and still comes down with it for the TD.
Here his leaping ability is really evident. He is literally heads and shoulders above his defender with a perfect shot at the ball. Ultimately, this should have been a sure catch. I can't be certain if this is the same side of the field that Josh Gordon was in when he dropped the sure TD catch later in the game, but perhaps something about the lighting in this area could have played a factor?
There it is, ball right in his hands, perfectly thrown.
Although these look the same, this is where the bobble started, he's actually squeezed the ball back up into the air here.
Although he has bobbled the ball, he remains focused, and tracks the ball.
He's able to secure the catch, keeping his right foot in bounds...
As well as his left knee and left half of his butt.
First Down + YAC vs. Kansas City, Week 14
Here we see the Browns in a single back, double TE strong left, 2 WR set with both receivers split on the weak side; Little at the top of your screen.
Little finds the soft spot in the zone, with a soft inside curl route as the outside linebacker on the inide is occupied with our other WR, Josh Gordon.
Gordon releases and moves along his route, allowing Little to still have space to catch the throw underneath.
Little makes a good hands catch here, and then the fun begins. He quickly turns up field and causes the first would be tackler to miss which we see getting set up above.
Then after already gaining the first down and making the first guy miss, Little's RB pedigree and YAC ability are shown in this next sequence. Not only does LIttle make tacklers miss, but he doesn't shy away from contact and powers through a pile of Chiefs for more yards.
Little evades two would be tacklers here with this great change of direction move.
Oh wait, should I make you miss too #31, Tysyn Hartman?
Notice how quickly Little transitions laterally, allowing him to beat Hartman. . . then still get 5 more yards pulling the pile of Chiefs with him.
Notice Hartman still on the ground, unable to bring down Little by himself. IN fact it looks like there's about 3 players hanging on him and another about to deliver a hit.
First Down Run vs. Kansas City, Week 14
Here we see the Browns line up in an empty backfield, 4 WR set. Little is in the slot at the top of the screen, but will be called into motion and will settle in the backfield as a RB.
Here we see Little finishing his motion and in place behind Weeden.
The play is a designed pitch out behind our pulling guards and tackles in conjunction with blocking from our wide receivers. This is a fun play to watch because you can actually see his patience as a runner, allowing the blocks to develop before exploding through the hole.
Here we see the lane beginning to form, Little has waited just long enough to allow the play to develop and the lane to open. Thomas already had his man lined up, and Greco is eyeing up the ILB coming from the middle of the screen. Meanwhile Lauvao will be able to seal his man as long as Little can accelerate past him. Greco knows this, and will lag behind, if only for a split second or two, to ensure that man can't blow up the lane.
Here you see Greco waiting, ensuring #92, Dontari Poe, can't clog the lane which allows Little it get up to full speed and through the hole. Meanwhile, he's also looking ahead to seal the ILB.
Here, Little hesitates enough to allow the ILB and Greco to run passed him to the outside. Keep an eye on the highlighted up-field block, as it will be key later on in the play.
Little cuts the ball back up inside the block, barely escaping Poe's pursuit from behind. Greco is still there, sealing his man off and allowing Little to find the lane again. If the attempted block highlighted here was successful, this run goes for a TD.
Although the tackle is made, Little barely missed the TD, landing on the 1 yard line.
Potential TD Drop vs. Baltimore, Week 4
Here we see Little lined up in the slot in a 3 WR set on 3rd and 14 in the 4th quarter with 4 minutes left. Time was ticking away here in this game and Norwood had just picked up 20+ yards on a great throw from Weeden and the team really needed to tie the game. The defense was tired and looked soft at times during this drive. This was far from a routine catch, so please keep that in mind when breaking down this play, but nonetheless, it was a catch Little could have made and that would have potentially changed the outcome of the game: which something I think all Browns fans are counting on Little to be able to do this season.
Little breaks to the inside, and although he has good coverage is able to get an angle on the throw.
Here we see the "cockpit cam" --- Weeden is sticking tough in the pocket, with his eyes up the field, and he is able to lock onto Little just as he's breaking open - even with pressure quickly approaching from his right and left.
The ball is delivered slightly high, but certainly in a spot where only Little can catch it. The defensive back has been beaten and all that remains is the catch.
Here is looks like the ball is in a very catch-able spot, with Little's arms extended and clear vision of the ball.
Again, the ball is delivered a little high, but here we see the ball actually hitting Little directly in the hands with still no obstruction by the defender.
Had he come down with the ball, his landing spot was in the endzone, and this would have probably been ruled a TD. But as you can see from this pictures, the ball found a way in and out of his hands.
Drop + INT vs. Philadelphia, Week 1
Here the Browns are lined up in a triple WR set with MoMass and Little split at the bottom of you screen and Gordon at the top. Weeden is in shotgun with RB set beside him.
Little immediately finds the soft spot in the zone and is wide open around the 8 yard line.
Weeden reads this and sets to deliver the ball.
Picture perfect throw, IMO, a tight spiral and good arm release, stepping into the throw.
Although the picture is a little blurry, the pass is right on the money, perfect spiral, perfect location, in stride where Little is stepping into the path of the ball. Still Little drops the sure catch and possible TD.
It's hard to know what exactly happened, but the ball arrives directly into Little's his hands but he doesn't make the catch. The defensive back appears to attempt to hit the ball and or make a tackle but is low and somewhat late for the catch.Had Little caught this ball he may have been able to slip behind the defender, #29, Nate Allen, and score a TD.
This is the photo where he bobbles the ball, somehow up into the air for the INT.
Missed First Down: Drop vs. San Diego, Week 8
If you recall, this game was a wet one. So if you want to use that as an excuse here, so be it. But here the Browns are lined up in a 3 WR, single RB, single TE, set with Little slightly off the LOS at the top of your screen. The Browns are trying to climb out of their half of the field and at the very least, gain some field position. A first down catch here would be huge and give us some momentum coming out after half time.
Little has run a great route here, getting the DB to back pedal enough to open up a quick cut to the sideline for an out-route.
Here we can see that the ball has already been released by Weeden before Little ( bottom right corner of the screen ) even gets his head around to look back for the ball. This is a great example of a timing route and throw from Weeden, one that Little needs to convert next season to move the chains and score points.
Little has space that is created by his body and the defensive back can't get to the ball. The ball is thrown perfectly where only Little can catch it. The ball is delivered in stride which requires Little to make a simple, routine catch.
But there's the drop, right through the hands and onto the turf. Perhaps the rain or the wet ball, but again, IMO, it's a loss of focus that contributes to the drop.
Missed First Down + YAC: Drop vs. Buffalo, Week 3
Here we see the Browns in a shotgun formation with a single back set on the strong side; triple WR set, with Gordon and Little WR split on the weak side ( bottom of your screen ) with Travis Benjamin split at the top of the screen.
Gordon releases on what appears to be a go route, Ogbonnaya evacuates the backfield and is actually wide open in the flat on this shot. Meanwhile our TE is crossing in the opposite direction and once again we see a "screen" play that helps to create separation for Little on the crossing route.
And it works, here you can see Little has his man on his back, and the defender has lost his balance and is "turned around".
That space is more evident here as Weeden finds Little on hits him perfectly in stride.
Well, there's a perfect illustration of the focus on routine catches that he needs to improve on. You can see the ball just over his left shoulder, behind him, just after it went through his hands. This would have been a guaranteed first down and potentially even more YAC with the skill that Little possesses. He could have ran out of bounds or they could have ran up and spiked the ball and have been at the 50 yard line with 15 seconds left. It may not have mattered in this instance, but sooner or later it will.