In an article published a couple of weeks ago, Pro Football Focus looked at which receivers in the NFL had the most yards on different route patterns. For example -- who led the NFL in yards on slants (Calvin Johnson with 396 yards)? Or what about screen passes (Demaryius Thomas with 280 yards)?
As it turns out, Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon led the league in one of those route patterns: hitches/curls. We don't have data on who came in second place, but Gordon led the league with 484 yards on those types of routes:
Hitches/curls: Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns (484 yards)
It's not easy to turn the simple hitch route into an explosive play, but that's exactly what Gordon did this past season. He gained 484 yards on only 29 catches on hitches (16.7 yards per reception), highlighted by his 95-yard catch-and-run against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13.
It wasn't the only time Gordon turned a short gain into a big play, however, as he finished the season with seven plays of 20 or more yards on hitches alone. Gordon burst onto the scene as a big-play receiver in 2013, and the hitch route proved that it wasn't just the deep stuff that allowed him to make a major impact.
Regarding Gordon, I was under the impression that most of his yards came on the "dig" or "in" routes, which I thought were deeper versions of hitches/curls. Can any of our football experts enlighten us on the difference between hitches/curls and digs/in routes? For reference, PFF classified them differently, saying that Texans WR Andre Johnson led the NFL with 288 yards on the in/dig routes.