Anthony Gonzalez should be ready to return to the Colts starting lineup in the next week or two. The problem for the Colts is what to do with him when he comes back.
Do they leave Garcon on the outside as the No. 2, and put Anthony in the slot, sharing time with Austin Collie, or should “Gonzo” get his old job back, and Garcon be his backup?
Garcon has done an admirable job replacing Anthony. He has scored two touchdowns so far, and put up 240 yards. If he were to remain the starter, then he is on pace to put up five touchdowns and 640 yards for the season.
In comparison, last year as a backup, “Gonzo” put up 664 yards and four touchdowns. Since we’re comparing apples to oranges here, let’s throw the stats out the window, and look at this a different way.
How has Garcon progressed as a receiver while replacing Gonzalez? To answer this question, I went back and watched some game film on him.
When evaluating a wide receiver there are four things that I look four: 1) Release 2) Glide 3) Sprint 4) Burst 5) Blocking ability
I used these five criteria to come up with the answer to the question of whether or not “Gonzo” should return as the No. 2 when he is healthy.
Garcon needs work in this area. He is inconsistent in his release. He tends to stutter step too much with his back foot, or do odd things like hop of the line.
Now don’t misunderstand me, all receivers tend to stutter a little when they release; it’s the degree to which they do it that is important.
If you watch Reggie Wayne, he does a slight stutter step with his back leg, but it’s minor, and is used to put a slight fake on the defender. However, at no point does it slow down he’s release off the line.
On the other hand Garcon's is noticeable and it slows him down a bit.
Other times Garcon will spend too much time trying to fake the player with a move, instead of just getting off the line, and into his pattern.
On the plus side, when Pierre does it right he looks like he has been playing the position for years.
His release is smooth, and if there is a defender in front of him he angles his back foot slightly away from the defender; he uses the arm closest to the defender to rip away, or in other words knock the defender’s arm away from him, and go right into his route without any loss of speed. It all looks very effortless and natural.
So yes, he does need work in this area, but that will come with time. In a sense he really is a rookie, and these are rookie mistakes he is making.
There are two fundamental rules that a receiver needs to know about the glide portion of his route:
1) If the defender is in front, or to the side opposite of where the receiver is going to make his cut, then the receiver should either run straight at the defender, or move slightly further to the inside, and then head straight up the field before making his break.
The reason the receiver does this is he wants the defender to believe that he is running straight up the field on a go route, and try to move the defensive back farther away from where he intends to make his cut.
2) If the defender is to the inside of where the receiver wants to go, then again he is going to move his route ever so slightly to the outside, again trying to get the defensive back to move off his spot believing the receiver is running straight up the field.
The rules for the glide route are slightly different when the receiver is running a streak, or fade route, but not by much.
Garcon at times makes his glide move to soon. On one play, the defensive back was not fooled, stayed in position, and actually pushed Garcon off his route, and into the sideline.
At other times he ran the glide portion of his route perfectly, fooled the defenders, and made great receptions or at least got open.
From what I could see on tape, Garcon did not have any problems with the sprint portion of his route. He seemed to be able to get the defender to believe that he was running straight up the field...as much as possible nowadays, given how smart defenders have become.
Now remember, I’m watching the game from the TV broadcast, not the game film that the coaches get, so there are portions of the routes that I don’t always get to see.
Still, from what I saw, this does not seem to be a big problem area for Garcon.
Out of all the areas of Garcon’s play that were most impressive his burst, and his blocking abilities stood out.
Garcon, never slowed down when making his cuts, his foot work was correct, and he never tried to make his breaks at 90 degree angles (which do nothing but slow down the receiver). This is definitely one of his strong points.
Now don’t take the praise the wrong way. He still has a lot of practicing to do. Just compare Reggie Wayne’s blurts to Garcons, and you will see the difference is night and day.
When Reggie makes his cuts he just sort of glides into them as if he were a bird making a turn in mid-air.
However, it’s unfair to compare Garcon to Wayne, but this is one area, and a very important area, that Garcon seems to have a natural ability (or Manning yelled at him a lot.)
Advantage: Slight advantage to “Gonzo” due to experience, not ability
Garcon is an excellent blocker on running plays. He wins this category hands down. He is bigger and stronger than Gonzalez, and is a great asset to the Colts on the strong side where they have difficulty running the ball.
Garcon is also a great blocker on pass plays when the reception is caught in his area of the field.
Advantage: Big Advantage to Garcon
There is one thing that Garcon does that he needs to work on. He takes to many plays off when he knows the pass isn’t coming his way.
Before someone says, “All receivers do that!” I understand that. It’s too exhausting of a sport to run full throttle on every down; however, in Pierre's case, it’s excessive.
The problem with running you’re route half speed on a pass play, or a running play, is that you’re signaling to the defense that either, “The ball isn’t coming my way so don’t waste your time over here,” or your signaling to them, “Hey, it’s a running play so don’t worry about the pass guys.”
This is either an attitude issue or a conditioning issue, regardless of which it needs to be corrected.
After hearing several positive interviews with Garcon, and knowing the Colts organization, there is no doubt in my mind that this will get straightened out.
When I first set out to write this piece I thought the direction it would take was that “Gonzo” was going to lose his job as the No. 2, and he would be used more as the starting slot receiver.
After watching film on Garcon, it is quite clear that Garcon is still a rookie, he is still making rookie mistakes, and once “Gonzo” is 100 percent healthy, Garcon will be the backup.
That’s for this year, though. I see a bright future for Garcon; all of the mistakes he is making right now are issues of lack of experience instead of lack of ability.
I can’t wait for training camp next year because I think there is going to be quite a battle for the outside receiver spot opposite of Wayne. Don’t be surprised if Garcon wins it!