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Film Room: Vegas gets another slot machine with Jakobi Meyers

McDaniels brings in another familiar face

NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
Jakobi Meyers
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

In a bit of a surprise, the Las Vegas Raiders struck a deal with free-agent wide receiver Jakobi Meyers worth $33 million — $21 million guaranteed — over three years.

Wideout was far from the Raiders’ biggest need this offseason, but head coach Josh McDaniels clearly wanted to bring in “his guy”. Meyers spent the first three years of his career playing for McDaniels with the New England Patriots before the coach left for Las Vegas.

Meyers became a fixture in McDaniels’ offense as a slot receiver, putting together a career year in 2021 — their last season together — with 89 catches for 906 yards and two touchdowns. While the receiver scored more touchdowns (six) this past season, his numbers slightly declined with 67 catches for 803 yards, which can be chalked up to a significant decrease in targets — 130 compared to 93.

So, let’s dive into some tape from 2021 and see how McDaniels might use his new/familiar weapon this coming season.

In our first clip, Meyers is facing man coverage from Trevon Diggs (No. 7) of the Dallas Cowboys. Meyers does a great job of accelerating off the line of scrimmage and eating up Diggs’ cushion who was playing off coverage.

Another thing that stands out about this rep is how Meyers keeps his shoulders down until he reaches the top of the route and doesn’t have to slow down much to make the cut. That helps sell the vertical route and keeps Diggs guessing. When the wideout combines all of that with snapping the route off and working straight down the 15-yard line, the corner has no chance to stay in phase and it’s an easy pitch and catch.

This is also a great job of keeping the feet moving through contact to punch the ball into the end zone, however, there was some laundry in the backfield that took the points off the board. Still, an impressive rep from Meyers against a quality corner.

This next clip is going to be similar to the first one, except Meyers is going to run the dig route from his more natural alignment, the slot.

On the route, he does a good job of keeping his shoulders low and working straight down the line after making the cut. The latter is important because if he starts to drift up the field, he’s going to run himself into coverage and/or give the cornerback, who is in a trail position (behind the wide receiver), a lane to undercut the route and make a play on the ball.

All of that is great but the most impressive part about this rep from Meyers is the catch in traffic. Basically right after the ball reaches him, he takes an absolute shot from another defensive back but still comes down with the grab and pops right up as if nothing happened. That’s excellent toughness to make sure the offense converts on third and long.

Here we’re going to see a nice catch in traffic for a two-point conversion.

McDaniels dials up a play-action pass and Meyers sells the run fake by going to block Jayron Kearse (No. 27) which is also supposed to function as a pick route for the tight end in the flat. To Kearse’s credit, he fights through the contact and Meyers lets him go to make sure he doesn't get called for offensive pass interference.

Since the ball is supposed to go to the tight end, the wideout doesn’t have much of a route to run, but he doesn’t quit on the play and uses his arms to keep some distance between himself and the defensive back. Once the ball is in the air, Meyers starts to come back to it and uses his body to keep the defender on his back.

It’s all about concentration and having strong hands from there as he holds onto the ball through contact and the ground to put points on the board.

Back to the dig route for our next clip.

Meyers is facing press coverage this time and gets to square with his first step off the line of scrimmage, giving himself a two-way go against the press corner. From there, he shows good quickness and acceleration to force the defender to open his hips and run.

Again, Meyers does an excellent job of snapping the route off when he goes to break, and take look at the end zone angle. He gives a little head and shoulder fake at the top of the route and that gets the corner to hesitate, allowing the receiver to create enough separation to make the catch.

Mac Jones throws with good anticipation here so Meyers snaps his head around and locates the ball in the air, which is difficult seeing as the running back and linebacker are in his line of sight and both go up to make a play on the ball. But Meyers has great concentration and lays out ot make a chain-moving catch.

What I love about the route above is Meyers’ release and stem are the same as if he’s running the dig routes we’ve already seen. Watch the safety — No. 37, Amani Hooker — at the top of the screen. Hooker opens his hips to the inside, which I can almost guarantee is because he’s been watching film and is expecting Meyers to break inside.

Hooker has to speed to turn and is out of position when Meyers breaks for the out, leaving a wide-open throwing window. Also, take a look at how Meyers slows down after making the cut. That’s because he’s reading the coverage and recognizes he’s found a hole in the Titans' zone. Instead of running himself into coverage, he throttles and helps make this throw easy for Jones.

I’ll preface this next play by saying deep routes are not a big part of Meyers’ game as this was the first rep I saw him win deep. However, this is an excellent route where he explodes out of the cut to beat Kevin Byard — No. 31 — who is a two-time All-Pro.

The other aspect of this play that I love is how Meyers makes a great concentration catch. The endzone view does a better job of showing this off as right at the catch point, Byard is able to undercut the route and get in the wideout’s vision. But, as we’ve seen previously, Meyers keeps his eyes on the prize and makes the grab. Impressive.

Pairing with Garoppolo

In the clips above, you might have noticed that Meyers did a lot of damage in the intermediate (10 to 19 yards past the line of scrimmage) areas of the field. That’s where 30 percent of his receiving yards came from last season, and where he earned his highest receiving grade (95.7) from Pro Football Focus compared to the other three areas of the field.

That pairs nicely with Jimmy Garoppolo who threw for 622 passing yards at a rate of 10.5 yards per attempt and seven touchdowns on intermediate throws a year ago. That rate and the touchdown count were his highest compared to the other three areas of the field, and he earned an 82.0 grade from PFF on such throws which was his second-best grade.

So, Garoppolo and Meyers could be a solid connection for the Silver and Black next season as their strengths align.