Is Robert Woods set for a breakout year?

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There is one player on our receiving corps that is seemingly an afterthought to the entire Bills fan base. That man is the 6’0, 211lbs WR out of USC taken 41st overall in 2013: Robert Woods. After the Buffalo Bills acquired Mike Williams (officially after passing his physical), the talk of the town was how Stevie would benefit from having a proven man on the outside for him. Woods, Goodwin and Johnson all tied for 1st in TD grabs this season with 3 TDs a piece. Aside from that stat being completely awful, a lot of the passing game deficiencies were due to the revolving door at quarterback in 2013.

Going back to pre-draft in 2013, Robert Woods was regarded by many as being a late first round pick capable of playing the slot or the outside with excellent hands and great route running ability. In addition to 4.5 40 speed he has very quick feet that he frequently used in 2013 to shred zone defenses.

One example I wanted to use was a quick touchdown grab on a strike from EJ Manuel against the Jacksonville Jaguars on December 15th of the 2013

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Here we have Woods on the outside on the top of the screen. The Jaguars, for some ridiculous reason are in a zone defense on a 2nd and goal from the 7 yard line.
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Woods identifies this awfully executed zone and runs a little 5 yard hook route. EJ was on the same page and eyed him from the second the ball was snapped, and threw the ball in a position for Woods to make the play.

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Woods is able to make all 4 men miss and sneak into the end zone. A great play after he made the catch for the score. This was a fantastic route, executed perfectly from both receiver and quarterback allowing for a big score to tie the game up at 10.

The other thing that will contribute to making Woods a great player in 2014 is his versatility to also play on the outside. The play above actually saw Woods working the outside on the short side of the field, and the play calling made it possible for him to actually work the play as if he were in the slot. The next play was a 57 yard pass from Thad Lewis against Miami, in the cold December rain in Buffalo:

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Woods is lined up on the outside, again on the short side of the field, 1 on 1 man coverage with the cornerback playing very tight (For those of you who would like to see the difference look at where the cornerback is playing off of Graham on the bottom of the screen).

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Woods shakes the corner right off the line and has a step on him as he has to turn his hips to follow downfield.

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This is a tough picture, but it illustrated what I wanted to point out. Woods has his eyes back tracking the ball and since he beat the corner so badly off the line the corner is looking at Woods face, rather than for the ball.

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Woods is able to slow up and make the grab, a fantastic catch on the ball by Thad Lewis and you see the corner stumbling backwards and basically taking himself out of the play.

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Woods makes a veteran play on this, keeps his foot inbounds, shakes the corner and turns it up-field before he is tackled by the safety after a gain of 57 yards.

I often compare Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods because they are the same type of receiver. They rely on their strong route running ability to get them in positions for their quarterback to get them the ball. Stevie Johnson was made by his chemistry with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Robert Woods and EJ Manuel have showed brilliance in flashes when both were on their game (or should I say in the game). A healthy EJ this season will work wonders for the game of Robert Woods and with the amount of passing weapons on this team a lot of people will be in for a sweet surprise. I firmly believe that Robert Woods is the most well rounded receiver on this team and I am very excited to watch him mature into that Roddy White type role on the Buffalo Bills.


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