Tape Breakdown: Steelers WR Jerricho Cotchery Remains An Underrated Run Blocker

For several years, former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward was considered one of, if not the best blocking wide receivers in the league. Luckily, Ward was around when Emmanuel Sanders came into the league as the fourth-year wide receiver was able to learn from him the importance of Steelers wide receivers being able to block.

Early in the preseason game Monday night against the Washington Redskins, Sanders was highlighted by Jon Gruden of ESPN for his blocking on a 12-yard run by running back Jonathan Dwyer. Gruden, however, failed to recognize the job done by wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery on the play that also figured heavily into its success.

Steelers Redskins animated gif Jerricho Cotchery run block





In the animated gif and pictures above, the Steelers have their 11 personnel on the field in a single-back set with Sanders flanked outside of Cotchery on the right. Pre-snap, Redskins cornerback E. J. Biggers is in the box pressing Cotchery and strong safety DeJon Gomes is also in the box mirroring tight end David Paulson, who had motioned from left to right.

At the snap of the ball, Cotchery fires off into Biggers and he immediately comes off that block to handle Gomes, who thinks he has a chance to blow up the play through the gap outside defensive end Ryan Kerrigan. Prior to Cotchery getting to Gomes, Sanders follows up on Biggers and gives him a push inside that allows Dwyer access to the edge and one-on-one matchup against outside cornerback DeAngelo Hall. Cotchery easily handles Gomes in the gap, and Sanders runs enough interference on Hall to enable Dwyer to gain the first down.

Cotchery has forever been underrated by many as a good run blocker and Gruden was even proof of that Monday night. I\’m not downplaying the work Sanders did on the play at all, but I just wanted to make sure Cotchery received his fair share of recognition in addition.

While rookie wide receiver Marcus Wheaton is certainly progressing at a nice pace, he was an average blocker in college. He was willing mind you, but still has to improve that area of his game before he will completely take over the No. 3 spot from Cotchery.

  • steeltown

    Its pretty bad when your 185-200lb WRs are better run blockers than your current 240-260lb TEs

  • Douglas Andrews

    Puzzling why In line blocking for our TE’s seems so difficult. I was really looking for a big jump from last year to this one by Paulson. Seems he may even be worse this season. Not sure why the lack of improvement he’s been getting the majority of the reps since OTA’s.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    Uhhh, he was a 7th round pick, and was lucky to make the team last year. If he was a complete TE he would’ve probably been drafted a lot earlier. Frankly we’re lucky to have him at this point. What’s puzzling is that the Steelers failed to address the position in the draft even though they knew Heath was injured. Bringing in Spaeth is one thing, but that’s now blown up in their face. In fact, the 2 positions I was worried about the most going into the draft, TE and OL, the Steelers failed to do anything about. Now look where we are at those positions.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Steelers have done a really good job of drafting players in the later rounds and turning them into some pretty good players. The fact that he was a 7th rounder is beside the point. They tried to address the position by bringing Spaeth a veteran in line blocking TE but unfort can’t predict injuries they are part of the NFL. If he doesnt go down to injury you have a solid 1-2 with possibly DJ being your #3. Paulson came into the league from a passing offense and wasn’t asked to become a solid blocker. Everything I’ve been hearing from camp this year was that he bulked up and had been working really hard on his blocking. He’s a good pass catcher but his value right now will be helping the line with his blocking. Here’s hoping Heath is ready for game one.

  • AndyR34

    Um-m-m…there’s a difference between blocking 185-200 lb. DBs…some of whom don’t relish contact…and blocking 240-300 lb. LBs and DLs who DO relish that contact.

  • Busforever

    Cotchery is totally underrated as a whole WR. He was very good for the Jets, and have been burried in Steelers depth chart because of the talent around here, but not because of a lack of skills.

  • alex

    unfortunately burried, but not if we wanna run the rock this year given the OL and TE issues!

  • Christopher Wilkes

    It’s not beside the point that he’s a 7th round pick. That’s who he is. He’s a 3rd string TE, so it’s not puzzling at all that he’s getting pushed around by defenders. Even if Spaeth was here, he’d still be as unreliable catching passes as Paulson is at blocking.