We've talked about New England Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell being on thin ice because he's not on the same page as quarterback Tom Brady. Head coach Bill Belichick had his own thoughts on the importance of catching the football in a recent press conference.
"I think you have guys that have really good hands, really good catch skills and there will be an occasional drop from them and that's usually a concentration thing," Belichick started to explain about differentiating drops between receivers. "Then you have other guys who maybe don't have quite the same hand-eye coordination skill, so catching the ball is a little bit tougher for them.
"A number of those players that I've coached in the past have had exceptional concentration, so there was kind of technique drops and there is I would say concentration drops."
I don't think it's any question that players like Randy Moss and Deion Branch fall into the former category, while Aaron Dobson and Brandon LaFell are in the latter.
"Some degrees of difficulty are harder than others," Belichick continued. "So it's related to timing and the ball location from the quarterback and so forth. In the end, if the player is not a dependable catcher, I don't think he's going to be involved much in the passing game, but again a lot of those catches are somewhat a function of the degree of difficulty of the ball that is being thrown to them or in some cases the coverage."
This is why many think LaFell could be on thin ice (as should tight end Scott Chandler), although injuries certainly play a role in forcing these players to remain in the offense.
Playing receiver definitely goes beyond hand skills, and it's clear that the Patriots like LaFell's ability after the catch and in the open field.
"That's another thing, too, where a player's got really good separation skills, it looks like he's always open and the catches are relatively easier," Belichick said. "If a player isn't able to separate then every catch looks like a great catch because there is somebody right there on him. I would say that there are certain players that without exceptional hands wouldn't be targeted very much because they don't have the ability to create a lot of separation but because of their catching skills they can be productive because they don't need as much separation."
Separation is the key, especially with particularly physically limited players, but if their hands work, then they'll get a chance to come down with the ball. Receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin come to mind, as they can catch every pass, regardless of however many defensive backs are draped on their backs.
"Bottom line is you want somebody that's dependable," Belichick concluded. "That's the bottom line - you want to throw to somebody that's dependable."