When Did Sanders Become So Fast?
When Did Sanders Become So Fast?
Emmanuel Sanders is showing more speed than expected this camp, and he understands why some are so surprised.
By Jim Wexell
Posted Jul 28, 2013
LATROBE – According to Pittsburgh legend, Ben Roethlisberger called Mike Tomlin last spring to change his coach’s mind about letting Emmanuel Sanders go to New England for third-round compensation.
Not all of it’s true, according to Tomlin.
“Ben did call,” Tomlin said. “But he didn’t change our decision-making process. We wanted to keep Emmanuel all along.”
In two practices this training camp, it’s understandable.
On Saturday, Sanders beat William Gay deep, and then in what appeared to be a clear case of Sanders getting more separation with each step he beat Cortez Allen deep.
Allen said he merely took a bad angle after “I guessed a little bit,” but admitted that “we have speed,” which had been in question after the Steelers lost Mike Wallace in free agency.
“Obviously Wallace is a unique type of speed, but we have speed, and we have great receivers,” said Allen. “We have a group of receivers who can run the whole route tree, and highly effectively. There’s no drop at all in my eyes.”
At Sunday’s practice, the Steelers’ cornerbacks switched assignments. Allen missed practice with what Tomlin called “discomfort” in the right knee, but replacement Gay took Antonio Brown and Ike Taylor shadowed Sanders.
When Taylor gave Sanders enough of a cushion – in apparent respect of Sanders’ speed – Sanders curled in twice and made easy catches for chunk gains.
So the question becomes this: When did Sanders -- who’s averaged 13.7 yards per each of his 94 catches the last three seasons –- get so fast?
“I think I’ve been fast,” said Sanders. “I just think I’ve been playing in the slot, so a lot of people really don’t understand how fast I am. The slot is more of a controlled position. Outside is more of a speed position.”
Sanders said he didn’t seek out some overpriced and overhyped speed coach this off-season, that he was just able to work out on a full-go basis for the first time since his rookie year.
“In the past two years I’ve had two foot surgeries and I had a torn knee,” he said. “That’s all lower body. And for the first time I’m actually healthy. Have I gained some speed? Could that be the reason why? Potentially. When a guy has two foot surgeries, he can’t run. A guy has knee surgery, he can’t run. So this off-season I had a full off-season of working hard. I got to do whatever I want: squat, run as much as I wanted to. And it feels good.”
And it looks good. While no one expects Sanders to run like the world-class Wallace, Sanders’ 4.41 40 (combine time) and his full route tree might, as Allen pointed out, might make him the game-breaker Wallace was.
It should also be remembered that the Steelers won Super Bowl XL with Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El as their starting receivers. It’s unlikely that either player ever broke the 4.5-second barrier in the 40.
Sanders also has the Z position in common with Ward, who often used the term flanker instead. From that position, Sanders is hoping for his first 1,000-yard season, although he points out that “I just want to win. If you win, the rest takes care of itself.”
“The rest” could mean a long-term contract that sets him and his family up for life. But with flashy rookie Markus Wheaton being groomed behind Sanders, that contract might not happen with the Steelers – unless Roethlisberger really makes a high, hard pitch.
“Why did he do that?” Sanders asked of the phone call. “As a quarterback, you love the chemistry that you have with your guy. After losing Mike, I guess he figured that he couldn’t lose two of his guys.
“I’m glad that he came to bat for me because I want to be here. I’m happy to be here. I’ve got one more year – hopefully it turns into something longer – but in this one year I’m dedicated to winning a Super Bowl.”
NOTES – Allen said of his right knee, “I’m good. I’m fine. It’s a day-to-day thing. I’m perfectly fine.” ... Another cornerback, DeMarcus Van Dyke, left practice late with a troublesome left hamstring. ... The Steelers will finally put on pads for Monday’s practice. Said Tomlin: “It’s like the first day of school. It really is. Checking in here and getting on the grass is one thing, don’t get me wrong, but football’s a game that’s played in pads, and tomorrow’s the first day of school.”
Sanders 40 time was always reasonable, but his agility tests at the Combine were off-the-charts good, way better than Wallace. Not sure if Sanders would beat Wallace in a foot race, but getting seperation in & out of his cuts, Sanders agility could certainly make him look faster on the field.
Schiavone's Race Career:
I'm really glad they retained Sanders. I think he will have a very good year, if he has an injury free season. He will have his 1,000 yards. I think he is one of the more articulate players and has an outstanding attitude. I think he does have a better understanding of route running than Wallace.
I've always felt like Sanders had the most potential out of the young money crew. Hopefully some good health can help him reach that potential.
I'm glad to hear the positive reports on Sanders, and as much as I'd love to be a blind optimist, I'm still cautious. He had the opportunity to start a few games last year, and he underwhelmed. Hopefully this year is different.
I would not be surprised and actually expect the Steelers to have more wide open receivers deep this season than at any time the past several years. There is plenty of speed in this group. It is more moves and know-how.
Originally Posted by Chadman
I agree. I'll take Wallace on streak routes, and Sanders on every other route. Sanders is faster in and out of breaks. What is scarey is he was that quick, at less than 100%.
Originally Posted by Chadman
What I am concerned about is Allen's sore knee. While it could be just some early season ligament strain, it causes me to take a mental note.
I'm hoping that the ease with which they allowed Wallace to leave means that it really is a case of addition by subtraction. Last season Wallace was an obvious malcontent. He held out, he played half-azzed, he complained about his inability to focus when he wasn't the center of the offense etc. I'd always liked what I'd seen and heard out of Brown, but last year he also looked somewhat disinterested. I really love what I have just read about Sanders. Getting the poisonous attitude away from the WR corps might be the biggest reason to expect improvement from them.
I'm surprised the Steelers didn't sign Sanders to a long term deal. If they don't sign him long term then it was a dumb move to match the Patriots offer and lose the 3rd round compensation.
Not if he helps them win a SuperBowl this year.
Originally Posted by steelz09