It’s well known around the NFL that Rex Ryan is considered a players-coach that many guys take a liking to and for multiple reasons. Explosive receiver/kick returner Percy Harvin for instance followed Rex’s staff and more specifically, Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal to Buffalo after only eight games in New York last season.
Harvin cited the working relationship with Lal and how the coach uses a very technical and detailed approach to teaching the nuances of the position as a big reason for his decision. Bills’ highly-touted receiver Sammy Watkins, who is looking to breakout in his sophomore season, recently echoed a similar sentiment about the coach.
Per usual, Vic Carruci penned a great column for the Buffalo News about Watkins’ current status entering 2015. The article covers everything from Sammy’s hip injury, expectations and of course, the coaching. That portion really touched on how much the receiver has learned in his first NFL offseason working with Lal and how it compared to the last regime. From the sounds of it, 2014’s fourth-overall pick has been more than welcoming of the change:
“Now, we’re understanding how to run routes off of any press, off any leverage, to where you won’t be covered” Watkins said. “We were kind of limited last year with certain things. It was, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that” he said about playing under former Bills receivers coach Rob Moore. “The way” Lal “coaches now is the way that I know. Everybody knows it that way. Everybody’s like, ‘Man, we wish we had this last year.’ Or, ‘Man, we wish we could do that.”
While some of those comments can be seen as a knock on Moore, you could also argue it directly correlates with Lal’s coaching philosophy. As mentioned now by two of Buffalo’s playmakers, Mark Brunell’s former personal pass-catcher likes to break down all aspects of the game for his players, not just how they run routes. That means that everything from pre-snap stance, to take off, to how you peel off at the top of the route etc., is being worked on.
Lal has also been teaching the Bills receivers how to stay low when they actually are running routes, which allows them to break in any direction at any time and keeps the covering defensive back guessing. This body positioning helps to not tip off the defender on the specific route and can greatly advantage a receiver like Watkins.
“Running high, the DB knows that you’re going to break because you’re raising up or you’re squatting back down” Sammy says. “So it’s important to stay at the same angle as a running position, whether you’re running full speed or not.”
Another valuable trait Lal is trying to
establish broaden in this young Buffalo receiving corps is toughness. The University of Washington Alum has always taught his guys to be feisty on every snap and to impose their will on the opponent whenever possible. He’s also apparently not buying any excuses like a defender holding you, which Watkins says is building a “mentality that we can’t be stopped.”
It’s still early, but someone who’s tirelessly working to improve and refine receivers with such talent as Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin sounds like an asset. The guy hasn’t coached one game for Buffalo, yet Sanjay Lal is already earning the trust and confidence of his players. Let’s hope it translate to the field.