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Russell Gage talks wisdom gained from Julio Jones: If you're going to make a mistake, make it at full speed - AtlantaFalcons.com


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https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/russell-gage-talks-wisdom-gained-from-julio-jones-if-you-re-going-to-make-a-mist

 

Everyone in the NFL is big, strong, and fast. Those are prerequisites to play the game at the highest level and the true edges are gained in the margins. For Russell Gage, the key to his continued improvement and unlocking his full potential is playing fast. It may seem simple, but that's the biggest nugget of wisdom that Julio Jones passed on to Gage.

"Run. That was [Julio's] biggest thing," said Gage. "Speed off the ball and running. A lot of guys get too caught up thinking into their routes. Understand that even if you make a mistake, make it full speed. A receiver's biggest asset is his speed. Whatever it is, you need to display it."

The loss of Jones leaves a void in the Falcons offense, but Gage and his teammates aren't dwelling on that loss. The focus is quite the opposite really. In a fitting tribute to the departed star, Gage's gaze is set on playing fast and the best way for him to play fast is to understand his role.

"Being on the same page as Matt [Ryan] and understanding what Arthur wants is big," said Gage. "Those things come hand in hand. When you get to playing faster, it's all because you are more comfortable, and you know, this is what they want out of me."

A sixth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Gage has increased his playing time in each of his three previous seasons. As a rookie, he played sparingly on offense logging just six catches for 63 yards with his primary role coming on special teams. The 2019 season started in much the same way until Atlanta dealt Mohamed Sanu to the New England Patriots after Week 7. In the first seven games of that season, Gage caught four passes for 44 yards and was targeted just eight times.

russell-gage-stat-chart
 

Following the Sanu trade, Gage made an immediate impact catching seven passes on nine targets for 58 yards against the Seattle Seahawks. It wasn't a simple plug-and-play situation though. His understanding and ability to play fast had a direct correlation to his play.

"My first game was Seattle and there was a lot of things going through my head," Gage said of his increased offensive role in 2019. "There was a lot of 'I don't want to mess this up, I have to understand my landmark here.' And Julio came up to me and reminded me your strongest point, your biggest asset is going to be running, running full speed. That's how you make guys make mistakes."

 

Gage became a reliable target for Ryan during the second half of his sophomore season. In the final nine games of 2019, he tallied 45 receptions for 402 yards and one touchdown to run his season totals to 446 yards on 49 catches. The tried and true sports cliché is that the game slows down for players as they gain experience and confidence but in Gage's case, he's tried to flip that script.

"I cleared my mind more and just ran," said Gage. "I came off the ball as fast as I could and whatever happens, happens. I think that's the best way to play. It's the best way to play mistake free as well."

pff-grades
 

If his performance in 2019 came as a surprise, then what he did in 2020 was a validation of his potential. Gage set career bests with 72 receptions, 786 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. He also threw a touchdown pass, connecting with Calvin Ridley for a 39-yard score against the Los Angeles Chargers. Per Pro Football Focus, Gage earned a 76.4 overall grade and a 73.7 receiving grade good for third on the team behind Jones and Ridley. It would be easy for Gage to rest on his laurels and expect that his numbers will continue to rise, but you don't go from sixth-round pick to starter with that mindset.

"Something that really boosts my confidence is understanding what I could become. Understanding the sky is the limit for me," said Gage. "I know I have so much more to do, so much more I can do, and so much more to prove. I think that for me really motivates me, gives me confidence, and pushes me to keep raising the bar."

The increased playing time has coincided with an increase in production for Gage. Much of that is due to the understanding that he's gained through seeing how teams have tried to play Jones, Ridley, or tight end Hayden Hurst. As well as the rapport he's developed with Ryan.

"Over time, as I am in the game, I get the feel. I understand what Matt feels. I understand what Matt wants," said Gage. "It helps me play faster and ultimately it helps him play faster. It builds trust and we can be more effective on the field together."

 
 
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Funny thing is,  this is why Julio wasn't good in the redzone.   Julio still goes full speed in the redzone when he needs to slow play things and set things up.

edit: what I'm referring to is stacking the defender, coming off the line and giving a hesitation move...examples on the second page.

Edited by abcranford2
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34 minutes ago, abcranford2 said:

Funny thing is,  this is why Julio wasn't good in the redzone.   Julio still goes full speed in the redzone when he needs to slow play things and set things up.

I thought Julio wasn’t good in the red zone because Ryan can’t get him the ball. /purp

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1 hour ago, JD dirtybird21 said:

I thought Julio wasn’t good in the red zone because Ryan can’t get him the ball. /purp

Same reason he gets tripped up on the 1 yd line all the time.   When he catches the ball he runs full speed right at the defender.  Just slow down a bit, put a hesitation move on them or hold them off with your long arms, and walk into the endzone.  

Julio?  Nope...running full speed and gonna trip over the defender after running him over.

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From ESPN:

How one word from Julio Jones helped Falcons receiver Russell Gage grow
6:00 AM ET
Michael Rothstein
ESPN Staff Writer
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- It was midway through the 2019 season, Russell Gage’s second in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons, when the advice from Julio Jones began making sense. Before that, Gage had a reception here or there, but he primarily played special teams.

Then Gage got into the rotation, became part of the Falcons’ receiving corps, and Jones had a simple takeaway that has stuck since.

Run.

“That was his biggest thing,” Gage said. “Speed, speed off the ball, running. A lot of guys get too caught up in thinking and thinking into their routes. Just understand that even if you make a mistake, make it full speed.

“Run. That’s a receiver’s biggest asset is his speed. So whatever it is, you need to display it.”

For three seasons, Gage watched Jones -- sometimes from the sideline, sometimes on the field playing with him. Then, on Sunday, Jones was traded to Tennessee. Calvin Ridley became the team’s likely No. 1 receiver.

As for Gage, 25, his role just became a whole lot bigger. He’s not being asked to replace a future Hall of Famer -- the Falcons have Ridley and drafted tight end Kyle Pitts in the first round -- but he’ll be looked at as a player who can do more than primarily play in the slot, where he was when the Falcons had a fully healthy receiving group a year ago.

“Russ has done a nice job in the slot, but we’ll move Russ all over the place and then we got to make a decision as we get closer to the season, all right, we’re giving him a shot here,” Falcons first-year coach Arthur Smith said. “He’s done well. He’s grown his game. Done this with a lot of players and everybody’s on a different timeline.

“So we envision Russ playing multiple spots.”


Russell Gage's numbers have improved across the board in each of his three NFL seasons. Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports
That should mean continued slot work and playing some outside, where he’ll potentially be the beneficiary of solo coverage if teams focus too heavily on Ridley and Pitts.

The last time Gage stepped into a new role, against the Seahawks and then the Saints in 2019, he said he was thinking too much and didn’t play instinctively. It’s why after the New Orleans game, Jones pulled him aside and gave him that advice.

“After the Saints game, I kind of understood that,” Gage said. “I cleared my mind more and just ran, came off the ball as fast as I can. And whatever happens, happens.

“That’s the best way to play. It’s the best way to play mistake-free as well.”

When Jones missed seven games last season, Gage showed promise. He needed to do more and responded. He started to develop more of an on-field rapport with veteran quarterback Matt Ryan and finished with the best season of his career -- 109 targets, 72 catches, 786 yards and four touchdowns, including three in the final five games.

Now, in a new offense, he’s starting to understand what Smith wants, too.

“When you get to playing faster, it’s all because you’re more comfortable and you know this is what they want out of you, this is what they want out of me in this coverage,” Gage said. “I know here they want me to break out. I know here they want me to turn in. Those are all feels and things you can’t really learn unless you’re in the game.”

Some of Gage's progress last season was due to that growing comfort. Some of it was Ridley’s breakout and, when Jones was on the field, Julio garnering attention. But it also had to do with the advice Jones gave Gage -- the advice that’ll stick with him as he slides into a starting role.

Run.
 

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5 hours ago, abcranford2 said:

Funny thing is,  this is why Julio wasn't good in the redzone.   Julio still goes full speed in the redzone when he needs to slow play things and set things up.

That is absolutely not why. He draws extra coverage in the Redzone. You think AB slows down in the Redzone? If you understand DC’s the one thing they focus on is trying to take your best player away. Bill Belichik lives by this. Take the main guy away and MAKE the other guys beat you. Their mindset is they may score but it ain’t gonna be Julio or AB or Hopkins or Irvin or Moss etc…

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3 hours ago, abcranford2 said:

Same reason he gets tripped up on the 1 yd line all the time.   When he catches the ball he runs full speed right at the defender.  Just slow down a bit, put a hesitation move on them or hold them off with your long arms, and walk into the endzone.  

Julio?  Nope...running full speed and gonna trip over the defender after running him over.

No. That’s how you make the defender make a mistake. As they say you run down his throat!! 

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4 minutes ago, TheFatboi said:

That is absolutely not why. He draws extra coverage in the Redzone. You think AB slows down in the Redzone? If you understand DC’s the one thing they focus on is trying to take your best player away. Bill Belichik lives by this. Take the main guy away and MAKE the other guys beat you. Their mindset is they may score but it ain’t gonna be Julio or AB or Hopkins or Irvin or Moss etc…

 

3 minutes ago, TheFatboi said:

No. That’s how you make the defender make a mistake. As they say you run down his throat!! 

lol I was gonna reply but said meh **** it he won't listen anyway so thanks for taking the mantle 😂

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3 hours ago, abcranford2 said:

Same reason he gets tripped up on the 1 yd line all the time.   When he catches the ball he runs full speed right at the defender.  Just slow down a bit, put a hesitation move on them or hold them off with your long arms, and walk into the endzone.  

Julio?  Nope...running full speed and gonna trip over the defender after running him over.

Did you play football? I did for a long time. I was NEVER told to slow down EVER. My speed was my best asset. That literally makes no sense to slow down and give a defender help reading the play. You have to make them think faster than they want to which leads to mistakes. Jets issue in the Redzone is bracket coverage. Period. High/low. Do you know what high/low is? It’s the guy assigned to him plus a guy underneath and a guy over top. Hence High/Low!! A Redzone window for Julio is tighter than the average wr. Did you ever see rid “slow down” in the Redzone??? No. 

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35 minutes ago, TheFatboi said:

Did you play football? I did for a long time. I was NEVER told to slow down EVER. My speed was my best asset. That literally makes no sense to slow down and give a defender help reading the play. You have to make them think faster than they want to which leads to mistakes. Jets issue in the Redzone is bracket coverage. Period. High/low. Do you know what high/low is? It’s the guy assigned to him plus a guy underneath and a guy over top. Hence High/Low!! A Redzone window for Julio is tighter than the average wr. Did you ever see rid “slow down” in the Redzone??? No. 

Watch Ridley in the redzone.   He'll come off the line a bit slow at times then give a hesitation move and then burst to where he's supposed to be. 

You watch Pitts highlights, he does the same thing a lot.  So did Tony.

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44 minutes ago, TheFatboi said:

That is absolutely not why. He draws extra coverage in the Redzone. You think AB slows down in the Redzone? If you understand DC’s the one thing they focus on is trying to take your best player away. Bill Belichik lives by this. Take the main guy away and MAKE the other guys beat you. Their mindset is they may score but it ain’t gonna be Julio or AB or Hopkins or Irvin or Moss etc…

He obviously draws extra coverage and that's certainly a factor. 

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50 minutes ago, TheFatboi said:

Did you play football? I did for a long time. I was NEVER told to slow down EVER. My speed was my best asset. That literally makes no sense to slow down and give a defender help reading the play. You have to make them think faster than they want to which leads to mistakes. Jets issue in the Redzone is bracket coverage. Period. High/low. Do you know what high/low is? It’s the guy assigned to him plus a guy underneath and a guy over top. Hence High/Low!! A Redzone window for Julio is tighter than the average wr. Did you ever see rid “slow down” in the Redzone??? No. 

Absolutely obvious he did not. And his attempt at critiquing arguably one of the great WRs to ever play is hilarious. Like I get it the guy doesn't play for us anymore but these types of "observations" never happen if he still has a Falcons Jersey on.

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