Football season is in full swing and the receivers are in midseason form. It’s easy to see what makes these receivers such phenomenal athletes as they continually display amazing feats of athleticism, speed, and finesse. One of the most overlooked aspects of receivers' skillset is their vision! Receivers must have great vision to make an impact every week. We’ll break down some of the best plays of the week and how some of the best receivers in the game use their visual skills to make big plays on Sunday!
One of the most important visual skills for a receiver is tracking. Tracking allows you to process and follow an object while always monitoring all aspects of the game. Some of my favorite plays every Sunday in the NFL happen on the long “rainbow” type passes. During these plays we see the receivers running in full-stride while tracking the football in flight.
The first clip we’ll take a look at is this Week 2 play where Indianapolis Colts QB Carson Wentz connects on a deep ball to WR Michael Pittman. Wentz drops back and launches a prayer downfield to an open Pittman. Wentz connects on the 50+ yard pass as he gets leveled. Pittman starts inside the top numbers and heads downfield dragging across the field landing on the opposite side numbers. Pittman shows an excellent display of concentration and tracking as he looks the ball in as it travels through the air. Pittman has his head turned to track the ball as he drags across the opposite numbers while avoiding two defenders.
We head to the NFC South for our next tracking example. Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady connects with WR Mike Evans on an end-zone fade inside the 1-yard line! While, I’ve never been a big fan of the endzone fade, let alone inside the 1 if you can make it look this smooth then do it. Off the snap, Evans creates separation and gets his head turned around immediately to start tracking the ball. Evans is tracking the ball the whole time while it’s in the air, while the defender never sees it. This example of tracking is what we would refer to as pursuit-style tracking, where you are following an object in a smooth pattern.
The next visual skill I will highlight is convergence. Convergence is the ability to focus on objects within close proximity and judge their movement and impact. When I think of convergence in football, I think of those passes that are on you as soon as you turn your head on the route. During these types of passes, you converge both of your eyes to locate the ball coming right at you.
We head to Week 2’s Monday Night game as Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers throws what I consider the most impressive pass of the week to TE Rob Tonyan. Rodgers threads the needle in one of the smallest windows possible as Tonyan makes a break in his route. The throw is amazing, but Tonyan’s vision and quick ability to make the catch on this play impresses me just as much. He turns his head and the ball is coming at him hard and he is able to converge his eyes to get the quick-approaching pass as it sneaks past the defender's head.
The last visual skill I’ll highlight today is depth perception. Depth perception uses both eyes to locate objects in space to judge their distance, speed, and direction. One of the more well-known visual skills, depth perception plays a critical role throughout the game of football. Whether it’s the QB maintaining great spatial awareness in the pocket, the OL gaining depth to identify the pass rush and form the pocket, or LB’s dropping into the appropriate coverage, depth perception is everywhere on the field.
Many don’t know that you can improve your visual skills outside of glasses or corrective surgery. Vision training can be done online in the comfort of your own home, using a laptop or a tablet. Vision training is a program designed to develop—or improve—fundamental vision skills that are essential to sports vision performance. Vision training is used to improve one’s ability to make accurate eye movements. Vision is something that can be learned and trained, but only with proper guidance. The visual system relies on past experiences in order to make judgments and anticipations for current and future experiences. Vision training needs to be consistent, customized and progressive, to ensure improvement.
At Vizual Edge, athletes take a baseline evaluation testing their core visual skills. Athletes are then given an Edge Score, a comprehensive score ranking all their skills. These scores are then compared to their peers and can even be compared to the Pros! After your evaluation, a custom training plan is developed for the athlete to improve their visual skills. After completing 6 weeks of training, the athlete will take another evaluation to see where they have improved and where they still need work. This will also help provide them with an updated training plan to change to their improved skill set. If you have any questions on how Vizual Edge can improve your athletic performance email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Zack Strock