April 20, 2023
During the offseason, we'll be taking a close look at Philadelphia Eagles players of interest who are currently on the roster but we may not know a lot about just yet. We'll kick off this year's series with newly signed wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus.
For this exercise we cut up all 61 of Zaccheaus' targets and his two carries during the 2022 season. So let's start there. Zaccheaus is No. 17. He's the little dude usually lined up in the slot:
Did you watch all that? Yes? No? Whatever. Before we get to our notes on Zaccheaus' game, here's a snapshot of his career production:
Aaaaand here's a look at his 2022 game log:
By my count, Zaccheaus also created 78 yards on pass interference calls:
• Production: As you can see above, Zaccheaus' receptions and yards have improved each season that he has been in the NFL. In 2022, Falcons quarterbacks completed 65.6 percent of their passes when they went Zaccheaus' way. Marcus Mariota was the Falcons' starting quarterback to begin the season, but he was benched after the Steelers game, and Desmond Ridder started the final four games.
In 13 games with Mariota, Zaccheaus made 32 receptions on 44 targets, for a catch rate of 72.7 percent. By comparison, Kyle Pitts caught 47.5 percent of his targets in Mariota starts, and Drake London caught 58.0 percent of his targets. In Mariota starts:
|Falcons WRs/TEs in Mariota starts||Comp % when targeted||Yards per target|
If you watched the video above, Zaccheaus wasn't running often high percentage in-out option routes all day. He had his share of down the field targets.
When the Falcons made the switch to Ridder, a lot of wildly off-target throws went Olamide's way.
• Usage: Zaccheaus' 2022 usage was similar in many ways to Quez Watkins' usage in 2021. Both Zaccheaus and "2021 Watkins" were their teams' No. 2 wide receivers in run-heavy offenses, getting significantly fewer targets than a rookie No. 1 (DeVonta Smith for the Eagles, Drake London for the Falcons) and a talented tight end (Dallas Goedert for the Eagles, Kyle Pitts for the Falcons). Zaccheaus got 61 targets in 2022. Watkins got 62 targets in 2021.
Zaccheaus and Watkins were utilized similarly, as Zaccheaus was often a down-the-field target in Atlanta's offense.
If you're wondering whether Zaccheaus' game more closely mirrors Watkins' or Zach Pascal's games, it's very clearly Watkins'.
• Hands: Coming out of college, if you read Zaccheaus' scouting reports, his hands were his biggest concern area. For example, from Lance Zierlein of NFL.com:
Explosive slot target with poor hands, but an impressive ability to take short throws and turn them into big gains. Zaccheaus played inside and outside, but can operate as a gadget slot with jet sweeps, receiver screens and standard wide receiver work. Teams are going to be turned off by his unnatural hands, but his explosiveness out of breaks and short area burst with the ball in his hands need to be accounted for. The scope of his usage could be a little limited, but there is talent to work with in the right scheme.
And then in Zierlein's "weaknesses" notes:
• Pass-catching technique is gross
• Below-average hand-eye coordination
• Catches the back of the football
• Tries to run before he secures it
I have Zaccheaus down for one drop in 2022, at the 6:46 mark in the video, and even that is borderline. I also felt like he made several impressive catches, most notably at the 2:08 and 7:35 marks. Credit Zaccheaus and the Falcons' coaching staff for turning Zaccheaus' biggest weakness four years ago into a strength.
• Routes: Zaccheaus does a nice job of threatening defensive backs with go routes, only to break them off with an out or a comeback, creating easy intermediate throws for his quarterback. The Falcons also liked to create shot plays down the field to Zaccheaus on plays in which he ran across the field from his spot in the slot. Atlanta did not run many option routes with Zaccheaus, which is not typical for a 5'8 slot with some shiftiness in his game. Against zone, Zaccheaus isn't going to be a quarterback's best friend because of his diminutive size, but he had a decent number of first down conversions while posting up in the right spot in between defenders.
• Sideline awareness: Zaccheaus has good field awareness, and does a nice job of getting two feet in bounds. Examples at the 0:26 and 6:36 marks.
• Run after catch: Zaccheaus played a little running back at Virginia, and you can see that in his game after the catch. He makes defenders earn their tackles (he doesn't give himself up), and while he is not Deebo Samuel, he will break some tackles.
• Dirty work stuff: Zaccheaus is not thought of as a good blocker, which shouldn't be surprising for a 5'8 guy. He was also flagged for OPI on a play in which he showed little subtlety running a pick route for Pitts against the Bengals. Again, he's not Zach Pascal.
While Zaccheaus has good speed, he does not have Watkins-level speed, but he was a more reliable receiver for Atlanta than Watkins was for Philly in 2022. Both players were used similarly, and it wouldn't surprise me if the Eagles like Zaccheaus more at whatever low salary he likely got than Watkins at $2,743,000. I believe the signing of Zaccheaus puts Watkins' roster spot in peril, whether that's via trade, or if the team releases him to save a little extra cap space. If Watkins remains with the Eagles in 2023, at a minimum Zaccheaus represents legitimate competition for Watkins' snaps.
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