Around this time last year, Amari Rodgers was rehabbing a torn ACL in his right knee. Just a few months before his junior season, it looked as if he wasn’t going to play much — if at all. Many had speculated that he was going to miss the entire 2019 season once he suffered the injury back in March of last year. Fortunately, time was on his side and a determined Rodgers stepped foot on the field during the Clemson Tigers sooner than expected.
When everyone doubted Rodgers, he did the unthinkable.
During an interview with Sports Illustrated, he had one goal in mind and that was to get back on the field for the Syracuse game (third game of the season). He raised the stakes and did it one better by playing against Texas A&M in the second game of the season. The following week, he accomplished what he originally set out to do and that was play against Syracuse.
Without question, one of my players going into next season is Amari Rodgers from Clemson. Rodgers is poised for a breakout senior season this fall.— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) June 9, 2020
🦵Thick lower body - will run through arm tackles
🔥Has breakaway speed
🦶Great balance, control & footwork up the sideline pic.twitter.com/G5cDeccZWp
But against the Orange, he didn’t just play. He dominated with four receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns. It’s no surprise to see him score touchdowns as he scored 47 of them at Knoxville Catholic in high school. This helped him earn a four-star grade from 247 Sports and offers to schools such as Alabama, USC and more. Choosing the Tigers, the talented wide receiver enters his fourth season for the team and is poised to have a breakout season for them. Let’s jump into some film and see why it’s time for Amari Rodgers to shine for the Clemson Tigers.
Post and out route
The versatility that Rodgers provides, he’ll be asked to do a magnitude of things. From playing as an ‘X’ receiver, operating in the slot or returning punts, he’ll be someone the Tigers can look to do it all. Even though he only had 30 receptions in 2019, those numbers should increase in 2020 and part of that is due to how he can help attack the middle of the field. One of those routes is the post route:
On the play above, Rodgers is operating out of the slot and he attacks the middle of the field with a post route. During the route, he knows as he sprints vertically up the field that the safety is going to be stuck in man coverage so by attacking that separation with the post route, his footwork and hips look fluid as he breaks to the middle of the field. Once the ball is thrown, he secures it away from his body and picks up the first down.
Next, we get another deep out route by Rodgers. As the safety is late getting up the field towards Rodgers, it causes the safety to get flat footed and keep the sideline wide open. This leads an easy opening for Rodgers to break towards the sideline and execute the deep out route. These types of routes and plays help move the sticks and provide an offense stability in the middle of the field and towards the sideline.
When fully healthy, it’s easy to see the success that Rodgers can provide the Tigers. In 2018, he had 71 targets and recorded 55 receptions for 575 yards. One of the big factors in that is how well he does after the catch. Despite the injury riddled season for 2019 of returning from a torn ACL and suffering a shoulder injury against Wake Forest, he was still able to record nine receptions of 15-plus yards or more. Whenever you watch Rodgers, you’ll notice how he’s able to create-after-the-catch due to his ability to run through arm tackles.
Beyond just running through arm tackles, Rodgers is explosive after the catch. On the play above, you can see him secure the pass on a wide receiver screen. Once he gets the pass, he his short area quickness gets put on display and explodes upfield to the score the touchdown.
Even though the RPO that is ran on the play above isn’t perfect, it’s positive yardage. Most of it is due in part to how Rodgers is able to break free from one tackle and gain a few additional yards. If they haven’t already, his resiliency is what teams are going to fall in love with once they turn on the tape.
Lastly, you get a designed jet sweep touch pass for Rodgers. Once he gets the ball from the quarterback, he quickly explodes upfield just to get positive yards. However, he’s hoping he can find another opening that he can hit and break into the open field to either score a touchdown or pickup the first down. Regardless of the outcome, this is something that you can live with whenever he touches the football. It wouldn’t be surprising to see if this gets utilized more and more now that he’s fully healthy for the 2020 season.
Next man up
As the old saying goes, it’s next man up for Clemson and their wide receivers. Tee Higgins is gone and Justyn Ross is done for the year so there’s 198 available targets (from 2019) to go around. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Rodgers get a huge increase in his target share but his production should also see an increase. It’ll be fun to see exactly what the final numbers are but if I were a betting man, I’d bet that they would be pretty good.
Despite the added pressure for him to perform at a high level, I think he’ll be able to do it. With all the adversity he’s had to overcome to this point, plus his just overall athletic build with an explosive and thick lower body, the future looks bright. His transition to the next level will be tough to predict. Some might say he’s the next best thing or he could just be a really good gadget player but for his senior season it’s Rodgers’ time to headline with Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers.