Truth be told, I’m not the biggest Parris Campbell fan. Heading into the draft I labeled the OSU prospect as raw, one-dimensional, and your prototypical boom or bust wideout. I even went as far as to say that I thought his Buckeye teammate - Terry McLaurin - was a superior player.
After all, Campbell showed little as a route-runner, wasn’t physical at the catch point, and played in a very limited role. In fact, according to Sports Info Solutions, a whopping 49.5% of Campbell’s receptions came on screens, jet sweep passes, or drag routes. That type of dependency on the short game wasn’t - and still isn’t - a good sign.
With all that being said, it’s obvious to see the appeal with Campbell. A speedster with a blazing 4.31 forty, the receiver is a freak athlete and tested out of the gym in nearly every category this past February at the NFL combine. A high school track star, he’s as fast as they come - at a position that relies more on speed than ever before. And it just so happens that he went to the perfect team to accentuate his blazing skill set.
Colts quick passing attack
After seeing Doug Pederson use tons of short crossers and quick drags during the Eagles Super Bowl run, it was only natural for Frank Reich to bring some of those same concepts to Indianapolis. Helping a rehabbing Andrew Luck get rid of the ball faster, Reich implemented a ton of faster-developing play-calls during his inaugural season, allowing Luck with simpler reads while his arm continued to heal.
A staple in the “Air Raid” offense, Reich used a plethora of different mesh concepts last season. Essentially two crossing routes combining with a natural rub, mesh concepts are simple - but also EXTREMELY effective when executed properly.
1) Here we have a Chip Kelly special with a designed RB wheel. We have both Ebron and Doyle bunched on the right side and a two WR set to the left. The far wideout clears out and Hilton runs a drag to his right while both tight ends cross left. Turbin runs a wheel out of the backfield and it puts the MLB (Bobby Wagner) in a tough situation. He has to take either Hilton or the wide-open Turbin - choosing the RB in this situation. Working through two rubs he can’t get there in time and Luck finds him for the easy completion.
Frank Reich brought over the Chip Kelly mesh concept (he didn't invent it) that D Pederson used a lot during their SB run with Foles to Luck & the Colts.— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) August 10, 2018
On 4&1, SEA plays man coverage. Wagner has to work through two natural "rubs".
RB Marlon Mack sees open space & settles in pic.twitter.com/O31f3RvTNC
2) A similar play against Washington. RB once again goes on the wheel, this time clearing out the linebacker. Leaves the inside open and allows Luck to find Ebron for the quick completion.
Brilliant design by Frank Reich here:— Carter Donnick (@CDonScouting) July 17, 2019
- Bunch set on the right, have outside WR clear.
- Doyle runs deep hook as a safety valve.
- RB wheel opens up short right side.
- Ebron and Hilton set up a simple rub to leave the right crosser wide open. pic.twitter.com/GjSriH9D0k
How Campbell fits in
As mentioned previously, over 49% of Campbell’s receptions came on screens, jet sweeps, or drag routes. Part of that was because he wasn’t a developed route-runner, but it was also implemented to help use his freakish athleticism to the best of his abilities.
Used frequently in Urban Meyer’s passing attack, Ohio State used tons of quick crossers and mesh concepts - almost to a fault. Dwayne Haskins was able to make clear and precise decisions with the football and the Buckeyes dominated the short passing attack as a result.
1) Here we see Campbell cross for a quick dump off. He hesitates ever so slightly to catch the LB leaning and is off to the races. He beats a 4.4 Devin Bush like he’s a pylon.
Ohio St did a good job featuring Parris Campbell. He gets the ball on a crosser vs. zone. Finding Campbell in space like this led to a lot of big gains. Whoever picks Campbell needs to work these crossers to him into their play calls. pic.twitter.com/JUR4ZxINvi— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) February 23, 2019
We see similar success on two more crosser designs here.
2) In a bunch set with teammate Terry McLaurin, Campbell runs a shallow drag to allow for the rub. McLaurin settles in the middle (like Doyle often does for Indy), and the top left receiver clears out - leaving Campbell to turn on the jets for the easy touchdown.
3) This time Campbell runs the deep crosser, with the soft zone coverage allowing him to sneak open. With the CB checking the RB in the flat it leaves Campbell on an LB - leading to predictably dominant results.
Colts love them some MESH. Guess what was Parris Campbell's most productive route? pic.twitter.com/LSOlazierL— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) April 27, 2019
4) Finally, we have another variation of the Chip Kelly RB wheel. The RB lines up on the inside of a left stacked formation, running an outside wheel to open up the short left side. The top left wideout runs the rub route with Campbell, while both the top right receiver and middle stacked receiver clear. Campbell gets open with ease and picks up the first down.
Ohio State LOVED the mesh concept. They ran it multiple times every game, with different variations of it too. Haskins knows it like the back of his hand. pic.twitter.com/CqrrmHonkO— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) April 26, 2019
Ultimately it’s Campbell’s experience using mesh routes, alongside his fluidity and speed, that makes him such an intriguing underneath option - especially on a team that uses it as much as Indianapolis. Whether it be lining up on the outside, slot, or even in the backfield, Campbell is a prime yards after catch player, and the quicker you can get it in his hands the better.
I remember stating in my Campbell report that “if he went to the right, quick-paced system he could make me look like a fool.” Well, I’m starting to get nervous, because that just might be the case.