BGA: Scouting Greg Salas

Bent, TheJetsBlog.com

Last week, the Jets signed free agent wide receiver Greg Salas to their active roster. Jets fans might not know too much about Salas, so we’ve therefore been looking at game footage in detail to investigate what he could bring to the table.

The 25-year old Salas is a 6’1″, 210 pound receiver who was a fourth round pick in 2011 out of Hawaii. He appeared in six games for the St Louis Rams in his rookie season, catching 27 passes, but was then traded to the New England Patriots last year and hardly played. The Jets signed him off the Eagles practice squad on the same day as they signed Josh Cribbs.

After the jump, a review of Salas’ career and observations from having looked at film from the last few seasons to evaluate some of his strengths and weaknesses.

Who is Greg Salas?

Greg Salas had a productive four year career at Hawaii, operating in a pistol-spread offense. He started to emerge as a sophomore and then took the next step when he moved into a slot receiver role in his junior year. He was third in the country in receiving yards and made over 100 receptions and then improved on those numbers as a senior, leading the nation and earning a third-team all-American nomination.

After running a 4.53 at the combine and adding impressive numbers in the short shuttle (4.10), vertical jump (37″) and broad jump (120″), Salas was drafted by the Rams in the fourth round and moved into a backup role after catching seven passes in preseason. He made one start and averaged over 35 snaps per game in six appearances. He caught 27 passes for 264 yards, including an eight catch performance (for 77 yards) against the Packers, but then was placed on injured reserve in week 10.

After being traded to the New England Patriots for a draft pick last year, Salas made just one appearance and played just six snaps on offense (with no targets). He was then released and picked up on waivers by the Eagles before the Patriots could put him on their practice squad.

After remaining with the Eagles for the rest of the season but not seeing any action, he was unable to make their final roster this year and ended up on their practice squad. The Jets signed him from the Eagles’ practice squad, which means he must – by rule – remain on the Jets’ active roster for at least three weeks. He’s currently injured, though, so we may not see him in action until after the bye, although he is only listed as questionable for this weekend’s game.

The Numbers

Third season
Seven games
One start
27 catches, 264 yards, no touchdowns
9.8 yards per catch
77% catch rate (last five seasons only)
Four drops
One carry for eight yards rushing
Two punt returns for 29 yards and three fair catches
Two fumbles as a receiver (not lost), one muffed punt (lost)
One tackle on special teams
Two 20+ yard plays (longest = 21 yards)

Observations

Based on all the footage watched, here was what Salas brings to the table, divided into categories:

Usage - Salas is regarded as a slot specialist. In 2011, the Rams used him in the slot on 178 of his 197 snaps. However, in preseason this year with the Eagles, he played on the outside a lot more and was in the slot just 13 times on 126 snaps.

Deep threat – Salas has been employed mostly as a possession receiver in the NFL. In fact, only three of his 35 targets in 2011 went more than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. (He caught one, for 19 yards, and dropped one). He’s not entirely incapable of getting downfield though, as he showed on this spectacular play against the Patriots in preseason.

Blocking - It can’t be a coincidence that Salas is a solid blocker, just like the other two receivers signed recently (Josh Cribbs and David Nelson). All the linemen the Jets added during the offseason are good on the move and fit well in a west coast style blocking scheme and all the backs they’ve brought in have been elusive open field runners that can thrive in space. In a similar vein, the Jets seem to be targeting very specific types of receiver to fit into their offense. Having attended Hawaii (where he was a teammate of Alex Green) Salas will have some familiarity with pistol-based blocking schemes. In particular, he did a good job of blocking down on linebackers from the slot to help set the edge and seemed to have a good understanding of timing and angling his approach correctly. I didn’t see any mistakes either.

Routes - Salas catches a ton of short passes, so there’s little to assess in terms of complex route running patterns. On one play he showed good instincts to leak out into the flat after a blown play and he would seem to have all the tools to run quick outs and slants, although didn’t display this much in the footage watched. His one downfield catch came on a throw down the seam where he ran a go route into zone coverage.

Hands - As evidenced by the above film clip, Salas is capable of spectacular catches. His 77% catch rate speaks to his reliability too. That was the highest percentage in the league in 2011 for any receiver with 35 or more targets. While he does have four drops, one of these was a concentration drop in the flat and the other three were not routine catches. Perhaps the bigger concern is fumbles. He muffed one punt and had two fumbles as a receiver, one where the ball rolled out of bounds and another where his teammate recovered it. Perhaps more worryingly, there were two other plays where he almost fumbled but was ruled down.

Yards after the catch – This is another area where Salas has great numbers. He averaged 8.5 yards after the catch per reception in 2011 which was the most in the league for anyone with more than 20 catches. That’s particularly impressive considering his longest gain was only 21 yards, so there were no big plays with easy downfield yardage to artificially inflate the numbers. However, if you look at his 9.8 yards per catch average, you realize that he caught the ball less than two yards downfield on average, which gives some clues as to how he was used. Sure enough, he caught 11 of his 27 passes behind the line of scrimmage, gaining 108 yards.

Salas had three broken tackles and showed excellent elusiveness, further evidence of which is available on this touchdown he scored in preseason. He has a good sense of how to follow his blockers when catching screen passes and an ability to squirm out of tackles and fall forward for a couple of extra yards.

Special Teams – Salas is an option at punt returner, where he fielded five punts as a rookie. He had one sensational return for 29 yards, where he broke several tackles, but did also muff one, causing a turnover. He was also used as a punt gunner and while he only had one tackle, it was a good one, as he beat a double-vice and twisted the return man to the ground on the outside after a short return.

Demeanor - I didn’t see anything too significant in terms of cockiness and Salas has had no penalties in his NFL action so far. By all accounts, he is a hard-working player with a good attitude that should be fun to root for if he gets a decent shot.

Injuries – Salas had his 2011 season cut short with a broken leg and is currently dealing with a knee issue, but did return to practice this week (and has been listed as questionable). The timing of the signing was somewhat mystifying (especially since he has to remain on the roster for three weeks anyway), because the Jets were fully aware of the injury, which was no secret because the Eagles had gone out and signed another scout team receiver to replace him. He did remain healthy in college.

Conclusions

Salas didn’t exactly fall into a great situation in his first couple of seasons, firmly rooted behind Danny Amendola and then Wes Welker on the Rams and Pats depth charts. Having said that, he heads to New York with Jeremy Kerley emerging as one of the better slot receivers in the league so again he seems destined to be a bit part player unless there are more injuries.

Salas’ blocking is good and his open field running is outstanding, so I could see them putting him into certain packages that will best utilize his skill-set. As a rookie, he did make several mistakes which ate into his opportunities, especially early in the season. However, when given chances, he did produce and made some significant positive contributions.

While the timing of this signing was somewhat baffling, perhaps that’s a sign that there was competition for his services and the Jets needed to pull the trigger. That would show how high on him they are, while also showing that there was at least one other team that was interested in retaining his rights. Of course, it may also have been timed so that he could give them some intel on the Patriots for last week’s game.

This looks to be a signing with some upside, but also someone who is a good fit for the offensive scheme and with some NFL experience which will come in handy if called upon for a more significant role.

Note: While the Jets also signed cornerback Ras-I Dowling this week, he was only added to the practice squad, so you won’t get a BGA scouting report on him unless and until he’s called up to the active roster.

Some stats from PFF were used in the completion of this article.

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