Earlier today, the Jets confirmed that they are activating wide receiver Saalim Hakim from the practice squad to fill the roster spot created when Stephen Hill was placed on injured reserve. Jets fans might not know too much about Hakim, so we’ve been looking at footage to try and get an insight into what he brings to the table.
The 23 year-old Hakim is a 5-11, 188-pounder who went undrafted in 2011 and is yet to appear in an NFL regular season game. However, he has spent time with the Dallas Cowboys, St Louis Rams and New Orleans Saints, playing in preseason for the Cowboys in 2012 and the Saints in 2013. Hakim was also on the Saints’ active roster for two games last December, but was not activated for either game. He is best known as the younger brother of former NFL all-pro receiver Az-Zahir Hakim.
After the jump, observations from reviewing preseason footage from 2012 and 2013 to evaluate some of Hakim’s strengths and weaknesses.
Who is Saalim Hakim?
Saalim Hakim is trying to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Az-Zahir, who won a Super Bowl ring with the St. Louis Rams back following the 1999 season. The younger Hakim was a small school prospect from Palomar and didn’t receive much in the way of draft buzz when he left school prior to the 2011 draft. However, teams took notice the following year when he reportedly ran a 4.2 forty.
The Dallas Cowboys signed him shortly after the 2012 draft as a developmental prospect. He appeared in two games for them in preseason, catching one pass, but didn’t make their final roster. During the season, he was signed to the Rams’ practice squad briefly and then the Saints added him to their practice squad and later promoted him to the active roster for the last two games of the year. He wasn’t activated in either of those games, but did remain with the team throughout the 2013 offseason, appearing in all four preseason games and catching two passes.
The Jets signed Hakim to their practice squad on October 10th.
Week Three – v St. Louis
Having not played at all in either of the first two games, Hakim saw action late and with the Cowboys leading by one and facing a third and nine, he ran a post corner route, got a step on his man and made a smooth catch with his hands over by the sideline. An illegal formation penalty negated this play.
Week Four – v Miami
Hakim saw action in the fourth quarter here. On the first play of the fourth, he drew a pass interference penalty on a play where he stopped his route just beyond the sticks and the defender mistimed his hit to break up the pass. Midway through the quarter he lined up outside with an inside release and broke back over the middle on a crossing route. The pass was slightly behind him as the quarterback perhaps underestimated his speed, but he made a leaping catch for a 15 yard gain having easily created separation from his man. He was targeted one more time, on a throw to the end zone with five minutes to go. This could have been an easy touchdown, but the quarterback threw a back shoulder throw and the receiver looked back over his wrong shoulder and had his momentum taking him away from the ball, which fell harmlessly incomplete.
Hakim was also back to field a kickoff late in the third quarter, but he caught it in the end zone and took a knee.
Week One – v KC
Now with the Saints, Hakim saw action on 18 snaps in this game. He was first targeted midway through the second quarter on a play where the quarterback rolled out to buy time as the receivers tried to improvise their routes. Hakim was unable to make a diving catch on a short pass over to the sideline, but it didn’t matter because there was a defensive holding on another receiver.
In the fourth quarter, they looked his way several times. First of all, he went deep with an outside release and had half a step on his man, but was too close to the sideline and the defender smartly shoved him out of bounds. It looked like the pass was overthrown anyway. On the next drive, he lined up in the slot and ran a crossing pattern against a zone defense underneath. Again the throw was a beat late and slightly behind him and he couldn’t hang on as he took a big hit which left him shaken up. He did return though, and was targeted on consecutive plays on the final drive. The first was another deep throw and Hakim blew by his man on the inside and then curved his route out to the corner. He had a step on him, but the quarterback was hit as he threw and the pass was underthrown, allowing the defensive back to recover and break it up. On the next play, they threw a screen to him in the slot and he took it to the outside for eight yards but couldn’t break the tackle to get to the marker.
Week Two – v Oakland
Hakim played 15 snaps in this one. He was targeted late in the third quarter as he broke towards the sideline. The pass was too high and off his fingertips, but the defender coming in late caught him with a helmet to helmet hit, drawing a penalty. They looked for him again on the next snap, with Hakim stopping in front of his man underneath, but the pass was tipped into the air and intercepted. Hakim was credited with a tackle as he hustled over. His best contribution came with under 10 minutes to go as he blew by Taiwan Jones on a go-route and drew a 39-yard pass interference penalty when Jones grabbed his arm.
On special teams, he had a 15-yard facemask penalty as he tried to fight off a double team, having initially got down there first as the primary gunner.
Week Three – at Houston
As usual, the third game was the game where the backups don’t see much action. Hakim was only in for six plays and was targeted once. He again went deep and had a step, this time on Brandon Harris, who is a legitimate NFL player who has played over 120 snaps so far this season. Once again the pass was slightly underthrown, but Hakim nearly came down with it. He had two hands on the ball, but Harris was able to knock it away from him. Hakim banged his head on the turf as he fell to the floor and was injured.
Week Four – at Miami
In the final preseason game, Hakim played 25 snaps. He had his best highlight so far early in the fourth when he blew by DeAndre Presley (currently on the Panthers’ practice squad) on a deep route and made a leaping grab for 53-yards following some hand-fighting to create separation. Later on, he drew a 39-yard penalty on another deep route where the ball was underthrown. On this occasion, he did have half a step with the defender (RJ Stanford) playing outside technique, expecting help on the inside which wasn’t there. Hakim was also credited with a tackle late in the game, showing good hustle after an interception to chase back.
On special teams, he did a great job against a double team in the primary gunner role on one play, beating both men and drawing a flag for an illegal block in the back.
Based on all the footage watched, here was what Hakim brings to the table, divided into categories:
Usage - In preseason this year, he was in the slot less than 10% of the time, although he did catch a couple of passes from there. You could imagine him getting some special packages, but his primary role was to run go routes and stretch the field.
Deep threat – Hakim certainly established himself as a viable deep threat against backups, much like David Clowney and Clyde Gates before him. Although he only caught one deep ball, he drew a couple of penalties and would have had better stats if he wasn’t underthrown constantly.
Blocking - I didn’t really expect to see much from someone who is regarded as an inexperienced speedster, but Hakim did make one really good block where he turned his man to the outside downfield and allowed the runner to gain another easy 8-10 yards. He did have one bad missed block that led to a fumble, but that was a blown assignment rather than poor technique.
Routes - In the limited action I saw, Hakim did a pretty good job of getting separation (albeit against backups). While most of that is down to his speed, he does have some ability to change direction sharply. I’d imagine he’s a work in progress in terms of route running at this stage of his career though and his instincts on that play where a back shoulder throw could have produced an easy score were perhaps lacking.
Hands - Hakim did make a couple of nice catches, but there were also a couple that – while I wouldn’t call them outright drops – were off his hands. However, he looked surprisingly smooth and natural catching the ball on the couple of occasions where it was accurately thrown.
Yards after the catch – Other than the eight yard gain on the screen pass, we didn’t really get a chance to see him demonstrate this, but with his speed he must be a threat. I don’t know what his instincts are like with the ball in his hands though.
Special Teams – There’s some talk that the Jets might activate Hakim and experiment with him returning kicks. That was certainly something his brother was known for, but again not something we got to see from him in his preseason appearances. He might contribute more as a gunner, because he showed some promise there.
Demeanor - There’s nothing to report in terms of bad attitude or anything like that. I was impressed with his hustle on a couple of intercepted passes and he didn’t argue with the quarterback on the play where the ball was thrown behind him.
Injuries – I can’t find any information on injuries from Hakim’s past. As noted, he was dinged up a couple of times in those preseason games, perhaps indicating that he might benefit from bulking up a bit to improve his durability.
It’s not even certain that Hakim will be activated at all for as long as he remains on the roster, but it is interesting they elected to activate him and not Michael Campbell from the practice squad. Maybe they are serious about giving him a look on special teams.
I was pleasantly surprised by some of the things Hakim showed. I was expecting speed and rawness, but he actually looked the part and displayed adequate physicality at times. Although he only caught three passes in six games, he contributed pretty well considering his lack of playing time, drawing several penalties. Hakim seems like he can beat guys deep, which is expected when you have 4.2 speed, but not always the case, because there’s more to it than just beating your man in a footrace. However, we should take this with a pinch of salt because the guys he was beating are backups for a reason.
I have zero expectations for Hakim making any kind of contribution this season, so if he does that will be a bonus. However, I am intrigued to see whether they keep him in the system and will put him in the mix to develop into a contributor next season.
Some stats from PFF were used in the completion of this article.