Robert Gill will be one of the more fascinating storylines as we head towards training camp and the 2013 NFL season. The question is whether or not the Arena Football League journeyman can make an NFL roster for the first time in his career.
It's rare that a 29 year old rookie free agent signing is even a blip on most radars, but Gill's story is so interesting, and his path to get this opportunity with the Cardinals, spelled out by Josh Weinfuss, makes his story almost as intriguing as his speed... almost.
When you watch Gill play, on one of the plethora of video highlight packages on YouTube, what you see is speed to spare and that's what Gill is selling to the Cardinals, that he can be that over the top deep threat that Arians so craves.
When you look at the Cardinals wide receiver depth chart you see a lot of similar type players:
Michael Floyd has the same skillset (albeit much more untapped) as Larry Fitzgerald. LaRon Byrd is in the same mold, again not as talented, but they possess similar traits, and their limitations as receivers are much more pronounced than Fitzgerald's.
Then you have the smaller, quicker, more possession like receivers in Andre Roberts, Kerry Taylor, and even newly drafted Ryan Swope, who blazed an official 4.34 forty yard dash at the combine is still limited as an over the top deep threat.
Sure Swope has rare speed, but he's more of the run away from you type, not the run by you, which Arians likes to have at his disposal.
That's where Gill steps in.
Sure the video highlights you can watch of him in the AFL leave you with questions; a lot of his plays he was the man in motion coming towards the line of scrimmage, giving him a 10-15 yard running start before the snap of the ball.
What you can't question is that he's able to get up to full speed in a hurry, as he consistently, in these highlights at least, gets behind the defense, including what I assume is the safety in the AFL.
His speed causes defenders to have to turn and run immediately when in man coverage, or it makes the safety have to break early on help in zone coverage, as Gill is able to get to his spots that much sooner than most receivers.
When you watch Gill in the AFL, you see consistent separation at the top, but also from the beginning of his routes, simply because the defender has to give him a cushion or he'll be past him and gone before he can react.
So why isn't Gill a shoe in for a roster spot as a wide receiver?
Well, this is the NFL, and there are legitimate questions he has to answer over OTA's, camps and hopefully in the pre season.
First big question for Gill is:
Can he beat press coverage?
Look at what TY Hilton does here without much press man in his face:
He's not pressed, he's able to get free releases and he gets deep into his routes causing problems over the top of the defense and giving Luck a target, when he has the time to get through his reads.
Can Gill run clean routes?
When you watch highlights on Mike Wallace from year one until 2011, his last season with Arians as OC, you see a transformation from a guy who just runs down the field, to a guy who has learned how to run the route tree fairly well.
Watch Gill in his AFL highlights, again the field is much smaller, but you see issues consistently with Gill rounding off routes, not getting in and out of his breaks sharply.
He doesn't plant his foot consistently and drive back on the ball.
Obviously with Fitzgerald, Roberts and Floyd the Cardinals don't need an every down receiver right now, but Arians loves to have weapons to play with, and Gill fits that.
Sure early on he only needs to show that he can be a deep threat , but coming out year after year there will be sub 4.3 weapons in the draft, who have been playing organized football in high school and college who can do the same thing, just better.
Gill's skillset is exactly what Arians wants, and he'll get every opportunity to make the roster because of it.
Can his speed buy him a roster spot for 2013?
That's something I can't wait to find out.