A Look Back at Cecil Shorts’ Amazing Sophomore Season in the NFL

It was a great 2012 season for 2nd year NFL breakout player Cecil Shorts of the University of Mount Union. Cecil ended the regular season with 55 receptions for 979 yards and a team-leading 7 touchdowns, while being picked a Visio Top Value Performer finalist along with Eric Decker, Stevan Ridley, Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson and Alfred Morris.

I visited ESPN’s split stats for the season and found some eye-opening numbers. Right as Cecil became a starter, he increased his total receptions and yards by 40 and nearly 500 respectively, making the most of his opportunity. He also was most productive on first and second downs, accounting for 40 recpetions and 766 yards with 6 of his total 7 touchdowns. By down and length, Cecil was most productive on first down with 10+ yards to go, where he averaged 22 yards per reception. He also excelled when the Jaguars were trailing, catching for 718 yards and 5 total touchdowns, the most memorable an 80 yarder again Indianapolis. Needless to say, Cecil has been quite the deep threat, and should stay in that starting role come 2013.

Being such a deep threat, he was tied for second in the NFL for yards per catch in 2012 with San Diego’s Danario Alexander at 17.8, behind only Tampa Bay’s VIncent Jackson at 19.2, and also ranks second in the NFL with four receptions of 50-plus yards and an 18.9-yard per catch average. That being said, he also was No. 6 on Pro Football Focus’ list of receivers with the worst drop rate. Safe to say and arguing for his side, he was behind Indianapolis receivers Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton with rates of 16.67, a team where Cecil had his highest production totaling in 7 receptions for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Cecil has created some buzz around the league at large as well. NFL analyst Trey Wingo (@wingoz) had this tweet to say about his 67 yard TD catch against the Houston Texans:

Cecil Shorts with a 67 yard TD #allhedoesiscatchridiculouslylongTDs

He has earned many other admirers during his breakout year, and a special one in Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The highly touted NFL coach had some good things to say about Cecil and his breakout year before heading into a game with the Jaguars.

“He’s done a great job; he’s really impressive,” he said on a conference call. “He’s one of the best guys we’ve played against this year. He competes hard — he doesn’t take any plays off and he works hard on every route,” Belichick said. “I think he does everything well. Excellent downfield receiver, he’s got really good quickness off the line of scrimmage against press coverage, he breaks tackles and can take it all the way.”

In an interview with Yahoo Sports, Cecil remains to be humble, despite putting up great numbers in his amazing sophomore season. After continuing to make the most of his opportunities, getting more targets and gaining quarterback trust, he believes he can still improve much, much more.

“As a total wide receiver, I think I have some work to do. I always see myself as needing to improve. Last offseason, this offseason, just improving my total game. I don’t want to focus on just one thing – my hands or – just trying to focus, as a total receiver, just getting better. I think my route-running can improve, especially on some certain routes. You can get cut if you can’t get off the press. I think I did a good job of getting off the press, but you can never be too good at it. So getting off the press is definitely an important thing I think I need to work on. But I’m excited for this upcoming year. Third-year campaign and I think I can do some good things next year.”

I think I speak on behalf of a lot of people, that Raider Nation is looking forward to seeing another tremendous season from Cecil in 2013. He’s making a name for himself, giving opportunity to other Mount Union players who are trying to make it to the league, and he’s going to be one of the league’s best values until the end of the 2013 campaign if he keeps on the same track.

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