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Film breakdown: How Parris Campbell fits with the Giants

Washington Commanders v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The New York Giants added wide receiver Parris Campbell in free agency on Thursday. The 2019 second-round pick by the Indianapolis Colts had his best season in 2022. Campbell caught 63 of 85 targets (74.1 percent catch rate) for 623 yards and three touchdowns while operating in an offense with an unstable quarterback situation.

Here are the contract details for the 25-year-old receiver, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo:

Garafolo went on to say that this is essentially a one-year, $4.7 million deal with a max value of $6.7 million. There’s no doubting Campbell’s athletic ability and talent, but health plagued his career throughout his rookie contract. Here’s the extensive list of Campbell’s injuries, per

Campbell had only 34 catches through his first three seasons before his solid 2022 campaign. The young receiver could not catch a break and rarely saw the football field in those first three seasons. He failed to eclipse 200 snaps in a given season until 2022. That’s an obvious concern, but there are reasons to be excited about Campbell:

His elite athletic ability was still on display through his 2022 tape. He’s quick, explosive, has soft hands, and rarely drops the football. He only dropped 4.5 percent of his passes in 2022, with a career drop rate of 5.8 percent. For reference, his fellow teammate, Darius Slayton, has a career drop rate of 11.6 percent.

Campbell is also familiar with Giants’ wide receivers coach Mike Groh, who coached the Colts’ wide receivers in 2020 and 2021. Campbell predominantly aligned in the slot in 2022, with an 82 percent slot rate. However, Groh used him outside at a 90.8 percent rate in 2021 (played 177 snaps that year). He only played 63 snaps in 2020, and he was used often in the slot.

Groh saw potential in Campbell on the outside in 2021. Still, in Mike Kafka’s offense, the Giants can be interchangeable with certain receivers on the outside and in the slot; Kafka will also extensively rely on motion to place the offense in advantageous situations. Being knowledgeable to handle different positions at the wide receiver position is very important in this offense. Here’s what Groh had to say about Campbell:

“A threat on all levels. He’s somebody you can get the ball into their hands very quickly, he’s dynamic with the ball in his hands, can make people miss, break tackles. He’s got vision as a runner.”

All of these traits stuck out on his tape, and that’s one reason why I’m okay with this signing as an upside swing. I want to first start by highlighting the intelligence displayed by Campbell as a route runner.

Parris Campbell is No. 1

Football IQ

right side of screen

Campbell picks up 12 yards on a third-and-10 by working into the linebacker’s blindspot to influence him over the middle of the field before breaking back to the hash. See how Campbell first angles his stem inside to get Christian Kirksey (58) to shift inside as a zone defender; then, Campbell works around him and forces Kirksey inside and away from the hash. Very savvy play from Campbell to manipulate the linebacker.

No. 2 (inner WR) bottom of screen

Campbell’s slot presence as a slot receiver meant he was usually the hot read for the quarterback. This is a third-and-3 where Chandon Sullivan (39) contacts Campbell at the line of scrimmage with the weak side linebacker blitzing. Sullivan, thrown off by the blitz or possibly just attempting to occupy the tackle, doesn’t pressure and stays underneath Campbell’s hot route. Matt Ryan (2) attempted to fire the football right away, but Sullivan initially removed Campbell as a threat. Campbell, though, sat between Sullivan and the safety before flowing outside toward the numbers to give Ryan a throwing window to hit. First down, Colts! Sometimes, it’s all about the angle.

top of screen

Campbell is outside the numbers as the “X” receiver. He runs an excellent route to create separation against a bailing cornerback at the last minute. Campbell’s forward lean is excellent off the line of scrimmage. As the cornerback assumes outside leverage, Campbell sells the vertical route with an explosive release. Campbell’s plant foot (inside foot) on the turn into the curl angles inward and gets the cornerback to shift his coverage inside closer to the numbers. Since the apex defender blitzed, Campbell would have the entire field from the numbers to the sideline if he could influence the cornerback inside, which he did with ease. It’s a simple curl route, but it takes Campbell two steps to get in and out of his break while flowing outside away from the defender, who was initially in outside leverage. Subtle deception and a good play by Campbell.

No 2, bottom of screen

The quarterback situation in Indianapolis was abysmal last season and hasn’t been stable since Andrew Luck retired. There were several plays where Campbell was open, but the football was not delivered in a timely fashion. In the play above, Ryan is scanning full-field from the boundary to the field. The Colts run a smash concept with Campbell running the seven against, what appears to be, a Cover-6 Match defense with Cover-2 to the field side (where Campbell is running). There’s room to fire the football into the honey hole, but it’s quickly closed by the flat defender. Still, Ryan throws the ball late, and the cornerback works underneath it. Luckily for Ryan, Campbell turned into a defensive back and played through the catch point to prevent an interception. He just misses making a miraculous catch, but one of his feet went out of bounds.

Only three touchdowns!?

A superficial valid criticism of Campbell is his lack of touchdown productivity throughout his career. He only had three touchdowns last season, and here they are:

Matt Ryan threw for 14 touchdowns last season; Sam Ehlinger had three, and Nick Foles had one to the wrong team - the Giants and Landon Collins. Touchdowns were not ubiquitous for the Colts, and opportunities were not seized by the moribund offense of the 2022 Colts - that shouldn’t be held against Campbell.

No. 3, (slot)

Campbell picks up a chunk gain against the Eagles on a seven route within the double-china concept. Philadelphia buzzes the safety over Campbell, switching their defense from middle-of-the-field open pre-snap to closed. The buzz safety receives the under call from the apex defender, switching the defenders' responsibilities, and Campbell blows right by the apex defender and into space. Ryan, from the far-hash, fails to get the football out toward the front pylon where it needed to be; he underthrows Campbell and the ball goes down to the 4-yard-line instead of a potential touchdown.

No. 2, top of screen

Campbell displays his separation ability on the horizontal plane by accelerating past his cornerback and the safety. The backside cornerback does a great job of positioning himself to scare Ryan into throwing it out of the back of the end zone, but that same cornerback did a poor job turning in transition; a ball to the back pylon likely would have been a touchdown in this scenario. Still, it was good acceleration and explosiveness to separate from the other two defenders.

This play isn’t a would-be touchdown, but it displays the same speed I alluded to before. Campbell is to the left of the screen, and we see how quickly he gets off the line of scrimmage and away from the roboting linebacker. I also love how Campbell feels the coverage and knows to get down to protect himself.

No.2, top of screen

Campbell runs a slot fade against Cover-1 with two rats in the hole spying the running back's intentions. The coverage is tight initially on Campbell, but the fast wide receiver expands closer to the sideline to create more separation while maintaining the red line. Campbell gains a step, albeit tight, but Ehlinger’s pass is to the inside with not enough power behind it. Myles Bryant (27) does a good job, but a better pass could have put Campbell in an optimal position to score.

Soft hands

Two things I absolutely love about Campbell are how he consistently extends away from his frame - he is not a body catcher - and the soft nature of his hands. Campbell aDot (average depth of target) was only 6.5 yards last year - he was used frequently on screens, but he also has the ability to make contested catches down the field. He’s a threat at all three levels. Unfortunately, this happened last season:

This was an acrobatic play on third-and-8 to put the Colts into a good position. But his soft hands on quick simple routes certainly appeal to this Giants’ coaching staff who ranked second to last in intended air yards per pass attempt - Matt Ryan ranked last. Here are several clips showcasing good fundamentals catching the football away from his frame not to allow defenders to make a play on the ball. He also does well hanging onto the football through immediate contact after the catch.

No. 2, top of screen

Get the football in Parris’ hands

The Colts made a concerted effort to get the football quickly into Parris Campbell’s hands. His talent and athletic ability in open space is one reason for that; the Colts’ offensive passing ineptitude beyond six yards is the other. Nevertheless, Campbell had several highlight plays on screen passes. Here are a few:


Campbell isn’t the easiest player to bring to the ground, as we see in the play above. He’s agility set him up for success when he’s operating in space, but he’s also a player who can run through arm tackles. He also does a solid job holding onto the football when dialed up by a defender.

Final thoughts

The Giants tie no long-term money into Parris Campbell, who has struggled to stay on the football field. He does have experience with Groh, is coming off his best season where he was healthy, and he’s an elite athlete who can win at all three levels of the field. Campbell was hamstrung by a poor offense last season. It’s plausible that there’s still plenty of meat on the bone that we haven’t seen Campbell actualize. I see no issue in adding him at his dollar amount to see if the Giants can catch fire with a 25-year-old wide receiver who has potential.