Throughout training camp and in the preseason, Titans wide receiver Justin Hunter has made the fade pattern look all too easy.
When the Titans get anywhere near the goal line, quarterback Jake Locker simply lofts a soft spiral toward the corner of the end zone. That's when the 6-4, 203-pound Hunter turns into the Titans version of a jack-in-the-box, leaping over defenders to haul in a touchdown pass – just as he did in Friday's loss to the Saints.
It's been all but unstoppable so far.
"He's so big and so long, and he has the ability to jump and he has such a big catch radius," Locker said. "You're able to put the ball a lot of places to give him a chance. That puts a lot of pressure on the defense at that point."
Hunter has been a hopper for quite some time.
He won the Virginia state prep title with a high jump of 7-foot-3, turned in a 39-1/2 vertical jump at the NFL combine and bettered that by one inch at the University of Tennessee's pro day.
Hunter gave fans a taste of his leaping ability as a rookie last season, when he beat San Diego with a 34-yard touchdown reception in the closing seconds.
But the fade pattern looks like it may well produce far more dividends this year.
"We did it some last year, but this year it's come along real well," Hunter said. "We've just been real consistent on that, and that's the big thing, to be consistent. We do it in practice all the time, and we've completed most of the fades in the red zone through OTAs and mini-camps and training camp."
Hunter is understandably excited every time the play is called in the red zone.
"They want to use my big frame, so they throw it to me there," Hunter said. "The cornerback has to turn his back at some point to try to defend me. That's when I can use my leaping ability to go over the top of him – before he gets a chance to figure it out."