In KG's scheme, so much is predicated off the #1 WR. See, KG will almost always line Nicks up Iso, with multiple targets on the opposite side of the field with Cruz generally lining up out of the slot.
A lot of the other targets routes are in part determined by how the S plays Nicks. A good example would be the first real big play he had this year, that slant/in cut that he turned up field. All that space was cleared out because of how Randle and Cruz ran their routes on the opposite side of the field.
This has been the base part of KG's scheme going back even when we had Plexico Burress. Now, when that X WR (#1) can threaten opposing defenses and demand that Safety align over the top to give the corner help, our offense opens up so much more. Now, for whatever reason, probably due to Nicks trying to get back to being his old self (which I don't know if that's even a possibility to be honest), he isn't displaying that game breaker type level of play that we have grown accustomed to. He looks to be moving slower still, which was what plagued him last year as well. His explosiveness isn't there yet.
And thus, opposing defenses are now dropping both Safeties and not having to align over the top of Nicks, which then clutters the entire field except for when...you might have guessed it, they are getting downfield and vertical (it naturally spreads the field out and creates space the more field you incorporate into the route, which will give you more room to operate out of, 10 yds or 80 yds, for example) which might be why we seem to be going downfield SOO much.
From what I've interpreted based on what I'm seeing in review of these games, especially the Carolina game, defenses aren't forced into respecting Nicks the way he dictated back in '11. And, not even close really either. We need that aspect back. Remember in '08 when Plex shot himself and we had to use Hixon as the X (#1)? The offense faced the same issues then that it is now. It's just so pivotal to KG's scheme having a #1 that demands the S align over the top of him and dictate the defensive coverage...
Maybe we should give Cruz a shot as the X?????Wild thought I know but he is threatening defenses way more than Nicks is...
For the record, I believe Nicks turns it up and gets back to form. Hopefully this sunday because we can't wait any longer.