The JUGS machine was a cool piece of technology when it first came out in the mid-1970s, and its usage remains common today.
After all, NFL rosters aren't filled with quarterbacks, much less accurate quarterbacks, who are willing to throw dozens of passes to any given receiver, multiplied by each receiver that needs reps. The JUGS machine serves as a handy substitute. As mentioned in a 2016 ESPN article by Greg Garber, the automated passer completely changed football, helping wide receiver trios like the early 2010s Steelers' Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders through regular sessions and providing stars like Odell Beckham Jr. the firepower to practice and produce those incredible highlight plays.
But flip phones were also cool when they first came out. And then, the iPhone happened.
In the same vein, the JUGS machine may be on its way out because of a brand-new, impeccably accurate, extremely versatile machine called the Seeker, produced by the Dallas-based Monarc robotics company (h/t Jeff Fedotin of Forbes). The timing could not have been much better for it to start to catch on, either, as it couldn't have been easy for NFL players to find ways to get useful reps in during the coronavirus pandemic. It looks the part of an upgraded machine, too. No, it's not a literal robotic quarterback walking around the field, but it sure as heck looks more high-tech than the JUGS does.
One ball at a time, with a manual reload between each pass? Nope - try six balls rotating through individual holsters. Somewhat inconsistent accuracy and distance? Forget that. How about pinpoint precision that can be programmed using a tablet in manual mode or by using a Monarc Pulse beeper in robotic mode? The beeper clips to the receiver and tracks their location, speed and acceleration to anticipate the projected catch point.
And NFL stars are taking notice... how could they not? Chargers tight end Hunter Henry told Forbes that he has practiced with his Seeker machine, customized with an Arkansas Razorbacks logo, every day since it arrived at his house.
"You can hit a certain spot every single time," Henry said, who prefers to use the machine's robot mode and clip on the Monarc Pulse beeper. "I can just literally set it up myself and get 50 to 100 catches in just like that."
Henry is joined by other notable tight ends who have been among the machine's earliest NFL users.
It's not only tight ends, though. Kittle, who was Pro Football Focus's top-ranked player in the 2019 season, is joined by Chris Godwin as patrons of Monarc's technology. Coincidentally, Godwin was PFF's top-ranked wide receiver for 2019, and Tom Brady's new target is joined by Allen Robinson and some of Brady's old receivers as Seeker users.
A pair of dominant former Cowboys are also having fun with the technology.
Sawyer Theisen, Monarc's director of business development, spoke to Forbes about some more of the machine's incredible features.
“We realized that pitching machinery is pretty archaic, outdated and needed to be brought into the 21st century," Theisen said. "“So if you want to work fades 70 yards down the field, 50 on the numbers or 20 on the sideline, all you have to do is click where you want the ball to go, and the machine makes the adjustment to put it there. You can do any punt, kick or pass at the click of a button, at any speed, body position or arc.”
I'm sold! But I'm not sure the Seeker will be sold to people like me, as it's going for a healthy $50,000 following several years of development.