Here's the ideal sideline pass, thrown just at shoulder height so that you can take it in full stride, ready to turn and take off up-field without losing your balance or speed.
Since all passes aren't perfect, I practice all of these catches. Important thing is to keep your eye on the ball, watch it all the way into your hands and disregard the consequences.
More on catching the ball
This shows me just after I have made my final fake to get clear of the halfback. The thing to remember here is not to slow down at all. If you're out ahead of the ball you can usually slow down and wait for it. The ball won't slow down and wait for you.
This is my own personal road map of pass patterns. Each route shown above is an integral part of a larger team pattern designed to get me or another Baltimore receiver a step or two ahead of a defender at the split second when the ball arrives.
This is part of the same idea. On a long pass you have a tendency to turn your whole body to look for the ball (left). If you do, you break the rhythm of your stride and slow down. You must learn to turn your head and eyes. I wear extra-big contact lenses so they keep the ball in focus even in the corner of my eyes.
I'm a chest catcher by preference. I like to take the ball against my chest, crouched so I can go up, down or to either side. But you have to learn to field the ball where it's thrown. If it's low, keep hands and elbows close together so it can't get through. I never noticed before, but my little fingers are spread wide and nearly touching on hand catches.
This is the head-and-step fake Wilson is so good at. The backer (84) is playing on my inside shoulder. At the snap of the ball I take a quick step to my right to make him shift weight in that direction. The moment he does, I break fast and hard to the left.
Here I'm breaking inside a head-on linebacker. I'd probably be out eight or 10 yards from the tackle, to clear the inside route. It works best after a couple of plays where you fake in and break out; the backer expects you to go outside when you hesitate, but you go on inside him.