No-Huddle Series: RB Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky


Bobby Rainey gets the next play in my No-Huddle series.

The first person who tipped me off to Bobby Rainey was NFL.com writer and researcher Chad Reuter, who worked at CBS Sportsline and NFL Draft Scout. Like many of the great tape grinders out there, I don’t get a chance to talk with them often or at great length because they are busy doing what I’m doing – working long hours. If this blog hasn’t helped you figure it out, the community of tape grinders who aren’t current NFL scouts is a cool group of people. If they recognize you as one of them, you learn that on the whole, they are hard-working, generous people with an abundance of humility.

Reuter is definitely one of these people. So it was a pleasant surprise last fall when he saw Rainey play, liked him, and thought of me when wanted another opinion on him. Being sought for a second opinion from a fellow tape watcher – from my limited perspective – isn’t common, so it was memorable.

What I don’t remember is whether it was Chad or I that compared Rainey’s upside to that of former Redskins and Eagles return ace and situational back Brian Mitchell. I think it was Chad, but I initially agreed with that assessment. The comped player wasn’t important, except that it signified that we agreed Rainey had the talent to compete for a roster spot in the NFL.

Since then, I have watched a couple more of Rainey’s games and I like his skills as an all-around weapon. Some critics of his game say Rainey bounces too many plays outside. I have seen Rainey’s share of runs that are designed to go outside as well as some runs that he bounces to the corner. However, I have also seen Rainey cut plays inside and get the tough yards.

The play below is a 30 personnel run for nine yards on a 1st and 10 play with 2:51 in the third quarter. There are more impressive runs between the tackles in this game from 21 and 22 personnel, but I like the replay angle of this attempt that shows Rainey’s perspective of the run, which gives me a few things to discuss about running the football as well as Rainey’s skills.

Rainey has several options on this zone play. Depending on the outcome of the center-right guard double team of the defensive tackle, Rainey could go left or right – it’s his job to make a good read.

If you look at the number of defenders on each side of the official, you can see that the right side of the offensive line faces four defenders in the box while the left side of the line only faces three. This 30 personnel running set is a balanced formation for Western Kentucky’s offense and it gives them a chance to run to either side of the line with a good chance of success. In this situation, the fact that the safety on the left side of the offensive line is 10 yards back makes it more appealing for the offense to run to that side instead of to the right side where the safety is in the box five yards off the line of scrimmage.

This is something the running back should be considering before the snap, because the information should help him set up his blocks. After the snap, Rainey does a good job getting his head up and reading the line of scrimmage as he runs to the exchange point with the quarterback. At this point, there isn’t any penetration into the backfield that is disrupting the intent of the blocking scheme and the safeties are holding their ground where they stood before the snap.

If you were to guess the direction of the run at this stage of the play, it’s still undecided. However, the right side blocks look promising if No.82 can get that second-level block on the safety No.21. This is looking too far ahead for the runner to has to see how the interior line moves its opponents first.

As Rainey takes the exchange, his head remains up and reading the line. What he sees is his right guard coming off the double team to take the linebacker. The common rule for running backs is to read the helmets of their opponents when reading blocks and run to the opposite direction. In this case, the linebacker’s helmet is to the outside shoulder of the right guard. Rainey knows that gap is filled and he must adjust. He also might see the arm of the defensive tackle outside the right shoulder of the center, which is the first clue that hitting A-gap between the center and right guard isn’t a good idea. The other reason is that his up-back is the only defender with a shot to block the linebacker at the left hash and hitting that A-gap would give the linebacker a free shot.

Rainey reads the double-team correctly and adjusts with a dip to the left side of the formation.

The nice part about this blocking scheme and where Rainey begins his read is that his first option gives him a natural beginning to press and cut back to the left if the blocks off the double-team don’t pan out. A player I want you to remember is the safety on the right side of the line that No.82 is trying to block. He’s going to disappear from the frame of the next photo, but it is clear in future stills that Rainey knows where this defender is and what he’s doing.

As Rainey dips to the left he immediately reads the 3-technique (the defensive tackle) coming outside the left guard, which limits his best option to the gap between No.32 and his center No.65.

Rainey makes a strong plant with his outside foot and begins his acceleration through this gap to get a quick four yards. What I like about this decision is that Rainey actually presses this hole a bit and helps widen the rushing lane when he makes his cut closer to his fullback. It also freezes the safety No.25 to the outside, which will also server Rainey will in a moment.

Rainey’s ability to make hard cuts and accelerate through them is a strength to his game. Coupled with his size, he will be difficult for linebackers and safeties to track on zone plays.

What happens next is one of the fun parts of this run. Rainey gets into the this hole with his next step and now has a few options. With his head up, Rainey has a split second to make his decision.

If Rainey goes straight ahead, he has to contend with the official and at least one of two safeties converging on him. Although out of the screen, Rainey has the peripheral vision to see the safety coming from the right with a clean angle to hit him.

It is more difficult for a runner to break a tackle that’s a clean shot coming from an east west direction. Rainey understands this and makes an impressive cut to his left that not only helps him elude the safety coming from the right, but he foils the angle of the safety on the left with an angle that’s more over the top. This decision and its execution demonstrates good peripheral vision, sound decision-making, balance, and agility.

Rainey has the flexible hips to make a dramatic change of direction like this in the hole. Look at where his hips and knees are pointing. He’s already headed outside the safety’s angle before the safety even gets to the spot he’s heading.

Now watch for the safety coming from the right as Rainey cuts outside the safety coming over top. As he gets up field with this cut, he forces the safety to turn back and reach for Rainey’s legs rather than deliver a head-on hit where he can drive with his shoulders and wrap. The same holds true for the safety coming from the right side of the field. Rainey completely avoids this defender’s hit, which would have come from an optimal angle for a tackle. Instead, Rainey is dealing with the cornerback and safety delivering hits that aren’t at direct angles and allows the runner to use good technique to drive for extra yardage.

In theory, I think a runner would rather avoid a shot to the side from a safety coming untouched and delivering it with his pads if he has the option to take on two players with indirect angles and he gets to deliver the first blow to one and the other is grabbing instead of hitting.

Rainey runs through the safety’s wrap attempt at his legs and leaves the defender on the ground. The picture below demonstrates why good pad level is so important.

Because Rainey got his pad under the corner, he can also turn that shoulder away from the defender after the contact and slip through a wrap. It also helps Rainey protect the ball.

The low pad level also forces North Texas to gang tackle Rainey, who keeps his legs moving for another five yards down field.

A second later, the UNT defense gets Rainey to the ground – a nine-yard gain.

This is by no means an indication that Rainey is going to become a great inside runner in the NFL. However, the skills to read, move, and finish are there. What’s working against him is a small school background, the fact he’s already 25 years-old, and he’s under 5’10” and 210 pounds. Still, I’m keeping an eye on him because I like a lot of what I see.

Download the 2012 Rookie Scouting Portfolio for analysis of over 151 prospects at QB, RB, WR, and TE.

Categories: Evaluations, No-Huddle Series, Players, Running BackTags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 comments

  1. I was at that game, and it was frustrating watching that little guy catch long passes and breaking tackle after tackle (if you want to call it tackling). Very quick decision-making through the hole. This play in particular lasted but a couple seconds.

  2. Reblogged this on The Rookie Scouting Portfolio and commented:

    According to Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh, undrafted free agent Bobby Rainey “is opening eyes” in camp. Here’s an analysis of Rainey’s game, a player I compared stylistically to Ray Rice. With Bernard Pierce struggling thus far, and an unproven depth chart at the position, Rainey is making the most of limited opportunities thus far.

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