A hallmark of creativity is taking something ordinary and transforming it into something new. Travis Benjamin illustrates this creativity with his setup of a double move.
In my RSP publication, videos, and blog posts, I often say that one of the most important facets of scouting college talent is viewing prospects through an NFL lens. I do this by studying the professional game. This regular season series covers examples of techniques, decisions, and scenarios involving NFL players that informs the way I study the college game.
Drumming the arms at the top of a stem is a taught technique to receivers. It’s designed to present the illusion of forward movement at a fast pace while the receiver is coming to a stop and changing direction.
A lot of receivers turn arm-drumming into a predictable movement that becomes a tell for a seasoned defensive back that the receiver is making his break. The way some receivers execute the move, arm-drumming belongs in the garbage.
But against the Raiders, Travis Benjamin takes the arm-drum off the scrap heap and transforms it into a useful device of story-telling artistry on this deep out. The takeaway from his play is that it’s not if the player uses a technique but how he uses it.
Benjamin elevates what’s all too often a predictable move because he sells it as predictable when he’s being anything but. Benjamin runs this stem (the part of the route before his break) as if he’s setting up a stutter-and-go.
The receiver raises his pads and drums his arms near the top of this stem in a predictable enough fashion that the defender clearly believes he’s spotted a tell. The defender is playing deep enough that he slows to honor the potential break but he’s not driving on the route because he’s conscious of the potential for a double move.
It’s exactly what Benjamin wants his opponent to believe. Like a predator that sells itself as the prey, Benjamin accelerates from the arm-drumming and the corner turns his hips down field, biting on the go.
Benjamin’s arm-drumming to sell the illusion of the double move interjects an option that disrupts the cornerback’s original contingency planning. Like a good magic trick or story, it’s this unanticipated twist that causes the audience (the defender) to suspend disbelief and be led by the receiver.
Good routes, pass rush moves, or open-field combinations of footwork come in threes:
- Selling the opponent that you’re going to do one of the two things he expects.
- Faking a plan the opponent didn’t expect at all.
- Ending with a move that works off that fake, often one of those two original contingencies that the fake made the opponent forget about.
What I appreciated most about Benjamin’s route is that he–intentionally or otherwise– made the arm drumming look bad to make the move more believable to the opponent. That’s creative route running that suspends disbelief.