The NFL Lens: Slow and Sudden; The Variation of Pace by Amari Cooper


Amari Cooper demonstrates how the variation of pace is an essential component of good route running.

I like to use the storytelling metaphor for route running because there are so many layers where it fits. The purpose of a receiver’s route is to make the defender suspend disbelief and go where the receiver wants him to go.

Just like a good story.

There are several devices used in good storytelling that are also common to good route running. One of those devices is pacing.

If I want to slow down the story, one of the most effective ways of doing so is writing a long, descriptive sentence that includes the sensations of sight, sound, smell, and texture all unfolding in a gradual rhythm like a cracking fire of dried autumn leaves sending wisps of white smoke spiraling skyward and thickening the crisp fall air with a blanket of heat.

But if the sentence is too long, the narrative can lose its intensity and the reader becomes too aware of the mechanics of reading rather than absorbing and interacting with the material.

Great stories know how to create tension and release. Part of that interplay comes with pacing. Shorten the sentences, and the read feels like the narrative is moving along fast.

A heightened pace of short sentences also builds tension. Each thought is communicated quicker. The rhythm is shortened. The mind moves faster. You want to know what happens next. You almost trip over the words. You’re seeking resolution. It could happen at any second.



Take a deep breath and relax, we’re about to watch Amari Cooper vary his pacing in the shortest space imaginable for a route.

Cooper runs a fade against tight man coverage and he varies his pacing with his release. A lot of receivers run routes at one speed or the variation of the pacing isn’t dramatic enough to influence the defender.Cooper begins his release dramatically slower than he ends it and it all happens within 3-4 steps.

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Here’s another at the top of the stem.

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The story about Jerry Rice’s routes all looking the same before the break is an instructive example about uniformity and consistency to disguise intentions. But Rice’s methods are a truth; not the truth.

Variation has its value when applied well to specific devices of a receiver’s storytelling.  Pacing is one of them.

When I see a college receiver that can make the line of his stems look the same for different routes, I know that he has mastered a specific discipline of storytelling at the position.  When that receiver can incorporate this uniformity with variation of pace, I’m watching an even more advanced technician.

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