RSP NFL Lens WR Antonio Brown (Steelers): Intricacy, Elegance, and Pacing


Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens profiles one of Antonio Brown’s routes against Jalen Ramsey in the AFC Divisional Playoffs and learns that, like the phrasing of Miles Davis, the simple things presented in an elegant way can be the winning move. 

Antonio Brown is a master of footwork. He can run the most intricate routes to earn separation against even the best cornerbacks. It’s a lot like musicians who can play with great technical proficiency and fill space with sheets of sound — a term assigned to the late saxophonist John Coltrane’s playing during the 1960s when he was fond of long phrases filled with arpeggios that created rhythmic and harmonic textures that sounded like sonic walls, waves, or sheets.

Like the great musicians, great football players understand when it’s time to reduce something to a simple and soulful line that grabs its audience at its core and sucks them in. Trane could do this and often called upon his influences with gospel and blues. Miles Davis was a master of using silence and space as well as lyrical phrases that were elegant in their simplicity.

Great wide receivers and running backs have this fell, too. On this play, Brown faces Jalen Ramsey and he seems convinced that Ramsey thinks Brown is tired or hurt. Brown uses it to his advantage to run a simple stem and use some variation with his route’s pacing as the bait to earn separation.

Great technique doesn’t always involve a lot of intricate moves, but instead an elegant presentation of something simple.  File it away.

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