Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio examines former 2,000-yard back Chris Johnson and discovers that a subtle move could help him flip the field better than a dramatic jump cut.
I missed on Chris Johnson when I studied him for the 2008 NFL Draft. I didn’t see enough tape and I didn’t grasp the subtleties of how footwork, stride length, and stride pace help an evaluator determine the runner’s understanding and execution of specific blocking schemes.
Although Johnson’s game was filled with footwork pyrotechnics, there was also the subtlety of a master craftsman and it helped him anticipate penetration, set up cutback lanes, and earn more yards after contact than his frame appeared capable. This run in 2011 is the product of Johnson spotting the penetration before he receives the exchange and maintaining a controlled stride length towards the exchange so he could set up a dramatic change of direction past the defender who had him dead to rights with something as simple as the placement of the instep of his right foot as he took the ball from Matt Hasselbeck.
Matt Waldman's RSP NFL Lens Flashback RB Chris Johnson:
– IDs penetration pre-exchange
– Has a pre-exchange plan
– No jump-cuts or hops
-Small turn with in-step does the job.
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) July 7, 2018
Where many backs would hop through the exchange or take a large prep-step to set up a jump cut, Johnson keeps his feet on the ground and opts for the simplest solution that helps him open his hips in a direction where he could accelerate past the opponent and without wasting time from going airborne with a hop and cut.
As exciting as Johnson was, he was also efficient. And why wouldn’t he be? He was one of the fastest backs in the history of the game. If your superpower is speed, wouldn’t you want to cultivate that advantage at every moment by keeping your feet on the ground where they can belong?
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