RSP Boiler Room No.172: Judging Speed On Film Is Problematic

RSP Boiler Room No.172: Judging Speed On Film Is Problematic

Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room examines two plays featuring Tulane wide receiver Terren Encalade that illustrate why assessing speed on film can be problematic.

Imagine a wide receiver with the ball in his hand outside the numbers and the green carpet is rolled out for him. The nearest defender with an angle is a safety 20-25 yards downfield and he’s at the opposite hash.

For the fan viewing this play unfold, she or he will judge the speed of the receiver based on him beating the safety up the sideline. For someone who studies the game a little more than the average fan, she or he will gauge the safety’s distance and angle to the receiver as part of their assessment.

So what do we make of a defensive end, who began is pursuit from the middle of the mosh pit at the line of scrimmage, is the one to chase down this wide receiver? Most will conclude that the wide receiver is slow. Some will wonder if the defensive end is a freakish athlete. Others may examine the change of pacing with the receiver on the run.

Even if the receiver slowed down a bit to avoid the safety, the fact that a defensive end gains ground on the receiver and makes the tackle before the receiver earns 40 yards seems like a telling statement about the receiver’s speed. However, what if the next play we see with the receiver is a go route where he earns nearly two steps of separation on a cornerback?

This is one of the reasons why the NFL Combine and Pro Days exist and the example above is exactly what happens in this video of two plays involving Tulane receiver Terren Encalade and Wake Forest defensive end Carlos Basham, Jr.

Basham was a well-regarded athlete on the national scene as a high school student but he was initially listed as a defensive lineman before moving to defensive end this year. If I were truly interested in Basham’s prospects, I’d research his athletic background to see if he ran track and what his best times where.

It’s not a priority at this point as much as it is for me to learn more Encalade’s acceleration and long speed. Just as certain statistical methods can lack context and present deceptive ideas, the same can be true of a player’s film without understanding the full context of the players and situation involved.

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