RSP NFL Lens: A Defender’s Valuable Look at the Sony Michel Sunday Trucking


Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens re-examines a play where Patriots back Sony Michel has a highlight-reel play but an educated look from a tackling expert reveals there’s more to it. 

Andy Ryland works at USAFootball. He’s a former linebacker at Penn State, a Rugy All-American, and the son of a Rugby coach. He teaches it and works with coaches at all levels of the game on improving it.

Ryland knows a thing or a thousand about tackling people.

Yesterday, I had Ryland on an upcoming episode of the RSP Cast. He gave a free clinic on all phases of tackling. We used a number of plays that we saw on Sunday as supporting examples. One of them included a post I made that showed Sony Michel running through the Jaguars’ safety.

There are a lot of good things about Michel’s work in this play that deserves praise. However, we’d be mistaken if we don’t consider what the defender could have done to prevent it.

Ryland notes that the safety gave away his power before the collision point.

“Also, funny the things different people see. As a tackle guy, this is the first thing that jumped to me in that clip-knee down prior to contact = no power.”

So while we celebrate Michel’s work, this perspective is an important subtlety that factors in the evaluation of running back play: Just how impressive is a play when one can mitigate some of the value based on what his opponent could have done better?

Michel showed pad level, second effort, and ball security. Nothing about the defender dropping to a knee detracts from these things. However, the defender dropping to his knee mitigates just how powerful Michel is.

When judging power from a player, it’s valuable to learn how much of an obstacle that a defender’s position presents for the ball carrier.

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Categories: Analysis, Defensive Back, Matt Waldman, Players, The NFL Lens, Wide ReceiverTags: , , , ,

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