Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens showcases Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson’s footwork on a speed break against the Chicago Bears.
Football is a game of inches. It’s an elegant statement because the deeper you dive into the game, the more you realize that its the microscopic details that lead to small spatial advantages and result in significant gains. Albert Wilson’s dig route during the fourth quarter of the Dolphins-Bears game embodies the game-of-inches maxim.
Wilson is the outside trips receiver in this formation and facing a defender playing a yard off the line of scrimmage. This is tight coverage that requires precise detail to shake and Wilson earns enough separation with three steps to earn a 10-yard reception that he transforms into a 28-yard gain.
Those three steps are highlighted below in slow motion during the third viewing of this play:
- The outside leg takes a longer stride so he can slow his pace just enough to initiate a turn.
- The inside leg extends even more than the previous step and Wilson turns his toe, ankle, knee, and hip of that leg to the sideline — a fluid and dynamic movement while still working downhill that will ultimately earn him that space against a defender tight to him.
- The outside leg and hip swing around enough to reinforce the turn and maintain that straight line to the sideline.
These three steps are the product of hours upon hours of practice. It appears simple at full speed; its elegance is revealed in slow motion.
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 15, 2018
The precision of this break affords Wilson the space for a larger gain across the field. Yes, he’s quick but those three steps have a lot more to do with the yards after the catch than often credited.
It’s why straight-line speed and acceleration are only part of the equation when evaluating receivers. Precise footwork and other technical skills with baseline athletic ability for the league (which is a lot lower than people realize) can make a starter out of a prospect that many will overlook.
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