Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens RB Malcom Brown (Rams): Integrated Technique

Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens showcases Rams running back Malcolm Brown’s highlight-reel display of footwork along the boundary that is not as happenstance as it appears. 

Malcolm Brown authored a career-highlight touchdown reception against the Saints on Sunday, maintaining his balance and footing inside the boundary after a New Orleans defender hit Brown’s back leg as he hurdled over the initial portion of the hit. The contact sent Brown’s legs in opposite directions and required him to rotate his back leg and hip forward despite the hit driving that leg skyward like a ballet dancer.

To most, there’s no way that there’s a semblance of preparation involved with Brown’s reaction. Before you fully write off that notion, watch his slow demonstration of the Carioca drills that football players use extensively in warmups.

NFL broadcast crews loved filming Jerome Bettis warming up with Carioca drills and his dedication to them showed up in his nimble running style. If you watch the play with Brown again, you’ll notice how Brown transitions from an awkward high kick to a carioca movement of the hips, torso, and front leg as he bends the knee of the back leg so he can rotate the hip forward.

This incredible play is little more than an exaggerated carioca drill, finishing with a dive to the pylon. Brown isn’t thinking, “let me do a carioca drill to counteract the hit to my back leg.” If he were, he’d be out of bounds and on the ground before he finished thinking the word “do,” in that thought.

The body categorizes ingrained athletic movements the way a musician categorizes favorite licks or a person who works with spreadsheets memorizes keyboard shortcuts fast enough that he’s not even thinking “cut” or “paste” when using them. The body feels the movement heading into the direction of that learned behavior and then uses it within the existing scenario.

This is an example integrated technique. It looks like instinct, it reacts like instinct, but it is acquired through practice and implemented with other movements acquired the same way — even when those movements haven’t been paired together in a structured practice session in the past.

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