Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens: RB Frank Gore’s (Miami) Fundamentals in Space

Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens profiles two plays from the venerable Frank Gore in his December performance against the Patriots. 

Frank Gore is ending his career as a source of tremendous consternation to Kenyan Drake fans who are tired of seeing Drake breakaway from the field and then go to the bench for drives filled smaller gains from Gore. Even when Gore breaks through, his long gains are 20-40 yards and Drake fans bemoan what could have been.

I take perverse joy in watching it unfold.

Drake is an electrifying athletic talent whose game is making incremental strides. Gore is the master craftsman that running back coaches in the league show younger players how to run the football.

Although there are plays between the tackles where Gore makes savvier decisions in difficult situations than Drake, there are also plays that Drake would have taken to the house that Gore couldn’t. Many of these plays occur outside the tackle box.

As strange as it sounds, it is why this RSP NFL Lens will show Gore’s work in space — an area of the field where he’s the lesser player to Drake. The mission is for you to see two fundamentally-sound techniques for running in space that an elite speedster or juke artist like Drake doesn’t need to lean on the way a diminishing athlete like Gore.

Let’s begin with Gore’s knowledge of angles to generate leverage and power against a bigger, stronger, run-stuffing linebacker like Dont’a Hightower. Note how Gore takes the attack to the linebacker, setting it up with moves to generate an angle that benefits him.

Gore gets Hightower’s hips turned in one direction and then works across the linebacker’s body to eliminate his leverage, leading with great pad level to drive his legs through the weakest point of the opponent. Many backs would have tried to run around Hightower, who had a good angle of pursuit. Some would have taken Hightower head-on. Both would have been losing propositions.

The next play below is a good example of using a balance-touch in space. This technique is often highlighted after contact but Gore uses it as a tool to execute a tight turn inside a flat defender so he can generate another 20-plus-yards.

In high school, Larry Coker said Gore was the best prep running back he’s ever seen.  Coker had Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders as part of his depth chart at Oklahoma State as a recruiter, which hints at why Gore’s football career has a Roy Hobbs quality to it.

Hobbs, the protagonist from Bernard Malamud’s novel, The Natural, was a baseball phenom who could have been the greatest of all time if not for an injury that nearly killed him and ended his career. When he returned to the game an older player with diminished skills, by comparison, his ability still shined past those limitations like an incandescent light.

Gore with a pair of uncut ACLs might never have needed the skills he attained because of the injuries. While some may mourn what might have been. There’s something worthwhile about celebrating how he bleeds every ounce that his body can give him, using the knowledge he’s earned to compensate for the otherworldly talent he lost well before he became a pro.

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