Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room examines a well-executed diamond release from Minnesota WR Tyler Johnson, a 2020 NFL Draft prospect.
The funny thing about football—and many crafts that are a blend of science and art—is that few people, even in the highest reaches of the profession, possess complete mastery of the game. While there are places where they overlap, play-calling, game-planning, conducting practice, drafting, coaching technique, position-specific athletic training, and scouting prospects are all separate football rabbit holes.
Below is my analysis of a touchdown reception form Minnesota wide receiver Tyler Johnson, who runs a diamond release to set up this slant against a New Mexico State defender. I show the release and then share one of Drew Lieberman’s videos that covers the release technique.
The video shows that Johnson has a well-practiced plan to win the slant. It’s a good example of a well-practiced technique executed as designed by an NFL prospect at the wide receiver position.
But do you really need to know that name of the release to be a good scout? After 15 years of studying players, I’ll argue that, while helpful to know the techniques of the positions that you study, it’s not always necessary to have the knowledge of a position coach.
It’s more important to study how players move and overcome obstacles and compare these performances with those of the top professionals. Understanding the theories and techniques of the game can give you an understanding of several aspects of the game.
If you have an eye for talent, these things can enhance it. But it won’t give you an eye for talent.
Otherwise, you’re just a technically- or theoretically-savvy analyst of the game who talks like a scout but is still looking for diamonds in coal mines.
With this thought in mind, Tyler Johnson has some real positives as a receiver prospect:
- He runs a nice diamond release.
- He’s physical as a ballcarrier, but he must learn to drop his pads with greater consistency and protect the ball with more care.
- He has some release techniques with his hands that are technically promising with more attention to detail.
- He has quickness and subtle footwork to maneuver the open field.
- There’s some promise with his punch as a run blocker.
I could write paragraphs about Johnson from the one game I watched thus far. But having a good eye for talent is about seeing the invisible thread that pieces techniques, concepts, and theories together.
If the rest of Johnson’s game looks like it did against New Mexico State, then he lacks a feel for the position at the highest level. He gets open and inexplicably slows down after his initial break. He can make the initial athletic move to get in position for the target but lose focus on finishing his execution–especially when there are deceptively simple maneuvers to make.
His techniques are not integrated into his game well enough for him to react fluidly with advantageous skills. When he reacts to stimuli, such as colliding with an oncoming opponent, he has time to drop his pads and protect the ball but he doesn’t react fast enough to using the techniques to his advantage, putting himself and the ball in more danger than necessary.
Johnson’s game lacks integration at this point but he can sure run a nice diamond release., and this will invariably impress those who value terminology more than actual game.
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