Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens: CB Xavier Rhodes’ (Vikings) Patience vs. WR Dante Pettis (49ers)

Matt Waldman’s RSP revisits a 2018 play featuring Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes and 49ers wide receiver Dante Pettis that reveals good physical skills from the receiver but a superior conceptual understanding of the route and game by the defender. 

Listen to my commentary in this video made during Week 1 of the 2018 season and you’ll hear me make the mistake of presuming that Jimmy Garappolo threw an inaccurate pass to a wide-open Dante Pettis.

This presumption may still be true, but after re-examining this play months later, I’m more inclined to think that the inaccurate pass was a product of Pettis’ inexperience than Garappolo’s inaccuracy. Watch the play again and while there is still room to admire Pettis’ movement, watch how long it takes Pettis to exit his stem into the break.

Pettis displays a lot of early movement before his break and perhaps enough of it that he was a step or two late on his break, which makes the target appear wide and high. I was wrong to label this as a good technique by Pettis.

In a vacuum the separate movements were good, but not for the necessary timing of this route. As good as the stick was, the accompanying arm and upper-body movements aren’t as well-choreographed or conceptualized as the play I showcased yesterday from Marques Valdes-Scantling.

Pettis’ transition from stick to turn on the break costs him an extra step or two and that is the difference between a catch and an interception on this play.

The player deserving of praise on this play is Rhodes. Note how patient he is at the beginning of the play. He doesn’t fall for the shake at the beginning of the release and he only turns his hips once Pettis is forced to make an exaggerated stick to free himself.

The patience pays off because Rhodes forces the stick too late in the route and it’s what costs Pettis the necessary step or two that would have earned the rookie receiver the target. This is another example that reveals how we can overvalue fancy-looking movement and lose the context of the route and coverage in the mix.

When studying cornerbacks, the patience not to turn and run as well as knowledge of the route design are excellent skills to seek. When studying receivers, understand the timing of the route and how a patient cornerback can ruin that timing without moving a lot. After all, the right kind of stillness is the absolute essence of patience.

Mea culpa.

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