RSP contributor J. Moyer uses film examples of Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy and the Cardinals’ Chase Edmonds to explain why slowing down is often the solution for young runners with elite athletic skill but a raw understanding of the game.
NFL running backs are given little credit for technical skill. Teams, analysts and fans value runners based primarily on athletic traits; plug and play interchangeable parts who are ideally as big and as fast as possible. But Rashaad Penny, Kalen Ballage and Miles Sanders should remind us that there is much more to running back play.
One particular challenge to the bigger, faster, stronger-is-better concept is the runner’s ability to make second- and third-reaction plays. Upon arrival in the NFL, young athletic backs are faced with 11 opposing defenders who are world-class athletes. Defenders are better at defeating blockers, more efficient with reads, and even present deceptive looks to game backs into making mistakes. Backs who have been able to out-athlete everyone else suddenly find it does not work. Knowing only one solution, these backs often try to run faster, with bigger cuts and less discipline.
Ironically, the answer is often to slow down.
Week Seven provided two excellent examples of plays requiring a second reaction after the initial read. First up is promising young Arizona Cardinal, Chase Edmonds. Edmonds burst onto the scene Week 7 with 126 yards and 3 touchdowns, filling in for an injured David Johnson. While Edmonds’ explosiveness and excellent contact balance played very well in a diverse and dynamic Arizona run scheme, Edmonds showed he still has room to refine his footwork discipline.
For teach tape on refined footwork, disciplined eyes and maintaining capacity for second-reaction plays, Edmonds just needs to dial up the Week Seven film of grizzled (and reportedly washed) veteran LeSean McCoy.
McCoy has been providing weekly clinics to young runners on the topics of scheme awareness, post-snap processing, balanced footwork, and scheme discipline in 2019. The fact that he has slowed down a bit since his rookie year has not gotten in the way of taking control of the Kansas City backfield, or putting up 5.4 yards per attempt. Young runners would be smart to realize it may have actually helped.
Previous Running Back Rooms
- LeSean McCoy And Miles Sanders: What is Vision?
- Dalvin Cook, David Montgomery, Peyton Barber, and Kalen Ballage: Footwork Efficiency and Scheme Awareness
- Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman: Yards Before Contact
- David Johnson And Frank Gore: Pressing the Line of Scrimmage
- Dalvin Cook: Efficiency, Control, and Micro-Movements
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