Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens: What Makes #Lions RB Adrian Peterson Tick?

Matt Waldman examines Adrian Peterson’s Week 1 debut with the Lions and shows the vision and cutting skills that this future Hall of Famer lives and dies by, as well as the difference between his current skills and his past as an RB demigod.

Note: This video is the debut of work that I’m doing with a team of graphics and video editors this season. If you’re a football analyst who would like to learn more about the excellent work they’re doing, their information is near the bottom of this post and in the video’s details on YouTube.

This fourth-quarter run in the final minutes of the Tusla ballgame was one of the first times I studied Adrian Peterson. Everyone knew he’d get the ball and he still housed it.

Then, I watched him face Haloti Ngata, Patrick Chung, and the rest of the Oregon defense in the 2005 Holiday Bowl. Although his 23-carries for 84 yards was a pedestrian night, his performance leaped off the tape. Peterson was a wild stallion who took the defense to its limits with every touch. I took a DVD of that game with me to a meeting with co-workers at a football website and made them watch it, telling them that Peterson was the next generational running back.

15 years later, Adrian Peterson is not the same back he was in his prime when he carved gigantic s-curves through opposing NFL defenses. Incredibly, he’s still a competent NFL starter with above-average burst and power, excellent stamina and lateral cuts, and a vast library of knowledge about running the football.

His 100 yards from scrimmage against the Detroit Lions in Week 1 was an instructive display of running back play for several reasons:

  • Peterson’s athletic ability remains freakish despite the loss of top-end speed.
  • He lives and dies by jump stops and jump cuts reserved for players almost half his age.
  • Even a future Hall of Famer has room to make his game better.
  • As a future Hall of Famer, Peterson sees the field in a way that can break the rules of convention.
  • And its Peterson’s failure to execute to his peak years that provides us the most instructive insights into the past athletic dominance of his game.

This is what you’ll see from this video. Rarely do football fans get to admire a running back’s play at this advanced age, but like everything else he has done during his career, Peterson is the exception. It’s even rarer to simultaneously see the difference between the incredibly good runner that he is at this age and the demigod that he used to be. This performance shows it.

Video Graphics and Editing

Editor: Justin Johnson

Motion Graphics Editors:   Peter Gumas and Justin Johnson

Inquiries: Alex Hanowitz (

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