Matt Waldman’s RSP examines Coastal Carolina running back C.J. Marable’s short-yardage work and it serves as a simple but effective story for the value of pressing a crease in the face of penetration.
Short-yardage running reveals a lot about the quality of a running back’s game in a similar way it does with quarterbacks. The compressed field requires quick decisions. And while we see our fair share of runners and passers win in these situations with the brute athletic ability of speed, power, or a laser-like throw, these methods don’t project well for the NFL game.
The most successful runners and passers cultivate efficient decision-making in these compressed spots. Efficiency of this magnitude requires technique and great judgment with how to apply the technique.
This play below from Marable is something that most running back prospects of value do: They spot the penetrating defender early in the play’s development and immediately react. After all, they don’t have a lot of time and space, so the idea of playing efficiently is to act quickly.
They miss the point. Efficiency is the balance of acting as quickly as possible but within the bounds of making the most of the situation. The best players have the power to slow time down.
In the situation below, if Marable cut his stride length and maintained a straight trajectory for 1-2 steps out of his exchange, he would see an easy cutback that would take him into the end zone. Instead, he veers immediately for the bounce that leads to a short loss.
Athletic ability is the baseline for getting into the NFL. Manipulating that athletic ability is the reason players stay in the NFL.
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