Tyjae Spears RSP Sample Scouting Report: Available at Footballguys.com

Matt Waldman illustrates why Tyjae Spears’ style of play bears similarities to Chiefs’ great, Jamaal Charles.

What I learned From Studying Jamaal Charles

A 2008 draft pick, Charles came from one of the greatest running back classes that I have studied:

  • Darren McFadden
  • Jonathan Stewart
  • Flex Jones
  • Rashard Mendenhall
  • Chris Johnson
  • Matt Forte
  • Ray Rice
  • Kevin Smith
  • Steve Slaton
  • Tashard Choice
  • Tim Hightower
  • Peyton Hills
  • Justin Forsett

Not all of these players were perennial 1,000-yard starters, but Stewart, Johnson, Forte, Rice, and Charles could have starred in any offense when healthy. Mendenhall, McFadden, Smith, Hillis, and Slaton were excellent fits for specific offensive schemes. Hightower, Jones, Choice, and Forsett had the talent to deliver when called upon.

Even with this wattage of star power, Charles often shone the brightest on Sundays. A small back by starter standards, Charles ran with creativity and bravado.

When Charles arrived at the University of Texas, he told the media that he would make everyone forget about Adrian Peterson spurning the Longhorns the year before. While that never happened, Charles’ play was good enough that you couldn’t laugh at his promise.

Charles was one of the most daring decision-makers I have ever watched in college. It appeared as if Charles was bored with the idea of following the play design for safe gains and was more interested in testing the limits of his abilities.

Why plow into the tight crease for a three-year gain when I can jump-cut three gaps to my left and potentially outrun the corner for a 40-yarder?

As a running back, Charles behaved like the kid who was earning a C-minus in sophomore algebra because he rushed through daily homework assignments so he could get back to the physics experiments he was conducting in his basement that were on par with graduate work found in a CalTech lab.

This is one of the reasons why former Chiefs’ head coach Todd Haley limited Charles as a rookie. Once Charles figured out that game management was an important facet of decision-making between the tackles, Charles had a five-season span worth that included four Pro Bowls and three All-Pro designations.

Charles didn’t completely sublimate his cutback skills the way Damien Harris did as a Patriot. Charles figured out his boundaries as a creator and rarely overstepped them. This is something that most creative players must figure out early in their careers so they don’t forgo the easy solutions that afford them more opportunities.

The other thing Charles’ game taught me was about rhythm.

Boxing Life is a great YouTube channel, and many of the insights cross over to elements of football. This video analysis of boxing rhythm carries over to trench play, ball-carrying, and route running.

The best competitors dictate their rhythm of movement on their opponents. I’ve seen this over and over as a film analyst.

Jamaal Charles did it well as a physical genius of elusiveness. This run against Oklahoma is an example of why I saw a prospect who could do it all when he emphasized efficiency over boredom-inspired daring. It features three cuts, each smaller movement in succession that is so well-timed that Charles creates an 80-yard touchdown from a play that easily could have ended with a four-yard gain. He’s dictating the rhythm.

Charles stretches the play to the right, cuts back to the middle behind good blocking, and makes the second dip away from the linebacker to generate a solid gain, but he still maintains the wherewithal to spin off the backside pursuit and turn this into a transcendent gain.

Charles makes this all look easier than it is. He’s so decisive in his movements at the right time, and it includes how he attacks the backside defender to set up his spin move. Note how he dips his left shoulder into the defender before he completes the spin.

Charles has the advantage with this interaction because he made the first contact and put the defender on his heels. This is a great way of dictating his rhythm. Now, Charles can use his free hand to push off the defender while he spins into the open field. It’s these small details that are all set up by an attacking mentality. But you can’t be the first to strike unless you’re the first to see the opportunity to attack.

The fact that Charles attacks his opponent after two cutbacks in succession is also a great example of a player who processes information fast and doesn’t get overwhelmed by heavy traffic. He didn’t freeze; he was fully aware of where he was and what to do.

This is a man in control of his instrument at a breakneck tempo.

The Film on TyJae Spears

Like Charles, Tyjae Spears plays with creativity and bravado. Rarely do you see a back deliver a dead-leg move (give the leg and take it away) in the crease against box defenders and get away with it.

Agility is the foundation for a dynamic runner. One of the most important displays of agility for running back play is how efficiently that runner can transition downhill from an initial runway heading toward the boundary that takes them outside the tackle box.

The fewer the steps, the more dynamic the runner. Most NFL contributors should have no problem transitioning downhill from a runway toward the boundary with 2-3 steps to gather themselves before cutting downhill. This is the case regardless of whether it’s a shorter or longer runway to the far side or near side of the field.

Runners with starter-level agility only need 1-2 steps. Runners with top-flight agility only need one step. Rarely will you see runners make this transition downhill with no gather steps–even to the short side of the field.

It’s why this display from Spears executing a transition downhill to the far side of the field with no gather steps is Charles-like agility.

The best big-play backs in the NFL find second-level cutbacks that open the field for breakaway gains. I call this altering the axis of pursuit because a good cutback can force 3-5 defenders (if not more) to overrun their pursuit angles.

Adrian Peterson, Barry Sanders, Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte, and Charles were all examples of runners who did this well. Spears is one of the two best open-field runners in the 2023 NFL Draft class, and one of those reasons is his ability to alter the axis of pursuit.

For the rest of the film analysis and a complete RSP scouting report on Tyjae Spears, head over to Footballguys.com where it’s free to read as an insider, WHICH IS ALSO FREE for giving your email address to the site’s great daily email updates. 

You get the RSP here. When the Post-Draft is ready, I’ll email you, and you can download it from the same site.

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