Speed. It’s the one thing you can’t live without as a running back in the NFL. The ability to accelerate and use breakaway speed to create separation from defenders defines a tier of elite running backs, those who are aptly called game-changers, in contrast to the ones who grind out an average of three yards per carry.
In Week 4 of the 2015 NFL season, running back speed was on full display. First, from C. J. Spiller of the New Orleans Saints, who lined up wide, beat a linebacker in coverage to catch a pass 10 yards downfield, then fended off an arm tackle and sped past a safety to score the game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Dallas Cowboys. If you recall, Spiller ran a 4.37 40-Yard Dash at the NFL Combine in 2010. He was widely considered a home run hitter in the NFL, but injuries slowed him down during his first few seasons with the Buffalo Bills. Finally healthy and playing in the Saints’ up-tempo, wide-open offense, Spiller seems to have returned to top form.
“Any time a running back can have versatility, it adds value to his game,” Spiller told STACK. “Now the defense doesn’t just have to worry about you lining up in the backfield. They have to accommodate for ‘OK, he’s out wide, what’s he going to do?'”
RELATED: C. J. Spiller’s Slant Route Technique
Beat an overmatched linebacker for a touchdown. That’s what C. J. Spiller is going to do.
As for Adrian Peterson, the elder statesman helped bring a young Minnesota Vikings team to within 3 points of a tie and a near upset of the Denver Broncos with a 48-yard touchdown run on 4th and 1 in the fourth quarter.
Peterson exploded through a hole right up the middle, then scorched the Broncos safety in pursuit. By the time he arrived in the end zone, that safety was 15 yards behind him.
Peterson’s dedication to complex workouts featuring drills like the Speed Ladder, Reactive Step and variations of plyometrics allow his footwork and explosion to rank among the best in the league.
“For being agile and quick as a cat, these drills come in handy,” Peterson told us. Yes they do.
RELATED: Adrian Peterson’s 2,000-Yard Workout
Earlier in the same game, Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman took a pitchout from quarterback Peyton Manning, turned the corner and left two pursuing defenders in the dust as he scampered up the sideline for a 72-yard score. Minnesota was helpless to stop Hillman once he found the open field, and his ability to outrun every guy trying to catch him proved monumental for the Broncos offense.
We have a phrase we like to use around here: SPEED KILLS. Nowhere is that more true than in the NFL.