When you look at Isaac Redman's play from last year, his physical shortcomings are easily apparent. At 6-foot, 230 pounds he is a bigger back that didn't have the long speed to consistently break long runs and his quickness was sometimes lacking. Redman did possess some positive attributes though: he shows impressive balance and lower body power in his runs, able to run through many arm tackles with ease. But it is what Redman possesses above the shoulders that actually makes him an effective runner.
Lost to many observers of the NFL are the subtleties of the running back position. A RB needs to be able to read his blocks and understand where the run should go. This is a process that starts even before the runner gets the ball. He should understand angles to create the most success.
How a runner chooses to act behind the line of scrimmage can be just as important as the blocks in front of him. If they see a hole in the line, they shouldn't always run right to it from the get-go because this immediately tips off the defense to where the run will go. Instead a runner should press the line of scrimmage to somewhat mask his intentions, before making his cut. Throughout the 2012 season, Redman showed he understands these subtleties.
The Zone Scheme
Pittsburgh, under new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr., have put a new emphasis on the outside zone play. With Redman's few carries this preseason, it is impossible to tell how he will truly look in this scheme. In 2012 however, Redman did run a few zone plays with good success, and he ran them out of both traditional looks and the hot new formation trend in the NFL.
Inside Zone from the Pistol Formation
This first play is an inside zone run from the Pistol formation against the Giants in Week 9 last year. (Yes, the same Pistol formation that Mike Shanahan and Jim Harbaugh used extensively with the Redskins and 49ers, respectively, in 2012.)
In this play, Ben Roethlisberger motioned Redman behind him to create the Pistol formation. In the inside zone play, Redman's first read is the left tackle's block on the right defensive end. It is a simple read, if the tackle's head is on the inside the play goes inside. His next read is the center's block on the 1-technique defensive tackle. If Maurkice Pouncey's helmet is on the left of the DT, Redman will cut the run to the left of the center. If the center's helmet is on the right, he will cut to the right of the center. Ramon Foster and Mike Adams will work a combination block on the right side, where Foster will chip the 3-technique DT and head to the middle (Mike) linebacker.
As the play continues, Redman reads the block of the center and sees a hole open in the back-side of the defense. Rather than head towards the hole he continues straight pressing the line. This causes the defenders Adams and Foster are blocking to stay on the left (from Redman's perspective) and give Foster and Adams a natural seal preventing the defenders from going right, towards the back-side hole. Redman's decision also causes the safety to flow left, allowing Emmanuel Sanders to continue to work him in that direction. When Redman is less than a yard away from the line of scrimmage, he makes his cut to the backside gap in the defense - a nice lane created by Foster, Adams and Heath Miller's backside seal of the left defensive end.
As Redman moves through the hole toward the second level, he's got help from Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, who have blocked their individual defenders well and created an alley to keep running through. He sees daylight as he passes their blocks and is able to break the tackle attempt of he CB who was unblocked. But eventually he gets taken down 11 yards from the line by the FS Antrel Rolle. This is where Redman's lack of "home-run" speed hurts - having set his blocking up for a successful play, Redman had an alley but couldn't fully capitalize on it.
Inside Zone from a Traditional Formation
The next play is also an example of Redman's ability in zone running plays. It is run from the single back formation with a TE lined up on the right side. The single back formation with either one or two tight ends is the traditional formation many teams use when running the inside or outside zone.
This is once again the blocking for a zone run. Redman's key read is Pouncey's block. Foster (at LG now) will chip the nose tackle and then work his way to the weakside (Will) LB. Pouncey will take a bucket step then he should step through with his left and try to get in front of the NT. If he can't, he is to work the NT to the left giving Redman an easy read. On the backside, Doug Legursky and Kelvin Beachum will work a similar combination to the first play, with Legursky peeling off to get to the Mike LB. The Browns have only six men in the box with a safety cheating up, and with six blockers (hat-on-a-hat, as they sometimes say) this should be an easy run.
Redman quickly reads Pouncey's block - pretty simple, as Pouncey's helmet is on the right of the defender, it means the run should be directed to Pouncey's right. Redman then looks to his backside blocks - Legursky's block is a bit ambiguous to read, but Beachum is clearly on the right of his defender. Redman will once again press the line and make his cut when he is about a half-yard away from Legursky.
The cut Redman makes is intentionally tight to Beachum. This allows him to go north and maximize the yards he can get. The strong safety is put in a tough angle to make the tackle. Unfortunately, Redman lacked the second gear to burst out of his cut and was tackled by the strong safety for a 7-yard gain on 2nd & 10.
Man/Gap Running Scheme
Redman also has the ability to be successful in the Steelers traditional man/gap running scheme. The following play highlights this.
It is 3rd & 1 for Pittsburgh with 12:49 left in the fourth quarter. Here, the Steelers are utilizing a three TE set. Two TEs, Leonard Pope and David Paulson were lined up on the left side of the formation. Roethlisberger then motioned Heath Miller to add an extra blocker. The key blocks play-side are the double-team block with the LT and LG on the DE, then the LT should be able to peel off to the Buck linebacker, while Pope and Paulson have to seal their defenders to the left to prevent them from getting to the hole. Miller is responsible for the Mack linebacker, who in this play runs left at the snap.
As the play develops, Redman clearly sees the hole in between the LT and the TEs. Instead of heading there immediately though, he continues straight - pressing the line of scrimmage. This causes the buck LB, David Harris, to hold his position. Doing this was subtle, but significant - since Harris is holding his position, the LT Max Starks can easily move from the double-team to Harris. Without Harris flowing into the hole, Starks is able to make a seal creating an alley.
Redman now makes his cut. An alley has been created and Redman is now one-on-one with the safety Yeremiah Bell. Unfortunately, this is again where Redman struggles. In the open field, he just doesn't have the speed to threaten to run right by Bell. Instead Redman has to try to run over the safety, so he goes low and does break the tackle, but is slowed down enough in doing so that Kyle Wilson is able to come from his CB spot and make the tackle from behind.
From his 2012 game film, Redman clearly understands the nuances of the running back position. He displays patience when he sees a hole develop, he will press the line to help the hole widen, and then he will make his cut. His decisions when running the ball are clearly based on his blocking, and because of this, he was rarely tackled behind the line of scrimmage.
But as impressive as Redman's above-the-shoulders game was last year, his physical limitations still hold him back. He just lacks speed to consistently break long runs and was missing the burst through the hole. In his career, he has never had a play longer than 28 yards. Redman does have impressive balance though, and showed a deceptive jump cut last year.
With the new emphasis on the zone scheme, Redman committed himself to improving his speed. In a contract year, he lost 15 pounds to improve his quickness. Unfortunately, Redman has only been able to show off his lighter self on two carriers due to injury. Assuming Redman did get quicker, he is clearly the choice as a starter (while Le'Veon Bell is out). Although he may not have the natural physical abilities of some other RBs on the roster, Redman clearly understands the mental aspects of the game as well as or better than any other back on the roster.
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