It's that time of year again. With the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine preparing to begin, all eyes will be focused on Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts football franchise. Talent evaluators and decision makers for every team arrive in droves, notebooks and stop watches in hand. Fortunes will be gained due to fractions of an inch and tenths of a second. The excitement is pliable for both the participants and team personnel.
The Combine has become must-see, prime time viewing for any football fanatic. It has become a celebratory experience for the league and the fans, and a prime example of the incredible growth of the NFL product. The Combine progresses each day like a well oiled machine. Each drill utilized to test the participants has been examined with a fine tooth comb to eliminate any wasted effort or motion.
However, some abilities are impossible to measure. The infamous 'it' factor for a QB, the fight in the dog, and the heart of determination in the man. These are the intangibles of the individual, and are impossible to teach or measure. They are instinctual and an unexplainable gift.
The wiggle of a running back is another example of a instinctual gift. But how do you define a RB's wiggle?
The wiggle for a running back is the innate ability to ever so slightly manipulate one's body to avoid the full impact of a collision on the football field. This is often nothing more than a shoulder turned at just the right moment to lessen the severity of an impact, or a momentary hesitation during a carry that causes a defender to be off balanced at the point of impact.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell was a master of the wiggle. This allowed him to avoid absorbing the brunt of most impacts, which improved his durability and reliability, even while leading the league in total touches on multiple occasions. Although Bell sustained his share of injuries, they weren't the byproduct of direct impact collisions. His injuries were caused by defenders falling across the back of his legs. Those injuries are unavoidable.
Current Pittsburgh Steelers RB James Conner has no wiggle. This inability to avoid absorbing the full impact of each collision has greatly impacted Conner's ability to stay healthy and on the field. His durability issues has to cause the Steelers hierarchy to take pause, although Steelers GM Kevin Colbert reaffirmed the Steelers faith in James Conner today during a press conference at the Combine. With that being said, one would have to believe that the Steelers representatives will be paying special attention to the outstanding crop of talented individuals in this year's running back group.
Although James Conner has no wiggle, he has plenty of other abilities. Conner is a NFL caliber running back. He runs the football with power, and plenty of conviction. He has proven to be a excellent receiver out of the backfield, and has worked hard to become effective in pass protection. He has every ability necessary for a NFL starting RB, besides durability. Problem is, this is an ability that no amount of hard work or solid coaching can improve.
So where do the Steelers and James Conner go from here? The Steelers apparently believe in Conner's ability to be a valued contributor on a roster focused on returning to the playoffs after a two year abscence. There are a myriad of questions that hopefully will be answered this season, one being whether Conner is better suited for a platoon position than a actual starter.
These questions have to be answered soon considering the upcoming decisions that have to be made concerning Conner's contract status moving forward.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have faith in James Conner, and I feel certain that James will do whatever's necessary to justify that faith. Everything in his ability.