Royce Freeman Is Not Elusive In Open Field
Given Freeman’s athletic profile and his solid burst and lateral agility, you would expect him to be more elusive in the open field. Unfortunately, that doesn’t show up in his tape. He doesn’t make many defenders miss, and doesn’t always show an interest in doing so.
Freeman is very much a path-of-least-resistance runner when he gets to the second level. He finds the open parts of the defense and runs for them, often in arcing paths. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it definitely helps him in many cases. The problem is that when defenders try and engage him in open field, he doesn’t always show interest in beating the defender, and when he does attempt to elude them, he usually ends up on the ground anyway.
On the play below, Royce Freeman does a good job of making it through the congested line of scrimmage and gets upfield. Once he gets into space though, he doesn’t have the tools to make this good run into a great one. He tries to make a move on the incoming safety, but doesn’t create enough distance with his cut and gets smoked on contact.
If Freeman doesn’t beat defenders with power, and he doesn’t beat them with elusiveness, how does he beat defenders? I think the answer is that he doesn’t. Royce Freeman’s strengths all help him behind and around the line of scrimmage. Those traits disappear at the next level. He has the size to be powerful. He has the athletic profile to be elusive. He just needs to utilize those skills to offer some semblance of ability in the open field.
Royce Freeman Braces For Contact
Royce Freeman often gives up on his runs and braces for contact rather than finishing runs. He often looks like he is afraid to be physical or get hit. It helps him with his ball security but really limits his ability in space. When defenders are incoming, he covers up the ball and braces for contact.
On the play below, watch Royce Freeman before he gets hit. He covers up the ball, braces for impact and just before contact stops his feet from moving. Strangely on this play, due to a little hold from his wide receiver, the defender is delayed in getting to Freeman, resulting in a bizarrely long time between him bracing and the actual tackle. Freeman could have easily made a play out of this, but instead decided to just cover the ball and give himself up.
Similarly, in the play below, Freeman turns his back to the defender and braces to be tackled rather than attacking the line of scrimmage or attempting to power through the defender. He was turned a bit by contact behind the line, but watch his feet go dead on contact. He should be driving rather than just giving himself up. Additionally, it is rarely a good thing to put your back to the defense during a run.
Those are just two examples but, if you watch his tape, you will see it show up far too often. Freeman needs to keep his head up and show a willingness to finish runs with power. His frame says he is capable of it. His athletic testing says that he is capable of it. He has to show that he is willing to utilize those two parts of his game.