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Spencer Ware is more than just a power back for the Kansas City Chiefs

Look, I get it, Spencer Ware is a monster.

At 5'10, 228 pounds, the man is built like a powder keg. Seriously, look at his Twitter profile picture.

If you were to wander onto that page knowing he's a football player, you'd absolutely guess linebacker or fullback.

And unlike some bigger backs, Ware's size translates on the field. There are plenty of backs who look as though they should move the pile, but lack... something. Whether it's lower body strength, the ability to get low, or just the right kind of attitude, I've seen plenty of "big" backs that don't show the ability to gain yards after contact.

Then there's Ware. He does not have that problem.


I could watch that all day. One of the most fun parts of this season (and there's been a LOT of fun this year) has been watching Ware carry, drag, push, and manhandle guys on his way to yards after contact. Opposing defenders have to feel sick to their stomach watching his film, especially secondary players. Ware doesn't get hit; he hits people and eventually gets dragged to the ground by multiple people. I love it.

The only problem with Ware's particularly violent style of running is that he gets pigeonholed as a "power back." Now, that might not sound like a bad thing, but it paints a very incomplete picture.

This is quite similar to the way people who don't know anything about Jamaal Charles call him a "speed back." Is Jamaal Charles fast? Yes, of course, he's ridiculously fast. But as I've written about here extensively, that's only a part of what makes him special. There are plenty of fast players in the league. JC is an elite runner because he possesses many other skills in ADDITION to his elite speed.

Now, Spencer Ware is not Jamaal Charles. BUT, it does him an incredible disservice to say "oh yeah, that Ware, he's a 'move the pile' kind of back, great for short yardage."  Ware is capable of a lot more than just moving the pile (though he's great for that). He demonstrated that multiple times against the Raiders.

For starters, Ware has a lot more agility and quickness than he's given credit for. He's not De'Anthony Thomas, but he can really move for a guy his size. He also posses good vision and runs with a lot of decisiveness (making decisions quickly and moving toward open areas of the field).

What Ware does on this play is something you just don't often see from players built like him.

First of all, this play doesn't happen if Ware doesn't recognize that the Raiders have done a good job crashing toward his initial hole. It also doesn't happen if Ware doesn't immediately bounce outside. There are runners who hesitate when their first option is filled. Ware doesn't do that. He seems to have good vision and that translates to him generally making the right decision about where to go with the ball.

Of course, making a good decision doesn't matter if you're physically incapable of carrying out said decision. For example, when I (very rarely at this point) play basketball, I can still see all the same openings I saw when I was 21. However, being nearly a decade older and 35 pounds heavier... um... muddies the situation. I can see all the openings I want, but my body just flat-out says "nah, man, I'm not getting there that fast. Sorry bro."

Ware doesn't get hit; he hits people

With Ware's size, you THINK that he'd be limited physically in his ability to make the cut necessary here to get to the edge. You'd also think he would lack the "burst" to get positive yards before the defense catches up. Neither of those things are true, and Ware gets a decent gain.

Then there's the cut against the defender. I think that move is called the LOL. You can see the LB had absolutely no idea Ware could move like that and is trying to square up to take on the "power back." Ware makes him look foolish. That kind of quickness isn't common in guys who are capable of flattening defenders, and it has a symbiotic effect; defenders leave themselves open to "finesse" moves when they brace themselves for a truck, and they leave themselves open to be trucked when they try and arm tackle a guy they think is going for a finesse move.

Ware was doing this kind of thing constantly against the Raiders. Here's my second favorite run of the afternoon from Ware (my first favorite being the first gif shown above):

At first glance, this play seems to just be a case of the offensive line crushing it and Ware taking advantage. While that's partly true (the offensive line does indeed do a great job), there's more to the story than that. Some of the reason the line looks so great this play has to do with Ware's vision, patience and agility.

Here's Ware as he receives the handoff:


This is pretty clearly a read option play (I love that the Chiefs are using these types of option plays more and more), so Ware likely has no idea whether he's getting the ball until this moment.

As things stand he has three options. I've numbered them for your convenience (see, I DO care, guys).

Option 1 is for Ware to run around the left edge off Eric Fisher's left shoulder. Now, this would be appealing. Fisher is handling his defender very well, but there's a linebacker completely unblocked in the vicinity and Ware's momentum isn't really carrying him that direction.

Option 2 is a much more appealing option, and I believe quite a few runners would take it. Run between Fisher and Jeff Allen, using your power to gain 3-4 yards before Mitch Morse's LB (who we'll talk more about in a moment) and the rest of them bring you down. With Ware's ability to move the pile I can see why this option would be appealing.

Option 3 (cutting sharp right and heading upfield between Morse and LDT) is the most difficult option to follow, in that Ware needs to change direction immediately to avoid Allen (who hasn't gotten any push), then change direction again to start getting positive yards. However, once you've watched the GIF a few times you'll see (maybe) why it's far and away the best of the three options.


Here's Ware making the cut. Hopefully you can see why Option 3 is the best choice. Jeff Allen's defender is shading to Ware's left (the gap between Allen and Fisher), meaning Ware risks getting hit as he runs by. Additionally, as mentioned, Morse doesn't have a hat on the LB yet. And when you look at the angle he's got, you see immediately that Morse CAN'T get a hat on the LB if Ware runs straight ahead.

However, if Ware cuts back, he moves to the other side of Allen's defender and away from that defender's momentum. He also, by changing his location, puts Morse squarely between himself and the Morse's linebacker.

Here's how it looks right after the cut:


Look at Allen and Morse's defenders. Ware is now on the "other" side of both of his OL, which allows them to form a wall and take advantage of the defenders' momentum to stonewall them (in Allen's case) or shove them completely out of the way (in Morse's case).

You hear the phrase "he set up his blockers" sometimes. Well, this is what that looks like. Having the vision to see where the defenders and blockers are and having the understanding of how your movement affects them is a critical, underrated aspect to a RB's game. Charles is great at it. Priest Holmes was phenomenal at it. And Ware demonstrates that ability here.

Allen and Morse take care of their end of the deal by finishing their blocks, and the rest of the line did a very good job as well. However, Ware made Allen and Morse both look better by being smart with his running.

Yes, Spencer Ware is a very, very powerful runner. But that's not all he is. He's got a very good combination of vision and agility to go along with that strength. Hopefully he starts getting more recognition as a complete back. Don't be surprised if Ware has a very large role against Houston and (if the Chiefs carry the day) throughout the remainder of the playoffs.

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