Pats workhorse RB Corey Dillion has been punishing defensive opposition with a throwback move that the Providence Journal’s Tom E. Curran can’t get enough of.
Corey Dillon happened into the Patriots locker room Friday morning, fresh from a running backs meeting.
“Corey,” he was asked. “Do you have a few seconds for a little more stiff-arm talk?”
Dillon’s head swiveled and he looked back over his shoulder. “Would you like a demonstration?” he offered, his heavy-lidded eyes widening.
With the memory of the malevolent stiff-arm Dillon delivered to Ravens cornerback Corey Fuller last week, knocking Fuller down like a mannequin with one jolt from his meaty palm, an unprotected scribe would probably be spitting up chunks of Adam’s apple for weeks if Dillon unloaded.
“Not so much,” was the reply to Dillon’s offer.
And Dillon thought that was very funny.
In a league where the shake, the bake, the juke, the spin and the hurdle are celebrated, the Patriots’ lead running back has rekindled appreciation for the old-school stiff-arm this season. It’s not just an effective weapon for gaining yards, it’s also a mental blow to the defender. There may be nothing more humbling for a defensive player than being pushed to the ground with one hand.
“It’s just a natural reaction to me, something I’ve done since Pop Warner,” Dillon said. “If I need to use it to get somewhere else, I’ll do it. A lot of the aspects of my game are old school. I grew up watching those big backs like Jim [Brown], Franco Harris, [Eric] Dickerson, [Larry] Csonka, [John] Riggins, Tony Dorsett, Walter Payton, Bo Jackson. They did what it took to get upfield with the ball.”
And Dillon’s doing the same, with 1,121 rushing yards in 10 games this season. A good portion of those yards come after contact, and many of those are made by Dillon thrusting out his thick right arm, slamming his hand into a defender to get separation and then grabbing more yards.
“It’s an art,” said Dillon. “It’s a technique. It’s more with the palm than with the fingers.
“I’m loading up when I use it. You have to let them get real close. It’s not going to work if you put it out there early. They’ll slap your arm down or get up under it so you’ve got to let them get real close and not let them get through it. But when I’m out there and doing it, I’m more concerned about getting them off me and getting upfield. I’m not thinking, ‘Ooh, I got him with a good one.’ ”
“With the stiff-arm, you want to break it down and some guys aren’t able to do that against Corey,” said Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi. “You want to slap the arm down with one hand and wrap with the other. Sometimes running backs will go at your face and you have a choice, do you knock it up or knock it down?
“In terms of the guys I’ve seen use it, the best is Corey,” Bruschi said. “I’ve seen him use it two or three times on the same play. He gets the first guy with it, then he throws it again and again until they either get him down or he goes out of bounds.”
As with many other aspects of the running back spot, the man who did it best was Brown, the former Cleveland Browns star.
“Talk about a big guy with long arms and big hands,” said Bill Belichick. “He was so hard to get close to. You’re so far away and when you try to get close to him. . . . And if you try to ankle-bite him, he walks right through those tackles.”
(since we couldn’t find any decent pictures of Corey Dillion, you’ll have settle for Nina Bringas’ portrait of the author of “What Up, Youth?”, Corey Feldman)