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  • Anthony Mychal 10:12 pm on January 11, 2018 Permalink  

    Why “listen to your body” is stupid advice that’ll make you fat and lazy 

    My eyelids are closing as I type this. I got two hours of sleep last night. My body is telling me to go to sleep. I should listen to my body.

    “Listen to your body.”

    You hear that phrase all the time. It sounds… right. It feels right, too. After all, the human body has doing it's thang for millions of years now. It has to know a thing or two…

    …right?

    Maybe not.

    YOUR BODY WHISPERS

    The premise behind “listening to your body” is such that your body has some sort of knowledge that your conscious mind doesn't have. The only way to access said knowledge is by listening to your body's whispers. But there are a few problems with this…

    FIRST: SIGNAL AND NOISE

    What if your body isn't trying to tell anything? Put your head up to your stomach as it digests food and you'll probably hear some gurgling and swishing. But that doesn't mean those noises are but… noises. DON'T CRACK YOUR KNUCKLES, SONNY.

    Problem: if you try to listen to your body too deeply, you're likely to turn noise into signal and risk misinterpretation.

    SECOND: DIFFERENT LANGUAGE

    Assume your body is trying to tell you something. What makes you think you can understand your body's language? How do you know you have the right translation?

    Pain is a negative, right? A sign you're doing something you shouldn't be doing. Wait. What about that whole “pain is weakness leaving the body” thing? What's the difference between discomfort and pain? I'm confused already.

    Problem: the translation you have for what your body is trying to tell you isn't universal. You're likely to rely on what you think your body is telling you, and, quite frankly, what you think might be wrong. 

    THIRD: PLACEBOS

    Listening to your body insinuates that your body works from inside of a vacuum. But your expectations greatly influence how your body functions. If you're used to eating lunch at 12PM every day, you'll probably be hungry at 12PM even though your body, deep down, might not ACTUALLY be hungry.

    This is where the placebo effect lives. The placebo effect, in a nutshell: your body feels how you expect it to feel.

    Problem: humans are creatures of habit and expectation, and sometimes those aren't helpful to an end goal. 

    FOURTH: EVOLUTION

    If you believe current evolutionary theory, then humans are pain and risk averse, meaning we're always going to be pushed towards comfort.

    What if comfort isn't ideal?

    If you're trying to stop smoking, your body doesn't really want you to stop smoking. If you listen to your body, you're gonna grab a smoke.

    Also, our primitive software isn't terribly suited to the modern world. We're afraid to take risks because our body codes stressors as ZOMG I'M BEING CHASED BY A LION, but, in reality, you're not being chased by a lion. You're just deciding whether or not to dump your shitty girlfriend that cheated on you.

    Problem: the way the body functions is a matter of context. We evolved in a world different than ours, which means what our body tells us might not match reality.

    FLACCID PLATITUDES

    I could continue with more examples. Continuing with the thread above, evolutionary theory also says that humans are misers. We conserve and hoard energy. If you listen to your body, you're going to die of Pizza the Hutt Syndrome and eat yourself to death.

    pizza the hutt

    Look –

    I get the sentiment. Listen to your body. I'm not saying you should ALWAYS ignore your body, just like I'm saying you should ALWAYS listen to your body. And because the door swings both ways, the phrase “listen to your body” is just another fancy yet flaccid fitness platitude.

    The post Why “listen to your body” is stupid advice that’ll make you fat and lazy appeared first on Anthony Mychal.

     
  • Anthony Mychal 10:12 pm on January 11, 2018 Permalink  

    Why “listen to your body” is stupid advice that’ll make you fat and lazy 

    My eyelids are closing as I type this. I got two hours of sleep last night. My body is telling me to go to sleep. I should listen to my body.

    “Listen to your body.”

    You hear that phrase all the time. It sounds… right. It feels right, too. After all, the human body has doing it's thang for millions of years now. It has to know a thing or two…

    …right?

    Maybe not.

    YOUR BODY WHISPERS

    The premise behind “listening to your body” is such that your body has some sort of knowledge that your conscious mind doesn't have. The only way to access said knowledge is by listening to your body's whispers. But there are a few problems with this…

    FIRST: SIGNAL AND NOISE

    What if your body isn't trying to tell anything? Put your head up to your stomach as it digests food and you'll probably hear some gurgling and swishing. But that doesn't mean those noises are but… noises. DON'T CRACK YOUR KNUCKLES, SONNY.

    Problem: if you try to listen to your body too deeply, you're likely to turn noise into signal and risk misinterpretation.

    SECOND: DIFFERENT LANGUAGE

    Assume your body is trying to tell you something. What makes you think you can understand your body's language? How do you know you have the right translation?

    Pain is a negative, right? A sign you're doing something you shouldn't be doing. Wait. What about that whole “pain is weakness leaving the body” thing? What's the difference between discomfort and pain? I'm confused already.

    Problem: the translation you have for what your body is trying to tell you isn't universal. You're likely to rely on what you think your body is telling you, and, quite frankly, what you think might be wrong. 

    THIRD: PLACEBOS

    Listening to your body insinuates that your body works from inside of a vacuum. But your expectations greatly influence how your body functions. If you're used to eating lunch at 12PM every day, you'll probably be hungry at 12PM even though your body, deep down, might not ACTUALLY be hungry.

    This is where the placebo effect lives. The placebo effect, in a nutshell: your body feels how you expect it to feel.

    Problem: humans are creatures of habit and expectation, and sometimes those aren't helpful to an end goal. 

    FOURTH: EVOLUTION

    If you believe current evolutionary theory, then humans are pain and risk averse, meaning we're always going to be pushed towards comfort.

    What if comfort isn't ideal?

    If you're trying to stop smoking, your body doesn't really want you to stop smoking. If you listen to your body, you're gonna grab a smoke.

    Also, our primitive software isn't terribly suited to the modern world. We're afraid to take risks because our body codes stressors as ZOMG I'M BEING CHASED BY A LION, but, in reality, you're not being chased by a lion. You're just deciding whether or not to dump your shitty girlfriend that cheated on you.

    Problem: the way the body functions is a matter of context. We evolved in a world different than ours, which means what our body tells us might not match reality.

    FLACCID PLATITUDES

    I could continue with more examples. Continuing with the thread above, evolutionary theory also says that humans are misers. We conserve and hoard energy. If you listen to your body, you're going to die of Pizza the Hutt Syndrome and eat yourself to death.

    pizza the hutt

    Look –

    I get the sentiment. Listen to your body. I'm not saying you should ALWAYS ignore your body, just like I'm saying you should ALWAYS listen to your body. And because the door swings both ways, the phrase “listen to your body” is just another fancy yet flaccid fitness platitude.

    The post Why “listen to your body” is stupid advice that’ll make you fat and lazy appeared first on Anthony Mychal.

     
  • Shawn Myszka 3:00 pm on January 4, 2018 Permalink  

    2017 Mover of the Year – Antonio Brown 

    The end of the season is here and we have witnessed 16 weeks of extraordinary football; 1,696 plus players who are faced with solving movement problems that the majority of human beings could never fathom being confronted with. Collectively, we have marveled at the best in the game at doing just that. And while this is happening there’s more going on behind the scenes. I take it upon myself to dive into the film of this, both the highs and the lows and everything in between, in an attempt to understand those problems and the movement skills used to solve them, from the inside-out. When the smoke settles on this endeavor, I make a stand on who I believe the most masterful mover in the league is on that the analysis and what you read today is that result.

    We are now completing year five here at ‘Football Beyond the Stats’ and in those previous years we have had some truly astonishing movers that we have featured here.

    2013 – LeSean McCoy (Running Back, Philadelphia Eagles)

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/2013-bts-mover-of-the-year-lesean-mccoy/

    2014 – Earl Thomas (Safety, Seattle Seahawks)

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/2014-bts-mover-of-the-year-earl-thomas/

    2015 – Antonio Brown (Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers)

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/2015-mover-of-the-year-antonio-brown/

    2016 – David Johnson (Running Back, Arizona Cardinals)

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/2016-mover-of-the-year-david-johnson/

    With our reigning Mover of the Year going down during the very first game of the season, it’s time for a new Champion to prevail. Turns out, the deeper I got into my analysis the more clear it became as a number of players began to emerge as my frontrunners for the 2017 Mover of the Year:

    • Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons – With two of the four previous Movers of the Year being RBs, the top dude at this position is always going to get serious consideration. Freeman is one the best decelerators in the game and has also added a tremendous amount of adaptability across his movement skills.
    • Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks – The 2014 Mover of the Year is back on top of the safety rankings but will his decisive movement behaviors have improved enough to regain his championship from three years ago?
    • Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks – The teammate of Thomas and the unwavering leader of the Seahawks, Wilson is a three time All-Movement First team performer because his perception-action coupling and his movement creativity which are on another level in comparison to not only his QB peers but most others across the League.
    • Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers – The 2015 Mover of the Year is the definition of must-see TV anytime he steps on a football field. Having been an All-Movement First team member in four consecutive years (yes, 4!), can he reign supreme once again in this stacked group?

    Guess whose back?

    This likely won’t come as any shock or surprise as unless you have been living under a rock you probably have a good idea not only just how good this player is but also what I personally feel about his movement skill-set. Even in a league that is packed full of standout movers, Antonio Brown, WR of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is in a league of his own. When we think of movement skill and mastery on a football field, I like to use this definition to guide me: movement skill expertise is “the functional relationship between an individual organism and its environment, characterized by attunement to relevant perceptual variables and concomitant calibration of actions (Jacobs & Michaels, 2007)”.

    AB pic 12

    Armed with this definition during my weekly evaluation of football players, I attempt to study the level of proficiency within all three B’s of a player’s movement skill (behaviors, brain, biomechanics) as he executes through the problem-solving processes necessary to respond to the ever-changing environment that is NFL chaos (and pressure, anxiety, fatigue, complexity, etc).

    Well, simply put, Antonio Brown IS the current epitome of that definition. He embodies it. Straight-up, no questions asked, not even close. Don’t @ me!

    AB pic 9

    Furthermore, putting this problem and solution connection to work really starts to encompass what movement skill expertise is about: dexterity. Famous motor behavior scientist (and my hero) Nikolai Bernstein stated that: “Dexterity is finding a motor (aka movement) solution for any situation and in any condition (1967).” I am going to go out on a limb here but if Bernstein himself were to have been a football movement connoisseur and studied the sport like he did some other tasks, he would have salivated over watching the resourcefulness that Brown displays when coordinating and controlling his movement solutions under the context that an NFL Sunday will demand.

    What do others have to say about AB84?

    Though it’s next to impossible to run out of superlatives about the game’s best mover, I am sure that many out there have gotten awfully sick of reading my words as I ramble on about just how good Antonio Brown really is. So, don’t just take my word for it. To help enlighten you further and to show that I am not the only one who is infatuated with the movement skills of Brown, I have employed the assistance of two of my most trusted peers in the field who I have an ongoing shared mentorship with, Ross Cooper and Cameron Josse, to add their insights into the mix:

    Ross Cooper, a Football Position & Skill Acquisition Coach, puts it this way:

    Bruce Lee stated, “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”

    No player in the NFL exemplifies these water-like movement capabilities like Bruce Lee described quite like Antonio Brown does. The beauty of AB is his real level of transferable skill in/versus any environment, opponent, weather. AB has an ultimate relationship between his perception & movement solutions, turning the opposing DB’s ‘strengths’ into ‘weaknesses.’  No matter what technique the DB is playing or defensive scheme, AB becomes water. He controls-attacks-dictates-reacts simultaneously!  He is the epitome of perception leading action & action leading perception. He manipulates and controls DB’s time & space, while skillfully reacting off of that same time & space. His movement strategies, unreal cognitive-perceptual decision-making, and overall game feel both within his precision route running and also his agility; perceptually and movement wise manipulating-creating-dictating-controlling-reacting via time & space before and within the route, plus extremely lethal YAC.  From the first action he takes off the LOS he manipulates DB’s both movement wise & perceptually for the needed space he desires within his full route tree, while also reacting-adjusting into what the DB/defense & offensive teammates are doing during each route/play. AB also uses the environment (field itself) the way he sees fit as a main weapon for his wanted outcome.

    AB pic 2.jpg

    AB uses each affordance for action that becomes presented, both moving in tight & open spaces, in a way that allows him a vast combination of authentic movement solutions, level-to-level perceptual skill and the ability of solving multiple problems simultaneously. On-field; “The question is the answer & the problem is the solution.’’ AB showcases this weekly, that he is one of the best NFL movers of all time.

    https://youtu.be/M0s_T6mRIFY

    Another trusted colleague and Director of Sports Performance at DeFranco’s Training Systems, Cameron Josse, went on to say:

    Brown plays the game with tremendous confidence.  It’s as if he fully expects to make a game-breaking play on each and every snap.  Psychologically, it’s clear that he understands his impact on the Steelers’ offense and fully accepts his role as a big play threat.

    You’d be hard-pressed to find any other receiver that runs routes as consistently crisp as Brown does.  Being efficient as a route runner is NOT about executing a route the exact same way every time, but rather successfully maneuvering around different coverage and doing so in biomechanically efficient positions.  When we talk about “biomechanical truths”, we are talking about moving with minimal energy leaks and using body positions leading to more optimal movement displays based on a particular sport problem.  The problem is always changing and therefore the solution must always change as well.  Context is king, as always.

    Brown always seems to find a way to be open and continues to advance his ability of exploring and creating movement solutions in his route running, consistently showing the ability to beat his opponent’s best defensive backs.  The ‘law of exposure’ from the book, Game Changer (Fergus Connolly, 2017), states that players will adapt and respond to the speed and complexity of the sport problems being presented to them.  So, while a team will strategize and put their best defensive back on Antonio Brown, they are risking the chance that this will only further enhance Brown’s creative solutions since it’s just another problem for him to solve.

    AB pic 8

    Brown possesses a truly diverse skill set.  His cutting actions and ability to redirect his body in the open field appear smooth and effortless, seemingly getting better with time.  One of his hallmark traits is his ability to find a movement solution when it seems clear as day that there isn’t one.  His adaptability is his strong suit here, as he understands that he must move at varying speeds and in various positions to achieve what he is intending to do based on what he is perceiving.

    He has the ability to work along a wide spectrum of movement bandwidths, such as changing his base of support to manipulate the space he is working in – he can decelerate with a narrow base of support when space is tight, and can also use a wide base of support when he has more room to operate. One of his most underrated attributes is his kinesthetic sense (his awareness of where he is in space) and how that impacts his ability to catch the football.  We can certainly admire his route running and movement after the catch is made, but the receptions he makes are incredible.

    Consider the reception he made against Kansas City this past season in Week 6 when he caught a tipped pass with one hand while simultaneously avoiding an attempted tackle by the safety and subsequently taking off for a 51-yard touchdown reception.  Wide receiver skill set at its finest!

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-cant-miss-plays%2F0ap3000000861881%2FCan-t-Miss-Play-Antonio-Brown-takes-miracle-catch-to-the-house

    Has his movement skill evolved since 2015?

    I certainly agree with all of that which both Ross and Cam claimed regarding Brown. Extending their thoughts, it’s an appropriate time to include my analysis from 2015 when Brown was named our top Mover then just as he is now.

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/2015-mover-of-the-year-antonio-brown/

    However, when attempting to make the determination to award him his second Mover of the Year in five seasons, it was vitally important to me that I could come to the conclusion that he had in fact gotten more masterful than he previously had been. This was no small order as I made the claim two years ago that the 2015 version of 84 was the best mover I had analyzed during the course of this blog. So, I needed to be able to unequivocally say to myself, “AB’s movement skill-set has evolved!”

    Obviously, you were able to skip ahead in the test and know the answer I ended up residing on (that his movement skill HAS improved). So, in which ways has this occurred?

    On the surface, Antonio Brown is still the exceptional mover I deeply analyzed and glowingly raved about back in 2015. The route precision, the sharply attuned perception, the ridiculous space manipulation, and the diverse agility actions…all of those characteristics are still well intact and if anything, like a fine wine, that skill-set has gotten even riper. The ability to coordinate, control and skillfully organize a movement solution no matter the situation (the task dynamics) is still the best in the game.

    AB pic 1

    But what do we see when studying and investigating the 2017 version of AB84…that is, the evolved movement mastery of Antonio Brown? Well, for a moment I want you to remember above when I mentioned Bernstein’s definitive words on dexterity in movement skill; specifically, the second part of that quote… “And in any condition.” THIS is exactly where and how AB has gotten even more proficient, at least in this movement coach’s opinion.

    One of the major indicators of true movement mastery is the ability to be able to have a movement solution to any movement problem which presents itself and to do it under the extreme constraints present which can act as key performance inhibitors to even some of the game’s best. I am speaking here of the realities of playing football at the highest level like which is witnessed in situations late in games such as psychological influence (pressure/anxiety) or physiological influence (fatigue; both physical and perceptual-cognitive). These condition changes can significantly impact the level of robustness (i.e. stability and adaptability) of even a professional athlete’s movement skills; often drastically changing both the strategies as well as the execution of the solutions organized (bringing many superhuman movers’ behaviors back down to earth).

    AB pic 11.jpg

    As everyone knows, I usually don’t pay a whole lot of attention to statistics. However, used here, they help paint a picture as we illustrate this point. According to situational statistics found on the NFL website, in the 4th quarter over the course of this season, Brown snatched 28 balls for 550 yards (average of 19.6/catch) and in the last 7 minutes of games he racked up 12 catches for 291 yards (24.2/catch!!). In contrast, when AB84 won his first Mover of the Year award in 2015, he recorded 30 catches for 429 yards (14.3/catch) and with 7 minutes left he had 20 catches for 248 yards (12.4/catch). Thus, you can see the huge difference late in games in 2017 and this showed qualitatively as well as AB84 was routinely at his best when it counted most.

    Obviously, this perspective can only give us so much context because there is always a lot going on which make up these situations and the numbers which accompany them. However, I do believe it’s clear, what makes Antonio Brown better right now (than he was in 2015) is that when a game is on the line, and pressure, anxiety and fatigue is theoretically at its peak, you wouldn’t want any other WR lined up to make plays for your team.

    Every system has a flaw: so, where does he go from here?

    I like to think of all sport movement problems, as well as the solutions that are connected to them, as highly integrative systems that are each peculiar in their own ways with interacting constraints every time that they come together with one another. This is the very essence of the concepts contained within ecological dynamics; ecological psychology and dynamical systems theories, which we can use to study motor behavior in sport. On the solution end, any complex dynamical system is adapting through means of self-organizing its component parts in a way that satisfies the system’s constraints. We can think of Antonio Brown (and more specifically his movement system) as a complex system self-organizing a movement solution under the unique problem he/it faces.

    AB pic 13

    Even in the midst of what appears to be the most optimal of self-organization for any system though (as I have claimed AB84 to be), my personal feelings tell me this…every system has to have a flaw…a weakness. Obviously, movement on a football field is complex. Additionally, the individuals that Brown (or any player in the league) face are also the very best at what they do. Thus, no system is perfect and has the solution for every problem ever presented even if it’s highly attuned to a range of problems. Instead, we know, there’s always a weak link in any system. So, with AB84, who is the game’s most attuned and adaptable player, where is it?

    The following is purely speculative but I want to share the ideas anyway. To do so, I want to expand on something my friend Ross mentioned above regarding Bruce Lee, and one’s movement skill being more “like water.” When taking this quote and applying it to movement on a football field, it begins to speak to the need to not fit within any sort of container for solving the problem involved in one’s sport; either as it pertains to the strategies employed or the technical execution utilized to carry out those strategies. In fact, this idea is where Bruce Lee’s famous quote on execution within a martial arts fight (or street fight) really stems from where he said, “The highest technique is to have no technique. My technique is the result of your technique. My movement is a result of your movement.” Of course, to me and my thought processes regarding movement skill acquisition, this idea is one that I remind myself (and each of the players I consult for) of each and every day.

    Bruce Lee technique

    For those that are unaware, what led the late and great martial artist Bruce Lee to find himself immersed in his thoughts of Jeet Kune Do (JKD) occurred in 1969 when he realized that other traditionally-practiced styles of martial arts (even those that he had practiced/mastered) had become too rigid & fixed, too patterned & unrealistic. He foretold how this new style was to be a hybrid mixture of other styles but which should be more personally connected to one’s own style. It’s because of this that it was not only a hybrid of other styles but also other activities that he would adopt from so one was able to flow and move fluidly (like water and without specific prescribed technique) no matter what the situation called for.

    AB pic 7.jpg

    Because of that, JKD, in Lee’s mind, was to always allow for authenticity and honest expression through one’s movement. Like an artist telling a story through a painting, from the outside looking in, a fight could unfold to be told in the same way. It just so happens that I believe this is the very same thing we witness of the football movement skills which emerge when an individual is highly attuned to the affordances that exist around him and he’s in a state where he can adapt accordingly.

    AB pic 10.jpg

    Thing is, that’s what makes where AB84 is right now and what he could potentially be on the verge of accomplishing from a movement skill standpoint so damn special! Could it be that Antonio Brown is at this football movement equivalent of developing his own Jeet Kune Do right now? Meaning, a place where he exists with such oneness with the problems that he is facing that IF he were to expand himself even further, AND allow for even greater creativity, that he would come up with his own even more authentic way of moving on a football field?

    So, what’s my advice to Antonio Brown to do just that? How can he create the AB84 version of JKD? Well, first, come to the realization that no one can ever get ‘too masterful’; there can never be too much attunement…too much adaptability……too much dexterity. Taking this another step further, though he’s the NFL’s best movement problem solver, this offseason as you prepare for the future, go solve more problems…and a wider variety of problems…and (maybe most importantly) against a wider variety of LIVE opponents. Go out and look to create with one’s movement in new and maybe even unorthodox ways. Look for more opportunities to add deception in your skill sequences; more hesitation, more feinting, more faking, more changes in timing of the movement actions.

    AB pic 6

    Basically, present yourself with practice tasks which stretch your current grip on your movement solutions (aka require you to expand your movement skill-set and the use of your toolbox even further and sometimes in novel ways). This movement practice environment should allow for:

    • Exploration – Searching the problem landscape to be able to adequately explore how the movement solutions can be coordinated and controlled differently (or in refined ways)
    • Amplification – The problems faced each day should amplify education to each of the 3B levels (behaviors, brain, biomechanics) of how the movement skill is being organized (what’s being perceived, the decisions made because of this, the execution of the biomechanical actions)
    • Exploitation – Once one is comfortable in this constantly ever-changing practice context, the mover can begin to exploit different aspects and nuances of the respective problems that they have now become accustomed at solving

    Meaning, in a nutshell, get out of the pre-planned footwork drills and, instead, get into more representative tasks and contextual problem solving. It’s in these ways that I could see the NFL’s most masterful mover get even better! It’s scary, but it’s true. In these ways, AB84 would add more dimensions to the movement solutions he coordinates (new and/or refined movement strategies and/or pattern combinations) and how he controls his current movement solutions (adding adjustability and an even more functional ‘fit’ between he and a wider variety of problems he could encounter). If we think he’s the face of dexterity in movement skill now, just wait and see where he would be if he would take this approach.

    Conclusion

    No matter which way we cut it I think it’s still rather clear; Antonio Brown is the most masterful mover in the game. He owns himself within his movement solutions, he organizes highly authentic and creative movement actions which remain efficient and yet effective and he is able to become one with the situation at-hand. We could not ask for a better representative of movement mastery than AB84 and we should all sit back and marvel at the movement behaviors which emerge. The only question remaining then is; can he get even more skillful?! I know at least one Football Movement Coach who is really excited to find out.

    https://youtu.be/vnYWLZThFVk

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 4:00 pm on January 3, 2018 Permalink
    Tags:   

    2017 Movement Awards 

    Picking up the trend that I started at the end of last year, I am going to continue to beef up my year-end award giving this season. In fact, before naming the 2017 Mover of the Year tomorrow, and to go along with the ‘Most Improved Mover’ and ‘Most Impressive Rookie Mover’ recognition, I am going to name a ‘Most Masterful Moving Team’ this year for the respective team who collectively showed up each Sunday with the most skillful of performers across their roster.

    In true ‘Football Beyond the Stats’ fashion, each of these additional awards will be judged and selected based on the same criteria as the Mover of the Year (and the All-Movement Team for that matter); on the execution of movement skills and not on where individuals (or teams) rank statistically!

    Most Improved Mover

    Todd Gurley, Running Back, Los Angeles Rams

    Rams Preview Football

    This selection may come as a surprise to some where after two years ago, while as a rookie, Gurley seemingly took the NFL by storm and showed the flashes of RB greatness to be the new torch bearer at the position for this generation. However, even when he was doing that, I always felt as though there was still a little left to be desired in his movement skill-set. Yes, he was capable of breaking home run plays at anytime. Yes, he was also frequently found laying down some nasty hurdles over guys. So what’s the reason for all of the doubt from me? Well, I felt as though he was often accomplishing those respective tasks by simply being more athletic than his opponents in many cases. Meaning, he was solving those problems through physical prowess and not through the most dexterous of movement toolboxes. Don’t get me wrong here; those plays most definitely count and in the NFL you are to achieve success in any way that you possibly can. That all said though, under the direction and tactical strategies of new Ram Head Coach Sean McVay, Gurley is now being put in positions to literally take games over, and because of this, I have seen a whole new level of improved movement skills emerge from Gurley. There is no doubt that Gurley can still run past just about anyone and he will still jump over a guy if said opponent elects to take his eyes off of him and/or tries to go low, but the Rams RB isn’t just about athleticism any longer. Instead, he’s now out there solving problems in highly attuned and adaptable ways and with the inclusion of new wrinkles in his movement patterns this has all led to more precise timing and creativity in his agility actions. Finally, he’s done this rather consistently throughout the year against all comers which is the mark of someone masterful truly coming into his own in the context-dependent fashions which take place on a field.

    Most Impressive Rookie Mover

    Alvin Kamara, Running Back, New Orleans Saints

    Kamara 2

    Resembling the whirlwind we saw out of last year’s top rookie mover, Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs, this year’s top first year performer, Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints, presented problems to the rest of the league that aren’t often found from a rookie. Though Kamara was absolutely incredible in his own right, it was not a foregone conclusion that he would end up in this top spot. Instead, he had to contend with the impressive movement skills of new comers in fellow do-it-all running backs Kareem Hunt (Chiefs) and Tarik Cohen (Bears) as well as a number of All-Movement Team members including a First Team performer at tight end, Evan Engram (Giants) and Third Team performers like linebacker Reuben Foster (49ers) and cornerback Marshon Lattimore (Saints). In fact, I would say it was possibly Kamara’s teammate in Marshon Lattimore who gave him the biggest push for this recognition. However, based on how he truly took the NFL world by storm, I feel as though it was Alvin Kamara who displayed the most well-rounded and surprisingly refined movement behaviors of all of the rookies. It’s been downright unfair what Kamara has been doing to any team that stands in his way. His visual scanning is precise and sensitive, his decision making is varied but accurate, and the strategies that flow from his creation lead down to feet that are quick but powerful.

    Most Masterful Moving Team

    At first glance, this new award at ‘Football Beyond the Stats’ would seem to be easier said than done to select. Theoretically, one could just go through my All-Movement Team in a position-by-position manner and simply count the respective NFL team that was represented with the highest frequency. However, every team has outliers who perform at a level that far exceeds their peers. Thus, rather than do this (i.e. count the team represented most often), I decided to try my hand and do my best at evaluating an entire team roster based on the level of movement skill that was put on a field each and every Sunday. Once the smoke cleared on this above mentioned process, a number of teams kept reoccurring for final evaluation; so much so that I would say that I really couldn’t go wrong with any of them. Here were some of the features of our top candidates:

    Kansas City Chiefs – A team appealingly built on speed on both sides of the ball, when you think about dynamic, game-breaking playmakers, you can’t help but think of the Kansas City Chiefs. Yes, speed kills. However, just because a team is fast doesn’t mean they are the most skillful and dexterous when it comes to movement skills. That said, they do have a number of performers who show more than pure linear speed or explosive burst such as burner Tyreek Hill, rookie Kareem Hunt, and tight end Travis Kelce (with Hill and Kelce being former First Team members of our All-Movement Team).

    Seattle Seahawks – Over the years, I’ve often commented about the movement capabilities of this previous perennial playoff team. In fact, if this would’ve been a couple of years ago, they may have been clearly the tops of this group for a number of years straight. Even now, we stand with my top moving QB in the League on their roster (Russell Wilson) as well as at least one impressive mover at each level of the defense including two members of our All-Movement Defensive First Team (Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas).

    Atlanta Falcons – The defending NFC Champion is stacked with movement talent on both sides of the ball. From All-Movement First Team performer Devonta Freeman to dynamic guys like Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen anchoring a consistently moving defense throughout, this team is one to be reckoned with for a list like this. Oh yeah, they also have a guy named Julio Jones who just so happens to be on our All-Movement Team and makes catches appear to be routine that no one else around the league can even make.

    Pittsburgh Steelers – Anytime your team has a past Mover of the Year on its roster, you are almost certain to get immediate recognition for being one of the best of the best. This team is more than just about Antonio Brown though; it has a multiple All-Movement Team mention at Running Back Le’Veon Bell and is stacked with other guys like youngster TJ Watt and Ryan Shazier (2017 All-Movement Second Team) on the defensive side of the ball. Additionally, with the pocket presence of Big Ben at QB thrown into the mix this team have the makings of a roster worth evaluating deeper from a movement standpoint.

    Minnesota Vikings – For the Vikings to turn my head says something; even when they have me being more highly critical of them due to the fact that they are the team that I have the highest number of my personal clients on. Unlike the other teams, I have not missed a single snap from the Vikings’ season. Because of that, I get to see the best and the worst of them. No matter the week, one of the NFL’s best overall teams is stacked on both sides of the ball with proficient movers including guys like Everson Griffen (All-Movement First Team at DE), a consistent mover like Harrison Smith (Third Team Safety), and one of the most mobile QBs of 2017 in Case Keenum (Third Team QB).

    Jacksonville Jaguars – The surprise team of the entire AFC and this list, the Jaguars roster is loaded across the defense with performers who are as dynamic as it comes especially as a unit. This includes All-Movement First Team performer A.J. Bouye and fellow cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Though this team does deserve mention here, especially with what their defense did all season long, I feel as though they are still a year or two away from both further movement skill refinement from their standout defense as well as acquiring a few more dynamically skillful playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.

    That all being said, when the dust is settled and the game movement analysis has been completed, the winner is…

    The Atlanta Falcons!

    Falcons 2

    I decided to go in the direction of the reigning NFC Champion, Atlanta Falcons, as my first-ever Most Masterful Moving Team award winner! From top to bottom, from offense to defense and into the special teams, this team has few weaknesses when it comes to the movement skills that they display. The Falcons have an offense that have world class movers (Freeman, Jones, Ryan) and depth to boot (such as Tevin Coleman, Justin Hardy, Mo Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, & Austin Hooper) which aids in them winning this award. The thing that puts them over the edge is likely the level to level movement mastery on the defensive side of the ball. I already mentioned their outstanding safeties, but they are dynamic upfront with the authenticity displayed by edge rushing guys like Courtney Upshaw, Brooks Reed, Adrian Clayborn and Vic Beasley and with one of the more athletic LB tandems playing in the game in Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell. Beyond those aforementioned special safeties, we find two crafty corners who can sufficiently get movement jobs done, as well. This all combines to make the Atlanta Falcons the most fun treat for any Movement Coach to analyze in 2017.

     

     

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 3:41 pm on January 2, 2018 Permalink  

    2017 All-Movement Team 

    It’s that time of the year again: NFL award time! And you’ve found what I believe to be the most unique award compilation that you will come across this post-season.

    If you’re new here, let me enlighten you as to why and how this list is compiled. First of all, I believe the players who possess the most attuned and adaptable of movement skill toolboxes should be recognized for the work that it goes into crafting those dynamics. As you will notice, there are times that those skills translate into the player being a NFL statistical leader at their position, and other times it does not (hence the blog’s name, ‘Beyond the Stats’). Because of this, our list is based on hours upon hours of my movement analysis during film study to determine the players who I feel are deserving of being considered the game’s best movers at each position.

    If you want to look back at last year’s All-Movement team (Part 1; Offense & Part 2; Defense) you can check them out below. This will also give you a further idea on who’s movement skill has evolved and who’s may have dropped off from one year to the next.

    Part 1 (Offense):

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/2016-all-movement-team-offense/

    Part 2 (Defense & Special Teams):

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2017/01/12/2016-all-movement-team-defense-special-teams/

    However, that’s about enough of living in the past; let’s find out who were the most masterful movers in the NFL over the course of the 2017 season.

    All-Movement Team; OFFENSE

    Quarterback

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Elusiveness while moving in the pocket, Making plays with feet when plays break down

    First Team: Russell Wilson (Seahawks)

    Wilson 2

    Second Team (Tie): Case Keenum (Vikings), Cam Newton (Panthers)

    Newton

    Keenum

    Third Team (Tie): Matt Ryan (Falcons), Tom Brady (Patriots)

    When I wrote last year’s All-Movement Team description I shouted from the rooftops how good last year’s First Team QB, Green Bay Packer Aaron Rodgers, was particularly when it comes to the ability to move accordingly based on what the contextual problem at-hand offers a performer. In fact, this subjective take was the subject of an article written by Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune which pitted Rodgers versus an athlete I have worked with extensively in the past, Everson Griffen (Vikings). However, due to being injured early in a week 6 loss versus the Vikings this season, Rodgers just didn’t have as much time under center as we would like to see in order to evaluate where his current movement toolbox resides. Thus, a new performer would be sure to step up to that top spot.

    However, just how “new” to our First Team would this performer be? Honestly, this season it really ended up being mainly a two horse race for this top spot between two players who are former First Team performers; Russell Wilson of the Seahawks (2015 & 2014) and Cam Newton of the Panthers (2013). At the end of the day, for the THIRD time ever, the do-it-all Seattle QB would end up reigning supreme again though an incredible 60+ yard run from Cam when facing a number of players of mine from the Vikings in the 13th game of the season almost put him over the edge. Wilson though, almost constantly carrying his team in every way that he can, just makes plays that others cannot (whether he’s in the pocket or outside of it). With a movement skill-set that is built like a RB when looking to run the football in space, it is now backed up with an enhanced link between perception and action, between eyes & other senses and his feet & arm to allow him to always be in positions to make extraordinary plays no matter where he is on the field.

    Rounding out our Teams we start with an unlikely performer at the beginning of the season in current Vikings QB, Case Keenum, as well as two of the very best signal callers in the game, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan. Very few players showed the type of magician-like escape-ability that the former journeyman QB Keenum has; because of this, he has extended plays that others have not and is deserving of mention on our blog. The two perennial Pro Bowlers and last year’s Super Bowl starting QBs in Brady and Ryan won’t typically blow anyone away with their movement skills outside of the pocket but inside the pocket, they are simply masterful. With the ways that they take in constantly-changing information and understand their individualized affordances for action to remain in a position to make the necessary throws while doing so under a vast array of conditions (pressure, weather, etc), this list would not be complete without these two guys.

    Running Backs

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Robust movement strategy use in diverse conditions, Stopping/cutting on a dime, Accelerative burst

    First Team: Devonta Freeman (Falcons)

    Freeman

    Second Team (Tie): Le’Veon Bell (Steelers), Alvin Kamara (Saints)

    Bell

    Kamara 2

    Third Team (Tie): LeSean McCoy (Bills) Todd Gurley (Rams)

    With last year’s All-Movement First Team member and eventual Mover of the Year, David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals, unfortunately visiting the Injured Reserve for the year after the very first game of the season, it was time for a new back to step up and take the crown. Luckily, each level of the 2016 All-Movement Team was stacked with individuals fully capable of doing just that. Coupled with some newcomers who made a solid run at our annual team, this group is packed full of individuals displaying highly dexterous movement skill sets and the ability to execute under numerous contextual demands.

    Over the past few years, one performer always seemed to get nudged out in the final tallies to find a different player was wearing that aforementioned crown. Making the Third Team last year and the Second Team in 2015, Devonta Freeman of the Atlanta Falcons is the RB that I feel has become the most well-rounded of all the members in our group this year. This is not taking anything away from a former All-Movement Team members like Le’Veon Bell (2016 Second Team) with his authentically-unique movement style which is made possible with vision and patience, or 2013 Mover of the Year, LeSean McCoy (2016 Third Team), who has a movement skill-set truly showcased by his extraordinary adaptability. It’s also giving credit where credit is due with newcomers to our team such as the dazzling rookie, Alvin Kamara, who’s playmaking ability and elusive style showed itself as the Saints moved him all around the field as a match-up nightmare to take the NFL by storm from the start. Additionally, it gives adequate recognition to the NFL MVP candidate of the group, Todd Gurley, whose explosive burst and linear speed is beyond in another category even across this plethora of special movers.

    At the end of the day though it would be Freeman who would come out of this class on top and it’s for good reason. Long recognized by yours truly as the most technically proficient decelerator in the game, he has the capability to stop on a dime more proficiently than the rest of the group and this quality sets everything else up in his ability to change direction and re-accelerate with style and pizzazz. This year, for whatever reason, this unique technical execution now seems even more skillful as it is backed up by more attuned perception which allows him to not only time actions more precisely in response to opponents but also do so with enhanced level to level problem-solving in mind. Though it’s completely subjective to say, Freeman also has the widest, most diverse of toolboxes of the group; so much so that he has equal access for an abundance of cutting solutions at any moment in time.

    Wide Receivers

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Crisp/precise route running, Dynamics in the open field, Linear football speed (ability & mechanics)

    First Team: Antonio Brown (Steelers)

    AB pic 6

    Second Team: Julio Jones (Falcons)

    USP NFL: SUPER BOWL LI-NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS VS ATL S FBN USA TX

    Third Team (Tie): Doug Baldwin (Seahawks), Golden Tate (Lions)

    The king is still here…and when it comes to the quantification of his movement skill set, he is without equal at his position. It turns out that even a late season (week 15) calf tear couldn’t slow his roll and keep others from surpassing him (just like it went down in many statistical categories among the NFL receiving leaders). The WR group usually consists of more than a few guys that we could marvel at with their movement, but AB84 is on another level. In fact, he’s so good that if I could somehow find a way to write his name in the First, Second and Third Team slots I almost would. Last year I critiqued Brown in saying that I felt as though he had a down year movement-wise after coming off a 2015 campaign where he was awarded our Mover of the Year and where I claimed he was the most masterful I’ve seen doing it since starting this blog. Built off of a supreme, out-of-this world type of functional fit between he and both routine and novel tasks within his environment, AB84 is back where he belongs and so for the FOURTH YEAR IN A ROW he reigns supreme on the top of our list.

    Like I said, don’t get me wrong though, the rest of this group is impressively skillful. All three of these guys, Jones on the Second, and Baldwin and Tate on the Third, have found themselves on our list in the past and this year is no different. Julio Jones’s unique kinesthetic sense & awareness is a movement trait which is only honed through hours of beating on one’s craft. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he also hit the sperm lottery and is built upon a unique blend of physical qualities that few others in the history of the NFL have ever possessed. Two technicians and former teammates round out our Team. Though both are having a bit of a down year statistically, this doesn’t matter much to us here (just look at the name of the blog!) as you would be hard pressed to find any two guys (at least outside of Brown) as proficient within the movement actions contained in their route running and as crafty after the catch as these guys.

    Tight Ends

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Wide receiver-like route running, Athleticism to make plays happen after the catch, Proficiency to be an effective blocker

    First Team: Evan Engram (Giants)

    Giants Cowboys Football

    Second Team: Travis Kelce (KC)

    Kelce pic 2

    Third Team: Delanie Walker (Titans)

    I will admit; I am going to be look like a bit of a hypocrite here. Last year, the first words uttered out of my mouth regarding evaluating the level of mastery displayed by individuals playing the tight end position were oriented around their ability to display an all-around skill-set to equally execute in both the pass and the run game. Well, this year I am violating my own rule as a rookie TE came onto the scene whose dynamic movement skills in the pass game were just too much to ignore. At 6’3” and only 240lb, Evan Engram runs routes with the movement capabilities of most big WR due in part to tremendous linear speed (ran 4.42 at the NFL Combine just last year) highlighted by explosive acceleration over short distances. Additionally, his ability to get in and out of breaks rapidly allows him to not only become a mismatch versus the backers and safeties that often find themselves lined up against him, but it also can even show itself as a quality which allows him to get separation from more cover-oriented DBs when lined up on the outside. Just a rookie; the sky is the limit for Engram and I think we can predict that should be on our Team for years to come.

    Not to be too outdone (though they are essentially placing 2nd and 3rd after all), the next two individuals to round out this list are guys who have become mainstays on our Team. In fact, these guys were the recipients of First Team honors over the previous two seasons (Travis Kelce in 2016, Delanie Walker in 2015). Though neither of these guys honestly took major steps back in 2017 (Kelce earned a Play of the Week early in the season), if we are gauging this off of all-around game, an argument could be made for either of these guys to get the nod. Thus, it was more of a case that Engram just happened to offer that much more unique of skill-set. That said, Kelce runs routes with precision and Walker remains as crafty in space as anyone is once a ball is in his hands.

    All-Movement Team: DEFENSE

    Defensive Line/End

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: First-step explosive burst, Ability to move rapidly to change direction to move laterally when tracking down ball carriers

    First Team: Everson Griffen (Vikings)

    Ev

    Second Team (Tie): Aaron Donald (Rams), DeMarcus Lawrence (Cowboys)

    Donald pic 1

    Lawrence

    Third Team (Tie): Khalil Mack (Raiders), Cameron Jordan (Saints)

    At first glance, some will look at Everson sitting at the top spot of this list and immediately cry “bias” to me…however, if you were to do that, it would immediately show that you haven’t watched 97 for the Vikings over the course of any game this season. Of course, I can see why people will initially claim this; knowing that my work partnership with Everson has been somewhat publicized over the years (as we have known each year since the offseason following his rookie year…which seems like forever ago!). However, everyone who personally knows me understands that I am MUCH more critical on how my player’s are performing than anyone on the outside world could be (besides the Twitter haters that is).

    In fact, it could be said that Everson probably should have been sitting on top of this list before this year (he was on the Third Team a couple of times). Instead, from the start, I have personally maintained the highest of quality standard for Everson’s movement skill and behaviors (as I do for any player who I work with). So, in this way, Ev has been at a significant disadvantage over the years versus other players because I see both the good and the bad of his craft with a fine toothed comb…from every angle, at every speed, countless times! Due to his diligence and commitment to that craft, this year saw a whole lot of good from 97’s movement toolbox. Honestly, since week 8 and a game against the Browns in London where Ev began to deal with some plantar fascia issues, the access of certain moves/skill (or at least the full control of them) started to become limited. But, even then, the abundance of solutions that he had available started to show through as just a few weeks later he recorded a multiple sack day vs. the Lions and finished the regular season with 13 sacks and a whole lot of disruption week to week.

    Though an interior defensive lineman doesn’t get nearly the opportunities to show the level of mastery within their movement craft as edge defenders do, Aaron Donald has continued his reign over the entire NFL and his movement mastery is a big part of this. When we talk about a player displaying diversity and dexterity in their movement solutions on the defensive side of the ball, Donald is at the top of this list. Receiving his first ever recognition here at BTS is the Cowboy weekly pass rushing force to be reckoned with, DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence is as creative as they come in his pursuit to bring QBs down; he moves with authenticity and is displays a variety of ways to solve the problems that OL present.

    Falling down our list slightly from last year but still worthy of All-Movement recognition is Khalil Mack. Last year’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year and our First Team performer here, we still see Mack out-adapting all competitors (both in regards to the literal competition he faces each week as well as the talented crew he beat out to make this list). If there’s a movement problem in the environment, he likely has a solution to match it. Wrapping up our Team at the front of the defense is Cameron Jordan of the Saints. While the veteran is considered among the most well-rounded DE’s in the league, it’s mostly due to his understanding of where he is in time and space and what he can do from that position when he’s there.

    Inside Linebacker

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: First step explosiveness in all directions, Ability to rapidly cover ground laterally

    First Team: Bobby Wagner (Seahawks)

    Wagner 1

    Second Team: Ryan Shazier (Steelers)

    Shazier 1

    Third Team: Luke Kuechly (Panthers)

    From the NFL football movement I analyzed throughout most of the year, this was really a two horse race between last year’s top mover at the position, Bobby Wagner, and a guy that has really flashed periodically since entering the league, Ryan Shazier. Of course, our eventual Second Team performer unfortunately suffered a tragic spinal injury in week 13 of this season. However, prior to that point, he really appeared to be coming into his own from a movement skill standpoint and was truly giving Wagner a run for his movement money.

    Though hampered by a nagging hamstring issue towards the end of the season, Wagner could be found through at least the first ¾ of the season making a real push towards an NFL Defensive POY that seems to have eluded his stellar career up to this point. Attacking problems 360 degrees around him equally as effectively and efficiently, Wagner’s aggressive but attuned style wastes little motion step to step, snap to snap. In contrasting styles, relying more on his unique physical gifts than his sensory-perceptual awareness, Ryan Shazier is as athletically dynamic as it comes at the position. At 6’1” and 230lb, he’s always been a freak of nature running around on the field. As I said above, it seemed as though he was really starting to display those unique athletic gifts in the nuanced solutions required of the position when things got scary that Monday night versus the Bengals. Now facing an uphill road ahead, I want to extend all of my hopes and prayers for Shazier and his recovery as he pushes forward.

    Our Third Team player, Luke Kuechly, is the model of football IQ. A former First Team performer in the past (2014), he finds himself as a runner-up to the runner-up for the third consecutive year. Coming off of a 2016 season that he ended off-of-the-field with concussion issues, Kuechly’s body of movement work is built off of intention and decision making. Don’t get me wrong, he has both physical gifts and biomechanically-sound execution, but it’s the link between his perception and his cognition that most sets him up for success. It’s because of this that his name must be included in any conversation about movement skill, expertise, and mastery at the linebacker position.

    Outside Linebackers

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Accelerative burst, Deceleration/Cutting ability to be able to stop quickly to reaccelerate while tracking ball carriers

    First Team: Chandler Jones (Cardinals)

    Chandler Jones.jpg

    Second Team: Von Miller (Broncos)

    Miller 2

    Third Team: Reuben Foster (49ers), Lavonte David (Buccaneers)

    In today’s NFL, OLB are asked to perform a wide variety of tactical tasks to help their teams win. Because of this, there is huge inter-individual variability in responsibilities put on the players at the position from team to team. Furthermore, this makes the evaluation of movement skills here that much more difficult. It’s truly like comparing apples to oranges between the players. It comes down to flavor and preference and even though I try to be as unbiased as possible, I am human so some of that is bound to be at play at all times. That all said when the smoke cleared on this year’s analysis we find ourselves with a new champion mover at the OLB position for the first time in the last three years. That’s right, much to even my surprise, the mighty blend of violence and grace that is known as Von Miller’s movement toolbox has fallen..at least slightly…and at least for now.

    Honestly, last year, Von Miller came awfully close to upending eventual Mover of the Year, David Johnson, as being recognized with the most masterful movement in the whole league. This year though, he seemed to me, at least at times, to lack some of that typical ability to completely take over games with his movement skill that was his hallmark for years. That’s not to say that Miller’s skill-set isn’t still top notch, it still is. However, from what I saw from Chandler Jones this year, he could not be denied. Having a career year statistically, Jones appears to be leaner with more explosive pop every time his foot hits the ground. Though he doesn’t corner around the edge like the guy he unseated (Miller), he has an array of moves at the top of his rush which gives him diversity and dexterity in the problem that the Cardinals most often ask him to solve; beating an OT and sacking the QB.

    Asked to do completely different things but playing “theoretically” the same position, we find two guys who are unbelievably effective and efficient, Lavonte David and Reuben Foster. Reminding me of the distinction that we made above when discussing Bobby Wagner and Ryan Shazier, the OLB equivalent stands here with David being the perceptually attuned veteran who more often than not finds himself in precise positions and Foster the young dude out there balling with supreme physical prowess for a football field. Both stacked with class leading instincts especially when running in space to track down offensive opponents with or without a ball in their hands, these guys would have easily found themselves on the top of the list if I included the edge defending pass rushing OLBs in another category.

    Cornerbacks

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Mastery of body position & control (especially during cover situations), Movement speed in multiple planes, Athleticism while ball in the air (leaping ability, tracking, kinesthetic awareness, etc)

    First Team: AJ Bouye (Jaguars)

    Bouye 2.jpg

    Second Team: Darius Slay (Lions)

    Slay

    Third Team (Tie): Patrick Peterson (Cardinals), Marshon Lattimore (Saints)

    As I mentioned last year at the onset of our discussion on the top moving corners in the league, I feel it bears repeating again: we can never separate perception and action in the coordination of movement skill & execution! This, of course, applies in regards to the demands of every position in any open task sport. However, maybe no position embodies this reality of sport motor behavior more than playing corner in the NFL. Meaning, how you are required to move will stem from who it is that you are forced to cover day each week and how you combine the 3B’s of movement skill (Behaviors/sensory-perceptual attention, Brain/cognitive decision making, Biomechanics/technical execution) in order to carry out those task solutions.

    Making the jump from the Second Team in 2016 to the top of the CB heap in 2017 is new Jaguar A.J. Bouye. Though this group is stacked with individuals who consistently show out from a movement and sport skill standpoint, Bouye is the cream of the crop. Last year I selected Bronco corner Chris Harris over Bouye because I felt as though he was more polished, diverse, and dexterous than this year’s king. However, Bouye seems to have taken the necessary jumps in skill to bring the best overall package to the mix. Honestly, every time I watch film of him, I find myself rewinding the same play over and over again as I watch the extremely functional perception-action coupling he displays. His senses and his feet are so closely connected and it shows with the way that he jumps on routes and darts to bring down any skill player with a ball in this hands. Additionally, when carrying out certain movement patterns that allow him to execute in those respective tasks like planting & breaking on a receiver or preparing to tackle in space, we will almost always see him in efficient biomechanical positions and executing with little wasted motion or time.

    The rest of our All-Movement Team across the Second and Third units is loaded with movement talent who displays proficiency and executes with slightly different but authentic strategies. Darius Slay is a guy who is underrated at the position and is sometimes unjustly left off the list when discussing the top corners in the game. However, talk about stepping up to challenges, Slay routinely follows the opposing team’s top pass catcher (as do the other two guys on these teams) and he matches his solutions to meet the unique needs of what the WR brings to the table. This, ladies and gentleman, is the definition of dexterity in movement and few across any position have been as good as Slay with this movement quality. Of course, no one in the position has the sort of God-given athleticism that Patrick Peterson possesses. This is not to say that he hasn’t worked diligently to develop the nuances of his craft, but he just brings something to the table that others cannot. Almost a mainstay on one of our units of our Team from the start five years ago (being a First Teamer in 2015), Peterson has consistently gotten more skillful especially in regards to an increase in perceptual attunement and overall football IQ. Finally, a guy that I really couldn’t leave off the list is rookie Marshon Lattimore of the Saints. This youngster is truly impressive especially at a position where guys really don’t hit their strides until racking up repetitions and exposure to defending against the game’s best WR, Lattimore has stood under this fire and taken the best shot from the best WR on each team. Though he’s given up some catches as he has learned, the authenticity of his movement solutions are often characterized by instinct, trust in his skills, quickness in his steps, and low, slicing movement patterns.

    Safeties

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: 360 degree movement ability (acceleration, stopping, changing direction), Movement speed to snipe guys from anywhere in the field in both aspects of the game, Athleticism while ball in the air (leaping ability, tracking, kinesthetic awareness, etc)

    First Team: Earl Thomas (Seahawks)

    Earl.jpg

    Second Team: Kevin Byard (Titans)

    Byard 2

    Third Team (Tie): Harrison Smith (Vikings), Lamarcus Joyner (Rams)

    Last year seems like such a distant memory now. If you remember back though, I had awarded Giants safety Landon Collins as the new face of masterfully moving individuals at the position while also acknowledging he was last year’s ‘Most Improved Mover.’ With every Seahawks game I watched, my 2014 Mover of the Year, Earl Thomas, seemed to make me doubt that decision to put anyone ahead of him even more. Even though Earl ended up on our Second Team last year, it was definitely an off year for the former three-time, First Team mover.

    Fully back and reloaded in 2017, when it comes to the whole host of movement problems to be solved by a safety at the highest levels of the game, I feel as that Earl is without equal. Though it could be argued that when it comes to playing the position, with what one is asked to do within the tactical and technical aspects of the game, our Third Team performer, Harrison Smith, may be the very best safety in the game (meaning, not the best mover…but the best with what he’s expected to do and what he does). However, with some of the extraordinary highlight plays that no one else is capable of making at the position, this is where Earl stands out and he does so with such finely attuned perceptual skill, zero hesitation in the decisions he makes, and an all-out reckless abandon like he’s being shot out of a canon wherever he goes on the field.

    Beyond Earl, and including Harrison, this group is stacked throughout. Our Second Team performer is a young guy that just keeps balling out and making more splash plays than anyone at the position across the league. The first full season starter for the Titans, Kevin Byard, has a movement toolbox that is built on a diversity of abundant movement solutions which led to him grabbing more interceptions in dynamic fashion than the rest of the group. Byard could be a guy who pushes his movement skill to the next level in years to come and in the process pushes Thomas for that top spot. On our Third Team, Lamarcus Joyner is a guy that would not turn heads when looking at his pre-draft measurables back when he came out in 2014, but all the guy does is solve problems in front of him and in turn, present problems to opposing offenses. Though he’s only around 190lb, this dude plays fast on tape and is as aggressive as they come. In fact, it appears as though some of his movement skill is modeled towards Thomas-like tendencies. He also has tremendous dexterity in his game having the capacity to step in at CB for the Rams when needed. Finally, as mentioned above, within the movement skills of the game’s all-around best safety in Harrison Smith, we see behaviors built on true affordances for action; he understands the plays that he can make and he simply goes and makes them. Additionally, he does so with authentic movement patterns that wouldn’t fit within the confines of many biomechanist’s presentation examples but are effective and optimal for who he is and what he aims to do.

    All-Movement Team: SPECIAL TEAMS

    Kick Returner

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Top end speed (mechanics & ability), Curvilinear running ability (mechanics & speed), Open-field decision-making

    First Team: Pharoh Cooper (Rams)

    Cooper

    Second Team: Dion Lewis (Patriots)

    In today’s NFL, we don’t get to see the movement skills of kick returners showcased nearly as much as we once did. Year to year, the NFL has seemed to all but do away with kickoff returns in hopes of making the game safer. However, I would argue, that seeing a player who has a knack for being a proficient kick returner is one of the most intriguing stories to study on a football field due to the vast number of movement skills that they must be in possession of and find a way to employ them at the right time and place. Speaking of movement dexterity, we find our First Team performer (and Second Team Punt Returner), Pharoh Cooper of the Rams. With Cooper, we are not talking about a guy with blazing fast linear speed nor are we even talking about a guy who possesses movement patterns that fit under some idealized biomechanical ideal. Instead, when you watch Cooper, you will witness a player with authenticity in each of his movement patterns and the solutions which drive them. Meaning, he makes the most out of whom he is, exploits his strengths, and covers gaps in his style because of his understanding of his own particular affordances for action.

    Punt Returner

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Stopping in multiple biomechanical positions, Movement strategy use in chaotic conditions, Rapid acceleration

    First Team: Jamal Agnew (Lions)

    Agnew

    Second Team: Pharoh Cooper (Rams)

    Like I just mentioned with my investigation of those returning kicks, I also love uncovering the way the game’s best punt returners solve the diverse problems that they are faced with. Not only do these problems vary widely, but they are also taking place in the most extreme of unpredictable, chaotic situations. Though our sport is filled with these types of crazy, dynamic sub-systems in problems taking place all over the field, nothing is quite like when a punt is in the air and 11 guys are purpose-driven with a singular intention of tackling one specific performer who is a sitting duck waiting to respond with the best that his movement toolbox has to offer. In my opinion, the player who accomplished that goal better than all others in 2017 was Jamal Agnew of the Detroit Lions. The fifth round pick from just this year was truly dynamic scoring two punt return touchdowns and providing a dynamic spark for his new team by playing numerous roles beyond returning punts and covering WRs. This versatility was driven by tremendous immediate pedal to the floor type of acceleration but it didn’t stop there as though Agnew was brought in as a CB, he appears to have a more than solid grasp at the offensive agility maneuvers in the open field that are necessary if one is to gain chunk yardage each time you touch the ball.

     

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 7:38 pm on December 26, 2017 Permalink  

    2017 Play of the Week – Week 16 

    Game: 3 Various Games (ATL/NO, PIT/HOU, & TB/CAR)

    Play: Novelty & creativity wins the week

    What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

    This time of the year, many of the week’s best movement plays can get missed or go unnoticed because people are so busy enjoying the holiday season (rightfully so). Well, each of the plays that we will feature today will most definitely go down as some of the season’s very best no matter who’s doing the judging (i.e. movement coach or fan); thus, I wanted to ensure that they received rightful attention here. When I pitted each of these against one another for the final analysis nod today, there was simply no way for me to leave any of these three plays out. What made it even more needed for all of them to be featured was that they all occurred in a fashion that did NOT go according to the way that they were drawn up or routinely practiced. Meaning, the performance was built upon a foundation of novelty and creativity within the movement skills portrayed.

    I often rant and rave about a perceived reality I have regarding skill expertise (whether it’s a movement skill or a sport skill); at the end of the day, and even though there is definitely some prerequisite for performing “the fundamentals,” if you play at the highest levels of the sport, you must have robust, dexterous, diverse, and sometimes flat-out creative movement coordination and control. There are no better illustrations of this collective need than when we look at how each of these performers, Marshon Lattimore of the New Orleans Saints, DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans, and Damiere Byrd of the Carolina Panthers, organized their execution on these respective plays this week.

    What happened movement-wise on the play?

    We will start this week by watching each of the plays. As you do, look for the common thread uniting each of them (i.e. novelty and creativity).

    First, we find Marshon Lattimore with his tremendous butt interception…

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-cant-miss-plays%2F0ap3000000897373%2FCan-t-Miss-Play-Football-sticks-to-Marshon-Lattimore-s-leg-for-unreal-pick

    Arguably, no rookie at any position has shown the level of mastery over the course of their first year campaigns as corner Marshon Lattimore has for the Saints. On this play, he raises the ante when a tipped ball lands on his backside and he ‘feels’ his way through the balance of the ball till he could come up with it (even with numerous others including teammates had their hand at grabbing it away). Though in live time this play seemed to move in slow motion, it’s likely that Lattimore didn’t consciously sense and/or control for the actions utilized when the ball rested on his butt; he simply reacted subconsciously and it maintained the ball’s balance accordingly. Of course, it could’ve easily landed differently and/or rolled off of his body but it didn’t; thus, it’s a spectacular highlight play for us today.

    Lattimore pic 2

    Next, we have DeAndre Hopkins with his tip to himself to bring in the one handed grab…

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-cant-miss-plays%2F0ap3000000898477%2FCan-t-Miss-Play-Hopkins-hauls-in-insane-one-handed-toe-drag-TD

    Really the lone highlight for the Houston Texans versus the Steelers on Christmas day came as Hopkins did his real live impersonation of the tip drill that runs rampant in some way, shape, or form within developmental practices across the country. After tipping the ball, and while heading to the turf, Hopkins visually locates the ball while contorting his body maintaining a functional, sensory fit with the problem (his hand on the DB’s jersey), till being in a position where his opposite hand could haul the ball in before landing down on top of the DB and the ground.

    Hopkins pic 1.jpg

    Finally, we feature Damiere Byrd with his slick moves on this kickoff return.

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-cant-miss-plays%2F0ap3000000897371%2FCan-t-Miss-Play-Damiere-Byrd-explodes-for-longest-TD-in-2017-season

    I have often talked here about how chaotic and unpredictable every kickoff or punt return situation plays out. When I say no two problems are ever the same on a football field, this reality quickly becomes magnified when we find ourselves in kickoff or punt scenarios. Damiere Byrd showed a full gamut of movement skills on this kickoff return and as he displayed them, he did so by adjusting and adapting their execution under the unique temporal and spatial demands required on this play. Want a reason as to why we should all incorporate more representative-type tasks into the practice environments of our athletes (and less preplanned/canned change of direction drills) to train for real, game-like agility? This play should show us that real reason!

    Byrd pic 1.jpg

    Hopefully, it’s easy to see where novelty or creativity in movement skills (or in Hopkins’s case, a more isolated sport skill, as well) reigned supreme to allow each play we featured today to occur. I am not dumb to the fact that there is an elephant in the room though; each of the plays appears to have a certain degree of luck involved to make them possible. Though it’s next to impossible to determine how much of the execution success was due to luck versus skill I can say this; the more I personally seem to utilize certain ideas from nonlinear pedagogy to form the centerpieces of my practice environments for my respective players, the more of these types of “lucky” plays such as the ones we saw today that my guys also seem to make on NFL game day. I am talking about pedagogical ideas such as:

    -the use of repetition without repetition so no two problems are really ever the same in practice

    -game like affordances within those above mentioned problems so the plays have to couple their perception and intention with their actions

    -encouragement for experimentation and creation with one’s movement or sport skills throughout the course of both common activities as well as novel ones in the practice environment

    -utilization of activities which allow players to not only become more attuned to subtle changes within their environment & task but also attempt to organize combine movement/sport skills authentically (sometimes differently) in response to them


     
  • Shawn Myszka 3:36 pm on December 19, 2017 Permalink  

    2017 Play of the Week – Week 15 

    Game: Falcons at Buccaneers

    Play: Freeman sparring in the open field with a slick set-up

    Freeman pic 4.JPG

    What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

    I will be honest with you all here: I nearly started writing this post for the week’s best yesterday after seeing two standout plays that I felt would be way too difficult to match in the Monday night match-up between the Falcons and the Buccaneers. The first was Packer wide receiver Randall Cobb combining movement patterns together in sequence to make Panthers miss in tight spaces near the end zone after catching a short crossing pattern from a falling Aaron Rodgers. The second was Rams running back Todd Gurley showing top of the RB class speed to burst straight through the teeth of a rattled Seahawks defense.

    Well, long story short, it’s a good thing I waited to put this together because Devonta Freeman showed up on Monday night in a big way as he put together a number of plays that left Buccaneers flabbergasted by his all-around movement capabilities. One of the plays is the one that we will feature here today. The Atlanta Falcons have had players awarded our top movement play several times this season (Adrian Clayborn and Julio Jones on two occasions) but the most masterful mover on their team (Freeman) has yet to be featured. As you may recall though, I have long recognized the standout Falcon RB for his exceptional deceleration skill (technical execution being utilized at the right place & right time) and his movement display here in week 15 was just too much for me not to give him the top nod.

    What happened movement-wise on the play?

    Over the years while writing posts for this blog, I have gotten to witness players who truly find their groove and become nearly unstoppable in certain movement problem scenarios (e.g. Antonio Brown creating separation without a ball in his hands, Earl Thomas closing space after his perception and anticipation guide him to where the ball is headed). Some will call it being “in the zone” or maybe it’s just being at the top of one’s game. Of course, I see this unique quality as something more that all stems from one’s movement mastery level; a player becoming so highly sensitive to the problems they are facing that they have multiple solutions for solving those respective problems along with the precise adaptation of their technical execution to meet the needs of the moment. Devonta Freeman, over the course of the 2017 season (note: it’s been marinating for a couple of years now for sure), fits this billing. There are few greater joys for a football movement specialist at the moment than seeing a ball in Freeman’s hands, in space with another defender, and the ensuing interactive affair where his opponents end up grasping for air due to Freeman reaching into his toolbox and whipping out any number of precisely timed agility actions often set-up from rapidly executed deceleration movement patterns. Exhibit A, B, and C….

    It seems pretty appropriate; 3rd and short in the 4th quarter of a week 15 showdown with a division rival while clawing for your playoff life, you lean on your dynamic playmaker to just go do what he does (granted; the Falcons have a number of those dynamic playmakers). Devonta Freeman stands as the lone set back behind Matt Ryan who takes the snap and tosses the ball to the strong side sweeping Freeman who has a convoy of willing Falcon blockers out in front ready to take care of their collective business. As soon as the ball hits Freeman’s hands, and even before, his perceptual scanning eyes are up gaining sensory data about the first problem to solve. This problem; where will the first gap open up that affords him running through it to get to/and through the second level?

    While controllably accelerating, he awaits the moment that the space is just right to attack. We see this as it comes to its fruition when he rounds the corner at the 37 yard line. He goes from a slight controllable acceleration gallop to a hard acceleration execution. Instinctually here, driven from both experience and sensitivity, he understands he’s got numbers on his side and more than enough space for his action capabilities (his speed to maneuver through the space afforded) to work with. Due to both those capabilities along with perfectly executed blocking, he made the right decision as he splits through the interacting offense and defense.

    Before he’s even fully passed through the gap, he understands (whether this knowledge is conscious or subconscious) that he will be in the open field shortly. When he’s at the 30 yard line, we see his eyes up zeroed in on the last man to beat out in front of him running at an angle and he knows this is essentially as close to live sparring that an NFL player can get. To be in Freeman’s head here and the potential cognitive processing occurring (again this could be conscious thought or more subconsciously held!) as he formulates decisions for his next path of action would be one to behold as it has turned into a really steeply lopsided advantage for the Falcons RB. Instead, being that I cannot actually be in his head to determine what’s being calculated, it ends up as an intriguing thought experiment for a movement specialist. In any event, it’s almost as we can witness Freeman ‘seeing’ what could flow from his options here as he moves from the 30 to the 25 yard line with the Tampa safety running angularly across the field to cut off his path and attempt to stand in his way in some way.

    Knowing that the options are nearly endless as he reaches into his toolbox, he begins to set-up his execution by slowing down slightly from the 25 to the 20. When he’s at the 21/20 yard line, with the defender still 7 to 8 yards away (note: even in the open field this is a LOT of space to work with) and running hard to the sideline, Freeman utilizes a controlled subtle crossover on his left leg from the 20 to the 18 yard lines which brings his path angle back inward slightly towards the middle of the field. Concurrently, this gets the defender slowing and questioning.This hesitation from the Buccaneers safety leads into a complete deceleration action and stopping of his feet with them angled towards the sideline on the 11/10 yard line. Freeman’s movement skill resonates to this and he quickly realizes he’s got the defender even more where he wanted him than he initially thought; as this plant from the defender in this angle leaves his body position susceptible to Freeman going back to the inside.

    Freeman pic 1

    For good measure though, Freeman performs a feint and fake to his left (on the 15) and then hard back to his right flowing from a right foot heavy lunge deceleration action (onto the 13)…this whole sequence leaves the safety biting hard and sitting deeper. Furthermore, because of when and where Freeman executed it (with optimal spacing FOR HIM…approximately 3 yards) it leaves the defender dead to rights for Freeman to exploit. Freeman hits his patented left foot jab step from the lunge deceleration which leads his next three steps optimally past the now down broken ankle defender and then into the end zone.

    Freeman pic 3

    The real tale of this movement problem and solution connection can be told from the angular camera view shown below as opposed to the sideline camera view. Here we can see how masterful the “fit” is between Freeman’s perception and action that he executes the solution from which allows him to exploit both space and the defender at optimal times. We can also see how vital the feint and fake to his left is as it gets the safety’s eyes drifting up to this deceptive action and away from where the more useful specifying information exists (at the hips) to determine where Freeman is going.

    You can check out the slick set-up and move by Freeman here:

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-game-highlights%2F0ap3000000895432%2FDevonta-Freeman-ends-defender-with-juke-move-on-32-yard-TD

     

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 7:27 pm on December 12, 2017 Permalink  

    2017 Play of the Week – Week 14 

    Game: Colts at Bills

    Play: The real Shady shows slippery moves to stand out in the snow

    Shady pic 1

    What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

    The thing that makes this blog wonderful for me is within each week I get to analyze players attempting to solve lots of various movement problems under diverse, constantly-changing environmental conditions. This unpredictability is one of the coolest aspects of NFL football sport movement behavior. Why? Well, to me, this is unlike many other professional sports where, though the task constraints may differ highly, the environmental constraints often stay relatively similar. In NBA basketball, the court is always close to the same type of stickiness. In the NHL, ice is ice (for the most part) and they don’t change temperatures of the arena from game to game. In MLB, if it rains, the game gets delayed. Note: I am not dumb to the fact that there are still plenty of other environmental constraints entering the mix besides the surface and weather conditions that could change the interaction between the problem and the solution.

    As we will expand upon later, one of the truest tests of an individual’s movement skill is to place it under various conditions and see if the individual can still adequately come up with an effective solution. Arguably, there hasn’t been a better test taker in this regards than current Buffalo Bill RB LeSean “Shady” McCoy. Shady was our very first Mover of the Year way back in 2013 while being a member of the Philadelphia Eagles when it was very apparent that his movement was built off of a highly diverse movement toolbox.

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/2013-bts-mover-of-the-year-lesean-mccoy/

    In week 14 of that very same season, McCoy and his Eagles found themselves in a snowy contest versus the Detroit Lions where I marveled at his ability to adapt his movement behaviors to the ever-changing weather conditions.

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/play-of-the-week-week-14/

    Ironically enough, here we are again, another snowy week 14 in an NFL season, now four seasons later, and Shady is out there still doing the exact same thing!

    What happened movement-wise on the play?

    During our breakdowns here for most weeks, we normally analyze a singular play or even one local piece of the athlete’s solution puzzle where a player’s movement characteristics shined bright in comparison to their peers. This week, the entire body of work that our first-ever Mover of the Year put together across Sunday’s snowy afternoon in Buffalo was worthy of this type of lens being turned onto it.

    My hero in the movement behavior field, the late and great Nikolai Bernstein, once stated (1967): “Dexterity, that is, the capacity to solve a motor problem – correctly, quickly, rationally, and resourcefully. Dexterity is finding a motor solution for any situation and in any condition.” With this being the case, I believe that dexterity is the hallmark of movement skill that could be deemed worthy of being associated with the word, masterful.

    If you have followed this blog for any period of time, you have probably routinely and repeatedly heard me utter words like attunement, adaptation, perception-action coupling, and affordances for action. Well, when you throw a snowstorm into the mix, for even the highest level of qualification of movers (i.e. those that reside in the NFL), the exact application of those concepts (attunement, etc) gets changed considerably. Meaning, the way that the individual’s human movement system coordinates and controls his respective movement skills is going to be constrained (or possibly invited) based on what the environment gives him. The sensory feeling at the foot obviously changes and thus so does one’s connection to the ground (the foot-surface interaction) and foot plant-ability (base of support position, etc), among many other factors (e.g. force development, speed characteristics). Because of this, certain patterns and moves in one’s movement skill toolbox become more or less available depending on the individual’s ability to co-adapt based on what he perceives.

    This issue is what makes the perception-action coupling and the constant problem solving that the most masterful movers perform as the environment changes so damn important. And of course, Shady puts this highly attuned and adaptable skill on display for us today from his performance in week 14. Go take a peek at this video to see the awesome, expert-filled Shady performance.

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-game-highlights%2F0ap3000000890724%2FTop-5-LeSean-McCoy-snow-runs-Week-14

    Now, while watching, a few things jump off the screen to me as it pertains to both where Shady had advantages and disadvantages based on the conditions at-hand. These advantages/disadvantages then contribute to the specific affordances for action that he would experience as he attempts to solve the problems present on each play.

    Advantages

    1. He knows where he is going!

    When the conditions significantly change like this especially at the surface (inches upon inches of snow constitutes as significant), the advantage almost always goes to the offensive player. This is the case because the offensive player has an idea on where he wants to go and the defensive player is just trying to react according to this and sometimes is essentially just along for the ride. Thus, movement solution freedom (where he can go and how he can go that way that he selects) is enhanced for Shady. He is the one in the problem-solution connection who is in most control of speed and timing and because of that, he owns the spatial demands!

    Shady pic 3

    1. Novelty!

    The NFL’s most elite, masterful movers typically have more movement solutions in their toolbox even if they are behaviors and patterns that aren’t as stable or solidified as other patterns that they may possess. In ‘Ecological Dynamics’ terms they display a high amount of degeneracy. This is the fancy way of saying that they have numerous potential ways to solve typical movement problems. This ‘way’, may not always be optimal, but it’s a potential option and when other guys are just out there just don’t have as many to match, you get a significant advantage. This is why we see Shady on the video out there rather casually hurdling guys and breaking down in more subtle ways (as opposed to the normal more rapid, violent fashions on a harder surface) while displaying more balance while others on the opposite side of this relationship have to try to correspond with what they already know (faster decelerations with wider base and sharper angles) that no longer match the needs of the environment (so we see them falling or being out of control).

    Shady pic 2

    Disadvantages

    1. The Colts are wearing all white while the Bills are wearing all red!

    Some may scoff at this, but while you watch the video just try to pick out each of the Colt defenders as they rapidly move through space. Pattern recognition is much more difficult when the patterns of each of the defenders will already be changing based on the weather conditions; pattern recognition is much, MUCH more difficult when that opponent is basically wearing camouflage and it’s hard to even see them!

    Shady pic 4

    1. Shady has to go away from what often times is considered “more optimal” agility technique! (Okay, usually this is determined during ‘change-of-direction’ tasks rather than agility tasks)

    Because of the conditions, Shady can’t get into his normal positions and execute through his normal patterns (and combinations of those patterns). Meaning, we don’t see his usual base of support variability and/or sharp eccentric loading on this past Sunday. Yes; obviously everyone has to operate under the same field conditions here. So, why is this actually a disadvantage for Shady? Well, as part of his movement arsenal, he possesses solidified options which require him to get lower, wider, and more coiled than most of his defensive peers. Though Shady’s movement patterns aren’t Barry Sanders-esqe in the form that he gets as wide and slicing (a topic that I have explicitly addressed on this blog before when people over the years have tried to compare the two), those are still more preferred states for him than they are for most of his defensive counterparts.

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 3:09 am on December 6, 2017 Permalink  

    2017 Play of the Week – Week 13 

    Game: 49ers at Bears

    Play: The Human Joystick playing his own video game once again

    Cohen pic 3.jpg

    What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

    After the past two weeks, believe it or not, week 13’s top movement performance did NOT come at the hands, feet, and kinesthetic sense of Antonio Brown or Julio Jones. Really, it’s true; it didn’t! With AB84 just going about his business executing his normal routine performance (if you go watch at the highlights of him playing the Bengals on Monday night please note my sarcasm with that comment) and Julio getting shut down by the Vikings defense, it was time for someone else to step up.

    Beyond Brown’s movement execution, week 13 also saw individuals like Alvin Kamara shine once again as well as Russell Wilson perform his unique magic that it seems as though only he is capable of. When all the smoke cleared on the week’s games though, one play stood out above all others due to its creativity and instinct displayed during the entire movement problem solving activity. Tarik Cohen, aka the Human Joystick, upped the ante on his week 1 top movement performance when he tracked his path backwards way too far for his coaches’ liking and did a dynamic deed that few others in the game would be gutsy enough to execute.

    What happened movement-wise on the play?

    In Cohen’s week 1 performance, I took the time to give many who are unfamiliar with the Bears rookie a synopsis of the special sauce that the small school superstar had to offer to the movement problems present on an NFL football field. Honestly, besides Cohen’s standout performance versus the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons in week 1, as well as a more than respectable outing a few weeks later against the Steelers, Cohen has struggled pretty mightily running the football when lined up as a RB in a really inconsistent Bears offense. When they have found some other ways to get the ball in his hands and let him hit a few buttons on his agility controller in space, he’s had some success and has shown that he can flash unique skill-set. That manufacturing is exactly what we see on display here today.

    On a 4th down in the 2nd quarter of a close outing between the visiting 49ers and Cohen’s Bears, the young playmaker finds himself, feet planted on the 39/40 yard line, with a 49er punt booming in the sky. Like many higher level of mastery punt returners, while the ball is on its descent, we actually see his visual scanning saccade from ball to opponent pursuit and back to the ball again to make a quick and accurate decision regarding if he should field the punt in fair catching style or attempt to make a return out of it. Well, this is almost formality when you have a guy like Cohen back there and I can speak for at least one football movement coach who sits on the edge of his (I mean, my) seat at these moments praying that I don’t see his hand wave in the air. Fortunately for all of us, it didn’t and Cohen catches the ball, with his feet on the 39 and his balance slightly veering backwards.

    He uses this momentum to drift back slightly another yard to a yard and a half as he takes a step back with his right foot to regain his balance and reorient his movement solution mechanism back at the task at hand. As he perceives his surroundings and the 49er special team unit coming in hot, he sees one immediate defender seven yards away from him straddling the 45 yard line. There’s another pursuing defender offset to Cohen’s right angled at about 10 degrees from him and at a healthy 12 yards away.

    Cohen immediately starts off to his right with a few transition steps as he allows things to more dynamically unfold in front of him (and quickly!). With more 49ers now entering our sideline camera view, he offers a slight stutter to get them hesitating slightly. Honestly, this movement action, though I am sure was driven really subconsciously, did very little to deceive any 49ers and they each closed distance in their relationship to him. Because of this, it sends Cohen literally retreating backwards away from three 49ers and to the right away from this cutting action spot.

    Cohen pic 2.jpg

    Due to his quickness, as well as executing with maximum intent being implicitly driven because he’s being chased by several really large opponents who also have more buddies quickly coming, he gets going in a hurry even though he is going both lateral to his right and backwards still all while perceiving what’s in front of him as he runs in this direction. He passes the hashes, now a good eight to nine yards behind the yardage marker he caught the ball at, when reality may finally have hit that he has to now make a whole lot of something out of what appears to be a whole lot of nothing!

    It’s here that he likely has every Bears coach wondering where the heck he is going, it’s also at times like that that I believe you never put the handcuffs on the creativity of a real, high-level playmaker. Luckily, Cohen feels no shame yet for potential lost-yardage on a play so on the 30 yard line, with six 49er players now in our frame (the closest of which is running relatively off-balanced and the others sprinting hard towards the sideline in anticipation that this direction is Cohen’s only option), the Human Joystick shows us where the nickname stems from when he rolls over his right foot in a crossover followed by further back-tracking to change direction in a swooping action culminating in another left to right crossover action at the 25 yard line.

    Cohen pic 5

    As he comes out of this final change of direction action, we now see eight 49ers following Cohen’s curvilinear arched path. The great thing about having gone backwards so much here is that, as the punt returning player, you’ve gotten all of your opponents all disoriented in their chase and that if you can now just get past that wave of individuals, there won’t be much more wannabe tacklers ahead of you and the problems to solve that come with them. Cohen’s perceptual-cognitive skill is finely attuned for this affordance for action as well…so much so that as he’s running laterally parallel down the 25 yard line to the field’s left this time, he’s looking for the perfect opportunity to finally go north and south again. This opportunity presents itself when he’s between the hashes and when he does see it he wastes little time hitting his acceleration gas pedal all-out.

    We see him now, in his acceleration mechanics, visibly attacking the ground in furious fashion; almost horizontally bounding with each step. The next 15 yards go by in a jiffy and we can see what world class acceleration burst looks like in its authentic technical form. Those short distance acceleration mechanics turn into mid-range and top end linear technique as he is deterred very little from here with his blockers now up and running with him as a convoy so much that he gets to coast into the end zone with ease and after covering so much ground before getting to that open field.

    Coaches usually see this type of movement skill being executed this dynamically under this type of chaotic problem and they automatically believe that these types of instinctual movement behaviors are innate. However, I disagree; instead, I believe that we must give players the opportunity to acquire this attunement (to other individuals in the environment) and opportunities to go adapt their movement in an ever-changing task-dynamic. We can do this by allowing an athlete to more frequently inhabit activities ranging from simple tag games to cat & mouse drills to small-sided games (like 1v3+, etc).

    Click here to watch this dazzling player hitting his video game moves again:

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-cant-miss-plays%2F0ap3000000886596%2FCan-t-Miss-Play-Cohen-uses-whole-field-burns-49ers-on-61-yard-TD-return

     

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 4:27 am on November 30, 2017 Permalink  

    2017 Play of the Week – Week 12 

    Game: Packers at Steelers AND Buccaneers at Falcons

    Play: Déjà vu!

    AB84 pic 1

    Julio pic 4.jpg

    What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

    We have been featuring the top play, from a movement standpoint, every week of each NFL season since the beginning of 2013. Each week I scan the games that occurred, leaving no stone unturned (I have my lack of social life to prove it); to ensure that I give credit where credit is due and feature the player who I strongly feel was deserving of the nod.

    Through all of those players, over the span of nearly five full NFL seasons we have never had what we are about to in week 12 of this 2017 season: a player being awarded our top movement play of the week on consecutive weeks. Coincidentally enough, it wasn’t just one player! If you will recall, in week 11, we featured both Antonio Brown and Julio Jones as our top dogs. Well, welcome to Groundhog’s Day because the same is the case here this week. It may seem as though I am taking the easy way out here, but I can assure you that you won’t find better movement performances across the league than that which is displayed on these two plays by these two extraordinary players.

    What happened movement-wise on the play?

    As ironic as it is by itself to have the top performers be the same ones on back to back weeks…it’s even crazier how the plays were carried out in comparison to last week’s and the movement qualities which underpinned the processes which led to their success. Well, like clockwork, en route to days leading to 10 catches for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns (Brown) and 12 catches for 253 and 2 touchdowns (Jones), the top two wide receivers in the game brought us a déjà vu moment in every regard when they once again shined bright through the use of what I referred to as the sixth sense of movement…kinesthetic sense & awareness. Last week, we also discussed what I feel what we can do, as football movement specialists and performance coaches, to develop this quality in our players.

    AB84 pic 2

    APTOPIX Buccaneers Falcons Football

    As you will see when you watch the plays, these Houdini-like movement solutions, with the sixth sense as their drivers, bring together perception and action, information and movement, like no other play you are likely to see in an annual NFL year. Both of these individuals, Brown with his cool, calm, and collected snag and toe-drag, and Jones with his opposite shoulder, fluid contortion with his body, hands, and feet, show us what it’s like to be still amidst chaos and make even the most challenging and novel of movement problems no match for skill and mastery. Of course, I could ramble on and on as I so often do when discussing exceptional, adaptive movement behavior but instead I am going to shut up (don’t get used to it) and let these two guys, who are playing at otherworldly levels right now, do the talking for me.

    Here is our former Mover of the Year (2015) working his typical magic:

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-cant-miss-plays%2F0ap3000000883788%2FCan-t-Miss-Play-Antonio-Brown-makes-toe-tap-catch-of-the-year

    Finally, here is Brown’s equal, Julio, showing that he won’t be outdone:

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-game-highlights%2F0ap3000000882738%2FJulio-Jones-shows-body-control-to-make-20-yard-catch

     

     


     
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