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

    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 6:12 pm on November 14, 2017 Permalink
    Tags: Power   

    2017 Play of the Week – Week 10 

    Game: Cowboys at Falcons

    Play: Not 1 sack, not 2 or 3 sacks, but 6 sacks!?!

    Clayborn pic 1

    What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

    I can’t begin to tell each and everyone out there how difficult it is to achieve certain feats within an NFL game. A task outcome that looks as simple as scoring a touchdown (no matter in what facet that this touchdown occurs), grasping an interception, or recording a sack are extraordinarily impressive feats. For example, this is precisely why if an individual registers an average of even just one sack a game they are immediately given serious consideration for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.

    Well, as impressive as one sack per game is…imagine notching up not just one sack in a game, and not even just two or three sacks…but six sacks! That is precisely what Adrian Clayborn, DE of the Atlanta Falcons, did against the Tyron Smith-less Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. This number ended up only one shy of the NFL record set by Derrick Thomas way back in 1990. The length of time that this record has stood should tell you enough of how incredible the feat is but we should also keep in mind that the NFL offensive landscape has also changed significantly in that timeframe (even though there is more emphasis on passing the ball there’s also a lot more quick hitting passes with a lot less frequent deeper drops); thus, it makes what Clayborn did on Sunday a no-brainer for recognition on our Movement Play of the Week for Week 10.

    What happened movement-wise on the play?

    Entering the game on Sunday, Adrian Clayborn had notched only two sacks in the first eight games of the season. As it turns out, it wouldn’t take Clayborn more than a few minutes into the second quarter to double up this season figure. Though every top NFL player loves to be presented with the challenge of facing one of the very best in the league at the position lined up on the other side of him, Clayborn had to have been literally salivating as soon as he saw that the Dallas Cowboys would be without All-Pro Tackle Tyron Smith and instead would be starting Chaz Green. From the looks of it, I’m not sure Green knew exactly what he was in for on this day.

    Normally when people talk about pass rushing forces on the Atlanta Falcons the first guy that comes to mind is 2016 NFL sack leader, Vic Beasley (a member of our 2016 All-Movement Team). However, as Clayborn showed on Sunday, he is also a supremely-dominant force to be reckoned with and he took advantage of his opportunity to line up versus a guy that was left grasping for air more times than we can count on one hand Sunday. That all said though, let’s remember that no matter how lopsided the match-up looked at any point during the game, and no matter who it is that we are talking about in the league, each player is still presented with a challenge of facing one of just 1,695 other active players in the world who are capable of playing at that upper echelon level. Thus, let’s be sure not to discredit Clayborn’s performance just because it happened against a non-starting offensive lineman.

    Clayborn pic 2

    Because I am guessing that it would be just a little too much for those out there to listen to me break down each step taken within each sack, I will let you scroll down to the bottom of the page and watch all three minutes worth of sacks if you so choose. If you do, you will see Clayborn dominated on Sunday not due to some overly diverse and vast array of tools in his pass rushing toolbox (as it so often is the case when we highlight players here on our blog) but instead he relied on key performance indicators of his skill which are displayed by almost every top sack master; acceleration off the edge and cornering around the edge. In fact, I think we can trace each sack but one (which came through the use of an inside spin move) to a certain level back to these two features of who he is. Additionally, a couple of key performance indicators of his psychology truly made it all possible; his unwavering trust in his abilities combined by his intention to go out and be a game changer all game long.

    Clayborn pic 5

    This may all sound pretty intuitively obvious but for a football movement coach & analyst (note: I don’t work with or know Clayborn at all) it was great to see this combination of traits that I often preach to defensive players result in such a record setting day. Don’t get me wrong; many coaches preach this approach (both physical and psychological) to their pass rushers (and players across their roster for that matter) but to me it’s something that they must be exposed to day-in and day-out which can be developed and acquired as second nature: the repeated explosive burst out of his stance, driving the corner hard and fast, the ability to perceive when an opening in the problem-solving dynamic is present and when Prescott was just within reach to trust his abilities and leap to attack…they were all things of beauty exhibited by Clayborn and they combined to accumulate into six sacks but also force a few turnovers along the way, as well.

    Click below to watch Clayborn record sack after sack here:

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-game-highlights%2F0ap3000000876135%2FWatch-every-sack-from-Adrian-Clayborn-s-record-day

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 10:57 pm on October 17, 2017 Permalink
    Tags: Power   

    2017 Play of the Week – Week 6 

    Game: Buccaneers at Cardinals

    Play: ALL-DAY Long in Arizona

    AD28 pic 7

    What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

    A week ago, in week 6 of the season, the Arizona Cardinals made what could end up being a blockbuster trade to alter their season and change the landscape of the NFC (and NFL) in the process when they traded a 6th round pick for the individual who is undoubtedly the best RB in the last decade, in Adrian Peterson (from here on out listed as AD; All-Day).

    Honestly, when AD was traded a week ago to the Cardinals I was ecstatic for him for a number of reasons mainly oriented around the fact that I strongly feel as though he is still the RB who led the league in rushing in 2015 (and I also strongly believe he can be that guy given the situation present in AZ). People will scoff at that statement but those people don’t get what makes AD tick especially from a movement skill-set standpoint. People say RBs can’t play after 30 (note: he’s 32 now) and point to his yards/carry average from three games in 2016 (when he missed 13 due to a meniscus injury to his right knee) and five anomaly games in New Orleans where he never really got any semblance of a fair shake at finding his groove and rhythm as a runner (note: AD is the definition of a rhythm runner who needs reps to get his style matched to the demands of that specific game). People will also say he’s lost a step and without that speed there is no way that he can be as effective as he once was. Thing is; he doesn’t need to have the same processes towards execution as he used to (with a reliance on physical characteristics) as long as he finds ways to reach the same outcomes. On Sunday, in his debut for the Arizona Cardinals, you will see just that and the way that he did it is something that actually is near & dear to my heart as you will come to find out.

    What happened movement-wise on the play?

    Before we go further, I will add the disclaimer that as some people are aware, I do personally know and have spent a bit of time working with Adrian in the past. If you feel the need to cry wolf and scream that I am biased, please realize that as any player I’ve ever worked with will tell you, I am WAY more harshly critical on their movement skill execution and performance than anyone else out there could be (I mean, c’mon; I still have yet to put Everson Griffen on the 1st Team of my All-Movement Team so that should be indication enough!). Additionally, to a blog post like this one, it allows me to bring a really unique perspective as 1). I know at least the work that the player and I deliberately partook in to address the respective movement skills that we see being displayed and 2). I have watched, broken down, and analyzed an extensive amount of film on that player; as I may have said before on the blog, there is no player that I have studied more closely over his career than Adrian Peterson (even well before we worked together). Thus, I think this helps me bring unique perspective to this week’s post.

    This play begins just across midfield with the Cardinals up by 11 with 10 minutes to go with a 1st and 20. Adrian is lined up 8 yards deep as the single back. He takes one read transition step with his right leg and gets into three tempo acceleration steps to take the handoff from QB Carson Palmer at the 47 yard line with the RB’s eyes up and scanning early. With an early, gapping running lane to his left, he takes a directional step to his left straddling the 49 yard line. This attempt is quickly thwarted as two Buccaneers defenders come just free enough to deter his path. Honestly, this lane is likely an affordance that would have invited AD into it with his old short-distance acceleration (which was of world class levels for at least the first six or so years of his career).

    Under these particular constraints though, Adrian elects to take two short & choppy re-gathering steps in a staggered fashion which ends up evolving into a lunge deceleration (with right leg forward) to a quick crossover reacceleration step with his left foot to reorient his directional path towards his right where there is a lot of green grass and a rather lackadaisically-standing Brent Grimes who has no idea as to what he’s in for next. He pushes that left foot down sharply back and behind him to pick up the first two steps of this reacceleration in a quick turnover fashion while also assessing the affordance field in front of him (this is a fancy way of saying the contextual problem that lies ahead).

    He actually begins performing this sensory-perceptual assessment from approximately 5 yards away (while he is running laterally from left to right across the formation) while he’s near the 50 yard line and Grimes has his right foot on the 45. This is an aspect of the skill execution that is imperative to the successful organization of it in response to what the opponent gives you as it helps one understand what options are present. Here now, as the next two steps go down he zeroes in on Grimes as the defender closes potentially realizing he’s got a very bad man approaching quick!

    With Grimes now 3 to 3 and ½ yards away (which is an adequate, closer to optimal spacing for where agility actions should occur for most) firmly in AD’s cutting action crosshairs, Adrian can begin some feinting and faking actions performed from eyes, head, and shoulders in an attempt to either deceive or confuse the defending opponent. Well, for most defensive backs in the open field here we will see the eyes’ visual gaze begin to drift distally to this faking action as they do here for Grimes. If this would be a RB who may be more ‘scat-like’ in their style, it’s likely that the DB will stay zeroed in proximally at the hips/bellybutton.

    This sequence from Peterson causes Grimes to not only stop his feet but also bite enough on the fake that dictates a shifting of his weight to his left (towards the sideline) and out of position for the action AD is about to execute next. Once he reads the position and balance that Grimes is in, AD understands his two-way go has worked perfectly and he elects to bring it back inside to his left; Grimes’ right.

    AD28 pic 9

    AD28 pic 8

    This position from Adrian is set-up by a widening-out deceleration action with his last two steps going into the plant. From here, he executes his cutting action then from a really wide, sharp right foot plant away from his body which creates an efficient position to lean into and reaccelerate from. His left foot snaps down up and underneath him which springs him back towards his left (when AD is “off” with his cutting solution, his left foot will reach out in front of him and his foot will land with a vertical shin and maybe even a strong heel strike that he then must pull himself over the top of to get to accelerating again).

    Don’t get it twisted; though Grimes did in fact get juked, he was actually in a relatively decent biomechanical position (though he lacked in perception and decision-making and thus his action response timing was off) to be able to still counteract here in catching up to AD now. Thus, Grimes himself now matches Adrian’s reacceleration (just accelerating with his right foot first) and takes a number of rapid steps before diving at AD’s feet and getting just enough of them to catch him off-balance and only allow the Cardinals RB to pick up a few more yards after he carried out such an appropriately timed cut.

    You know how I mentioned at the onset of this post that this particular movement skill was near and dear to my heart? Well, one of the main overriding objectives in our work together last year was that while AD worked to return from a meniscus injury that required surgery, we deliberately worked to develop coordination (in relation/conjunction with other movement patterns), control (variable stance width, depths, and angles of deceleration/re-acceleration), and organization (executing it/variations of it at the right time and right place versus changing situations) with this style of power cut executed particularly off of his right foot (with the right leg being the surgery side though we always focus on improving both sides symmetrically of course).

    AD28 2016.jpg

    This type of power cut is one that I feel as though in order for AD to be in possession of the most well-rounded movement toolbox for him, one that represents the most diversity (possessing multiple solutions for the similar problem) and dexterity (control of a solution for any problem) is this style of cut. When “on”, I’ve seen him be able to have more directional options in time and space as well as re-acceleration options, as well (such as when he executed it with a spin move to make Earl Thomas look silly in Seattle and with a plyo-step versus Lance Briggs back in 2013). Thus, from my perspective it’s a hallmark cutting solution for AD and becomes a signpost for him to have an adaptable movement skill-set as he heads into the future.

    AP decel preaccel 11-4

    Bears week 2 open field COD w Briggs

    Honestly, we never got to see the full fruition of this work together in that by the time his season was complete we never were able to fully test its use under the ever-changing conditions of his demands. Well, it’s quite obvious that he has been working by himself on the fine-tuning and polishing of this strategy and adjustability of it as a solution while on-field since. Thus, when I saw him execute it with such supreme control and at appropriate timing not only once, but also a couple other times under other contexts (at a different place on the field with different intentions or changing problems) it made me smile from ear to ear.

    AD28 pic 10

    I did have a hint that it was in his toolbox and he was starting to feel comfortable executing it when I saw him play in week 1 in Minnesota versus the Vikings and a version of it showed itself there so I was hoping it was just a matter of time till it emerged again at the right time & space (note: one should never force the execution of a respective movement strategy but instead it should emerge connected to the problem that needs to be solved).

    AD28 pic 4

    The great thing about this all is I hope and pray as well as believe that this is only a beginning glimpse of the special sauce that Adrian still has in store for 2017. If he can remain adaptable in his movement strategies and the control of the execution of the actions being carried out in response to multiple contexts, there are very few problems that he won’t be able to solve. Yes, even at 32 years old and yes, even with diminishing steps lost. Let’s all watch and see!

    Click below to watch AD doing his re-inventive thing here on this week’s play:

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-game-highlights%2F0ap3000000861874%2FAdrian-Peterson-shakes-defender-on-11-yard-run

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 9:36 pm on September 19, 2017 Permalink
    Tags: Power   

    2017 Play of the Week – Week 2 

    Game: Eagles at Chiefs

    Play: Kelce soars far & high above the Eagles

    Kelce pic 3

    What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

    Like clockwork…another week passes in the NFL; and another list of exceptional movers show & shine their skills for us all to bear witness to on that Sunday. Sometimes, it just so happens that a player previously featured on our blog tries to make me look much smarter than I actually am by laying out the top display of movement skills for that respective week. This is precisely what we have this week.

    But as I alluded to above, there was more than enough competition for this week’s nod for the top movement performance. First, on the Monday night game, we saw a long, dazzling punt return by Detroit Lions defensive back, Jamal Agnew. Additionally, we had Washington Redskin RB, Chris Thompson juking and jiving his way around the Rams. Finally, in the same game, we also saw Todd Gurley, trying to beat the performer who was ultimately selected for the top spot at his own game by leaping over a Redskins defender.

    That all said, when all the votes were counted (i.e. my vote) it was our top Tight End mover of 2016 (see last year’s All-Movement Team here; https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/2016-all-movement-team-offense/), Travis Kelce, who reigned supreme this week with his all-around athleticism showing his astonishing versatility taking a shovel pass from his QB and laying out in Superman-like fashion to clear numerous Philadelphia Eagles defenders.

    What happened movement-wise on the play?

    As I stated in last year’s write-up about him and me giving him his claim at the status as the top-moving Tight End in the game, I feel as though the thing that makes Travis Kelce so masterful is his movement dexterity & adaptability (the ability to adjust movement solutions to match the respective problem in front of him) combined with his variability & degeneracy (the ability to have a wide range of solutions to combine the way that they need to be) in his entire movement toolbox. For a dude who is 6’5” and 260lb, the extensiveness of Kelce’s toolbox is truly impressive. Though he usually displays it by moving in the open field during route running or after he gets a ball in his hands after a reception, we get to see the movement toolbox wide open on this play out of the backfield, as well. In fact, through the first two games of the season, there have been a number of times that Kelce has received the ball behind the line of scrimmage to find him moving really agile through tight spaces…so our play being featured today is really no fluke.

    On this play, with the game tied at 13, the Chiefs are marching with only 6:32 left in the game; they find themselves in a 2nd and 5 from the Eagles 15 yard line. With Kelce lined up to QB Alex Smith’s right playing in his usual hybrid TE/H-back role, with Chief’s burner and fellow All-Movement Team member Tyreek Hill going in motion for deceptive purposes to get eyes and bodies moving to the right side of the formation, and rookie RB Kareem Hunt already in the process of his second huge day running the football, the Eagles are caught in a web of Chief athleticism who are ready to try to takeover this game.

    With Smith’s toes on the 20 yard line, he fakes the hand-off to Hunt who takes off wide left. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the Eagles DE didn’t bite on the Hunt fake nearly as much as most would so he ends up right in Smith’s lap. Luckily for Smith, his composure bails him out and he delivers a quick shovel pass to the quickly-cutting TE, Kelce, who once he receives the ball between the 16 and 17 yard lines, has a little room to not only perceive what’s happening in front of him (in respect to the movement problem that must be solved) but also to get up a slight accelerative head of steam to make the Eagle’s defenders a second guess as well as give Kelce himself the needed momentum for what is about to occur next.

    Kelce pic 4

    Being that the Eagles had 8 in the box in anticipation of a run, there is a Philly defender in the middle of the field who should have Kelce dead to rights before reaching the 1st down marker. However, this defender stumbles slightly off-balance in hesitation, and this issue coupled with Kelce’s supreme acceleration capabilities for this size allows him to have enough of a gap to use as a running lane between the hashes and the numbers; so much so that he easily picks up the first down at the 10 yard line and is very ready to get even more.

    As the big TE, passes by that first down line and through the trio of Eagle defenders, it’s easy to see he’s got really bad intentions for the oncoming safety that enters our picture 5-6 yards away from Kelce when they both realize that this 1v1 situation is likely only to end well for one of them! Like most defensive backs will do when they have this kind of target coming at them full-speed-ahead, the Eagle safety goes low (can we really blame him) knowing this is his only hope of bringing down a guy this big yet moving this fast.

    Recognizing that the safety is going low, Kelce maintains his speed to the point where we can tell he’s not going to have the body control to shut down the locomotion and go around him but instead must go over him! He times out his unilateral leap for the 5 yard line in an attempt to clear over the low positioned defender. While in the air, Kelce is met by two other Eagles players who’s last gasp at saving the Eagle defensive pride is to hit the flying TE hard enough to either jar the ball loose and/or make him regret taking off. However, much to Philly fans dismay, neither happens and Kelce ends up celebrating with his teammates in the end zone.

    Kelce pic 2

    Typically, with my own skill players, I typically advise them NOT to leave their feet in this manner as there are usually just too many negative repercussions that can occur when one does. However, I have also found that we should never attempt to restrict the intentions and instincts of a really dynamic playmaking mover when the patterns are naturally emerging in space and time as a response to the unique problem in front of them (rather than a pre-mediated hurdle/jump as we sometimes see occur). Thus, the sheer impressiveness of Kelce’s play here, and the novel movement solutions that emerged from his toolbox, was truly head-shaking.

    Click below to watch the star tight end doing his movement thing here:

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-cant-miss-plays%2F0ap3000000846432%2FCan-t-Miss-Play-Travis-Kelce-hurdles-defender-for-touchdown

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 7:45 pm on April 26, 2017 Permalink
    Tags: Power   

    Some random thoughts on movement & performance of NFL players 

    Annually, at this time of the year, a couple of things are bound to happen for me during the training of my NFL players:

    -A lot of ideas swirl around my head on the daily. Some of these ideas are good…others pretty bad. Some are theoretical…while some are immediately applicable. Some are logical…and more are pretty far out there. Some are fleeting whereas some others are consistent and continue to hit me like a ton of bricks.

    -I don’t have a ton of extra time to whip together content of any sort. Thus, writing for my blog often becomes an afterthought.

    That all said, I have a rare open hour so I decided to write a different type of blog post today to tick off the boxes above and share some of these thoughts in the process.

    They will read like the post-it notes across my desk(s) do…short, sporadic and random. There may be some themes throughout but for the most part they will likely be all over the place…which shouldn’t come as to much of a shock if you’ve ever had a conversation with me.

    If this blog is well-received, I may consider making it a more frequent occurrence. So, without further adieu, here’s a look into some (trust me you don’t want to hear them all) of the random thoughts circulating around in my head right now.

    -NFL players are just like you and I. I mean, except they recover way quicker and they are capable of operating at way higher outputs. So, these things all equate to meaning; NFL players are actually not like us at all.

    -Which car, both being pushed to its limits, is more dangerous to drive? A Ferrari or a Pinto? The Ferrari of course…b/c its limits are at 200+ mph. You can push an NFL player to the brinks of the edges of their capabilities…as long as they weren’t actually over the edge, they are likely to bounce back really quickly and perform stellar in the meantime. If they DID go over the edge, watch the F out…b/c either they are really depleted and their whole life is going to get negatively affected from this and/or you just set them up for injury (sometimes a really bad one).

    -You can/should screen the little things (how much they are talking, how they are standing, what are they doing during rest periods, etc) in between activities way more than you screen for the behaviors you see occurring during movement or performances. These little things tell you how ready they are but also what types of learning and/or adaptation you can actually get from the next activities that are performed (as well as others performed before this).

    -Slow to smooth, smooth to fast. As Buddy Morris says, “moving slow gets the brain’s attention.” Sometimes to change behavior the quickest way to get the player to coordinate, control, and organize movement more competently is to have them slow down so they can account for changes/nuances at any of the 3 B’s of the movement solution (behaviors, brain, biomechanics). But then the first way to hit the movement save button on a competent behavior is to increase the speed of its execution. Then you should increase repetitions. Then SOON AFTER THIS increase the complexity or variability of the activities prescribed.

    -Both retention and transfer would be increased immensely if coaches would be more apt to go to repetition without repetition models earlier in their progressions. One problem to this; coaches are too interested in appeasing other coaches to actually follow through on repetition without repetition. Solution; stop worrying about what other coaches think of what our athletes look like while they practice. Instead, focus on if, and to what degree, players are actually learning and transferring movement skills from the practice field and training arena to the game field on Sundays.

    -People blame the current NFL CBA for the annual injury incidence rates. I don’t. Spending more time with team coaches (of any sort…position and strength alike) is not going to fix that. Sorry I am not sorry…I have watched what teams do and how they practice…most practices and models are terrible and translate little to increased skilled performance especially under chaos, pressure, fatigue, anxiety, etc. Thus, changes to CBA wouldn’t do crap…instead, change the practice habits and the behaviors that emerge from those practices and I speculate injuries are going to go down b/c skill & preparedness (not physical preparation but skill preparation) will be greater.

    -Why aren’t any teams incorporating a true Performance Therapy model like that which is being driven down in Phoenix, AZ at Altis? Move, observe, treat, move, observe, treat, so on and so forth.

    -I love the influx of NFL sport science. But there’s one problem…many of the NFL’s sport scientists are studying numbers…some are studying players…and fewer are actually studying (to truly understand) the behaviors of those players especially when and where it counts (i.e. in games). I know they can’t put GPS on the players in games so don’t tweet at me or comment on this blog about that…I am talking about being able to explain what it’s happening and why it’s happening that way…when a player has a tactical demand, there is an opponent in front of them, and they most use their sport and movement skills to problem solve. You don’t need data to study that…you need knowledge and wisdom and a detailed eye.

    -Some of the best movers I have seen during closed agility tasks (i.e. change-of-direction tasks) are the worst movers during open agility tasks (i.e. reactive agility tasks). The behaviors (where the attention flows from a perceptual standpoint) and the brain (how intention is driven from the decisions to be made) can and often does change everything!

    -If Strength Coaches analyzed sport movement skills as much as they analyze exercises or program design, their practices would be drastically different and the level of transfer from their training means/methods would be significantly higher.

    -If Position Coaches analyzed sport movement skills as much as they analyze tactical strategies and X & O’s, their practices would be drastically different and the level of transfer from their training means/methods would be significantly higher.

    -Though I am from small town Wisconsin, I hate farms. One thing that is a staple of most farms is the existence of silos. NFL organizations are like farms; one thing that is a staple of most NFL organizations is the existence of silos. Break down the silos…get everyone on the same page…many things will advance…including the players’ performance.

    Okay, that’s probably enough randomness for today!

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 7:45 pm on April 26, 2017 Permalink
    Tags: Power   

    Some random thoughts on movement & performance of NFL players 

    Annually, at this time of the year, a couple of things are bound to happen for me during the training of my NFL players:

    -A lot of ideas swirl around my head on the daily. Some of these ideas are good…others pretty bad. Some are theoretical…while some are immediately applicable. Some are logical…and more are pretty far out there. Some are fleeting whereas some others are consistent and continue to hit me like a ton of bricks.

    -I don’t have a ton of extra time to whip together content of any sort. Thus, writing for my blog often becomes an afterthought.

    That all said, I have a rare open hour so I decided to write a different type of blog post today to tick off the boxes above and share some of these thoughts in the process.

    They will read like the post-it notes across my desk(s) do…short, sporadic and random. There may be some themes throughout but for the most part they will likely be all over the place…which shouldn’t come as to much of a shock if you’ve ever had a conversation with me.

    If this blog is well-received, I may consider making it a more frequent occurrence. So, without further adieu, here’s a look into some (trust me you don’t want to hear them all) of the random thoughts circulating around in my head right now.

    -NFL players are just like you and I. I mean, except they recover way quicker and they are capable of operating at way higher outputs. So, these things all equate to meaning; NFL players are actually not like us at all.

    -Which car, both being pushed to its limits, is more dangerous to drive? A Ferrari or a Pinto? The Ferrari of course…b/c its limits are at 200+ mph. You can push an NFL player to the brinks of the edges of their capabilities…as long as they weren’t actually over the edge, they are likely to bounce back really quickly and perform stellar in the meantime. If they DID go over the edge, watch the F out…b/c either they are really depleted and their whole life is going to get negatively affected from this and/or you just set them up for injury (sometimes a really bad one).

    -You can/should screen the little things (how much they are talking, how they are standing, what are they doing during rest periods, etc) in between activities way more than you screen for the behaviors you see occurring during movement or performances. These little things tell you how ready they are but also what types of learning and/or adaptation you can actually get from the next activities that are performed (as well as others performed before this).

    -Slow to smooth, smooth to fast. As Buddy Morris says, “moving slow gets the brain’s attention.” Sometimes to change behavior the quickest way to get the player to coordinate, control, and organize movement more competently is to have them slow down so they can account for changes/nuances at any of the 3 B’s of the movement solution (behaviors, brain, biomechanics). But then the first way to hit the movement save button on a competent behavior is to increase the speed of its execution. Then you should increase repetitions. Then SOON AFTER THIS increase the complexity or variability of the activities prescribed.

    -Both retention and transfer would be increased immensely if coaches would be more apt to go to repetition without repetition models earlier in their progressions. One problem to this; coaches are too interested in appeasing other coaches to actually follow through on repetition without repetition. Solution; stop worrying about what other coaches think of what our athletes look like while they practice. Instead, focus on if, and to what degree, players are actually learning and transferring movement skills from the practice field and training arena to the game field on Sundays.

    -People blame the current NFL CBA for the annual injury incidence rates. I don’t. Spending more time with team coaches (of any sort…position and strength alike) is not going to fix that. Sorry I am not sorry…I have watched what teams do and how they practice…most practices and models are terrible and translate little to increased skilled performance especially under chaos, pressure, fatigue, anxiety, etc. Thus, changes to CBA wouldn’t do crap…instead, change the practice habits and the behaviors that emerge from those practices and I speculate injuries are going to go down b/c skill & preparedness (not physical preparation but skill preparation) will be greater.

    -Why aren’t any teams incorporating a true Performance Therapy model like that which is being driven down in Phoenix, AZ at Altis? Move, observe, treat, move, observe, treat, so on and so forth.

    -I love the influx of NFL sport science. But there’s one problem…many of the NFL’s sport scientists are studying numbers…some are studying players…and fewer are actually studying (to truly understand) the behaviors of those players especially when and where it counts (i.e. in games). I know they can’t put GPS on the players in games so don’t tweet at me or comment on this blog about that…I am talking about being able to explain what it’s happening and why it’s happening that way…when a player has a tactical demand, there is an opponent in front of them, and they most use their sport and movement skills to problem solve. You don’t need data to study that…you need knowledge and wisdom and a detailed eye.

    -Some of the best movers I have seen during closed agility tasks (i.e. change-of-direction tasks) are the worst movers during open agility tasks (i.e. reactive agility tasks). The behaviors (where the attention flows from a perceptual standpoint) and the brain (how intention is driven from the decisions to be made) can and often does change everything!

    -If Strength Coaches analyzed sport movement skills as much as they analyze exercises or program design, their practices would be drastically different and the level of transfer from their training means/methods would be significantly higher.

    -If Position Coaches analyzed sport movement skills as much as they analyze tactical strategies and X & O’s, their practices would be drastically different and the level of transfer from their training means/methods would be significantly higher.

    -Though I am from small town Wisconsin, I hate farms. One thing that is a staple of most farms is the existence of silos. NFL organizations are like farms; one thing that is a staple of most NFL organizations is the existence of silos. Break down the silos…get everyone on the same page…many things will advance…including the players’ performance.

    Okay, that’s probably enough randomness for today!

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 5:11 pm on January 13, 2017 Permalink
    Tags: Power   

    2016 Mover of the Year – David Johnson 

    Year in and year out, the Mover of the Year blog post ends up being my favorite one to write. Many people may think it’s relatively easy to select the recipient of the award but in reality it gets relatively nerve-wrecking because it’s something that to me I just have to get right! Because of that, I analyze and breakdown countless hours of film to come to this point: watching plays at various speeds and from various camera angles looking at the most minute of characteristics in order to determine who the most masterful mover in the League is for that given year.

    Through our four years of existence at the blog, we have seen some exceptional performers show their movement skill prowess for the whole world to see…luckily, we have been there to break them down and analyze these behaviors.

    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/

    Just a quick reminder, as with most here at this blog, our Mover of the Year doesn’t have a whole lot of do with statistics…we keep that for all the other year-end awards and recognitions for players that you will see scattered across the internet. Instead, the Mover of the Year goes to the player who I feel possesses the most well-rounded & fully developed movement repertoire per their given position and who they are as an individual. The recipient displays proficiency within all three B’s of movement coordination, control, and execution: behaviors (sensory-perceptual), brain (cognitive processes & decision-making), and biomechanics (efficient & effective motor output). Additionally, when someone is awarded our Mover of the Year, they are everything that movement mastery is in sport; ownership, optimization, virtuosity, efficiency and effectiveness.

    To help us narrow it down while also highlighting a few of the game’s best, a number of players were truly considered to be my frontrunners for the 2016 Mover of the Year as the season progressed:

    • Khalil Mack – Now a two time 1st Team All-Movement Team member, this diverse young superstar for an up & coming team continues to add tools to his toolbox
    • Von Miller – Always so close…but yet seems so far away…of being named the most masterful mover in the League on our site, Miller remains the definition of a perfect mixture of violence & grace on a football field
    • David Johnson – The new cream of the running back crop, the League’s top dual purpose threat has found his way onto our blog being featured numerous times since entering the League in 2015
    • Antonio Brown – Last year’s Mover of the Year who I felt was as masterful of mover as I have broken down in my time of analyzing movement behaviors on film since the start of this blog
    • Tyreek Hill – The resident rookie on this list of standout movers, it’s arguable that down the stretch of this season no mover was seeing the field, making decisions, and displaying as dynamic of output ability as Hill was as he gave a final push for the Mover of the Year award

    Honestly, when looking at this list, I really couldn’t go wrong: I like each of these players and their respective movement skill-set. In fact, I could watch each one do their thing on a football field for hours and continue to marvel at their authentic movement signatures and the level of mastery of each of their movement toolboxes as it pertains to their positional demands and individual constraints. Each is highly adaptable and highly optimized and brings a little different something to the table. But at the end of the day, there can only be one 2016 Mover of the Year.

    And the winner…and new champion is…David Johnson, RB of the Arizona Cardinals.

    johnson-2

    The New Champ

    To put the cherry on top of the season that our Mover of the Year for 2016 just gave us, let’s watch a highlight video of DJ and hopefully attempt to recognize how special his performance (and his movement) really was.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cdr4sWA97KU

    Before going any further, let’s rewind a bit…

    Back in August, before the NFL season even began, I realized the emergent starting RB for the Cardinals was on the verge of true superstardom as you can see by clicking the link below from August 11th.

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2016/08/11/training-camp-16-player-movement-evaluation-david-johnson/

    It’s not like I am some sort of prophet or anything here because when it was all said and done even I wouldn’t have predicted that we would be sitting here with Johnson standing firmly atop the movement throne and that he would be coming off of a season where each week he seemed to “wow” all viewers while knocking on the door of a 1,000/1,000 season (rushing/receiving) in a Marshall Faulk type of fashion (though his movement behaviors are much different than #28’s). Though we don’t spend much time reflecting on statistics here at our blog (as just because a player racks up stats doesn’t necessarily make them a stellar mover), Johnson’s numbers are simply staggering…

    Rushing: 293 attempts for 1,239 yards and 16 TD

    Receiving: 80 catches for 879 and 4 TD

    Let me remind you that this is a running back putting up those receiving numbers, ladies and gentlemen…and a workhorse bell-cow running back at that!

    Johnson 9.jpg

    Over the first eight weeks of the season Johnson seemed like a man possessed to go prove me and my preseason statements right (man how I love anyone who does that!). Through those weeks DJ31 had all but wrapped up the Mover of the Year award having thrown down the top movement performance of the week in three of those eight; a feat never accomplished here in the four seasons of this blog’s existence. You can take a peek at those plays to refresh your memory here now…

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/2016-play-of-the-week-week-1/

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/2016-play-of-the-week-week-6/

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2016/11/02/2016-play-of-the-week-week-8/

    Thing is, at this point, I have written so much about David Johnson this season that I have almost run out of superlatives (now I know how NFL game broadcasters feel). In fact, we can almost use the above four blog posts as our Mover of the Year analysis (and we are going to).

    However, I do want to say a few additional things (I know, go figure, right?!).

    First, I want to make something abundantly clear: would the version of David Johnson that I witnessed back in the summer and wrote about on August 11th have won the Mover the Year award…especially over the special candidates that were in this annual, hotly-contested race? No, he would not have! So, that speaks to something: the current version of DJ31 is an evolved one. Though I was highly complementary of Johnson’s physical prowess and some aspects of his movement skill back in August, one of the hallmarks of mastery in movement (at least to me) is having a wide and open movement toolbox and at that time, Johnson had only shown brief flashes of this especially in the coordination and control of agility movement actions. In those agility situations, he gravitated to a comfortable (but highly specialized & adaptable) lunge cutting action in most cases and seemed to almost shy away from other movement strategies at times (for whatever reason we can only speculate). So in order to win the Mover of the Year, he had to become a player who got even more attuned to the common problems found within his position and continued to refine the most accurate solution responses in his movement arsenal in order to solve those problems.

    David Johnson

    Second, on this same note and token, it is VERY evident (at least to someone who has studied him extensively) that when he senses & perceives certain aspects of the ever-changing task within the organic environment that is on NFL Sunday field, he now has a whole lot more at his disposal. Do me a solid here and go re-watch each of the videos linked above (the season highlight video as well as each of the three plays of the week).

    Johnson 6.jpg

    If you pay close attention to any of the above, you will see a player who is now more well-versed at using his sensory/perceptual system to gather information about the quickly emerging problem (the explicit nature of his eyes and visual gaze have become particularly evident). Additionally, you will also see a player who combines movement patterns together and can find himself in nearly any position (or sequences of positions) and he has a way to execute and carry out an effective movement solution.

    Johnson 7.jpg

    On this note, we also see the inclusion cutting actions extending beyond a lunge cut and we start to see variations of this (at different step lengths and depths) as well as different cutting actions entirely in the form of both speed cuts and power cuts taking place at various speeds, to various depths/ranges of motions, and at various angles (both his body’s slicing & projection angles as well as his angle of deceleration & re-acceleration).  For a big dude, his crossover is starting to become surprisingly efficient, as well (taking place with little reaching and a good hip coil & knee flexion…both features that RBs with higher COG often lack).

    Johnson 11.jpg

    Now, as a Movement Coach, this enhanced skill acquisition brings me to a fascinating spot and line of questioning. Namely, did Johnson consciously attempt to add these movement strategies & solutions (such as through practice activities and tasks) or were they were learned implicitly in some way (through the dynamical complex system that is the NFL environment)? Furthermore, how much (if at all) was Johnson trying to improve in this fashion? Was he aware that this evolution of his movement skills was taking place or any of the aspects of the structure of the skills (such as changes in perception or cognition)? The answers to these questions are beyond me…though this would be a truly fascinating case study to really know the truth and attempt to determine how much of this evolution of the biodynamic structure of his movement skill was gained through each of the respective fashions.

    Conclusion

    No matter which way you cut it, David Johnson just had a season for the ages. He won’t win the NFL MVP (though his name should be being talked about for it more than it has regardless of his team’s record)…he may not win the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award (though I don’t know how he doesn’t?!)…but he was special in 2016 and IS the most masterful mover of this year; bar none, straight-up! Kuods, DJ31…may you have a quick & speedy recovery from your week 17 injury and find your movement groove early & often in 2017!

    Finally, I have a little surprise for y’all! Because one year-end award for movement recognition just isn’t enough (not counting our All-Movement Team that is), I have decided to add a few more year-end awards to recognize the game’s most masterful movers in the League each year: the ‘Most Improved Mover’ and the ‘Most Impressive Rookie Mover.’ Both of the 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).

    Most Improved Mover

    Landon Collins, Safety, New York Giants

    As mentioned in this week’s All-Movement Team blog, at least prior to this season, Landon Collins never really impressed me all that much. However, as I looked across that All-Movement Team and as I watched players all season long, no player improved his movement skills and capabilities as much as the New York Giant now All-Pro safety.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTDVEJbjfu0

    Most Impressive Rookie Mover

    Tyreek Hill, Punt Returner, Kansas City Chiefs

    When talking about Tyreek Hill I hesitate to ever even write punt returner next to his name. Like a college player being recruited who doesn’t have a fit for a position per se and instead the team just lists him as “athlete”….we should almost do the same with Tyreek Hill. Proven to have been statistically productive for the Chiefs in multiple facets of the game this season, Hill is a big play bomb ready to go off no matter where he gets the ball and no matter what the situation may hold. Being named our Most Impressive Rookie Mover in the League didn’t come all that easy though as he had stiff competition with Dallas Cowboy RB Zeke Elliott nipping on his heels. A dynamic and impressive mover from the time he stepped onto a Sunday afternoon football field, Elliott’s movement looked so jaw dropping during a number of games that he could have been worthy of our Mover of the Year at certain times this season.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVMRWk1B_ds

     

     

     

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 9:00 pm on October 19, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: Power   

    2016 Play of the Week – Week 6 

    Game: Jets at Cardinals

    Play: DJ, back again!

    dj-pic-4

    What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

    Way back in Week 1 of this young season and even earlier before the season even began, I highlighted David Johnson, the RB of the Arizona Cardinals, as one of the new supreme movers on the scene in 2016. Well, with his 2nd Movement Play of the Week in 6 weeks, he is actually even far exceeding my expectations; the diversity of Johnson’s movement strategies and the efficiency of his movement patterns are continually showing new, more effective wrinkles and mastery week-by-week.

    That doesn’t mean that this week was a one horse race; it wasn’t! There were definitely other worthy movement performances across the League. From Zeke Elliott and Shady McCoy performing some nifty & agile moves that seem to be their norm right now (after each having been awarded our Play of the Week the last two weeks) as well as Darrius Heyward-Bey with a dynamic effort to go from a sharp, high-speed cut to trucking a defender en route to a long TD scamper. When all was said & done though, I couldn’t help but give credit where credit is due to one of my early frontrunners for Mover of the Year (with Zeke, Shady, and Von Miller being the other notable movers through 6 weeks).

    Before we go any further, if you want to review what I’ve already said about Johnson here in 2016 you can check them out now:

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2016/08/11/training-camp-16-player-movement-evaluation-david-johnson/

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/2016-play-of-the-week-week-1/

    What happened movement-wise on the play?

    The play begins with David Johnson standing alongside to the right of Cardinal signal caller Carson Palmer with the feet planted firmly on their 38 yard line. After a slight delay out of the shotgun, Johnson takes the hand-off from Palmer and proceeds to head off-tackle to his left. As soon as he receives the ball, the not-so-stout New York Jet defense shows early indication that this could be a big play opportunity for Johnson as the hole that opens up is wide…gaping even! This allows Johnson to put the immediate acceleration pedal to the floor, which even as a young second year player, Johnson knows that holes close pretty quickly in the NFL so he takes advantage of this intention.

    These early acceleration steps pick up some immediate yards as Johnson quickly passes the line of scrimmage and into the second level of the defense. From the 38 to the 42 yard line, we get to see some of the most efficient acceleration mechanics at the RB position on display.

    One of the beauties of David Johnson’s movement skill-set though (or really any top notch skilled mover) is his ability to be traveling at high speeds (even if just in early acceleration phases) and to throw on the brakes efficiently enough to place himself in a position to be able to perform multiple solutions from it depending on what the problem of the situation holds (this variety of patterns are  still relatively new for him and becoming more diverse for its use by the week).

    We see this happen here from the 42 to the 44 yard line when we see Johnson show great patience, slow down slightly to be able to perceive the environment and the nature of the ever-changing task in front of him, and then throw his left foot down rapidly, while coiling & pressurizing his right limb out in front of him to place himself into a finely-tuned & dynamic lunge cut (note: this was a major part of Johnson’s movement toolbox last season and he is one of the best in this pattern right now) to bypass a wannabe tackler between the 44 and 46 yard lines.

    dj-pic-6

    After he makes the cut, we often see Johnson or any top flight mover get quickly back into reacceleration (that is in fact the essence of efficient cutting in the first place). However, the problem that is emerging on this play will not allow for this early reacceleration. Instead, he takes a few transitional steps forward before performing a little jump cut to his left to get him out of the traffic and hopefully out to the sideline where a little great-on-great (Fitzgerald vs. Revis) action is occurring.

    Johnson sees this block and the edge that is being set by the best blocking WR in the game and he decides to use it. This is definitely what we would refer to as an affordance for action and Johnson knows perceptually and cognitively what it means for the rest of his movement actions that he is about to succeed from aka the opportunity exists for him getting to the outside and off to the races! Here then, he uses some angular transitional running actions (transitional in the sense that they aren’t necessarily being performed at full speed and they are a link between a combination of other movement patterns/solutions) which contain a little subtle crossover cutting to both start and end it (the end being the cut he performs on around the 49 yard line when he is stepping on the first down line on the video).

    dj-pic-2

    After he performs this cut he again gets to hit the gas pedal for a few steps which allows him to eat up some ground and get nearly all the jerseys in white now chasing from behind in hot pursuit. Using some dynamic balance (a hard to attain and rare quality among movers especially who are traveling at this higher speed), he gets himself out of the last true challenge presented by a legitimate tackler and then there is only one thing left…to now get off to the races.

    dj-pic-3

    In the open field, Johnson displays both exceptional early acceleration mechanics (earlier “gears” if you want to think of it in this way) as well as top end mechanics (especially for a big dude) though the transitional “gears” getting from acceleration and top end may be a little too long of strides for my liking. Though once he’s at this high speed his backside mechanics are clean & crisp as we can see from the rear view camera that comes in the second half of the video below.

    dj-pic-5

    The other thing that we see from this rear camera that I definitely want to make a mention of is throughout the entire play how he continues to take in information which leads to the emergence of any of his subsequent movement actions. This is often taken for granted but it is an aspect I like to talk about here because where the eyes are looking (and when they are looking there as well as how the player’s brain interprets what the information gathered means) will determine where the player is going and how he is going to get there (i.e. the level of effectiveness of the movement actions selected). The value of this factor in the role of optimal movement performance cannot be overstated.

    To watch this week’s top movement performance from DJ31, check it out here…as you will see, it’s spiced with a little Spanish announcing flavor!

    http://www.nfl.com/videos/international-social-content/0ap3000000723450/Spanish-announcers-call-David-Johnson-s-58-yard-TD-run

     

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 12:38 am on October 5, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: Power   

    2016 Play of the Week – Week 4 

    Game: Cowboys at 49ers AND Chiefs at Steelers

    elliot-pic-1

    Bell pic 3.jpg

    Play: Big-time players make big-time plays (and cuts)

    What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

    We have all heard the cliché comment, “big time players make big-time plays in big-time games,” right? Though some will say that week 4 of a regular season (even at the highest level of qualification) isn’t big-time, I would argue that any week playing in the National Football League really is. To take this a step further, few players made bigger contributions to their teams’ success in week 4 than our Movement Play of the Week recipients, Ezekiel Elliott and Le’Veon Bell (S/O to Julio Jones and Matt Ryan though too). Not only did these two players step up when it counted but they both displayed some masterful cuts in the process…cuts executed so proficiently that they stood out to be co-owners of the best movement performances for the week.

    What made these cuts so darn good? Well, as we talk about nearly weekly here, let’s remember that no two cuts (or any agile move for that matter) executed on football field is ever truly the same. Instead, the movement skill (let’s look at it as a solution) must be matched to meet the peculiar needs of the problem. To add to this, one of these guys (Elliott) is a rookie still getting adjusted to the extreme movement demands present in the NFL and the other (Bell) was playing in his first game action of the 2016 season after coming off of a suspension & injury from the 2015 season. Furthermore, though both guys are relatively similar in stature (Elliott at 6’ & 225lb and Bell at 6’2” & 225lb) they display differences in their movement skill-sets; with their kinematic signatures AND movement strategies. That all said though, both individuals executed those respective selected movement strategies with precise timing and efficient mechanics.

    Because of this, we will pay special attention in this week’s Movement Play of the Week highlighting their cutting actions displayed on the plays we witnessed from them on Sunday. Before we do, you may want to review my blog from when I broke down the different cutting actions of NFL RBs from a number of years back.

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/breaking-down-the-cutting-actions-of-rbs-part-2/

    What happened movement-wise on the play?

    Let’s start here with the rookie. Though Elliott is inexperienced in the League his movement style at the position has been very conducive to success under the demands of typical problems at the NFL for quite some time. Let me take you back to an article I wrote about football agility that featured him back in 2015.

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/football-agility-its-not-about-the-strength/

    Honestly, if I were giving out an All-Movement Team at the quarter way completion point of the season, it would be hard to not rank Elliott as my top mover at the RB position this season. He’s been that good and his movement is only getting more refined with every tote of the rock (that must be why he continually insists on telling the Cowboys coaches to “feed him” after every carry).

    On this play, he made two cuts that are worthy of our recognition. The first came at his 37/38 yard line while still behind the LOS. We see the second at the 44/46 yard line after he just slipped a tackle and has a safety closing quick 5 yards in front of him.

    As you will see from the first on the video below, this outside foot power cut (relatively wide BOS & low COG with an inside foot reacceleration) happens decisively when he anticipates and then sees the hole break open in front of him. Though we see this clean cutting position, it’s more about what he is sensing, seeing, and processing that makes this movement action possible because in order to be successful this cutting action must be performed at precisely the right time…i.e. no amount of cone drills are going to ever simulate this. That said, I do love how he throws that left foot down rapidly and sharply and doesn’t hesitate to put down the right foot and get into reacceleration.

    Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers

    On the second cut, we see him execute a very unique but quick modified speed/crossover cut. Though the right foot plants rapidly outside his centerline it (the foot) pops back up to propel into his reacceleration while his left foot remains planted in the ground. Typically, I wouldn’t advocate for a crossover with any guys that start to creep up into this stature (usually safest for the shorter guys) but based on Elliott’s naturally low COG and the inside left leg flexion while it is planted along with the timing of the action, it is more than effective. Here again, you can see how quickly he gets back into reaccelerating. However, the best acceleration in the world will mean very little without the deceleration and cutting prowess he displayed on either break.

    Take a peek at Elliott’s moves here.

    http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap3000000714151/Ezekiel-Elliott-breaks-out-for-26-yards

    Now let’s move onto the a guy that two years ago made my All-Movement Team for 2014, Le’Veon Bell. Let’s go back a few years to review as to what Bell’s movement is all about.

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/2014-bts-all-movement-team-offense/

    Though to an educated movement consumer his movement skills were actually a little rusty at a multi-level of analysis (perceptual, cognitive, and biomechanical), this was to be expected given the time off and only practice tempo experience in the last 10 months. However, this movement specialist will take even a slightly non-fine-tuned Le’Veon Bell over most players at his position across the League. That all said though, we didn’t see him necessarily hitting the same types of depths or as sharp of angles in this cuts as we have maybe come to expect from in the past (could be dependent on what he was seeing, thinking, and behaving like as he felt his way through things again). That will come though as it’s only a matter of time till the old Bell is back.

    Even with that, like on the Elliott play, Bell made a pair of cuts that you just won’t see every day. The first occurs right at the LOS on the Chiefs’ 46 yard line. The second took place with a nasty little speed cut at the 41/40 yard line.

    On the first, we see Bell’s sense, awareness, and patience really show through as it leads up into a slower speed crossover cut. Where the cut is executed, it looks as though Bell may have a two-way-go (where he could have sat & dipped and brought it back inside) though the LB #52 is crashing pretty hard and may have obstructed Bell’s perception or thought processes regarding his affordances for action to do so (bring it back inside)…besides, who am I to second-guess what he felt was most optimal for him based on what he was seeing, thinking, and feeling at the moment?! At this type of slower speed though, the crossover can be executed much more safely and allows for a greater likelihood for higher biomechanical efficiency.

    Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers

    Onto the second cut, we see some of the patented feint & faking that Bell sets up almost without an equal across the League (maybe the only guy who does so on similar levels would be LeSean McCoy). With a safety a solid 5 yards away and pursuing to the boundary hard, Bell has his opponent right where he wants him so he decides to try and put him on a poster in his first game back. He offers just a little shimmy to pause & deceive the defender’s thought processes before Bell sits down on his left leg hard & quick and pushes back out into a speed cut (still inside right foot reacceleration but not nearly as wide/deep with the plant). We should note that this defender was no ordinary safety either; instead, it was one of the best movers and all-around players at the position, Eric Berry.

    Check out Bell’s play here now!

    http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap3000000714560/Le-Veon-Bell-works-his-magic-for-44-yards

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 8:40 pm on August 11, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: Power   

    Training Camp ’16 Player Movement Evaluation – David Johnson 

    Introduction

    As most of you who may read this blog are probably aware, at this time of the year my time is spent day-by-day, week-by-week, analyzing on-field football movement at various training camps around the NFL. Because of this, a number of years back that prompted me to begin writing occasional individual movement analysis breakdowns of players that may stick out to me at respective camps. However, in 2015, things got just a little too hectic in order to sufficiently do that. That all said, with what I saw last week while at Arizona Cardinals training camp, I felt as though it was necessary to renew this old blog series with an analysis of Cardinal RB, David Johnson.

    Before going further, I want to remind ya’ll of the reality of these types of evaluations with my previous disclaimer words from the past series:  It should be noted that most of the time I would extensively dissect player’s movement during game analysis which would include frame-by-frame breakdown to truly get an idea of what’s happening when he moves. Thus, I am going to likely miss a lot with these very brief evaluations based on my visual analysis of the guy playing live. Obviously, with the extent of detail that I usually go into with analysis of a player’s strengths and weaknesses, if I was doing this in preparation for working with the guy I would take the time to watch an extensive amount of game-film to see him play in multiple situations. This will be a limitation during camp practices as there are only so many plays that you get a chance to see from each guy.

    With that being taken into account, let’s carry on. Though just a rookie last year, the former Northern Iowa all-purpose back made a name for himself in his introductory campaign to the League. Well, if last week is any indication about what he has in store for his encore here in 2016 (and likely well beyond this as long as health is on his side), NFL fans (well, I should say Arizona Cardinal fans) should be extremely excited about what’s on the horizon. Let’s just say this: from all of my accounts over a three day period (while also taking into account what I saw from him last year) David Johnson is on the verge of NFL superstardom. Johnson is not only a physical specimen (6’1, 225lb) with speed & power to boot, but he possesses a unique ability to be more diverse in all aspects of the game than many of his RB counterparts. In fact, his capacity to catch the ball out of the backfield stood out on-repeat play after play over the three days I was in Glendale, AZ…so much so, that I would venture the guess that besides the do-it-all Pittsburgh Steeler, Le’Veon Bell, Johnson may already be at the top of the RB-skill totem pole in this regard. On more than one occasion last week, Johnson caught a pass (everything from screens to wheels to seams) and before you knew it was behind the entire defense and on his way to a pretend-TD (these are practice scenarios, remember).

    Of course, our page isn’t necessarily about football skills per se, it’s about football movement skills…and this particular blog won’t be any different. So, what is it about David Johnson’s movement skill that allows him to do what he’s able to do right now (the rest of the League is about to see in a few weeks)? More critically, what is still missing in his movement repertoire that needs to be acquired that could make him even better yet? (Because let’s not forget: critically breaking down movement of the game’s best is really what this blog has always been about). Well, let’s explore!

    Strengths

    Lunge Cut

    Most of the readers out there are well aware of my obsession with the cutting actions that take place on a football field, namely at the RB position. Just the sheer fact that I have devoted the time a few years back to write entire blog articles on these movement tasks at this position should denote this. To see this, as well as get an idea as to what I mean when I say David Johnson is a highly proficient lunge cutter, go ahead and read these articles:

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/breaking-down-the-cutting-actions-of-rbs-part-1/

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/breaking-down-the-cutting-actions-of-rbs-part-2/

    That lunge cutting ability was on full display during my last day in Glendale. Johnson, with ball in hand, was moving to his right, looking as though his intention was on getting to the outside to hit the sideline;  all of a sudden the chaos in front of him started to close him in, and before you knew it he shortened his stride & stance, threw his left foot down hard with an aggressive stab step (remember he was going right), cut at a 45 degree angle, and brought his path back inside and up-field to an open spot at the third level and en route to a what-would-have-been touchdown leaving the crowd roaring at what their RB1 was capable of.

    DJ cut 1.jpg

    This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary: in various situations over those three days, whether it was in a closed position-specific drill or one that involved more chaos in the open environment, it was apparent that Johnson was most comfortable executing cutting actions through this pattern and into this position whenever possible. Luckily, he seems to be able to perform the lunge cut on both sides equally as well as at multiple stance lengths and depths though I will say more often than not he keeps the stance relatively short (likely due to his naturally higher center of gravity because of his height) and high (though this aspect is surprising given his high motor potential/strength capabilities).

    Arizona Cardinals v Philadelphia Eagles

    This type of proficiency (where an athlete is able to perform the same movement skill but in different variations depending on what the problem gives) is definitely one aspect that allows DJ31 to be deceivingly agile for his size and gives him more control at effective movement solutions under live fire.

    Knowing how often this pattern is going to emerge on-field, if I were personally working with him in the offseason I would attempt to marry his specific strength capabilities to this already proficient movement solution. I would do this not through adding load to a traditional lunge. Instead, I would test it with variability to increase the width of his movement bandwidth…ironically; I would add variability both in open environment type work as well as in any auxiliary work (weight room or plyometrics). On the latter, I would think about the incorporation of SDE (Specialized Development Exercises) such as:

    • Isometric Lunge Work (usually short duration Lunge Holds against an immovable object at varying knee flexion angles)
    • Eccentric Lunge Work to even further improve the eccentric rate of force absorption when on one leg which would further allow him to put his very apparent concentric explosive power to further use in lunge patterns
    • Lunge Jumping in different planes. Many just use lunge jumps vertically whereas I would have him jump horizontally as well as laterally and all angles in between.

    It’s important to note that because of where his mastery level is with the use of the pattern, I would test it and make it even more functionally transferable by actually adding variability day to day or even set to set (as opposed to getting more narrow-minded with its execution as many coaches would advocate).

    Acceleration to Mid-range Linear Speed

    Before we briefly address this idea, let me preface it all with this: year-by-year, I spend more time at Minnesota Vikings training camp than at any other team. This means I see the world-class example of linear speed at the RB position (enter Adrian Peterson) on-repeat for the last nine years that I have been doing this (note: this is not to say that Adrian’s technical execution/movement signature in linear speed is flawless but his performance outcomes in these situations speak for themselves). Yet, what I saw from David Johnson last week still stood out to me. And keep in mind that the Cardinals also have another very speedy Johnson, Chris Johnson, on their roster that I would see running the very same plays with the 2’s right after David Johnson. Yes, we are talking about the same Chris Johnson that once ran for 2,000 yards in a season as a Titan and who also still holds the NFL combine record for the fastest 40 yard ever recorded.

    Now, I am not saying that David Johnson would beat AD28 or Chris Johnson in a non-organic, predetermined footrace (I don’t think he would), but let’s not make any mistake about it: David Johnson is fast in a straight line especially when taking into account his size and other physical qualities and, more importantly, when on a football field under the circumstances that are commonly presented to a NFL RB. This supreme acceleration ability should really come as no surprise given his very apparent explosive power capabilities (which was displayed during his Combine performance on jump activities back in 2015).

    DJ linear

    Weaknesses

    The Existence of a Diverse Agility Movement Skill-set

    Where the lunge cut from above is a vital staple for DJ, he seems to be a little over-reliant on it for my liking. I know, I know…mastering one representation (i.e. style) of a given movement skill when playing at the highest level of qualification (i.e. the NFL) is hard enough. In fact, it was Bruce Lee who said that he fears more the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times than the one who has practiced 10,000 kicks. But I digress…

    I also strongly feel as though what truly defines the most masterful movers on a football field are those who can be presented with a diverse range of movement problems, and they have ownership of equally efficient and effective movement solutions to match that potential diversity of the problem. Liken this to a movement toolbox if you will…someone can be a master with a hammer (i.e. be real good at lunge cutting) but this craftsmanship will only mean so much if presented with a screw instead of a nail (i.e. the athlete needs to perform from a wider base of support and lower center of gravity from a bilateral stance).

    DJ cut 2

    Johnson’s limitation with other cutting actions could come from any number of areas:

    1). The biomechanical inability to get to the respective positions or through those patterns which are contained in those other movement strategies…meaning, he lacks the strength qualities (highly unlikely when you watch this guy!) or mobility/stability to even get into the other positions.

    2). Lack of movement skill acquisition with those other patterns…meaning, he’s worked on them & developed them to a certain degree but under chaos the self-organizing human movement system will not allow them to emerge because it perceives the lunge cut to be more solidified.

    3). Improper perception-action/information-movement coupling…meaning, he’s looking at, or feeling for, the wrong the thing at the wrong time when certain stimuli in the movement problem are presented.

    Overall, it could also be that while playing at Northern Iowa he was always so much better and more physically dominant than his opponents that he never actually had to develop a more well-rounded movement repertoire. In fact, I see this is as a danger for many high-performing collegiate RBs regardless of the actual level of qualification of college football (D1, D1AA, D2, D3, etc) they played and developed in.

    That all said, if we go back and watch some highlights from last year we do see other movement strategies/solutions emerge occasionally. Check out this short video from last year:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91JjC0RnphU

    Here you can see that he will occasionally execute a bilateral speed cut or crossover cut, but really only if the constraints presented by the problem are presented perfectly for him to do so. When they (those other cuts) do occur, they are much less authentic and naturally emergent…not to mention potentially less optimal and efficient. Now, if you follow any of my work you will know that I am the first to say that what is deemed the optimal movement solution for one athlete is NOT what is optimal for another especially if it is not authentic or solidified enough to emerge under chaos…thus, we shouldn’t force certain movement solutions to given problems. However, I still believe that this needs to be remedied in order for him to take his movement craft to the next level.

    DJ 2 leg cut

    In order for this improvement to occur and his movement toolbox to become well-rounded, there are a couple different areas I would start with to offset the corresponding potential shortcomings from above:

    1). Improve the biomechanics. Start performing a simple sway drill to get the athlete aware of loading over the support leg, their BOS & their COG and the manipulation of it, the edges of their feet, the biomechanical angles and the basic sensory perceptual data from it. Include variability rep to rep (change the BOS width and COG height) to get him comfortable with the movement context present in these positions.

    2). Improve the intention. Require him to utilize other variations of cutting patterns during individual position work where applicable. This prescription should take him from slow to fast, closed to open, simple to complex. Here now, where the new biomechanical position focus from point 1 left off, now he can start to utilize this pattern and their corresponding positions in space and in response to varying stimuli and a changing environment. This of course may only be able to happen so much at this time of the year that it is right now (as it would depend on a whole lot of variables).

    3). Improve the attention. Determine where he is looking and when he is looking at it (i.e. visual gaze properties) as well as what he is feeling & internalizing as he performs. This will improve his sensory-perceptual understanding on the movement problem and could potentially open up the opportunities for the use of other movement solutions. In order to make these other patterns functionally applicable to occur on field, we need to link them (the actions) to the necessary perception required in the organic environment.

    Conclusion

    Though David Johnson isn’t the prototypical masterfully moving RB and he still has room for growth (newsflash: EVERY player in the NFL has gaps in their movement skills that they need to improve upon), I do believe he is absolutely on the verge of greatness. Knowing the Arizona Cardinals S&C Staff (I believe they are currently the very best among the 32 in the League), I believe they will set him on a path towards further performance preparation. I am excited for David Johnson and the potential he has to become one of the very best in the game for years to come.


     
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