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Shawn Myszka | Evolutionary Athletics

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

    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 10:57 pm on October 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags:   

    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 4:26 pm on October 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags:   

    2017 Play of the Week – Week 5 

    Game: Nelson Agholor getting creative & showing authenticity 

    Agholor pic 6

    Play: Cardinals at Eagles

    What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

    With the plethora of outstanding plays that are coordinated in highly skillful manners across the League each week, it’s somewhat rare for us to see our top movement performance come from the same team in consecutive weeks. However, this week’s top play was just too good to not have this rarity become reality for us today. That is, despite pushes by some incredibly clutch plays by 2016 All-Movement Team Quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, as well as fellow All-Movement Team returner, Tyreek Hill. But the movers of the Philadelphia Eagles are flying high right now and showing a proficient style of movement across their skill players.

    Picking up where Eagle RB LeGarrette Blount left off last week when he went Beastmode, Philly WR Nelson Agholor went and executed not only one of the most creative plays we are likely to see all season, but maybe the most swagger-filled ones as well. On the play, it’s as if the former first round draft pick out of USC, Agholor, seemed to let off a whole lot of steam from the past three seasons which have been filled with a fair amount of ups & downs. However, in just this one play alone it’s also as if he showed the realization of game-breaking, playmaking potential that the Eagles saw in him when they made him such a high draft pick years ago.

    What happened movement-wise on the play?

    On this play, though up big at 24-7, the Eagles find themselves with a 3rd and 19. Quarterback Carson Wentz (who I should note has started to really display some rather proficient movement behavior both inside and outside of the pocket thus far this season), is lined up in the shotgun with trips to his right. His inside slot receiver on the play happens to be the feature of our highlight today, Nelson Agholor, who initially has Cardinal safety, Tyrann Mathieu lined up over him (but if you ever watch any Cardinals games you know there is a high likelihood that he’s going to rush the quarterback here with hopes that he will be able to make a big play happen).

    Because Mathieu did in fact blitz, Agholor has a clean and free release off the line of scrimmage; which is something that you may not want to give a guy that runs 4.4’s even on this type of 3rd and long. Agholor uses this release to get a whole lot of steam built up; so much so that if we are watching the sideline view only, by the time he comes back into the picture he’s already at the Arizona 40 yard line (this play began at the Eagle’s 28 yard line!) and is well-separated from Cardinal safety Budda Baker (who last year at Washington I felt was among the most complete movers in the entire class). Things on this play were only about to get worse for Baker.

    Wentz hangs up a perfect ball for Agholor to run under and snag which is does with his outstretched arms at the 30 yard line (note the distance of this Wentz throw!). With the nature of the instability that often occurs on these types of plays when players have to reach out and away to catch a ball this far outside of their body, it often ends with a player falling or rolling to the ground in order to adequately bring it in (especially with the high amount of velocity and momentum he has built up here). However, Agholor shows some impressive athleticism here as he reels it right in and gets immediately back into his stride without so much of a hitch in his gait to show for it.

    Agholor pic 4

    The Eagle WR takes a few steps before feeling the presence of Baker who is in hot pursuit and is looking to better the play after having been handily beat on everything that happened prior to this. Unfortunately for Baker, he is about to get a welcome to the NFL type of moment here which honestly every player gets at some point. Agholor turns and readies himself for a stiff-arm on Baker. We can actually see Baker’s eyes go up to Agholor’s shoulders, arm, and head as soon as the stiff-arm hand is flashed. This is enough distraction to allow Agholor to begin decelerating over a number of steps beginning at the 22 yard line as he prepares to attempt to finish this play in the end zone. Baker’s movement actions match Agholor’s here as he does the same in this movement dance that we see unfold.

    NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles

    At the 20 yard line Agholor shoots the hand; once it makes contact with Baker he can feel that Baker has too much momentum built up and he is likely to get off balance rather easily here (most of this is due to being the defender and being in a completely reactionary state at this moment where as Agholor exists as the dictator of the movement that will emerge). When Agholor pushes him by, he uses this is the set-up to decelerate more fully between the 17 and 16 yard line and flows into his change of direction sequence which exists in the form of a spin to his left followed by a hard jab step to plant off of his right (which Baker over-reacts to as he thinks Agholor is going to re-accelerate hard back to the middle of the field) which Agholor then brings back to his left when he realizes that Baker has crossed over and is now in a VERY suboptimal position. Major advantage now to Agholor.

    Agholor pic 2

    Some tremendous movement authenticity here emerges for Agholor in the way that he re-accelerates out of this position he’s in as he’s straddling the 15 yard line. That right foot jab step gets picked up hard while keeping the left foot down. His right becomes the foot he accelerates off of and he drives it forward quickly to get his body lean and mechanics back into the optimal position to accelerate the final 15 to pay-dirt.

    All the above is happening while Baker is trying to regain some movement control but it’s all too little too late now for the Cardinals safety. Baker hit two rapid acceleration steps from his angular plant and elects to take a dive at Agholor’s feet, which at this point he already had plenty of separation between him and the Arizona defender. Thus, this last ditch effort to bring him down is diverted by a slight hop over the tackle attempt and Agholor now prepares to celebrate after his dazzling play. He does this staring down his opponent in Baker, who is now up on his feet to see the whole thing go down as Agholor turns his back to the end zone and trust falls into it and up into a final roll of celebration.

    Click below to watch this week’s spectacular play:

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-cant-miss-plays%2F0ap3000000858062%2FCan-t-Miss-Play-Nelson-Agholor-toys-with-defender-trust-falls-into-end-zone

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 6:23 pm on October 3, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags:   

    2017 Play of the Week – Week 4 

    Game: Eagles at Chargers

    Play: Blount channeling his own Marshawn impersonation

    Blount pic 1

    What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

    Because of the nature of our blog here, where we center our focus on examples of efficient movement in time and space in response to opponents on a football field, we often find ourselves featuring athletes who may fit a certain mold. You could say that we are somewhat biased towards celebrating those who rely on dexterous and diverse movement toolboxes and make those around them look silly. With this, we may also seem biased towards players who are smaller in stature (and center of mass) and rely on these qualities of their movement dynamics (their respective toolbox) to positively compensate and overcome the challenges they face from their often larger opponents. However, I don’t want to discriminate here against bigger players who have equally proficient movement even if it doesn’t seem to come as natural or as frequent as their smaller counterparts…thus, today I get my opportunity to feature one of these guys.

    Take a moment and remember back to 2011; the NFC playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints gave us the run that really made Marshawn Lynch well-known when he laid down the famous 67-yard winning touchdown run and afforded him the nickname, “Beastmode.” This run featured Marshawn dodging, weaving, and throwing around Saint wanna-be tacklers who had numerous opportunities to bring down the big Seahawk back. Well, it seems as though every year since, we see runs performed by RBs and other skill-position players alike where it appears inspired by Lynch when they go Beastmode themselves. Though this play doesn’t quite match that which Lynch gave us six years ago (do sequels with other actors ever measure up to the originals?), our run today by LeGarrette Blount of the Philadelphia Eagles is impressive in its own right and it is our week’s top movement performance!

    What happened movement-wise on the play?

    Though often not thought of as the most fleet of foot (how many 6 foot tall & 250lb men do you know who are?), LeGarrette Blount has actually, to the surprise of some, been featured on our blog here before. In fact , it was his playoff performance back in 2015, while playing for the New England Patriots, that I utilized (ironically along with Marshawn Lynch) as an example in my blog post, “Football Agility: It’s NOT about the Strength.” This post, which would end up being one of my most controversial ones I have written in my years with this blog, can be read here:

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

    In a nutshell: LeGarrette Blount is sneaky agile! Let’s take a peek at what he does here to prove me right!

    The play begins with the Chargers up 2 points in the 4th quarter, 2nd and 6 from their own 29 yard line. Blount is the single RB lined up deep behind quarterback, Carson Wentz. Wentz takes the snap and Blount accelerates controllably to him to receive the hand-off at close to the 25 yard line. With 5 yards between he and the work being done at the line of scrimmage, Blount is able to quickly perform a visual scan of what lies in front of him and how the constraints may shape the problem(s) he’s about to face. One of those problems stands 10 yards in front of him staring him down in the form of a pretty dang good Charger LB in Jatavis Brown. Another one of those problems stands to Blount’s left in the form of Charger DE Joey Bosa. As it so often does on an NFL football field (honestly any football field, as well, it just depends on the relative capabilities of the respective players involved), the problem changes really quickly. For the time being, the Eagles very willing run-blocking offensive line takes care of both of these stellar defenders when Brown gets sucked into a block by the OG and Bosa is chopped down by an Eagle TE.

    Because of the above mentioned OL efforts, Blount, who has covered the first 5 yards both scanning in an attempt to understand his tactical options (specifically where he is going to go and when he will need to go there) and accelerating to the 30 yard line, now sees a gap which easily affords running through. In fact, this gap contains a whole lot of green grass not only sufficient for picking up the 6 yards needed for the 1st down but also much more!

    When he sees this real estate, Blount takes his controlled linear acceleration, crosses over on his left leg and into a right leg initial acceleration step with intention on hitting his maximum speed as quickly as possible. Because of the bad (aka good on a football field) intentions driving this action response (i.e. he’s coming in hot), he travels the next 5 yards in a hurry taking him to the 34/35 yard line. It should be noted that while traveling over that yardage, he was able to see the Chargers deep safety and really zone in on the potential strategy that said defensive back may have: with Blount coming in hot with a full head of steam, most DBs here are only going to have one singular mindset…go low!

    Blount pic 5

    However, this is where we see the true mastery of Blount’s agility skill. With the DB coming into the picture having accelerated himself to now standing on the 40, with the expectation that he has to go low to take down the bigger man, Blount knows he has him right where he wants him: he’s got the option to go through him or around him to either direction (based on the open spaces). Luckily for the delight of our movement breakdown, Blount goes with the latter.

    He goes from being in an all-out acceleration mode to being able to shorten his stride, coil his left leg in a flexed position with minimal heel strike to land only slightly in front of his base of support, and drop his center of mass quickly to execute a sharp deceleration action (we see this right on the 35 yard line). This step serves as the penultimate step as he throws his opposite foot down hard to cut off of.

    It should be noted that those smaller statured RBs or WRs that I often feature here on the blog, will usually be able to get closer to their opponent in either 2nd or 3rd level movement problem solving (on a LB or DB) by maintaining more horizontal speed to the point of the cut because of their unique ability to control themselves along the space-time continuum more effectively in response to dynamically moving opponents (though Blount does a wonderful job here especially for a bigger dude).

    It should be noted that if you pause the highlight or go frame-by-frame through Blount organizing his movement solution dance from the 35 to the 37/38 yard line, you will see him even leaning to his right in a feinting action with his entire torso all the way up to his head in an attempt to fake and deceive the Charger DB. As he does this, it requires the DB to second guess to open up just enough time and space for Blount to go in the direction that he initially desired to (to his left). It wasn’t enough space that didn’t keep the Charger DB from getting his hands onto Blount and grasping at his right ankle. This gets Blount off-balance to the point where he has to bend at the waist and even briefly utilize the ground to re-gather himself and his balance.

    After doing this, there are now two more Charger DBs who have entered the party. Though it could be argued as to how willing they actually were in their participation based on what is about to go down. Blount perceives their presence to his left (whether he directly fixates his gaze on them at any point enough to know what they afford is doubtful…instead, he either sees them in his peripheral vision or just feels them in his space) and now attempts to deflect them as he desires to get back on his horse and back to acceleration. One of these defenders goes low and the other goes high (we call this in ecological dynamics, a “shared affordance”). Another right ankle tackle attempt at bringing down the big man is a half-hearted one and the Charger DB, rookie Desmond King, now is placed in a position where he is going to go for a ride on a 250lb horse! Blount reaches out a stiff-arm that due to the tight space allotted between he and the DB, didn’t come with the full magnitude of force that it could’ve (luckily for King).

    Blount pic 4

    The stiff-arm (i.e. pseudo grab) is initiated around the Philly 45 yard line and Blount continues on his linear path down the field with King draped over him to around the San Diego 45 yard line when Blount finally gets King off of him. It’s now that Blount shows surprisingly good re-acceleration efforts to gain ground from the smaller DB all while looking back behind him in case he must do something else to assist him in this cause. Blount veers gradually to his right side all while increasing separation from the pursuing Charger crew and eventually ending up near the sideline where the Chargers can finally get to use the boundary as another defender. Of course, King didn’t learn well-enough the first time the stiff-arm and ride was employed and the two partake in a similar dance commencing at the 20 yard line. This time the result is slightly different where Blount now says “enough is enough” and puts the Chargers rookie on his backside before being eventually brought down around the 5 yard line by additional help that was pursuing him from behind.

    Click below to watch the 2017 Beastmode play right here:

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-game-highlights%2F0ap3000000851091%2FChris-Thompson-takes-bubble-screen-74-YARDS-for-near-TD

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 7:23 pm on September 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    2017 Play of the Week – Week 3 

    Game: Raiders at Redskins

    Play: Chris Thompson breaking out in front of our eyes

    Thompson pic 3

    What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

    As usual, week 3 of the NFL season didn’t leave me short of choices regarding the League’s best. For starters, we had our week 1 top performer, rookie RB Tarik Cohen, with the near-walk-off winning run in overtime when he cut through the Steeler defense; if it wouldn’t have been called back for him having stepped out of bounds (or did he?!), I may actually be doing another write-up on him right now. We also had past All-Movement Team performer Odell Beckham, Jr, performing one of his now-routine circus catches that show us what true kinesthetic sense, awareness, and skill at the WR-position is all about. Finally, we saw TY Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts blaze past the Cleveland Browns en route to a long-hitting catch and run.

    When all was said and done though, it’s a 2017 breakout playmaker for the Washington Redskins, Chris Thompson, who is getting our recognition of being this week’s best of the best. They say that in the NFL stars shine brightest on Sunday nights and if that’s true, Chris Thompson is well on his way to doing what he did that evening more often as this season continues to play out after he amassed 188 all-purpose yards to assist his Redskins in overtaking an AFC top contender in the Oakland Raiders.

    What happened movement-wise on the play?

    The play begins with the game already late in the third quarter and the Redskins already up 14. Washington is on their own 14 yard line with a 3rd down and a long 19 yards to go. Quarterback Kirk Cousins accepts the shotgun snap with his feet between the 11 and 12 yard lines and with the large cushion between the Raider’s DB and Cousins’ new stud do-it-all RB/WR, he knows immediately where he is going with the football. Chris Thompson, #25, pops forward horizontally from his stance with one hard acceleration step and executes an angle slice to set himself up, straddling the 13 yard line, ready to receive the bubble screen pass from Cousins.

    Thompson receives the ball and immediately stares down two Raiders defenders who are already in pursuit. The visual perception gained from this stare down is important to the level of mastery displayed in this play and the organization of the skill execution as a whole as it allows Thompson, whether it’s more consciously or subconsciously occurring, to account for the amount of opponents present for him to deal with as he attempts to overcome the challenges of this respective problem.

    Once he takes in adequate information regarding these two defenders and he knows that their placement on the field affords him the time and space from them that they present little threat to him in the immediate future. He hits his acceleration pedal for the next 5ish yards which brings him past his fellow WR’s block being carried out on the 19 yard line. He uses this block as an affordance to shield himself from Bruce Irvin (#51 the Raider LB who Thompson just got done taking in the information from). His acceleration sequence here actually isn’t done in all-out fashion because in order for this play to pan out the way that it was drawn up and for Thompson to pick up the chunk of yardage needed, he also needed to allow the time for members of his offensive line to get downfield and pick up blocks on suspecting DBs at the 24-26 yard lines. And pick up blocks they did!

    At the 20 yard line, Thompson gathers his feet underneath his center of gravity and tighter within his base of support so he is able to execute a subtle crossover cut under adequate control (this cut takes place as he straddles over the 20 yard line). He takes a few transition steps (over short distance where the only intent is to prepare himself for subsequent dynamic movement patterns in acceleration coming up) to bypass some of the traffic and trash laid down by his OL. These transition steps allow him to, again under control, execute another subtle (meaning, not overly sharp or overly high force absorption) crossover cut on the 25 yard line.

    Once he hits the 25 yard line, it’s easy to see his sole intention now is to hit the gas pedal hard as he gets into full acceleration mode. This allows for the next 10 to 12 yards to be picked up in a hiccup! For all intent and purpose now, it’s essentially off to the races.

    Thompson pic 1

    Once Thompson gets past the first down marker and gets loose into the open field, we can see the importance of his kinesthetic sense & awareness as he attempts to continue to take in perceptual information (specifically visual sensory data) from his dynamically-changing surroundings in an attempt to ensure that he is not going to be caught from behind. We also get to see the next 40 yards go flying past for Thompson is one of the rare instances where a player on an elite football field will get to show where pure linear speed work plays this massive of a role into the success of a player’s execution on a play. Even with this crisp and clean linear speed mechanics/technical model that Thompson has on display here, notice he’s still always taking in the perceptual information from his environment (which, in my opinion, isn’t required enough during most activities geared towards speed training).

    Oakland Raiders v Washington Redskins

    Of course, typically guys of Thompson’s anthropometric features/stature (5’8” and 191lb; which often relate to incredible short distance acceleration burst and less top speed maintenance) combined with the movement solution that was required in this situation (he hit the gas pedal hard early; this will likely lead to less ultimate acute speed endurance ability), we see some things fizzle in the last 10 yards of the run of course after most of the damage had already been done. Thus, he was brought down by Raiders CB, David Amerson, after he had rattled off 74 yards and brought his team down to the 10 yard line.

    Click below to watch the new Washington playmaker doing his movement thing here:

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-game-highlights%2F0ap3000000851091%2FChris-Thompson-takes-bubble-screen-74-YARDS-for-near-TD

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 9:36 pm on September 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    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 10:51 pm on September 12, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    2017 Play of the Week – Week 1 

    Game: Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears

    Play: Cohen makes good on his nickname

    Cohen pic 4

    What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

    Here we are again! Oh sweet Movement Play of the Week breakdown & analysis, how I have missed you! It’s hard to believe that we are now on our fifth season of highlighting the play (sometimes plays) that I feel represents the league’s best for that week from a movement skill performance point of view.

    With every year that passes by, I am glad to say that this never gets old. Nothing excites me quite like watching elite athletes problem solving with their movement, under the sometimes unfathomably complex, pressure & anxiety-filled contextual demands that the NFL represents.

    On that note, one of the great things about the NFL is that on any given Sunday (or Thursday or Monday night), we can find literally dozens of plays where I feel as though extraordinary motor behavior lived & breathed. Note: This abundance of movement skill displayed exists in spite of the truth that I’ve stated here on this blog before…movement skill in the NFL could stand to get even better given the nature of the athletes within it and the lack of quality of the practice methods sometimes prescribed.

    But enough soapbox time for me! It’s time to recognize the real star of the show in Week 1 of the 2017 campaign and break down what allowed him to do what he did! Like any other week, this week’s recipient received stiff competition from the likes of Antonio Brown splitting the Browns defense & slashing through them in his normal, skillful way. I will say, AB84 doing what he did on that play (even though it is the Browns as the opponent), executing multiple precisely timed, sharp deceleration actions at high speeds is usually enough to get the nod.

    However, there was another movement performance that reigned in higher supreme, the execution of a rookie RB who I think we all will be seeing plenty of highlights of this season. No; it wasn’t Christian McCaffrey, Leonard Fournette, or Dalvin Cook. Shoot, if not one of them, then it had to be Kareem Hunt or Joe Mixon, right? Wrong again. The performance was that of a guy that most haven’t heard of but they know who he is now; Tarik Cohen of the Chicago Bears. I mean c’mon…the guy has the nickname “The Human Joystick” so how could I not love him?! Besides, showing out and solving problems on an NFL field in one’s very first regular season outing is impressive in and of itself! To do it facing the defending Conference Champions with a whole host of worthy movers on the other side; even more impressive!

    What happened movement-wise on the play?

    While you don’t get the nickname, “The Human Joystick” by not having supreme agility skills, you also don’t become an unknown if you are playing college football at a powerhouse. Hence the reason it’s likely that many out there have never heard of Tarik Cohen. The 5’6”, 181lb (how could I not love this guy?) back is out of North Carolina A&T where he played four record-breaking seasons. It was actually because of this that I first got to hear of Cohen when I got an opportunity to watch him do his thing in a game last season versus Kent State where he evaded the tackles of what felt like all 11 defenders multiple times on one single play (he ran for 250+ yards that day, I believe). After that game, I actually went and watched some of the highlights from the previous three seasons and I was very impressed.

    However, with watching how he achieved many of those performances (even with the bias of the fond appreciation of agile movers that I hold deep in my heart), I couldn’t help but question how much his skill set would transfer to the game at the next level, the NFL, this season. The game is just a tad faster after all (insert sarcasm). Well, even though he’s featured here this week from the first regular season game of his NFL career, it will still take a whole season to determine what gaps may exist in his movement toolbox (as teams begin to get more film on him, become familiar with how he moves, how he adapts under more complex/diverse problems in the NFL, etc) and how successful he can be over the long haul. It’s a story with a movement riddle that I, for one, will be following closely all season.

    But onto giving credit where credit is due…Tarik torched the Falcons and left their defenders with their heads turning and eyes buzzing…living up to his nickname. I could’ve picked a few plays from Sunday to illustrate but the one that I did pick came in the 2nd quarter, 3:55 to go, on 2nd & 7 from the Bears’ 28 yard line.

    Cohen is the lone deep back lined up 6 yards behind QB, Mike Glennon, who’s under center. Glennon takes the snap and tosses the ball wide to the strong side moving Cohen. The flow of the very athletically-stacked Falcon defense follows. The ball is pitched a tad high which actually probably is a blessing in that Cohen, though most definitely fixated on the primary task of first receiving the ball, gets an opportunity to allow his peripheral vision to briefly take in information regarding the pursuit of Falcons DE, #50, Brooks Reed, which will later be really useful information to be aware of.

    Cohen continues running nearly completely lateral to his left, only progressing vertically up the field by around one yard. This perspective keeps him 5 to 7 yards behind his offensive line at all times and in perceptual awareness on any potential holes & gaps in the defense that could have potentially opened up (i.e. to no avail). This distance is a likely an optimal one (a topic I have been exploring & investigating more of lately) which allows Cohen’s visual system a wide enough of a perspective to understand what potential opportunities for action exist (aka affordances for action). It’s also enough for him to know for certain, that due to the lack of a hole being where it was supposed to be, he must abandon ship on the tactical strategy and do what he (and other great movers) does best; adapt!

    Knowing that the last information that he likely gathered on Reed was that he was coming in hot behind him with a head of steam, Cohen decides to use this to his advantage. When he is approaching the numbers, still running at between the 21 and 22 yard line, he elects to come to a screeching halt and throws down the breaks into an angular deceleration stop which will create an efficient & effective technical opportunity to completely change direction.

    From this deceleration to cutting pattern, guys really have three options for reacceleration in the cut; 1). Transition into a few shuffle steps which will open up further movement options & directions. 2). Crossover off the left foot with the left leg traveling across the body (not a bad choice giving Cohen’s low COM). 3). Execute a rapid, power jab step with the right foot. Cohen elects to go with the 3rd option here. This is one which keeps his movement options open (which was the best feature and accomplishes the objective that hitting a few transition steps would have) just in case Reed wasn’t far enough to Cohen’s left in his pursuit.

    When he’s in middle of executing his power jab step (it’s in its pattern striking back & away from the flexed position and prior to touching the ground), you can see his visual gaze fixate on Reed and the other two Falcon defenders who have joined the pursuit party in the backfield. Though NFL players possess much more diverse movement toolboxes than those that Cohen faced at NC A&T, Cohen still believes he has them right where he wants them (and he’s right!). Reed’s momentum has him moving too quickly to completely control his own deceleration action and transition to close the distance enough to tackle Cohen or slow him down enough to allow his Linebacking buddies to do so. Honestly, Reed does a much better job here in this action than most defensive ends will (even the super athletically-gifted ones in the League); he forces Cohen to take several hockey-striding steps to get out of his outstretched arms which causes Cohen to actually lose ground at the immediate moment but gain ground when it comes to solving the movement problem!

    Cohen pic 3

    After Cohen fully bypasses Reed, he has enough kinesthetic sense & awareness to realize that the distance & spacing between he and the other Falcons defender in the backfield are not a match with their action capabilities so he moves to solving the next problem that lies in front of him (i.e. where his path should continue to and what lies ahead in the landscape). Cohen, still only on the 22 yard line but on the right hash now, is in full acceleration mode which, over short distances, is extraordinary based on the physical constraints he operates within (in a nutshell; powerful build on a shorter frame). Because of this, he covers the next 8 yards in a hurry all while processing the surrounding layout of his guys versus the Falcons defenders.

    At around the 25 yard line, all the way to the 29 yard line, Cohen utilizes the blocking efforts of his quarterback in the open field to give himself the option to go either direction (to the left of Glennon back into the teeth of the defense or to the right of Glennon to head towards the sideline) once the time calls for it. This time comes at the 30 yard line when an adequate gap has opened up AND when the Joystick has built up too much speed for the problem that has unfolded in front of him. The left crossover cut that changes his directional angle may look very subtle here and easy to control…but don’t let Cohen’s execution fool you! This cut, at the type of speeds that Cohen was already traveling, is NOT easy to control or handle the loading forces on…but of course, Cohen does so with great effectiveness; so much so that he loses very little speed and is able to stay in full acceleration mode to move through the created gap.

    Cohen pic 2

    As he passes Glennon (who has more than adequately fulfilled his blocking duties), the CB that the QB was blocking, Desmond Trufant, will now enter the problem and become another attempting tackler from behind Cohen who has a full head of linear speed steam now. In fact, Trufant, #21 (wait; they even allow a Falcon CB to wear Deion’s number?!) would be the one to ultimately bring him down after LB, Deion Jones, is able slow him down and knock him off his path ever so slightly but not bring him to the ground. This point where Trufant succeeds doesn’t come until Cohen is past the Falcon’s 30 yard line and has amassed 46 exciting yards.

    Of course, what we see throughout this play that makes it so damn special is true reactive agility. Sure; there are supremely crisp cutting patterns displayed (the angular power cut and the crossover cut) but it’s the perception-action coupling that makes this play extraordinary along with the functional adaptation that this young rookie (regardless of what his nickname is) stayed calm in control of its execution of.

    You can watch the Joystick doing his thing here:

    http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-cant-miss-plays%2F0ap3000000841590%2FCan-t-Miss-Play-Tarik-Cohen-finds-open-field-and-rushes-for-46-yards

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 3:23 pm on August 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags:   

    2017 Movers to Watch 

    The NFL regular season is almost FINALLY upon us! With this new season come rejuvenated hopes with every team starting back at 0-0 and, of course, so many movement skills to be showcased by the select players across the League that have gone out and put in the work to polish their craft to become the best of the best.

    Like with the team records within the League standings, our All-Movement Team also starts over fresh & brand new. But with 512 regular season games and 1,696 active players across the 32 NFL rosters to watch, even I need a starting point. And beyond our perennial favorites to make the team such as Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Von Miller, and our reigning Mover of the Year, David Johnson, I also come up with a list of movers to watch at the beginning of each year so I can get a head-start on my movement analysis.

    This year, I elected to let you all in on my thought processes as they revolve around this list highlighted by a few key guys so you can follow-along and see if their movement prowess takes up where last season or this year’s preseason left off. Some of the guys on this list will be surprising…others yet, probably not-so-surprising.

    Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings

    NFL: Preseason-San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings

    I’m gonna start off with a really easy one for me; a guy that I have gotten to see grow & evolve his game over the last number of years since he arrived in the League right down the road from me in Minnesota, Stefon Diggs (disclaimer: I do not work with Stefon in any way). Last year he was the first guy mentioned on our Third Team of our end of the year rendition of the best of the best at each position and I expect even further movement skill refinement from him this year. Still having a bit of a chip on his shoulder since he was introduced into the League three years ago (this chip has worked out positively for his impact on games), he’s always been blessed with short distance burst and some really tight & sharp change-of-direction angles, the shifty WR took a step last year by gaining confidence to outcompete the higher level defensive backs in the League (practicing daily with guys like Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith probably helped this). Watching him through Training Camp in Mankato, MN, this year, I have every belief in the world that if he’s able to stay healthy, he is ready to become “that dude.” If Diggs is able to take the next step by being able to execute with the same level of movement mastery week-to-week, no matter the competition, while also being able to be a consistent producer throughout the entire course of the season, he will find himself making the jump from just getting a mention on our All-Movement Team to firmly holding down a spot on it.

    Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

    McCaffrey

    This is going to be a really interesting one to see unfold throughout the course of the season for numerous reasons. People across the League always have storylines to follow and this could very well be mine on this blog this year because I don’t think this will be the only time you see the name Christian McCaffrey mentioned on this site. Of course, McCaffrey’s on-field accolades are very well-known over the last few seasons at Stanford. Well, his inclusion into an offense that includes a past All-Movement Team member at QB, Cam Newton, along with a really dexterous & diverse movement toolbox, McCaffrey is EASILY our early favorite to be our Rookie Mover of the Year in 2017. Being assisted and supported in his athletic performance process from a very early age by my good friend, Loren Landow out of Denver, CO, we now see a player who is a skilled and extraordinarily efficient mover in all planes of motions and across a wide variety of movement patterns. If McCaffrey is able to take the next step by being able to make the jump in problem solving from the temporal & spatial organization of movement problems found in the PAC-12 to doing it every week under the dynamically changing conditions of an NFL Sunday, we will get an opportunity to feature McCaffrey much more often here on our site.

    Tyreek Hill, KR/PR/WR, Kansas City Chiefs

    Hill

    This player, arguably, shouldn’t be on the list due to him being placed as our top rated punt returner in the League in just his rookie season last year. However, this isn’t a list of ‘surprise’ movers of watch…instead, it’s just the Movers to Watch…and it’s my blog so I will do what I want to anyway. And on that note, there isn’t a player in the League that I am more excited to analyze the growth and evolution of his game than Hill. Besides past Movers of the Year, David Johnson (2016), Antonio Brown (2015), and Earl Thomas (2014), if there were a list with odds on the favorites to be named the Mover of the Year for 2017, it would surely have to contain Tyreek Hill. Last year Hill was among my very favorite players to watch at any position for his exciting, game-breaking capabilities from anywhere on the field which stem from really unique perception-action coupling…being one of the very fastest players on any football field doesn’t usually hurt either. If Hill is able to take the next step by becoming more masterful in all contexts of the problems found within the tasks that he is asked to perform (namely at the WR position) to go along with his exceptional game-breaking return ability, Hill could very well make good on that favorites to come out victorious and knock out those previous Movers of the Year.

    Olivier Vernon, DE/LB, New York Giants

    Vernon

    One half of the pass rushing dynamic duo in New York (along with DE, Jason Pierre-Paul), Olivier Vernon is a treat to watch in all facets of the game. I have gotten the opportunity to really focus in on him over the preseason and even though 1) it’s been over limited snaps b/c it’s preseason and 2) I’ve always appreciated the well-rounded nature of his game over the past few seasons, I have come out of the preseason myself ready to watch him run all over the field and wreck havoc in the intentions of every offensive player around him in the process when the coin is tossed on the 2017 regular season. Luckily for Vernon, he gets a chance to showcase his skills nicely in the Giant’s defensive schemes because he becomes a moving chess piece asked to do a ton for their defense. If Vernon is able to make even more impact (of course, due to the other really masterfully moving players at his position such as Von Miller and Khalil Mack) in all facets of the game, he can be someone who takes the leap from relatively unknown to some to recognition for all as one of the most masterful doing it.

    More to watch…

    Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons

    Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

    Taylor Gabriel, WR, Atlanta Falcons

    Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins

    Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants

    Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings

    Jamie Collins, DE/LB, Cleveland Browns

    Ryan Shazier, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Reuben Foster, LB, San Francisco 49ers

    Josh Norman, CB, Washington Redskins

    Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs

    Jamal Adams, S, New York Jets

     


     
  • Shawn Myszka 11:58 pm on August 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags:   

    A Movement Coach in the NFL: If not now…when?! 

    In August of 2013, on this very blog site, I asked the question, “Who is in charge of movement?” This figurative proposition was not to be taken literal (i.e. I don’t really propose that there be a coach ‘literally’ in charge of the athlete’s movement solutions per se) but stood as a call to action on something I had been asking myself for sometime whenever I visited NFL training camps and practices, alike.

    This initial lobbying article from 2013 can be found here:

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/who-is-in-charge-of-movement/

    After a bunch of emails and a whole host of tweets challenging the idea, I found myself a year later elaborating on the topic even further when I shared my thoughts explaining exactly why I felt a Movement Coach is needed, what exactly he/she would be entrusted with doing, and how said Movement Coach could work with other professionals within the respective organization in order to more fully optimize the movement skills that players are organizing on NFL Sundays.

    This 2-part article from 2014 can be found here:

    Part 1: https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/why-every-nfl-team-needs-a-movement-coach-part-1/

    Part 2: https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/why-every-nfl-team-needs-a-movement-coach-part-2/

    Now, three years later, here we go again…as you probably realize; the NFL has yet to see the light on my Movement Coach concept.

    Over this time, and in any moments on any platform I am afforded the opportunity to do so, I can be found ranting and raving about this subject, this need, and this personal crusade of mine (just take a listen into nearly any podcast interview I give).

    Furthermore, several NFL teams have kicked the can down the road on the potential of this idea by interviewing me to launch such a role within their organization only to be too gun shy to actually pull the trigger when it comes down to it.

    Finally, this past spring & summer I was blessed to cross paths with an NFL writer (he was employed with ESPN at the time) who was intrigued enough about NFL player training being geared around movement skill acquisition/refinement that he decided to follow me around for a number of days and release both a video and written segment on the training methods we employ.

    http://www.espn.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/240664/movement-miyagi-believes-nfl-should-think-differently-about-preparing-players

    Thus, things ARE evolving and we ARE getting closer; I do believe that it’s still only a matter of time until it finally happens (“it” being a Movement Coach role on an NFL team).

    Until then though, where do we currently sit?

    The Big Ask(s)

    Are our players maximizing & optimizing their movement skill when & where it counts on the field?

    Are our players, especially those who are performing at the highest levels within the League, doing so because of the practice methods employed or are they doing so in spite of the methods?

    Are our practice strategies really serving to create more masterful movers?

    You probably know my answer to these questions. In fact, all you would have to do is read my 2016 state of the union address on the current status of movement mastery in the NFL to get a better idea on where I stand with these issues.

    https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2016/02/06/the-current-state-of-movement-mastery-in-the-nfl/

    It’s true but unfortunate; I still get staffers in the league (GM’s, Position Coaches, S&C Coaches, Athletic Trainers, other decision makers, etc) who believes:

    • A Movement Coach would never pan out and/or have the type of impact I am suggesting that he/she would
    • They are already doing everything I am suggesting of the role (yet, any position coaches who watch my sessions understand quickly that they are not) and/or it’s just not feasible to fill in the gaps that do exist
    • The current model has created highly masterful and skill players across positions (yet how can someone overlook the injury incidence in the league or the way-too-short tenure of the average NFL player?)
    • “But this is the way we have always done it” (if you fit in this camp I can’t help you)

    It hasn’t been an easy road to get people to see that more can be done to develop more masterful movers for our sport. Additionally, it will likely continue to be an uphill battle to get some of these movement skill acquisition ideas to more commonly infiltrate the NFL performance landscape. I hate to say it but unfortunately it could also be more difficult yet to get someone in the NFL…anyone with any decision-making power…to finally take the chance on a Movement Coach (but I won’t rest until precisely this happens).

    So, that all said, if a Movement Coach were actually hired in the NFL today in 2017, knowing what I do now (based on three additional years of experience since the last blog on the topic) on top of the directional suggestions I’ve made in the past throughout the articles listed above, what else would I want to see added to the role? That topic is my objective with today’s blog: to speak about what else I feel a Movement Coach can do in order to succeed at the highest of levels when one is hired so his/her impact is felt directly out on the field (my vision is that the whole thing goes from one Movement Coach to 32 Movement Coaches!).

    The Movement Coach – 2017 version

    In 2008, through the shortcomings of the training & preparation that I was directing and the lack of transfer I was witnessing with my players, I came to the realization that what nearly all NFL players needed wasn’t necessarily more specialized physical preparation, but instead an approach that would be more centered on movement efficiency. This would be my first real epiphany moment in my philosophies towards developing NFL players.

    In 2013 & 2014, I had another major reality check that morphed into my second epiphany and has led to the constant evolution of the approach I currently take. Though I already owned texts by experts the likes of Bernstein, Newell, Gibson, and other theorists in Ecological Dynamics, Dynamical Systems, and Constraints-Led Approach, I wasn’t giving them the credit that they deserve and until I stopped wading in the shallow waters and instead dove in deep to really peel back the theoretical layers into one that I could apply in my players’ training, I was leaving too much to chance and attempting to be “too perfect” in both the practice utilized/aimed at enhanced movement ‘skill’ (which I probably now more accurately label as ‘technique’ in my current viewpoint) as well as the execution of the skill itself.  My ideas towards what constitutes perfect practice have now drastically changed and with it so too have my players realized enhanced game transfer to NFL Sundays from the training that they perform.

    Honestly, when I wrote my 2014 stance on the Movement Coach I was probably still too much in a mindset focused on biomechanical analysis for improved technical execution of common sport movement patterns. I still believe that there is a need for this emphasis in NFL players and that the Movement Coach can certainly be well-served to focus some time & energy in this area.

    However, even though mastery in movement skill contains a major element of technical efficiency in movement and the ability to combine movement patterns in sequence, it is equally (if not more so) distinguished by the athlete’s ability to adapt in the ever-changing environments of sport…to utilize the right technique, executed in the right way, at the right time, in the right sequence, and in response to the right problem (this to the 2017 version of me is essentially representative of ‘skill’).

    barry-decel

    Simply put, to be an elite mover in the NFL, one must be an elite problem solver with his movement. Thus, the objectives of the Movement Coach in the NFL must also reflect this more than I let on in my original writings on the subject.

    As Movement Coaches, we must strive to find ways to create masterful moving players who have diverse/dexterous movement toolboxes so that they able to match the appropriate solution to the peculiar problem at-hand (a constantly changing task problem) under the stressors placed upon him based on the constraints of the game (chaos, pressure, anxiety, fatigue, etc). Therefore, though we are attempting to make the technical execution of the motor actions/movement patterns involved more stable (occurring more efficiently), we are also attempting to attune the sensory system to the perceptual information available to better formulate sound decision making which will allow optimal (rather than perfect) biomechanics to emerge.

    That’s a mouthful I realize. However, generally-speaking, the path to doing this is led through:

    1. Investigating movement problems/solutions in situ with a finer toothed comb at an individual level.

    We must attempt to understand the movement problems that our athletes face (during the realities of the game) in more detail before we can determine key factors towards the optimal movement solutions that exist for them. When we analyze these movement solutions we must look deeper than the biomechanics that reside at the tail-end of the solution and instead determine how the player is formulating the solution earlier in the process (i.e. with most football-oriented scenarios I am speaking here regarding the perceptual-cognitive skills of the player). The coordination of this solution is what I typically label the biodynamic structure of the movement skill and will be an integration of the following at a multi-level of the human movement system:

    • Behaviors/perception
    • Brain/intention
    • Biomechanics/action
    1. Designing practice tasks which are representative learning activities (with the inclusion of more ‘repetition without repetition’).

    Once we armed with greater understanding regarding how movement behavior actually unfolds on a football field (the biodynamic structure of the movement skill) we can finally determine best practices towards its evolution. We may be able to make more than minor modifications to the typically-performed practice tasks which many coaches implement. Because many coaches often become married to the drills that they utilize in practice, this may take some major convincing at times especially with Position Coaches. If all was right with the world, the rote repetition that liters NFL individual position group time would be gone and instead we would be helping to facilitate the use of more constraint-led activities which can be progressed through manipulations in the problem to solve. Even though I would love to scrap most of the “drills” that Position Coaches use on a frequent basis, the better place to start may be to simply educate them as to how their beloved drills could be tweaked little-by-little to allow for more:

    • Unpredictable, perceptually-driven AND cognitively-demanding problems (i.e. the movement action should be attached to information that needs to be perceived AND decisions to be made would be included in nearly all practice tasks)
    • Opportunities to perform under increases in pressure, anxiety, and mental fatigue
    • Differential learning activities (i.e. did someone say ‘repetition without repetition’?!) that look, feel, & act more like sport problems to require solutions which are more variable to be adapted to match the changes in those problems (and even if the movement solution execution at times appears more messy)
    • Authentic, emergent movement solutions player to player (and even if these solutions are not repeated in the exact same fashion every time…I mean, never-mind the fact that no two problems in sport are ever the same either)
    1. Leading a clearer communication & guidance message

    If mastery in movement skill is ever to be achieved, we must help facilitate this through the most optimal means of communication & guidance (via our instructions & feedback). The last thing we want is an over-thinking player (i.e. typically too slow to solve the problems within the time they have allotted to them during game movement) and/or a player who is dependent on the coach for guidance regarding how to properly execute a respective movement task. Unfortunately, both of these are commonplace in today’s NFL and coaches/staff of all sorts are to blame for it.

    One key role of the Movement Coach would be to educate & inform others within the organization on how to be more purposeful with our common instructional methods and feedback offered towards players in regards to their motor performance and learning. Many times Position Coaches and Strength & Conditioning Coaches alike are unaware of the potential damage that their communication could have on the movement behaviors that emerge acutely as well as over the long haul (whether the communication is; incorrect, too explicit, too vague, not resonating because of lack of relation to the athlete, or any host of other dilemmas).

    All in all, as mentioned in the ’14 edition of this blog post, this global path characterized by the three newly discussed objectives along with the others presented in my previously published thoughts on the matter will certainly be accomplished as a team effort with other professionals in the organization working together hand-in-hand (Position Coaches, Sport Scientists, S&C Coaches, Athletic Trainers, Medical Staff). However, because of the focus, experience, education, and skill of the Movement Coach, it’s likely that he/she will likely be the one who must unify the thought processes oriented around this path to accomplish the above objectives.

    Conclusion

    I stand so encouraged with how many more people across the world are adopting thoughts & ideas geared towards improving movement skill for athletes of all levels. I also stand encouraged in belief that it’s only a matter of time until someone acknowledges not only the gaps in movement skill in the NFL but also begins to realize that something more out of the current status quo can be done to fill in those gaps. Thus, I believe now more than ever, it’s only a matter of time until an individual occupies the role of the Movement Coach on an NFL team…and when this happens, the NFL will forever be changed.


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

    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!

     


     
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