Being that I will be at NFL Training Camps nearly every day, I want to take a few moments each day to break down a new player or two that I am relatively unfamiliar with (i.e. a guy that I haven’t worked with before). So in addition to the time that I am spending there analyzing my own players I am going to put out some content including insight regarding what types of things I am see popping out at first glance with some of these other guys.
It should be noted that most of the time I would extensively dissect player’s movement during game analysis which would include frame-by-frame breakdown to truly get an idea of what’s happening when he moves. Thus, I am going to likely miss a lot with these very brief evaluations based on my visual analysis of the guy playing live. Obviously, with the extent of detail that I usually go into with analysis of a player’s strengths and weaknesses, if I was doing this in preparation for working with the guy I would take the time to watch an extensive amount of game-film to see him play in multiple situations. This will be a limitation during camp practices as there are only so many plays that you get a chance to see from each guy.
Sticking with the precedence I set yesterday, I decided to go today with Vikings stud OLB, Chad Greenway. Being that Greenway has either led the league in tackles or at least been near the top of that list for the last number of years, he is a likely candidate on this team to breakdown. You are probably thinking to yourself right now that because of this fact (his statistical production) he should be an easy analysis. However, as I have found out during my time working with, developing, preparing, and analyzing NFL players, just because a guy produces at a high level (usually shown to most by the statistics), doesn’t mean they: A). Do not possess weaknesses in their specific motor potential and/or technical proficiency of movement. B). Can not actually be better than what they currently are. Long story short: sometimes players make plays in spite of how optimally they are moving.
It’s because of this belief that I feel as though we must commit ourselves to truly go ‘beyond the stats’ to understand how much more they could actually improve. In fact, even with the best players at every position across the league (Greenway fits this bill at OLB) I find that there are still countless areas for that the player could improve themselves in. This happens because of the limitations in our approach to development at the higher levels of qualification (i.e. the level that the athlete plays at) in American football. Here in this country we are still chasing most aspects of general physical preparedness and work capacity. Our training means and methods are directed to the acquisition of furthering our general motor abilities and not necessarily as specific or intensive as we need them to be in order to raise our specialization to allow on-field movement perfection to occur. Anyway, I should get off my soapbox now and actually move on to giving a quick breakdown on #52.
When watching my guys, Chad Greenway has always routinely showed up in the play on the film. Of course, some of this is because of his position on the field and the scheme the Vikings operate within, but without a doubt some of this has to be credited to his overall athleticism, instincts, and tactical skill-set, as well. He has been an absolute tackling machine. In my years analyzing my own Viking players I have never really taken the time to breakdown, qualify, and quantify how Greenway’s on-field movement really was. He is probably as quietly consistent as an athlete can be. He would be busy making plays; but the flash was never really there for him to jump out of the film and require me to give a greater look simply because he wasn’t necessarily doing such special things athletically on the field like some other guys in the league that aren’t my athletes but I analyze anyway (such as Clay Matthews, Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman, etc).
Many of his peers who are my athletes though routinely talk about not only his consistency but the fact that they often see him show and shine in practice in very athletic ways. Thus, I was anxious going into camp practice knowing that I was going to take a little closer glimpse into what 52’s movement was all about. After watching him, I left pleasantly surprised and not at all disappointed. Yet I still wasn’t ‘wowed’ necessarily by anything he did in his movement on the field. Harsh, I know…but true. Athletically, he represents a paradigm that he is tactically and statistically…he is, in a word, consistent. This isn’t a bad thing by any means. To start, he is usually in the right place, at the right time, which is a testament to his football IQ. This obviously helps the display of the movement as well. Thus, one could say that his movement is actually technically more efficient than I am giving him credit for…cuz he isn’t required to make many of those “wow” plays simply because his body is in position to make the routine ones.
He assumes a very powerful position in his stance both when starting stationary as well as when resetting pre-snap after slow preliminary movement has taken place (both of which shouldn’t be something to note but you would be surprised how few linebackers actually do this!). He is athletic enough (yes; I realize I am saying this about a Pro Bowl Linebacker) to make the plays he needs to. When he attempts to accelerates out of the positions mentioned earlier it would appear that both knees display a great deal of valgus collapse upon force absorption (note: I believe Chad had knee surgery in his rookie season). This same energy escape happens when he is moving one direction linearly, has to plant in a lateral fashion, and change direction and re-accelerate at any angle. He also has a tendency to step/stride a little too long in his initial steps in acceleration patterns where he tries to cover too much distance with each step. This results in his center of mass getting too high for no given technical or tactical reason (i.e. he should stay lower when he commits to acceleration in a given direction, drive his foot behind him more in his first 3 steps to create a greater line of force).
When plays are occurring at slower tempos, and he has to change direction, he has the opportunity to set up a lower stopping and re-starting position so he is able to power out of any breaks/changes of direction. However, when the tempo increases he begins to rely on his feet being closer together to stop which then translates to a higher position to re-accelerate from so his only choice then is to crossover. Thankfully, due to his stature (I want to say he’s about 6’0” tall), he can still be pretty explosive in this crossover action. If he were a taller linebacker then this crossover position would become less efficient, more taxing, and actually more risking of injury to his knees. That all said, if I was working with him, I would experiment extensively with a sit/dip/drive type re-direction stopping and re-starting action to see if it would help him get to his points on the field more quickly. I speculate that it would help considerably by being lower and quicker in/out of those actions.
My analysis is obviously rather limited because it was based on really only 2 days of camp practice. In addition, many of the starters (especially the studs on each team) are given only limited reps at this point in camp. I should also note that on both of those days the defensive units were operating in their individual and install work 2 field-widths away from me. Because of this all of my analysis and evaluation was done during 7-on-7 and live team sequences (this occurred right in front of me). That all said, I am positive that there would be much more that would pop out if I was given the opportunity to watch him on film more extensively in game situations. I look forward to doing just that as I watch my other guys in purple this coming season. Till then, #52 will likely continue to do more of the same; be consistent…all while making a tackle or 14 per game. Ha!
I will be attending the Green Bay Packers training camp for the next day or two and my initial plan is to do a quick run-down of what I see from the movement of both of their newcomers to the RB position, Clay Matthews, and Randall Cobb.