Breaking Down the Cutting Actions of RBs; Part 2

Today, my plan is to expand some of the thoughts I shared in my last blog and discuss the different cutting actions that I commonly see being executed by the game’s best backs while highlighting some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Cutting Variation #1 – The Crossover

Barry crossover 2

Because of the speed of the game, the crossover cut is the one that is employed most often not only for RBs but all over the field at several positions. Though executed very quickly, the crossover can place the athlete at greater risk at times (as it will be discussed in below).

The crossover is executed when the athlete is running linearly (i.e. straight-ahead) and has to make a less sharp change of direction in either way (usually about 45 degrees from the direction he was traveling) and the athlete elects to utilize the inside, decelerating foot to double as his plant foot to where he will then rotate his COG over the top of it and take him in the direction that the plant foot resides.

The crossover is executed most often for NFL players because it is the one that they grew up executing most frequently. This occurred not only because many of our football-specific drills will be conducive to its development but many players were also better than their opponents at each level of qualification they played at so they could easily stop on a dime in this fashion and quickly make someone else look silly.

In the open field, the crossover is arguably the fastest because a RB can maintain great speed coming into the plant as well as out of it because of the higher positions found during the entire movement pattern. If the athlete possess the physical qualities and technical mastery to adequately perform it, its execution will leave the opponent often still well into his deceleration/breaking down action when the running back will already be into his reacceleration phase.

A high COG position is typically found during the crossover cut which results in additional torque action occurring when someone rotates/shifts over a foot that is firmly planted in the ground and can put the integrity of the knee joint at higher risks of injury. As an athlete’s center of gravity gets higher…either because of their natural height or because the degree of knee flexion they employ in the cut…this additional stress increases, as well. This is why when I have a running back come to me who has had previous knee integrity issues and/or if the athlete is over 6 feet tall (this is give-or-take as my arbitrary cut-off point that I have found to be the tipping point) I will try to eliminate its use on-field and instead try to use a power or speed cut in its place.

Examples in the League:
Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster

NFL: DEC 13 Bills at Chiefs

Foster crossover reacce

Cutting Variation #2 – The Power Cut

Barry decel

A power cut is used when an athlete rapidly lowers himself onto a plant leg that is on the outside of the direction he wishes to go (i.e. the opposite direction). This allows him to get into a more powerful coiled position and take advantage of the storage of the energy on this downward action.
Depending on the reacceleration directional angle that the athlete wishes to go, a variation of the power cut can be used in many of the single-leg lateral cuts that occur in some of the zone blocking schemes being used today in the league. Typically guys who possess a naturally lower center of gravity are most accustomed to utilizing this type of cutting movement action. This is because they are able to more easily widen their base of support and get to deeper ranges of motion while not bending at their waist in order to get lower. It’s also why guys who use this style most frequently are more heavily muscled through their quadriceps and/or glutes.

A power cut places many more large muscle groups on stretch during the plant phase and thus can greatly enhance the force exertion coming back out into reacceleration (hence the term ‘power cut’). Because most power cutting actions place the feet more squared in comparison to not only one’s opponent but also to the direction you were originally traveling, you can literally go in any direction out of your stopping cutting action. In addition, one can usually place the outside plant foot at further distances away from the vertical line of force and thus more extreme angles of that leg can be found compared to the other variations of cuts which results in a more optimal line of force in the reacceleration phase.

Guys who have higher centers of gravity (i.e. the lucky taller guys of the world) will sometimes have a difficult time taking their bodies through the lengthened range of motion used in a properly executed power cutting action. If they force this issue, they will start to lose balance and stability and quickly find themselves wanting to resort back to other cutting behaviors.

Examples in the League:
Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew

Ray Rice lateral cut

MJD power cut

Cutting Variation #3 – The Speed Cut

Barry speed cut

The speed cut is basically a modified power cut performed with less width between the feet and less range of motion/depth at both the hips & knees. The reacceleration force vector & body angle remain more vertical and the center of gravity remains higher during the planting action. Thus, as its name would imply, it takes place much more quickly than the traditional power cut being executed on the field though it can look similar to its counterpart on the surface. Depending on one’s speed coming in, guys can have a wide range of movement freedom/radius for reacceleration (which makes it more advisable than the crossover cut at high movement speeds).

At its name would imply the speed cut can occur very rapidly with very little loss in speed. In addition, it is sometimes easier to use than a deeper/wider power cut but will give one a great balance between its sister action (i.e. the power cut) and a crossover cut. It’s also safer than a crossover for guys who have higher center of gravity (because the body doesn’t have to shift over the knee while it’s planted in a higher knee angle and more compromising position).

If the athlete has not developed tremendous eccentric force absorption ability it makes it very unrealistic to expect to use the speed cut efficiently. This is because of the high movement velocities into the cut won’t be able to be controlled because of the position and the energy will actually dissipate/leak sometimes making the cut actually take longer.

Examples in the League:
LeSean McCoy, Percy Harvin

McCoy cut 1

Percy stop on crazy Titans run

Cutting Variation #4 – The Jump Cut

Barry far plant 2

The jump cut is practiced a lot in football-specific circles. In reality, it really isn’t used that frequently out on the field as it is both hard to master and the demands of the game don’t usually allow for it (at least at the higher levels of qualification). The jump cut occurs when a RB literally hops into their plant and their cut before also jumping out of it and into a position to reaccelerate in another direction. It can happen behind the line of scrimmage when a guy may be lunging into a back’s path or in the open field (much less frequently) when they have to get out of harm’s way quickly.

If you know where you want to go in reacceleration and when it’s executed correctly, the jump cut occurs very rapidly. It can get someone around traffic and back to reacceleration very quickly. In addition, it will allow someone to take full advantage of the body’s elastic stored energy and reactive ability (i.e. stretch-shortening cycle).

Like the speed cut, many athletes don’t possess the eccentric force absorption qualities to effectively execute this style of cut during game situations. Because of this, when they try to perform it, there is a great deal of energy dissipation and dampening at the joints of the kinetic chain (in this case the hip, knee, and ankle)…this makes reacceleration more reliant on concentric strength which is exactly what someone should be using this style of cut to combat.

Examples in the League:
Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch

AP cut 5

Lynch cut in training camp 13

Cutting Variation #5 – The Lunge Cut

Barry lunge reaccel

The lunge cut pattern is what happens when an athlete ends up with his braking foot under well in front of his vertical line of force and a stimulus in the environment requires him to make a quick directional change. It is typically used while between the tackles right after a back has gotten through the hole and is either still in tight spaces or has just reached the second level. The lunge cut seems to work more effectively for those backs that are neither overly small in stature nor overly tall…usually in the 5’10-5’11” range and are very stable and strong in unilateral patterns.

If an athlete has tremendous unilateral stability, mobility, and eccentric control, the lunge cut can be advantageous especially with the environmental demands witnessed at the higher levels of qualification (i.e. the NFL). The lunge cut can be used in very tight spaces to redirect one’s self and reaccelerate in any number of directions because a variety of reacceleration patterns can occur out of it.

When most athletes get in this type of position both in traffic and in open field they often get very long with their penultimate to plant step (i.e. second-to-last to the last steps). This usually happens because they are either out of control, are moving too fast into those steps, or that’s how they have been trained (note: think of the way that most people are out there training lunge patterns!).

Examples in the League:
Chris Johnson, Doug Martin

Johnson lunge cut 2

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Oakland Raiders


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