As part of something I want to do for the blog throughout the NFL season, I will be selecting one play each week where I felt as though special movement was displayed. In the post I will then breakdown some things that I felt contributed to the movement performance. In my normal fashion, I will also be very likely to make note of things that maybe could’ve been done differently, as well.
Game: Broncos at Giants
Play: Trindon Holliday lunge cutting Giants all over the field
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
The layperson watching football doesn’t typically understand or appreciate the overall difficulty of the act of fielding a punt let alone the physical demands it takes to bang off a return of big-time magnitude like this after getting the ball in your hands. On a kick or a punt, there are all kinds of violent nasty things occurring around the returner with 22 eyes of 11 defenders on that guy who would love nothing more than laying the lumber to him. This pure chaos greatly increases not only the cognitive and perceptual responses for that guy as he weaves his way through traffic, but it shows just what movement patterns are solidified for that returner under these rapid, fight-or-flight, motor actions that must occur. As I have alluded to on numerous occasions before, these types of conditions completely change the entire biodynamic structure of a movement pattern; kinetics, kinematics, and psycho-physiological demands are of the most extreme nature when movement is occurring like this.
What happened movement-wise on the play?
First, people should realize that Trindon Holliday is one of the very fastest players walking around a football field on Sundays. He ran a 10.07 100m in 2007 while he was still in college and this was only bested at that particular competition by Tyson Gay (at the ’07 USA Outdoor). He later ran a sub-10 second-100 in 2009. But this is NOT what gives him the ability to produce a rare, head-shaking play like this. Sure; he is blazing. But the thing that makes Holliday so impressive is not this sheer straight-line speed but it’s his ability to control his body in deceleration and place himself quickly into a reacceleration pattern so he can start covering ground again (which he does as well as anyone in the league…right up there with a guy like Chris Johnson). But this movement quality is truly what separates the typical guy with just track speed from the guys who have the ability to make a difference in football specific patterns. This stopping and restarting movement ability is what makes this play so incredible…not once…not twice…but three or four separate times (depending on how you’re counting)…he has to take himself from a full accelerative pattern to a rapid decelerative one and right back onto the gas pedal. His ability to control his body and remain stable in these cuts at this type of speed is certainly a sight to behold for anyone who knows a lick about football movement.
Speaking of cuts, if you haven’t yet taken a peek at my last blog post about the cutting action of running backs, you should probably do so now because I think you will clearly be able to see what I was talking about when you watch this Holliday play. At the 23 yard line, Holliday executes a textbook 1-leg lateral speed cut. He doesn’t get his outside plant foot too far away from his center of gravity but yet far enough to give him the leverage to get an aggressive push down into the ground and spring out of it while ahead of his defenders and also setting up the rest of the plays in front of him.
Once he gets to around the 27 yard line he finds himself in a crossover-lunge hybrid cut with a higher center of mass position with his feet spread in less distance horizontally than a traditional lunge cutting action. This was probably the most mediocre piece of this punt return movement puzzle. However, at the 33-34 yard line, he lays down one of the nastiest textbook lunge cuts that you will see on a football field all season long at any level. If you are able to pause it while he’s in this lunge position you will see an extremely optimal execution of this very difficult cutting style (unfortunately, due to the NFL film restrictions I can’t modify any of the film in a video analysis way to show you exactly what I am seeing). If you watch in real-time you will likely have to replay it several times to catch the true artistry of the angles he attains in it. Out of the cut, he covers ground very quickly to take himself to the 47 yard line where he finds himself making the last real deceleration phase of the play and a very brief rapid speed cut to navigate him through the small crease between the defenders that stood between him and pay-dirt. Let me say this; very, very few players would have this reacceleration ability to get through these tight spaces and not get completely laid out.
At the Giants 40 yard line he eludes the last defender who had a shot (it was the punter who never really stood a chance) and it was off to the races. Once he turns it on and hits full speed (which he gets to as fast as anyone on the field), there is not gonna be a defensive player in the league who can touch Holliday so once he got to the open field you could be sure to ding the house call bell. This is where his sprinting background on the track starts to show its worth. His backside mechanics (i.e. see the pic I included below of a shot of him in this position) are clean and efficient so that there is very little wasted motion as his knee flexes quickly up underneath and then behind him resulting in little vertical bounce in his step at full speed (which is a problem for many football athletes), and full restitution of elastic energy when his foot strikes the ground.
Let’s put it this way; his posterior chain strength has to be through the roof as does his stretch-shortening ability to not only get his foot off the ground so quickly (with a cleat on grass) but also allow him to get this type of stride length distance when he is very short in stature (he’s 5’5”).
Here is the impressive play of Week 2!