Play of the Week – Week 7

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: Bears at Redskins

Play: Matt Forte pulls out a neat crossover jump cut

Forte Redskins run 4

What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

Before I actually talk about what it is that I am here to do, I want to give myself some unrelated props (I do this occasionally to feed my own big ego) for selecting the Kansas City Chiefs to be the last team standing undefeated. I am actually being quite serious here and some of my fellow staff members at my business can actually attest to the validity of my prediction. The example set by the Chiefs shows just how fickle the NFL is in this day and age…you can go from being decimated and fighting for your NFL life one season and the very next one standing on top of the totem pole.

Now that the bragging is done (for now anyway), I will go ahead and make the always anticipated announcement for this week’s movement play of the week. Though this week in the NFL featured some close games with some very consistent player performances, there were fewer singular plays that stood out with extraordinary movement. Ironically, the two finalists that did embody exceptional movement both came from the same game. The first was Devin Hester’s record-setting return touchdown. Though football is the ultimate team game and there is always a lot happening behind the scenes to make any big play turn into reality, my play selection is usually about what the individual did to perform it aside from his teammates. Therefore, the play that I selected this week to breakdown game came from Hester’s teammate, Matt Forte, on one of the longest of his three touchdowns from Sunday. Note; I am not saying that the Bears team didn’t do their part on Forte’s play (quite the contrary as you see the blocking up-front and then watch Brandon Marshall blocking downfield), it’s just that #22 displayed one of the dirtiest crossover jump cuts that you will see on a field followed up by deceiving mid-to-top range speed to get on the highlight reel.

What happened movement-wise on the play?

Earlier this season, I saw the Bears play twice; the first game of the season against the Bengals and then the following week against the Vikings. At the completion of both I was impressed by Matt Forte and made a note (on my Twitter of course) about how improved his movement appears to be this year in comparison to last where he battled some ankle issues. Forte has always had consistent production but his on-field movement is something that is often overshadowed by some of the other top backs in the league that on the surface appear to be more flashy at times. However, people forget how big Forte is (6’2” and close to 220lb) and in my opinion, he is the best moving bigger back in the league (at least among those not named Adrian Peterson). I am not sure what Matt did this past offseason for his physical preparation regimen, but Matt seems to have regained the former explosive pop in his step and just more of the shake back into this movement. Both of these qualities were on display here on this play.

On this run, #22 turns what should be a decent-size gain, into a highlight house call. He starts out of his stance with a lateral sidestep for tactical purposes so he can not only make the appropriate read but also get the defensive pursuit going one way when its highly likely that he plans to go another (which is exactly what he did). An added advantage of his sidestepping action is that he is able to place his body in an optimal position to gain momentum. Finding the optimal starting position for a running back is both individual-specific and scheme-specific. Most guys end up going with what they are comfortable with. However, the wrong starting stance can actually drain a good deal of energy in the first few steps taken after take-off. Thus, I always think it’s worth addressing with a RB as to why he is doing what he is doing as well as what he is going to have to do in the particular play in order to find the most advantageous position to employ.

After making the proper read in front of him regarding how and where the hole is developing, he makes a very subtle angular cut before driving his foot hard into the ground to accelerate through the large hole, up to the line of scrimmage, and quickly to the first down marker. Once he gets past this spot, he is already looking well downfield and around the Redskins 45 yard line, he begins to set-up his several of his opponents to look real silly, real soon. He does this through a feinting action of his shoulders and torso all while simultaneously beginning to lower his center of mass to control his body and remain stable so he is able to optimally go in any different direction depending on what the play may dictate.

CT bears-redskins14.JPG

After the slight feinting action occurs, Forte hits an aggressive power stopping action where his right foot drives out laterally far away from his vertical line of force so he is able to widen his base of support and remain under control while Brandon Marshall’s block is carried out to take care of the last real defenders in the play who stood even a chance of keeping this from being a big gainer. Once the block plays itself out, at around the 43 yard line, Forte performs a rare short-step speed jump cut that left me jumping out of my seat. Though in the actual stopping-to-restarting action he may have gotten a little high and his shin probably did get into a bit too much of a neutral position (he does have very long lower legs though so it’s more likely for this to occur), it was a very difficult cutting maneuver that he executed very quickly and more importantly was able to place himself into a nearly perfect position for reacceleration. This ability (the ability to get into reacceleration after deceleration) is the most important movement trait on-field for a RB.

Forte Redskins run 5

After this cutting action, he is then off to the races. For a bigger dude, Forte runs very, very well in the open field. As he goes from short distance acceleration to more mid-range speed (and later top-end), he actually doesn’t appear to be moving all that fast….that is, until after you compare it to the others around him who he is gaining ground on and who are usually athletic defensive backs. #22 has a very galloping and striding out action in his higher end speed mechanics much like a guy like Eric Dickerson as well as the already mentioned Adrian Peterson. In fact, at these speeds, Forte is actually be a more fluid runner than AD. He possesses a tremendous dorsiflexed front foot position pre-contact which allows him to have very little waste of energy and shortened ground contact times (which doesn’t always occur for big dudes). After the foot leaves the ground, he has quick knee flexion on his backside mechanics due to the activity and strength of his hamstrings. For how efficient his lower appendage action was, the one thing that I would highlight for improvement in his linear speed mechanics would be the cross-body arm action that occurs anterior (i.e. the front side) with his non-ball arm. This would cause some twisting action of his torso and some energy leakage down the rest of the kinetic chain at a time that he is trying to save every bit of energy effort to the productive actions.

Forte Redskins run 2

If you happened to miss this nifty play, here is a video replay of it:
http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap2000000266107/Matt-Forte-50-yard-TD-run

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