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: Raiders at Texans
Play: Jennings bringing back some Wildcat magic
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
This week presented an interesting array of plays with special movement. This fact isn’t necessarily that far away from the norm presented across the league each week. However, the players who displayed this special movement this week are more of the rarity. Sure; there were plays from guys like Antonio Brown and Calvin Johnson that we have come to expect. But on top of those likely culprits for play of the week came big-time plays from guys like Michael Floyd and Bobby Rainey as well as the actual recipient of the award this week; Rashad Jennings.
I will be honest; I don’t know a ton about Jennings. Based on the teams that he has been on I haven’t gotten to watch him and his movement as much as I usually have from players I select for the blog. That said I did see him play for the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Metrodome when he made the start over the holding out MJD and was able to show a few flashes only later to be signed by Oakland this past offseason. Based on his recent play at the running back position for the Raiders, he seems to be making a case to carry more of the offensive load for the on-the-rise team of the west. Though Jennings isn’t one of the faster or flashiest moving guys across the league at the position, he definitely makes the most out of his opportunities and this play from Sunday is indicative of that. Thus, he is most definitely deserving of some kudos for his movement and performance.
PS; The Chiefs are still undefeated…ummm…oh wait…nevermind. Oh well, it was a good run while it lasted and at least my prediction as them being the last undefeated team standing held strong for awhile.
What happened movement-wise on the play?
To start, Rashad Jennings is a big cat. Standing 6’1” and weighing-in at a listed 230-plus pounds, he is obviously a load to bring down. Of course, you will see this as truth as soon as you watch the play at hand. That said his weight is very decently distributed and he has a longer, leaner look to him than you would likely expect for a guy of this stature. Due to this heavily-muscled upper body and his natural anthropometric features, he has a relatively high center of mass which presents both strengths and weaknesses to him playing the position at the highest level. Obviously, being a taller and bigger back allows one to truck guys as well as attain high movement speeds and velocities (considering that the athlete has the relative speed-strength qualities to overcome the heavier loads) but also doesn’t necessarily put a guy in the most efficient of positions for rapid change of direction (due to the larger displacement and distance to go to get into loaded/coiled positions).
Anyway, I digress…time to get onto the movement analysis of this spectacular play in which Jennings made great use of the advantages that I discussed above. The Raiders begin this play by bringing back an offensive look that you just don’t see very often over the last handful of years after a string of popularity: the wildcat. Rashad takes the direct snap and carries out a read-option fake to his motioning receiver on a jet-sweep look. Though the Texans took away the sweeping man and Jennings made the accurate read, the Texans secondary had a decent bead (or should have) on Jennings and the options that were then presented to him (or so they thought!). As the defenders bottle up the point of attack, Jennings hits the hole with aggressive acceleration and vigor to make something happen.
Though Jennings’s acceleration mechanics aren’t the prettiest thing in the world, it gets the job done. From the start, he displays some toe-out ‘skater-stride’-type action but which allows him to get his large mass moving relatively quickly though there is some slight energy dissipation/leakage up his kinetic chain each time his foot hits the ground. But, like I said, it gets the job done. In addition, all Raiders with blocking assignments contributed a major assist to the success of this play from the get-go giving Jennings the room and opportunity to do what he does best which was to go man-up with another dude and lower the boom…which is exactly what he did to Houston Texan, D.J. Swearinger. The Texan Strong Safety was hanging out and lurking (just like Safeties have a tendency to do) thinking that he was going to get to lay the lumber on the unsuspecting Jennings. But…#27 thought otherwise!
It’s obvious to say that the NFL is a tough place to be especially when you have two men colliding at high movement speeds. Very rarely at this level does one guy get the clear cut victory over another and deliver the knock-out punch. However, every so often, it happens…and Sunday with Jennings vs. Swearinger was one of those times. As Jennings approaches, he sees the Texans SS ready to impede his way to the endzone and begins to size him up…while probably subconsciously knowing that he is already moving at a relatively high speed and Swearinger is just shuffle-stepping himself in the way. To add extra effect anyway, Jennings begins to decelerate slightly, lowering his shoulder and placing his center of mass in a position to leverage himself with power through Swearinger’s chest. Very little leg churning is actually needed as he didn’t lose as much movement velocity as one would think all due to this assumed position in the last two steps prior to contact.
After Jennings trucks Swearinger, it’s off to the races. Here again though, Jennings’s first number of steps of re-acceleration resemble that which he showed taking the snap out of the wildcat. I believe he could make these mechanics a little cleaner as well as more specifically address his motor potential (i.e. his strength qualities) to correspond to a little crisper acceleration mastery. That said many bigger RBs that I have worked with display similar mechanics to Jennings and can still be very effective as is #27. From the rear/endzone view you can see the side to side motion that I am speaking of as well as some cross body arm action which actually persists as Jennings hits higher speeds. However, it’s apparent that Jennings has very powerful lower appendages which elicit high ground reaction forces with each step. In addition, at higher speeds, his backside mechanics are relatively clean where his hamstrings contract quickly after ground contact and cycle his leg back over to the front-side with very rapid action.
On the front side, he could possess a little higher hip & knee action (i.e. specific hip flexor strength) and pull-through from the glutes to get the foot back underneath his center of mass. He does a little lack of trunk control here at these high speeds some of which is due to this short swinging arm action which crosses the midline of his body in the front (with his non-ball carrying arm) and causes the twisting….so all in all, even though Jennings runs away from the group, he actually could be even better, in my opinion. Of course, nit-picking on movement mastery is what I do…but what is really impressive is that Jennings (again, a very big man) out-ran an entire defense in the open field when nearly all 11 should’ve known he was getting the ball.
In case you haven’t seen it yet, here is the play: