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 Patriots
Play: Edelman gets down and dirty
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
As usual, this week’s selection was not an easy one. To start, two of the game’s biggest and brightest playmakers, Jamaal Charles and Tavon Austin, went out there did straight-up honey badger work on big-time runs. Then there was the back-up to the back-up quarterback, Scott Tolzien, slicing through the Vikings defense like he was AD-28 reincarnated in green and gold. However, at the end of the day, one play still stood out above the other extraordinary choices. This play came out of one of the best games you will see all season long in the highly-anticipated match-up between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots. If you saw the game, it did not disappoint…and neither did the crazy play of Julian Edelman who shined bright under the Sunday night lights.
There are a number of things that occurred on this play to make it worthy of play of the week crowning. Obviously, it came at a pivotal point in the contest when Tom Brady and the Patriots were deep in the midst of their monumental comeback and this play from Edelman provided the go-ahead score. Second, the movement on display from #11 was downright dirty and flat-out filthy. On the surface, it may look like a simple 14 yard touchdown catch and run. However, if you know and look to dig deeper you will find that this is a play that only the most efficient of movers in the league could fully execute to success.
What happened movement-wise on the play?
Like so many players that come through New England, to say Julian Edelman is versatile is a drastic understatement and that verbiage simply doesn’t do what he does justice. Edelman could likely play any skill position on the team…literally. He routinely returns kicks/punts on top of being moved all over the field in the Patriots offense as a receiver. In addition, he has actually played some defensive back in his career at the NFL-level as well. This is not an easy feat in today’s NFL with the sheer athleticism and specialization that exists from position-to-position. However, this unique versatility can no doubt be traced back to his fantastic movement efficiency. All this comes from a relatively unknown player with 4 years of NFL experience out of Kent State University (where he actually played quarterback). Like his former teammate, Wes Welker, Julian has the unique ability to set his body up to most optimally leverage his angles into the ground and develop rapid force from deeper center of gravity positions than most can attain. Both of these movement characteristics were shown here on this particular play.
Edelman starts this play working out of the slot where his starting position is maybe little too upright for my liking. I would rather see his stance tighter with a more positive (forward) shin angle in this 2-point receiver stance. After the snap, there is a slight countermovement/coiling that must occur in order for him to overcome inertia and begin his forward movement. Many receivers and running backs will use a backwards “plyo-step” here instead of this quick countermovement. Of course, Brady and Edelman are on the same page with the precise rehearsal of the timing of his steps and his sharp, unilateral break so as soon as #11 makes his break then #12 is already letting it spin.
As soon as #11 receives the ball he is looking to make something major happen. He drives his left foot sharp and away from his center of gravity to allow himself a powerfully loaded position to adequately maintain balance to produce further action. Because of this efficient position, he stops on a dime with this parallel stop (a very effective stopping position & tactic). Because of the rapidity of this action, he is able to elude the on-coming DB while maintaining balance to be able to take a few short choppy steps and still reorient his body for the next movement strategy to employ.
This pivot and spin move out of this position and its accompanying angles is an extremely difficult task only able to be achieved by those with both great eccentric strength/stability as well as kinesthetic sense & body awareness especially with an oncoming defender. To then add the fantastic reacceleration position and mechanics this quickly out of that spin takes highly skillful technical movement control. In fact, this ability to get one’s self back oriented to reacceleration after any deceleration or planting change-of-direction task is something that the best movers in the game routinely have the ability to do. Ironically, he has to do the exact same thing after his next move as well. If you watch the video I implore you to pause it at a number of different times here as he makes moves in these tight quarters. In reacceleration; his body lean/angle along with his joint kinematics are nearly optimal to express force rapidly.
After he takes the 2 rapid steps, he stops on a dime yet again. We must remember and/or acknowledge that fast football acceleration is about position and strength characteristics for rapid step frequency rather than step length or maximum force development. This allows him to cover ground quickly but more importantly set up his next plant and move. Once he drives his right foot hard into the ground (again out and away from his center of gravity though he loses some trunk control), he is able to regain stability and push himself out into his power cutting position and again quickly back into reacceleration. His mechanics here are nearly optimal with a perfectly loaded hip, knee, and ankle as well as rapid and efficient arm action.
For those football players or training specialists looking to take anything out of what enabled Edelman to do any of this; it really all comes down to the ability to decelerate and absorb force rapidly. These qualities are both strength and movement technique dependent. This play is tremendous indication that it doesn’t really matter how much force an athlete can exert; extraordinary on-field movement actions are dependent as much (if not more) on the ability absorb higher magnitudes of force in the right positions to take advantage of it.
Once within the 5 yard line, Edelman can smell the go-ahead paydirt and simply won’t be denied. Thus, he makes the executive decision that the only way he can ensure he is going to make it in is to perform a leaping horizontal dive in between the quickly pursuing Broncos defenders. Most people will look at this and think, “big deal…I could’ve done dove from there and scored too!” However, if you are thinking that, you are overly naïve! First of all, the ability to explosively jump that distance while your body is twisting in the air (which will quickly change one’s overall orientation and awareness) all while getting smacked in the back and yet having to maintain control and hold of the football to extend it far enough over the goal-line is not as easy as Edelman made it all look.
Now, in case you were foolish and went to sleep at halftime of this game, here is the play I am speaking of.