Now that my 2013 All-Movement Teams are out and about I thought it was only appropriate to give credit where credit is due to the athlete who I feel is currently the best all-around mover in the league. When we talk about movement proficiency, I am attempting to qualitatively assess the optimization level of the athlete’s technical movement mastery specific to his individual features and his positional demands. It’s not about being the fastest or even the most explosive athlete on the field. Instead, it is about having the most well-rounded movement repertoire featuring the frequent display of highly efficient biomechanical positions. It goes beyond biomechanics though as the sport of football is obviously highly chaotic so behavioral characteristics and instinct are also a big piece of the equation. This is the representation of the most optimal movement specialist in the game of football.
Bearing this in mind, the 2013 Beyond the Stats Mover of the Year is none other than Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean ‘Shady’ McCoy. I know; this was a pretty predictable choice given my love for running backs and the season Shady had. But that doesn’t make what LeSean McCoy did from a movement standpoint any less impressive. Leading the league in rushing, Shady wowed spectators all year long like no one else currently in the League today. McCoy has always been an extremely dynamic mover but of course his role in Chip Kelly’s systems allowed him to be put in positions to truly shine to the highest degree imaginable.
If you have been a reader of this blog you know that I have been complimentary of Shady McCoy on a number of occasions throughout the season. The first time was way back in September when I highlighted some of the best change of direction backs in the league and broke down the common cutting styles witnessed on a football field (Check that here: https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/breaking-down-the-cutting-actions-of-rbs-part-2/). The next time was when I awarded #25 with the Play of the Week for Week 14 when he danced around in the Lions in the snow. (https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/play-of-the-week-week-14/). In both of these previously discussed blog posts, I lauded McCoy for his unique movement skill-set especially as it pertains to change of direction. Most will find it hard to believe though that if this award was only about change of direction ability I feel as though there are other guys who may have gotten it. However, when it comes to the full movement and physical performance toolbox, Shady McCoy brings the hammer, the wrench, the drill, and the screwdriver (Note: this is my clever way of saying that he can do it all).
Various Movement Skills
Some athletes are one-trick ponies when it comes to movement. You have guys that will always try to run over you, or run past you, or will hit a single power cut and then try to accelerate quickly. But with Shady McCoy you never know what you are going to get if you are defender. Just when you think he’s gonna juke you laterally, he hurdles you. When you’re looking for a quick small angle speed cut, he whips out a spin move and ends up going the exact opposite direction than what you were expecting. This is the glory of the MO that is LeSean McCoy. His movement is nothing but a façade…an illusion…and big enigma. The only certainty is that he is going to end up somewhere down the field and he will have probably left a few defenders looking like they had their feet planted in stone in the process.
Shady is the best speed cutter in the game (both bilateral and unilateral varieties) and he will throw in some power and crossover cuts in there as well. This ability to utilize a variety of movement actions at any point is the area where Shady really reminds me of Barry Sanders. Though like I mentioned in my Play of the Week breakdown for him; I think the comparison between the two guys and their cutting ability is often unfair, this is really the one similar area for them. That said there are vast differences in their movement action strategies: most often McCoy uses lesser flexion angles and a higher center of mass than Barry typically would’ve as well as a narrower base of support than #20. Some of this is due to the slight difference in build/anthropometric features but also neuromuscular characteristics (Shady being highly reactive through the hamstrings and Barry being more about eccentric force absorption from the quads/glutes).
Stopping on a Dime
Hey, when your Twitter handle is ‘Cutondime25’ you better be able to throw a foot in the ground and slam on the brakes to come to a screeching halt. And because of this, Shady’s moniker is pretty fitting. When he is tuned in, his deceleration stopping action happens so rapidly that it looks like he has some sort of cheat code. The crazy thing about it is that he will go from 100% down to a complete stop as well as anyone and he is always looking to do it too which is the tricky part about defending against him. He can be 15 yards down field at a full-out sprint, throw on the brakes with very few wasted steps, and stop on a point before redirecting his body. These proficient deceleration mechanics come from his ability to drop the hips but keep his feet/base of support well-controlled under his center of gravity.
Quickness & Burst
LeSean McCoy is not the fastest RB in the league; not by a long shot. The catch is that to succeed at the position and to make the wow plays that #25 does, you don’t need flat-out speed. More importantly an athlete needs to be able to hit relatively high velocities rapidly within a few steps and Shady does this exceptionally well. His acceleration mechanics wouldn’t be pretty if he were on a track but when put on a football field, the biodynamic structure of his acceleration mechanics are superior and allow him to throw his foot into the ground with intention and get moving in a hiccup. His shoulders flex nicely from front to back to allow a shoulder to pocket arm swing in a very fluid fashion that then helps propel force to the ground in a very efficient motion with little energy leakage. Rarely will you see him over-commit to linear speed intentions with too long of strides and you will always see his feet get off the ground with quick snap due to this tremendous reactive ability.
All of the previously mentioned movement qualities are fine and dandy but without superior instinct and cognitive processing the most optimal kinetics and kinematics will never find their ways to a football field on Sundays. The thing is there are guys in the league (even playing RB) who display equally efficient, if not more optimal, technically-sound biomechanics than Shady does but the difference lies in McCoy’s ability to put them onto the field in the context of the game and in the process frequently breaks ankles and drops jaws. Simply put; fast movement in a chaotic environment comes from perfecting the kinesiological pattern of one’s frequently executed football movements and Shady has no equal when it comes to this. He has the ability to visually take in how his surroundings and environment are changing and then modify his movement patterns accordingly more quickly than other backs and his opponents.
All in all, I know that being named the 2013 BTS Mover of the Year will rank well down the list of accolades that LeSean McCoy is busy racking up after his 2013 season campaign. But, kudos to #25 anyway! Being graded the Mover of the Year is to be put under dissection of the movement microscope and to come out ranked ahead of the other 1695 athletes in the League is no easy feat!
If you want to watch a short compilation video of Shady doing his thing, check out this NFL production as well as a longer highlight video I happened to find on YouTube put together by a fan (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iD3RdnJcMLw).