2014 Play of the Week – WK 2

As I did last year, I will once again be selecting one play each week through the 2014 season 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: Eagles at Colts

Play: Sproles puts the acceleration pedal to the floor

Sproles play 2

What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

Ya’ll know the drill by now…if you’re a NFL Running back, and you wanna win the all prestigious Movement Play of the Week here at BTS (OK; more likely if you want to contribute to your team winning ball games)…if you put a team on your back in crunch-time while displaying a few nifty & shifty moves you will always have an advantage over your peers who play in other positions (I’m sorry I’m not sorry…RB movement fascinates me!).

Each week I go through all of the jaw-dropping plays that occur and try to acknowledge which ones were more exceptional than all others. This week, one particular mover who I’ve always appreciated (gotta support those other ‘short’ cats out there livin that dream!) got the ultimate nod not only for this week’s play of the week…but ironically he also had a few other plays (though they came on screen pass receptions) that were also in the running. I am talking about none other than newly acquired Philly RB, Darren Sproles, and his fantastic performance this past Monday night in Indy.

Probably the thing that made this play stand above all others is that Sproles displayed not only exceptionally rare acceleration and a few sharp moves that you don’t often see from even the filthiest movers…but he also showed the will and ‘want-to’ that put it over the edge. Enjoy…

What happened movement-wise on the play?

On this play, Darren Sproles (#43) starts out on the 25 yard line offset to quarterback Nick Foles’s right who immediately gives him the ball. If you are intrigued enough, I want you to pause the video below at this moment and look at a few things: 1). Sproles’s 1st step out of his stance with terrific front side mechanics & horizontal application of line of force. 2). Sproles’s head position and subsequent quick scanning of the field to determine tactical options occurring in front of him. The first puts him in the best possible biomechanical position to get moving quickly (kinetically & kinematically) and the second shows his highly established movement mastery level all revolving around his cognitive, perceptual, and anticipation abilities (this greatly impacts the display of movement at the NFL level). Combined then, these things help enable the most optimal movement strategies to be employed in a moment.

Sproles takes 2 quick (but short) steps to position him behind the line of scrimmage in a great place to work the play tactically to the outside where it was intended to go in the first place but of course gets the flow of the defense (albeit ever so briefly) into the middle of the field. However, because of the crossover redirection cutting ability of Sproles he is able to create a spatial and temporal difference in comparison to some of the defensive members of the Colts. This crossover is one that is usually only most effective for the shorter backs in the league and if executed at too extended of a knee could result in an injury cycle for some of the taller RBs.

In his first step out of the crossover (the step at the 22 yard line) you can see that it’s more of a redirection step rather than one intended for commitment in that direction. However, this transitional step behind the line of scrimmage is imperative to be able to keep his movement options open.

Sproles play 4

Once he gets his commitment level on par with what the defense is offering him he decides to put the pedal to the floor. Fortunately for the Eagles Darren Sproles has one of the quicker acceleration bursts in the NFL in the less than 5ish yard category. So from the 22 to the 19 yard line he accelerates hard (again with short steps), setting up the Colts defender in the open field to start to look a bit silly and this is something that Sproles has made a living off of in his years in both San Diego and New Orleans prior to wearing green this year.

When #43 gets to approximately the 18/19 yard line he knows he has to juke and cut that defender mentioned above. Here, instead of performing that crossover cut that he did earlier behind the LOS, he now throws down a very rapid stutter step into speed cut where he uses his inside foot as his redirection foot and his outside foot as his plant foot…yet, he gives the look that he could come back inside and this slight hesitation from the Colts defender is enough to give Sproles the separation he needs to bounce it outside for a bigger play. You can see him rapidly drive his outside foot into a quick coiled position (watch the play from behind in the highlight video below) to promptly attack in the opposite direction.

As soon as he (Sproles) knows that he has that separation and open space to work with, he gets his head further up field rather than focusing any of his attention of the defender he just left sitting in the turf. From the 17 down to the 13 yard line he executes very crisp curvilinear running mechanics that often times S&C Coaches or Football Coaches alike do not spend enough time working on getting their players comfortable executing. But because of Sproles’s special team background he is awfully comfortable with.

Once realigning himself parallel with the sideline and he starts to smell the end zone, he puts the hammer down and starts trying to pick up as much yardage as he possibly can as the Colts defenders rally around him to ‘attempt; to make the tackle.

Sproles play 1

Once Sproles starts having to absorb tremendous amounts of contact and tackle attempts you can really being to see even more of the exceptional movement prowess that makes this play the best of the week. Based on #43’s exceptional use of his natural anthropometric features (low center of gravity) he is able to stay on his feet while the multiple absorbing blows of opponent contacts that would knock over taller backs in most of these types of situations and leave them well short of getting the house call. However, as you can see, Sproles was not to be denied.

And for once, I actually do not disagree with what a football commentator has to say when Gruden proclaims, “get a ticket and go watch the Eagles play,” as if they keep this dynamic duo of Sproles along with last year’s BTS Mover of the Year, LeSean McCoy, running all over the backfield each Sunday.

To see this spectacular first play of the week of the year click on this link below:


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