2014 Play of the Week – WK8

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: Texans at Titans

Play: Arian stops on a dime, reverses field, then gallops to paydirt

Foster play pic 1

What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

This week offered a diversity of spectacular plays for any football spectator’s enjoyment but that also meant difficulty in selecting the top play of the week from a movement standpoint. Jamaal Charles tried to be a repeat award winner with his nifty speed cutting moves at the 2nd level to spring for a TD. Cardinals rookie WR John Brown blew past the entire Eagles defense. And Knile Davis had a kick return TD where he made a number of Rams special teamers look downright silly (though one of was a punter). Yet; Arian Foster’s smooth moves couldn’t be denied this week for the top spot.

In my opinion, Arian Foster has always been one of the most efficient movers at his position in the game. To many, he doesn’t appear to be that flashy. To most, guys like Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy always get credit for being the most masterful movers in the League (even from me in last year’s All-Movement Team). However, that’s usually due to their more dynamic styles of movement. But what Arian lacks in rapid stops and changes of direction, he makes up for with his control, rhythm, and fluidity.

In this play from Week 8 though, Foster laid down a sharp angular stop like that of his dynamic moving peers (that we would come to expect from Charles or McCoy) but then followed it up with some style of his own as he found his way to the endzone while leading the Texans to another W. All in all…efficiency is masterful when it comes to movement…and that’s what makes it this week’s Play of the Week.

What happened movement-wise on the play?

Obviously, this play starts out moving to Arian’s left. However, the tactical intention here was short-lived and things broke down relatively quickly. You can see by Foster’s second step he already is thinking that things may get hairy fast so his head is up and to the right early surveying that side of the field as well as the pursuit of the defenders to see if there may be more real estate to his right (which there was). This movement skill of looking one way, while accelerating (or decelerating) another, is so underrated and undertrained at any position. But it’s a type of transitional movement that can make or break big plays on Sundays. Yet, it’s one that very few football strength or speed coaches train for!

Because he is moving left, but looking right, he sees that if he can just reverse field, he may be able to make something out of the nothing that appeared at first glance. From both the side or rear view, you can see Foster doing a fantastic job lowering himself in the penultimate step (2nd to the last step before his plant/cut) that we learned has such a vital role in sharp changes of direction during our Jamaal Charles breakdown last week.

This triple flexion at the hip, knee, and ankle especially on his inside (right) leg as he strikes his left foot into the plant is what allows him to execute the type of snappy jump cut that puts him into position for a great reacceleration out the backside. Though he doesn’t cut as rapidly and at as sharp of an angle as a RB with lower center of gravities such as McCoy, he flexes rapidly here into this angle stop with great biomechanics especially at the bottom of his stopping position (look at the alignment of the knee to the toe all while staying square so he is able to efficiently cut back right).

Remember; this is a guy who is 6’1” and 225+ pounds! Thus, this is phenomenal control of his body in tight space. I always tell my bigger RBs that their goal in changing direction movement strategies is to behave like a back who is 4 inches shorter than they are. And that’s exactly what Foster does here and it’s what allows him to be able to jump stop & cut twice (while much of the defender pursuit is still moving the way the play set-out) and then reverse field effectively past Titans LB, Derrick Morgan (who just so happens to be a guy I’ve consulted in the past).

Foster play pic 5

Once in the open field, Foster uses some very crisp & clean reacceleration mechanics. Many times guys who have these longer strides also stand too upright in their first 3-4 steps in reacceleration as they start reaching too far on their frontside mechanics and strike out too far out in front of them. In contrast though here, Foster keeps great horizontal projection angles with a coiled frontside lead leg and dorsiflexed foot for optimal strike when it hits behind his vertical line of force. This gets even a big man moving in a quick hurry.

Once he hits his 2nd to 4th gears (figuratively-speaking), you can hear the commentator mention the deceptiveness of Arian’s movement at higher speeds. I usually don’t agree with most commentators, but in this case I do (except about the part of him reminding one of Sayers). If you were to watch Foster running by himself, he wouldn’t appear to be going all that fast. However, if you compare him to his peers who are chasing him, you will see that he is pulling away.

This all is a testament to the ease, fluidity, and efficiency of Arian’s running style. You will see some backs move violently even when they’re running linear at top end (think of a guy like Marshawn Lynch or Adrian Peterson), but Foster is flat-out artistic and graceful. People in my profession often talk about which one contributes more to high movement velocities; stride length or stride frequency. Well, I’ve always said that I believe it’s about finding the right balance between the factors which contribute to those based on who that guy is (their strengths/weakness and anthropometric features). Well, that efficient balance is one that Foster has seemed to have found!

Foster play pic 7

Once all this efficiency occurred, the only thing that was left to complete the ultimate movement highlight for this week was for him to perform a dive up and over the chasing Tennessee Titans. And as you can see when you watch the link below, he does this with style and grace just as he did over the previous 35 yards. Thus, after the fantastic individual effort from start to finish, a Namaste was most definitely in order.

To watch this great play click this link below:
http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap3000000417481/Foster-34-yard-touchdown-run

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