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: Cardinals at Falcons
Play: Julio becomes the undisputed champion of the showdown
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
I realize it’s starting to become a trend of sorts for me to change my own stipulations of the Movement Play of the Week breakdowns…BUT, anytime it represents an epic performance in a marquee match-up from two of the game’s best, I feel like the situation warrants any modifications to my write-up & analysis.
Thus, for Week 13’s Play of the Week, we will look at the movement performance that took place between two of the game’s best at opposite positions when Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson visited Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones. Leading up to the game, Peterson spoke about (some would say he made a call-out of sorts) stepping up to the challenge and would follow Jones around the field as it would bring out the best in him (I think he meant himself though and not Jones).
Both hailing from their respective SEC college powerhouse programs these guys are not strangers to playing against one another. This time however, Julio Jones not only got the better of the All-Pro defensive back counterpart, but he had a career day in the process as he ended up with 10 catches for 189 yards. However, as we know here at ‘Beyond the Stats’, there’s more to the story…and the depth of that leads through movement (as usual).
What happened movement-wise on the play?
Before we go any further, I would encourage you to get a quick glimpse as to what transpired yesterday and why Julio Jones is deserving of kudos for his movement performance on not just one play but several.
Now, we all know that football represents the ultimate team game. In fact, in this day and age of offensive-minded football, when a guy has a big game it’s very rarely only one player’s fault on the other side. Yet, underneath it all, it’s still about match-ups and the mano-e-mano showdowns (and sometimes showcases for one player) that can occur when you get two fierce competitors with superior physical capabilities and movement skills lined up across each other.
In addition, when we are talking about wide receivers and cornerbacks, it doesn’t get much better for a movement analyst. Very few positions on the field on Sundays require the display of technical movement proficiency as these positions do. Add in the freak physical capabilities that each of these guys possesses and it puts more pep in their steps as well.
That all said, I am always intrigued when two players of this level get the chance to put the mastery of their craft out on a pedestal against one another. Finally, if you’ve ever been close enough to hear the banter (and other so-called pleasantries) that is said between players lining up at these two positions, it’s rarely friendly catching up and/or where one guy simply concedes to another (regardless of talent difference in some cases).
Here is my play-by-play breakdown of what shook out between the two superstars.
Check out Julio’s break in this route (which is becoming a favorite among both WRs and TEs in the League today): for being 6’3” and 220lb, this just isn’t far for a guy to stop on a dime (though in a preplanned/repeatable motor action) like this and accelerate out a break on a short route like this. However, it all stemmed from his penultimate step (i.e. 2nd to the last step before his break) and his stop position. So many guys (especially of his height), would end up with too narrow of base of support and then too high of center of gravity in this break, but Jones has fantastic control here from his hips all the way down to his foot strike.
He gets man coverage from Peterson on this play and you know Matt Ryan is going to take that every time with his star wide out. Julio’s initial get off and into his first 2 step acceleration from his stance is beyond explosive and literally leaves Peterson standing still trying to react. Though #21 recovers well due to his supreme athleticism as they go off of the screen that initial separation was enough to get Ryan to look nowhere but Julio’s way and he puts it up and over the coverage from both Peterson and his Arizona cohorts to let Julio go up and get it using his upper 30’s vertical jump.
On this play, Peterson uses his tremendous first step out of his DB ready stance to turn and run step for step glued to Jones’s hip like few other in the League could do. He maintains this very tight coverage all the way down the field but Matt Ryan trusts his stud WR more than enough to be able to make a play on the ball so he lofts it up and allows him to make yet another play by turning his body in mid-stride and then having the wherewithal to not only come down with the ball but also turn it into six points.
Here, Peterson jumps immediately from his stance and into a initial power step (as opposed to a crossover start) followed by angular running with crisp & clean mechanics. However, if you pause it at 0:59 you will also see that Julio is displaying near optimal acceleration mechanics (check out the joint positions and the angle of his line of force) and has the advantage being that he is running forward unabated by any bump or jam from Peterson. This display was more than enough to give him enough room to work with to break in and get separation long enough to allow Ryan to put the ball on him and pick up the first down.
Now on the bottom of your screen, Peterson starts to give Julio more and more cushion as he begins to realize that his counterpart is more than up to the challenge today. When this happens, the experienced combo of Ryan to Jones can simply play pitch and catch with ease like they’re playing on air.
Nothing special here…just easy pitch and catch to pick up a first down. However, on 3rd and 2, it’s likely that when playing most other receivers in the League, Peterson would’ve been up jamming and playing tight coverage and not allowing such a simple pick-up. But in this case, #21 had to respect #11’s big play ability.
Now back down to the bottom of the screen, we get to see the two competitors face each up and see who is going to be able to make a play for their team. Well, as you probably could’ve guessed, #11 ends up victorious once again. He does so by simply using a relaxation and reliance on his open-field instincts and sheer athleticism to run by his equally-athletic opponent. Honestly, in most cases I would’ve expected Peterson to attack the WR in that case after working himself through the traffic from the pick, but here he seemed so hesitant that he appeared almost apprehensive to do so. And that was enough blood in the water for the bigger shark to attack on.
After a penalty backed the Falcons up near the end of the half, the team has no fear as they had their star wide-out playing at near superhero like status so it was almost as though Matt Ryan and Julio Jones were already playing backyard football at this point. Though I didn’t see this play on the All-22 film, I have no idea as to how the Cardinals weren’t already giving Peterson more support in coverage than he was receiving is beyond me for Jones to continue to easily work himself through the Cardinals zone on 1st and 20.
By now, Peterson was starting to use a more physical style to attempt to defend Jones though they were still allowing him to attempt mostly man coverages to do so. In all honestly, #21 has tightly wound coverage here on Jones but Julio is simply too athletic to not make a play. Here he shows his kinesthetic sense and awareness as he has to turn inside and then back behind him to his outside shoulder to haul in this pass over Peterson who failed to play the ball after being beat by only a small margin on this vertical route. Though it looked to me as though he wasn’t able to actually get his second foot down the play did stand as a reception.
One more time Julio Jones found himself with a huge cushion resting easily between himself and Patrick Peterson and thus one last time he elected to exploit it. You just can’t give one of the best in the game that much green space to operate within as he will find a way to hit exceptionally high speeds in just a few steps and by that time as a defender you are already back on your heels expected the straight vertical route to be taken past you.
As it was easy to see, play after play, Jones has clean and efficient movement behaviors ranging from crisp acceleration mechanics to coiled deceleration & cuts to superior dynamic balance & awareness. Though Patrick Peterson is one of the best moving and most effective corners in the game, he was no match on this day for Julio Jones.