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: Patriots at Chargers
Play: Julian shows craft, skill, and pure football speed
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
This week brought us a few stellar movement moments in the NFL slate. It all started with perennial standout mover Jamaal Charles breaking loose with the use of a nifty jump cut behind the line of scrimmage and then got off to the races with the Cardinals (which of course he won). Then, Tavon Austin used some deceiving moves and breakaway speed to return a punt for a score en route to a rout of the Redskins. And finally, the movement exhibition came to a conclusion when Julian Edelman caught a Tom Brady pass, left a number of guys empty handed, and found the end zone to put the Patriots where they wanted to be to take care of the Chargers in a Sunday night showdown.
Though each play represented a little different display of proficient movement, at the end of the day I had to give the nod to Julian Edelman. I must say: I’ve had a liking of Edelman’s movement for the last number of years. Being a former quarterback from a smaller school (Kent State) who was a later round draft pick (7th round) and not the most physical imposing (5’10”, 200lb) or freakiest athlete in the world (4.52 40-yard); Tom Brady’s favorite go-to receiver not named Gronkowski has had to make up for all of those apparent shortcomings with one of the most well-rounded movement skillsets existent in the League today. And in this play from Week 14 of the 2014 season, Edelman showed more than a little bit of that noteworthy craftiness to put the game away for the AFC-leading Patriots.
What happened movement-wise on the play?
I remember reading a snippet from All-World NFL great Jerry Rice as he spoke about football speed where he said, “There is a big difference between fast and having football speed. Football speed is how crisp you come out of running routes, how quickly you can stop on a dime & change direction, and how quickly you break the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.” Well, this quote is not only something that I believe every football Strength & Conditioning Coach/Performance Coach should read & live by, but it also what I feel characterizes the star of this week’s selected play, Julian Edelman. One glance at the play and you will see why I feel that way.
With the Patriots leading the Chargers by only 2 points with just under 9 minutes to go on Sunday Night Football, Tom Brady lines his offense up at his own 31 yard line to do normal #12-type things which usually involves anyone wearing white & navy who is willing and able to get open. Like so many times over the last number of years, the conduit between Brady and the end zone occurred through the instrument called Julian Edelman.
Edelman starts the play in motion where even if we break that movement down we can get a hint of his awareness of movement principles as he quickly slices in and out of a coiled position behind the line of scrimmage. He finally settles in split outside off of Gronkowski’s right shoulder.
As soon as Brady gets two San Diego LBs to bite up on the quick Blount play fake, he knows exactly where his mismatch exists and where he is committed to throwing the football. Julian Edelman may not have blazing top end speed that would cause you drop your jaw, but one thing he does have his crisp & clean mechanics that lead to the type of short distance quickness off of the line of scrimmage that Jerry Rice spoke of in the earlier quoted snippet.
Thus, Edelman rapidly gets up and through the second level to find himself giving plenty of space between himself and the Chargers’ defenders for his always accurate QB to deliver him the football and more importantly able to make moves to advance the ball vertically downfield after the reception. If you watch him working himself down the field with the coverage provided by the San Diego DB, you can see his craftiness in the coordination between his footwork in the actual route to get him open while also tactically shedding the contact from the DB.
Though the ball wasn’t put on the numbers to allow Edelman to simply catch and run, #11 springs up in a relaxed unilateral jumping fashion, nabs the ball, and comes down still striding and doesn’t appear to lose much speed (if any) as he masterfully goes into a sharp speed crossover to maneuver the oncoming San Diego traffic. The sheer athleticism used here to handle the landing forces of the jump on the one leg and then immediately flex & coil into a crossover cutting action is incredible. This ends up being the key move that allows him to score then on this play as many lesser effective movers would’ve lost their balance or leaked tremendous amounts of energy even attempting this type of movement action.
Though Edelman isn’t the biggest guy in the world, when matched up to most defensive backs his power-to-weight ratio will easily allow him to break many one-on-one tackles by DBs in the open field (simply judging his relative power outputs from his efficient movement behaviors that I’ve evaluated) especially when he reaches the point with the wannabe tackler where he is already moving with a head of movement velocity.
Even after breaking this tackle and having a good amount of his movement velocity slowed down, Edelman is now behind most of the Chargers defense. I often talk to my players about the fact that many of the behaviors we try to instill with our movement training is to get them quickly back into the position of reacceleration and that is something that Edelman does splendidly here as well. Because of his fantastic acceleration technical execution and ability he is able to start delivering force to the ground quick and get moving in a hurry to get off to the races.
Now, another thing that is interesting to note here is that though Edelman could’ve attempted to take a straight-line/linear path to the end zone, he instead elected to perform an ever-so-slight weaving action once he could feel some Chargers defenders in his presence. Of course, most would say that the fastest path between two points is a straight line (that is undisputable obviously). However, on a football field, sometimes this is unrealistic as your route and your maneuvers become too predictable and guys are able to use angles in their pursuit to track you down (especially from behind where they can see you but you can’t see them).
This is an often very underrated movement pattern skill for football movement speed applications is the weaving-type movement execution that Edelman utilized in order to outrun the Chargers as he approached the end zone (note: it’s also one that I encourage football movement specialists to not leave to chance on the field and they SHOULD work on with their athletes). Turning (no matter how slight or sharp) at high speeds is NOT an easy feat and can often result in tremendous amounts of undue torque through each joint responsible for action (hips, knees, and ankles).
To watch Edelman’s excellent moves on last night’s play, check it out here: