Game: Raiders at Chargers
Play: Super Cooper to the rescue
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
For the lack of plays that seemed to dazzle me in Week 6 from a movement standpoint, the NFL got back to its normal ways and didn’t let me down in Week 7. First, Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins laid down a diverse display of movement patterns en route to a touchdown catch and run from one side of the field to the other with a whole lot of action in between. Then, AD-28 put on a show reminiscent of his 2012 MVP campaign with a dash between the tackles showing off his deceleration qualities and his unique knack for making tough movement problems look like they’re being solved relatively easily. Finally, Chris Johnson took us back even further to his old form when he reached into his bag of tricks with a slicing lunge cut followed up by a spin move & rapid reacceleration.
However, as efficient and effective as the movement during those plays proved to be, one play still stood out from the others when rookie wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders, Amari Cooper, continued his onslaught of the NFL when he carried the Raiders to a victory over their AFC West rival. I took notice of Cooper’s mastery at such a young age way back during our annual NFL Draft Preview (see below) but hopefully ya’ll are now, as well. Amari Cooper has tremendous route mastery but what really continues to impress me is his deceleration & cutting ability (especially for a guy who is 6’1”) and this is what stood out during this play, as well.
What happened movement-wise on the play?
Already leading big late in the first half, the Raiders turned to their newest playmaker to attempt to drive the dagger in deeper. And on the behalf of football movement junkies everywhere let me be the first to say: thank you! And I say that because the movement displayed during the play by the young rookie wide-out was as good as you will see all season long (especially the deceleration and the cutting mechanics as well as the set-up for those actions).
Coming out of his stance, Cooper lulls the defensive back to sleep a bit to allow the blockers for the screen to get set-up to create an early wall for him to turn this little opportunity into a bigger reality. At the Raider 49 yard line, Cooper goes from one angled slicing action to another (the second where he catches the ball during it). Both of these change of direction patterns may appear subtle to the naked eye but they not only make the play possible but they are actions which many skill players end up performing very inefficiently with an inconsistent stance, slow absorption coiling, lack of balance, inefficient lowering of their center of gravity that results in a huge energy leak or simply ineffective reacceleration steps.
However, I wanted to shed light on Cooper’s execution here (the first performed with left foot outside plant and the second with his right foot outside). Do yourself a favor and pause the highlight at the end of the blog while he is in the midst of the performance of these movement patterns. This type of movement action is one of Cooper’s movement strengths in his route running. Note: with my skill players we perform this type of action almost daily to achieve a high level of mastery experimenting with stance widths as well as degree of flexion of the hips/knees to determine what the player is best able to slice quickly in & out of the break with. We will sometimes add loading/overspeeding to it to increase this ability.
From the moment he catches the ball at the 46/47 yard line, you can see Cooper scanning the field for what we refer to as “affordances for action.” This visual scanning will allow him to understand the nature of the movement problem and determine how best to respond to solve it. This is also something that we (my players and I) incorporate in much of our open environment movement work so the player becomes attuned to this type of action response. While he is doing this he isn’t necessarily attempting to hit maximum velocities in his acceleration mechanics. Instead, he is attempting to match his selected acceleration speed to that of the problem around him. This then allows him to adequately execute the cut that we are about to see.
After just barely escaping the grasp of the outstretched arms of a Charger at the San Diego 44-yard line he decelerates rapidly and just enough to get his body under control for an efficient close-stance speed cut off his left foot. He takes two additional steps and then realizes that he will have to cut quickly yet again so he rapidly throws his right foot wide outside his body. This cut, for a guy who has a relatively high center of gravity naturally, is very impressive. Due to the speed of the entry into the cut, the right heel does hit the ground upon contact and the body/foot rolls slightly but appears to leak very little energy anyway.
After this point, Cooper gets on his horse a bit and accelerates hard now that he is in the open field. But again, even as he does this you can see him using his eyes (note the head turning) to decipher and recognize his best paths as well as potential problems arising from his opponents. Many guys prefer to use their kinesthetic sense/awareness in these circumstances to determine this feel of where they are in time and space in relation to the opponent. However, sometimes this awareness can lie to the brain so Cooper is doing his part to take in information from as many senses as possible to get the most accurate understanding.
With six blue jerseys chasing him hard as he approaches the red zone, Cooper now throws down one of the nastiest wide plant cuts you will see in the open field. Here again (like earlier) he rapidly extends his right foot far away from his body line. While the right foot is planted and he is changing his body’s momentum his left foot stays close to the ground (it may even kiss it throughout) as it comes closer underneath him to get in position for reacceleration to his left. This whole cutting action leaves a bunch of Chargers going one way while he is going another. After that cut though, the only thing that’s left is, for the last 18ish yards, to see Cooper show off his short distance speed mechanics and ability to cover yards in a quick hurry.
Click here to take a peek at what this dazzling rookie did to the Chargers defense Sunday: