Game: Buccaneers at Rams
Play: Instincts plus movement control from Tavon Austin
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
Like any week within the NFL, there are numerous plays that involve movement behaviors from a player that I would deem exceptional and this week was no different. Not only did we have this week’s Movement Play of the Week eventual recipient throwing down some sick moves that I’m about to break down for y’all but there were also some extraordinary movement combinations laid down by Cardinals WR John Brown and Lions RB Theo Riddick on respective plays, as well.
When all the votes were tallied though (okay; this is a dictatorship and my vote is the only one that matters), it was a performer who has had a couple year hiatus from our blog site in St. Louis Rams WR Tavon Austin who would sit atop the heap this week. However, it’s not that this player hasn’t shown flashes of movement mastery over that time away. In fact, after my evaluation back in 2013 (https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/training-camp-13-player-movement-evaulation-tavon-austin/), I wait anxiously each week to go back & watch Rams film to see what Austin had up his sleeve that week and determine how his movement skills continue to evolve. As I noted in my initial evaluation on him from 2013, from the time he entered the League, he has possessed tremendous instinct on a football field…but as you will see from this past week’s play that we are about to highlight, he has now begun to become more attuned to the nuances of particular problems on a field and the given affordances for action that come from each of them while also learning to match those movement solutions to them.
What happened movement-wise on the play?
On the play, Tavon Austin, who (even with the inclusion of rookie sensation Todd Gurley on the team) remains the Rams all-around playmaker that lines up everywhere on the field, starts from the slot on the play’s left side. You can see from the very start of the play Austin’s unique short distance quickness and explosiveness as he takes a short jab step with his right foot to get himself moving to the directional flow of the play (you can also see the slight magnitude plyometric action of his left leg). I implore you to check the distance of this transitional step; most take this type of step and don’t have near the intention and/or controlled placement of this step in that you will see many take too long or reaching of a step. Instead, Austin’s step is quick and deliberate and this translates into a rare 3-step acceleration output even when being compared to some of the NFL’s top movers.
His rapid acceleration turns into his end around tactical requirement that the play dictates by allowing him to take the quick flip from his QB at the Rams 29 yard line. Notice that while the ball is still in the air and hasn’t even touched his hands yet (from the flip), Austin is already reading and attempting to recognize the flow of the play as is indicated by his visual gaze and processing of what the particular environmental problem could impose upon him.
As he gets the ball in his hands, he isn’t necessarily going all-out (which will be a trend of this entire play but sometimes a huge misunderstanding for most football-specific movement coaches) with his movement velocity. Instead, he is staying much more controlled (which isn’t something that we would have witnessed from the Tavon Austin of WVU and his first year in the League) in order to not only handle the huge loading imposed on his inside support leg (his left leg) as he ‘runs this curve’ but also so he can adequately time his own movement path according to what is unfolding in front of him.
Both of these movement skills (curvilinear running and movement path timing) often go underappreciated as well as underdeveloped in training. As a side note, about three years ago I started prioritizing the utilization of specific movement drills for my offensive skill players (RBs, WRs, TEs) which require both of these skills in conjunction with each other (often through a Constraint’s Led Approach type of style) and immediately saw on-field movement proficiency (namely through increased awareness and comfort) improve drastically during these types of situations for my players.
As Austin plans, prepares, and carries out his movement path through the very congested Buccaneer red traffic in front of him you can again see his patience and control. This is another rarity among most players; when traffic begins to get tighter and clamp down on players, they often begin to feel the need to put their head down or change their movement mechanics to be of a less efficient/effective sort (movement behaviors often indicative of a lower skilled performer). However, you can see Austin fixate his visual gaze just long enough to get a feel & sense as to what is going to occur and then he trusts his instinct to act accordingly and believe he will bypass the traffic imposed by no-less-than 4 Buccaneers who are in hot pursuit.
Because of this tremendous instinct (I believe some innately ingrained and some nurtured by being in these types of situations) he is able to get through unscathed and begin to look ahead to the next motor problem on the field being presented in front of him. We fast forward then to the 19/18 yard line where we see our hero allowing one of his own blockers to occupy essentially three Buccaneers in-front of him. Note: his player isn’t literally blocking three…it’s that because of Austin’s navigation (taking place with a subtle path-changing crossover linear running action) he sets things up to accordingly enable this to unfold.
At the 15 yard line he begins his path back to the middle of the field in that high speed crossover action that allows him to at least maintain a relatively good deal of horizontal velocity. At the 13 yard line, we see one of those Tampa Bay players from earlier, get just enough of a hand on him to change his path ever-so-slightly and to carry that into a sharper outside foot plant speed cutting action (while he’s standing on the 10 yard line number) to get up-field north and south towards the end-zone and eventually into it.
All in all, though I would’ve witnessed a glimpse of some of this rare football instinct and crisp movement mechanics (especially in the open field) two to three years ago from Tavon Austin…I do not believe we would have seen this level of movement control and true patience exhibited by him. All of this comes with time, exposure, and learned experience from being in these situations over time (knowing that a higher level mover will likely adapt “more optimally” to these experiences). He has begun to more fully match aspects of his sensory-perceptual characteristics with that of his motor qualities (i.e. biomechanics) and the result is what we saw on this movement breakdown today. This all leaves Buccaneers grasping for air and laying on the ground confused as to what just happened…while Austin stands victorious with 6 points to his name.
To watch this spectacular play click here: