2016 Play of the Week – Week 4

Game: Cowboys at 49ers AND Chiefs at Steelers


Bell pic 3.jpg

Play: Big-time players make big-time plays (and cuts)

What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

We have all heard the cliché comment, “big time players make big-time plays in big-time games,” right? Though some will say that week 4 of a regular season (even at the highest level of qualification) isn’t big-time, I would argue that any week playing in the National Football League really is. To take this a step further, few players made bigger contributions to their teams’ success in week 4 than our Movement Play of the Week recipients, Ezekiel Elliott and Le’Veon Bell (S/O to Julio Jones and Matt Ryan though too). Not only did these two players step up when it counted but they both displayed some masterful cuts in the process…cuts executed so proficiently that they stood out to be co-owners of the best movement performances for the week.

What made these cuts so darn good? Well, as we talk about nearly weekly here, let’s remember that no two cuts (or any agile move for that matter) executed on football field is ever truly the same. Instead, the movement skill (let’s look at it as a solution) must be matched to meet the peculiar needs of the problem. To add to this, one of these guys (Elliott) is a rookie still getting adjusted to the extreme movement demands present in the NFL and the other (Bell) was playing in his first game action of the 2016 season after coming off of a suspension & injury from the 2015 season. Furthermore, though both guys are relatively similar in stature (Elliott at 6’ & 225lb and Bell at 6’2” & 225lb) they display differences in their movement skill-sets; with their kinematic signatures AND movement strategies. That all said though, both individuals executed those respective selected movement strategies with precise timing and efficient mechanics.

Because of this, we will pay special attention in this week’s Movement Play of the Week highlighting their cutting actions displayed on the plays we witnessed from them on Sunday. Before we do, you may want to review my blog from when I broke down the different cutting actions of NFL RBs from a number of years back.


What happened movement-wise on the play?

Let’s start here with the rookie. Though Elliott is inexperienced in the League his movement style at the position has been very conducive to success under the demands of typical problems at the NFL for quite some time. Let me take you back to an article I wrote about football agility that featured him back in 2015.


Honestly, if I were giving out an All-Movement Team at the quarter way completion point of the season, it would be hard to not rank Elliott as my top mover at the RB position this season. He’s been that good and his movement is only getting more refined with every tote of the rock (that must be why he continually insists on telling the Cowboys coaches to “feed him” after every carry).

On this play, he made two cuts that are worthy of our recognition. The first came at his 37/38 yard line while still behind the LOS. We see the second at the 44/46 yard line after he just slipped a tackle and has a safety closing quick 5 yards in front of him.

As you will see from the first on the video below, this outside foot power cut (relatively wide BOS & low COG with an inside foot reacceleration) happens decisively when he anticipates and then sees the hole break open in front of him. Though we see this clean cutting position, it’s more about what he is sensing, seeing, and processing that makes this movement action possible because in order to be successful this cutting action must be performed at precisely the right time…i.e. no amount of cone drills are going to ever simulate this. That said, I do love how he throws that left foot down rapidly and sharply and doesn’t hesitate to put down the right foot and get into reacceleration.

Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers

On the second cut, we see him execute a very unique but quick modified speed/crossover cut. Though the right foot plants rapidly outside his centerline it (the foot) pops back up to propel into his reacceleration while his left foot remains planted in the ground. Typically, I wouldn’t advocate for a crossover with any guys that start to creep up into this stature (usually safest for the shorter guys) but based on Elliott’s naturally low COG and the inside left leg flexion while it is planted along with the timing of the action, it is more than effective. Here again, you can see how quickly he gets back into reaccelerating. However, the best acceleration in the world will mean very little without the deceleration and cutting prowess he displayed on either break.

Take a peek at Elliott’s moves here.


Now let’s move onto the a guy that two years ago made my All-Movement Team for 2014, Le’Veon Bell. Let’s go back a few years to review as to what Bell’s movement is all about.


Though to an educated movement consumer his movement skills were actually a little rusty at a multi-level of analysis (perceptual, cognitive, and biomechanical), this was to be expected given the time off and only practice tempo experience in the last 10 months. However, this movement specialist will take even a slightly non-fine-tuned Le’Veon Bell over most players at his position across the League. That all said though, we didn’t see him necessarily hitting the same types of depths or as sharp of angles in this cuts as we have maybe come to expect from in the past (could be dependent on what he was seeing, thinking, and behaving like as he felt his way through things again). That will come though as it’s only a matter of time till the old Bell is back.

Even with that, like on the Elliott play, Bell made a pair of cuts that you just won’t see every day. The first occurs right at the LOS on the Chiefs’ 46 yard line. The second took place with a nasty little speed cut at the 41/40 yard line.

On the first, we see Bell’s sense, awareness, and patience really show through as it leads up into a slower speed crossover cut. Where the cut is executed, it looks as though Bell may have a two-way-go (where he could have sat & dipped and brought it back inside) though the LB #52 is crashing pretty hard and may have obstructed Bell’s perception or thought processes regarding his affordances for action to do so (bring it back inside)…besides, who am I to second-guess what he felt was most optimal for him based on what he was seeing, thinking, and feeling at the moment?! At this type of slower speed though, the crossover can be executed much more safely and allows for a greater likelihood for higher biomechanical efficiency.

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers

Onto the second cut, we see some of the patented feint & faking that Bell sets up almost without an equal across the League (maybe the only guy who does so on similar levels would be LeSean McCoy). With a safety a solid 5 yards away and pursuing to the boundary hard, Bell has his opponent right where he wants him so he decides to try and put him on a poster in his first game back. He offers just a little shimmy to pause & deceive the defender’s thought processes before Bell sits down on his left leg hard & quick and pushes back out into a speed cut (still inside right foot reacceleration but not nearly as wide/deep with the plant). We should note that this defender was no ordinary safety either; instead, it was one of the best movers and all-around players at the position, Eric Berry.

Check out Bell’s play here now!




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