2016 Play of the Week – Week 5

Game: Bills at Rams

Play: The real Shady standing up again


What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

If you rewind back to 2013, you will see that LeSean ‘Shady’ McCoy was a very frequent player of discussion here at Football Beyond the Stats. That season, he was twice awarded our Movement Play of the Week and he was also featured when I broke down the common cutting actions of RBs at the highest level. More importantly, he set the standard of movement excellence for us right from the start when I named him my first-ever Mover of the Year.


Of course, that was all back when McCoy was a Philadelphia Eagle and he was featured in then-Eagle Head Coach Chip Kelly’s vaunted high-paced offensive attack. In 2014, Shady again found his way onto our All-Movement Team but was overtaken by Earl Thomas as the best mover in the game.

Over the last couple of years though, for whatever potential reason (e.g. injury issues, differences in training, lack of tactical emphasis, possible personal things, etc), things haven’t appeared to be nearly the same for McCoy now that he is a member of the Buffalo Bills. This non-linear process happens frequently in the NFL; heavy is the head that wears the crown. However, never count a masterful mover out: Shady McCoy is back & is potentially as good as ever (we will see how efficient & effective the movement remains as the season progresses). Thus, he is the recipient of our Movement Play of the Week, once again.

Welcome back, Shady!

What happened movement-wise on the play?

Rather than waiting till the end to have you watch the play, I am going to have you watch it before we go any further. You will see that a number of Shady highlights are included here on this video. Though McCoy did break a run for 50+ on Sunday, the play that we are breaking down today, that I feel exemplified the best movement performance of the week, didn’t represent his biggest gain of the day. Instead, it was a display of nifty & shifty stopping on a dime that gets him the nod. This play is actually the very last one on the video and takes place starting at 1:00 in (though I would recommend watching & marveling at the rest of his highlights).


If you have read any of my blogs (or even tweets) in the past, you will know my affection for proficient cutting ability on a football field. I am not at all ashamed to say that there is not a whole lot that excites me more than an agile mover on a football field. Shady, like other greater movers currently in the game at his position (Le’Veon Bell, Zeke Elliott, Devonta Freeman) along with the greats of yesteryear (Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers, Marshall Faulk) all have one thing in common: their unique, special ability to solve movement problems on the field in the midst of chaos and to do so masterfully (and efficiently) under a variety of sometimes-novel movement problems.


To start this play, McCoy is standing with his feet planted on the left hash of the Rams’ 33 yard line. Running out of the I-formation, behind my man and Shady’s fullback Jerome Felton, he begins the movement action by taking a short read step with his left leg which actually also puts him in an optimal position to accelerate forward & take the hand-off from Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor at the 30 yard line after a few mere steps forward.

Well before he gets the ball (I say, “well before” because just split fractions of a second is pretty significant based on the demands of the NFL), his eyes are up and taking in sensory information so he is able to plan his subsequent movement actions accordingly. This is a good thing too because right after he gets the ball, things don’t go exactly how they are drawn up as a Rams defender easily beat his man and is quickly in Shady’s lap in the backfield.

This now represents a problem that I talk to all my RBs about: moving in the phone booth (i.e. a tight area of congestion where often the traffic of one’s opponents have drastically derailed the amount of space that you have to work with) ! And there aren’t a lot of players better at moving more efficiently in that phone booth area that LeSean McCoy!

Upon seeing this Rams defensive lineman, Shady throws on the brakes. You can see this here as he stands on the 29 yard line and this defender is about 2 yards away. This interpersonal distance (between RB and opponent) is key: every player receives different information and attempts to do different things in response to it. Generally speaking, this distance and under (<2 yards) is exclusive to that which we would expect elite-level movers to be able to overcome and no one else….the reason for this; that gap closes quick due to the athleticism that NFL defenders are blessed with.

In this stop position, I love the biomechanical position McCoy gets into here. It’s a bilateral one (i.e. 2 legs) that is coiled (hips back, shins slightly positive with weight distributed on through his laces) so it represents essentially a two-way go (i.e. can go right or left) because of the diversity of Shady’s movement solutions. Meaning, he can do just about anything he chooses out of this.

This defender should’ve read my Cutting Actions of RB blog three years ago, because we see McCoy execute with a tight & quick jump cut that is timed perfectly and doesn’t cover too much lateral distance (a common mistake among inefficient/ineffective movers in this situation) but instead is performed with the intention to get back to reacceleration which is exactly what Shady does as the Ram’s defender comes up grabbing nothing but air.

Now, Shady is what we would refer to as “quicker than a hiccup” in that he can not only stop on a dime rapidly but he gets up to speed very fast, as well (vital at his position of course). We see him then cover the next 7-8 yards in a hurry with very forward, horizontally-projecting mechanics (body-lean, rapid hammering action of the front leg back behind him, quick ground contact).


He does that all while he is processing the sensory-perceptual information out of in front of him which is left with few guys to beat. But now, at around the 18 yard line, we get to see one of the main qualities that make Shady not only very dangerous with a ball in his hands but also so special and different from his peers: of course, the ability to decelerate and then stop on a dime, but to do so all while setting up defenders as he solves the problem that is dynamically changing in front of him.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams

What do I mean? Well, when he is on that 18 yard line, look how attuned his senses are (he almost feels where the pursuing defender is while subtly looking at him theoretically out of his very attuned peripheral vision here), he’s so aware of what’s in front of him and what his options are for problem solving along with the optimal time to execute this action. Because of this, while still looking towards the left pile-on/corner of the end zone with his central vision (to deceive the oncoming defender further), he throws down his left foot in a lunge deceleration type fashion (i.e. shorter steps with feet relatively close together) before quickly taking a few rapid deceleration steps and electing to change direction at a tight redirection angle all while the defender is stuck in never-never-land for bringing him to the ground.

His cutting action of choice here ends up being an oh-so-pretty unilateral speed cut (I did say back in 2013 that he was the best of the best at this type of action). However, he does get slightly off-balanced during the cut itself which allows some of the pursuing defenders behind him to catch up and end up bringing him down before he reaches pay-dirt.


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