2016 Play of the Week – Week 6

Game: Jets at Cardinals

Play: DJ, back again!

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What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

Way back in Week 1 of this young season and even earlier before the season even began, I highlighted David Johnson, the RB of the Arizona Cardinals, as one of the new supreme movers on the scene in 2016. Well, with his 2nd Movement Play of the Week in 6 weeks, he is actually even far exceeding my expectations; the diversity of Johnson’s movement strategies and the efficiency of his movement patterns are continually showing new, more effective wrinkles and mastery week-by-week.

That doesn’t mean that this week was a one horse race; it wasn’t! There were definitely other worthy movement performances across the League. From Zeke Elliott and Shady McCoy performing some nifty & agile moves that seem to be their norm right now (after each having been awarded our Play of the Week the last two weeks) as well as Darrius Heyward-Bey with a dynamic effort to go from a sharp, high-speed cut to trucking a defender en route to a long TD scamper. When all was said & done though, I couldn’t help but give credit where credit is due to one of my early frontrunners for Mover of the Year (with Zeke, Shady, and Von Miller being the other notable movers through 6 weeks).

Before we go any further, if you want to review what I’ve already said about Johnson here in 2016 you can check them out now:

https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2016/08/11/training-camp-16-player-movement-evaluation-david-johnson/

https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/2016-play-of-the-week-week-1/

What happened movement-wise on the play?

The play begins with David Johnson standing alongside to the right of Cardinal signal caller Carson Palmer with the feet planted firmly on their 38 yard line. After a slight delay out of the shotgun, Johnson takes the hand-off from Palmer and proceeds to head off-tackle to his left. As soon as he receives the ball, the not-so-stout New York Jet defense shows early indication that this could be a big play opportunity for Johnson as the hole that opens up is wide…gaping even! This allows Johnson to put the immediate acceleration pedal to the floor, which even as a young second year player, Johnson knows that holes close pretty quickly in the NFL so he takes advantage of this intention.

These early acceleration steps pick up some immediate yards as Johnson quickly passes the line of scrimmage and into the second level of the defense. From the 38 to the 42 yard line, we get to see some of the most efficient acceleration mechanics at the RB position on display.

One of the beauties of David Johnson’s movement skill-set though (or really any top notch skilled mover) is his ability to be traveling at high speeds (even if just in early acceleration phases) and to throw on the brakes efficiently enough to place himself in a position to be able to perform multiple solutions from it depending on what the problem of the situation holds (this variety of patterns are  still relatively new for him and becoming more diverse for its use by the week).

We see this happen here from the 42 to the 44 yard line when we see Johnson show great patience, slow down slightly to be able to perceive the environment and the nature of the ever-changing task in front of him, and then throw his left foot down rapidly, while coiling & pressurizing his right limb out in front of him to place himself into a finely-tuned & dynamic lunge cut (note: this was a major part of Johnson’s movement toolbox last season and he is one of the best in this pattern right now) to bypass a wannabe tackler between the 44 and 46 yard lines.

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After he makes the cut, we often see Johnson or any top flight mover get quickly back into reacceleration (that is in fact the essence of efficient cutting in the first place). However, the problem that is emerging on this play will not allow for this early reacceleration. Instead, he takes a few transitional steps forward before performing a little jump cut to his left to get him out of the traffic and hopefully out to the sideline where a little great-on-great (Fitzgerald vs. Revis) action is occurring.

Johnson sees this block and the edge that is being set by the best blocking WR in the game and he decides to use it. This is definitely what we would refer to as an affordance for action and Johnson knows perceptually and cognitively what it means for the rest of his movement actions that he is about to succeed from aka the opportunity exists for him getting to the outside and off to the races! Here then, he uses some angular transitional running actions (transitional in the sense that they aren’t necessarily being performed at full speed and they are a link between a combination of other movement patterns/solutions) which contain a little subtle crossover cutting to both start and end it (the end being the cut he performs on around the 49 yard line when he is stepping on the first down line on the video).

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After he performs this cut he again gets to hit the gas pedal for a few steps which allows him to eat up some ground and get nearly all the jerseys in white now chasing from behind in hot pursuit. Using some dynamic balance (a hard to attain and rare quality among movers especially who are traveling at this higher speed), he gets himself out of the last true challenge presented by a legitimate tackler and then there is only one thing left…to now get off to the races.

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In the open field, Johnson displays both exceptional early acceleration mechanics (earlier “gears” if you want to think of it in this way) as well as top end mechanics (especially for a big dude) though the transitional “gears” getting from acceleration and top end may be a little too long of strides for my liking. Though once he’s at this high speed his backside mechanics are clean & crisp as we can see from the rear view camera that comes in the second half of the video below.

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The other thing that we see from this rear camera that I definitely want to make a mention of is throughout the entire play how he continues to take in information which leads to the emergence of any of his subsequent movement actions. This is often taken for granted but it is an aspect I like to talk about here because where the eyes are looking (and when they are looking there as well as how the player’s brain interprets what the information gathered means) will determine where the player is going and how he is going to get there (i.e. the level of effectiveness of the movement actions selected). The value of this factor in the role of optimal movement performance cannot be overstated.

To watch this week’s top movement performance from DJ31, check it out here…as you will see, it’s spiced with a little Spanish announcing flavor!

http://www.nfl.com/videos/international-social-content/0ap3000000723450/Spanish-announcers-call-David-Johnson-s-58-yard-TD-run

 

 

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