2016 Play of the Week – Week 7

Game: Giants at Rams

Play: Collins goes from defensive to offensive

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What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

Because of the rigors of travel and many other complex factors at-play, the NFL games that take place internationally each season often rank as some of the sloppiest of performances. This reality often benefits the defensive units of both teams. This week’s London game definitely had its moments that fit this same billing but with it comes an exceptional movement performance from the Giant’s defensive stud safety, Landon Collins.

At first glance to a typical fan, this play may seem like a simple old turnover followed by a rather lucky return for a touchdown. However, there’s way more than meets the eye going on here and I feel represents one of the most impressive feats in football movement where an immediate switch from being on the defensive to having a ball in one’s hands and going on the offensive. Thus, for the second time in 2016, a defensive player is awarded our Movement Play of the Week (the other being in week 2 after Von Miller’s 3 sack display of mastery).

Additionally, after last week’s David Johnson Play of the Week being featured in Spanish, I was intrigued when I found this week’s play in German. So, enjoy! Besides, even if you don’t speak German, it’s still much better than listening to Simms commentate a play. I kid, I kid!

What happened movement-wise on the play?

The play begins…Ram’s ball on their own 30 yard line, 2nd and 5, and up by 7 about halfway through the second quarter…and the Giants really needing to get a spark to turn things around in the game. These are windows of opportunity for big-time players to step-up, make a play, and shift momentum. Giant safety Landon Collins is about to do just that.

Collins is playing on the weak-side of the field lined up at a little less than 10 yards deep. As soon as the ball is snapped, Collins takes a few backward, shuffle transition steps to read & recognize while getting depth for his tactical responsibilities on the play. However, he never takes his eyes off of Ram’s quarterback Case Keenum and for good reason as Collins is able to read Keenum’s telegraphed throw to the strong-side early, easily, and efficiently (I say easy but this would’ve come from a whole bunch of film study even with ‘trips’ WRs on that side).

As soon as Keenum plants his back foot and starts transferring energy from the plant to his hips for his throwing action to begin, Collins himself plants his left foot hard and coils into an angled break to try and close a whole lot of distance in a hurry…knowing that a whole lot of good things can happen for a defensive back when they trust what their eyes tell them about the anticipation of their opponent.

This break position (and the multiple situations and angles that it can happen from it) is one that I actually criticized Collins for quite a bit when he entered the League because I felt as though the displayed characteristics of his biomechanics often were routinely too narrow, too high, and unaligned for my liking. However, even suboptimal biomechanics (they could just be part of his current authentic movement signature based on his anthropometric features or previous learning though) can be offset by very sound perception-action coupling and that’s exactly what Collins does here. Besides, he is able to get into an effective reacceleration position after taking a real rapid inside leg power step aggressively out of the angled break position which carries him into 3 efficient steps which are placed at a sharp horizontal force vector angle back & behind him.

After those 3 steps, Collins actually has to change direction slightly after the errant Keenum pass hits Rams receiver Tavon Austin in the hands, batting the ball in the air, and turning it into a “tip drill.” Already this play shows the importance of training movement from a perception and information standpoint (rather than just preplanned change of direction for example). Meaning, the movement on a field is always attached to the information that causes it!

Because of the proficiency of this information-movement/perception-action coupling displayed so far, Collins is able to track and follow the ball after it is batted in the air and finds it land right into his arms on the Rams 45 yard line. It is as this moment that Collins immediately turns into an offensive player. Most people will say, “Big deal…he’s a football player. He wants the ball in his hands…” or something of the like. That is not the whole story though!

When we think about the Biodynamic Structure of any movement (or combination of movements) that takes place on a football field (or any open environment sport for that matter) it is the attention and intention that leads to the movement output. This attention and intention (i.e. sensory-perceptual AND cognitive decision making) is as context-specific as the movement patterns themselves. Meaning, a player’s movement skills can become very attuned to creating movement solutions which are highly productive in a defensive sense but lack proficiency when a ball is in one’s hands and the attention and intention has now completely changed (i.e. what the player is sensing and trying to accomplish).

This all is why it’s so important to train football agility in highly-specific manners to further link what the player is looking at and what it means for their movements (i.e. train an offensive player’s agility movement solutions much differently than a defensive player’s). The proficiency and ability that Collins is about to display in the open environment that he is less accustomed to makes this play that much more impressive. Of course, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention that as soon as the ball gets in his hands the Rams offensive players must go on the defensive and the skills (such as now chasing a player looking to make a tackle) that go along with this (after a turnover) are often much less practiced and thus become more foreign than it is typically for a defensive player.

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We can see Collins (likely if we trace his football playing history back far enough he was an offensive player at some point) is actually pretty comfortable in this situation, displaying high football IQ, and setting up the problem in-front of him (such as getting the flow of the opponents all in one direction before bringing it back the other way) accordingly to offer certain affordances for action for him & his movement decisions.

Between the 39 and the 36 yard line, he executes a few deceleration steps to bring himself to a modified angled lunge stop to a power step reacceleration. Note: keep in mind that defensive backs aren’t often decelerating in this fashion linearly because often they are trying to run through someone in front of them and instead are usually decelerating laterally or behind them in order to break on a ball or receiver.

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Once he gets back moving and brings his path back to the other side of the field, his ability to control his visual gaze and scan the landscape accordingly is impressive (look at his gaze of his head/eyes as he is running). Also rather impressive here is his overall kinesthetic sense & awareness that is shown when a Rams player is running free and blind from behind Collins and he “feels” him and at the last fraction of the second, he is able to avoid a tackle from his opponent between the 33 to 30 yard line. The Rams player gets just enough of a blow to Collins though that it not only slows him down but forces him to lose his balance briefly. However, Collins shows tremendous dynamic unilateral balance here to regain stability and control of his body in space and get back into accelerating.

New York Giants v Los Angeles Rams

After doing so, there are now much less dark blue jerseys to beat but on around the 25 yard line Collins, who at the time appears to be headed for the sideline, performs a pretty sharp angled crossover cut avoid the stumbling, desperate Rams player and to head himself vertical up field. From here, there’s nothing but a whole lot of weaving left to do to get himself to pay-dirt. However, that doesn’t make any of these portions of the play less impressive as a now pretty-fatigued Collins has to make it through some remaining traffic to punch in this incredible play for six.

To check out this spectacular play, click here now!

http://www.nfl.com/videos/international-social-content/0ap3000000727375/German-announcers-call-Landon-Collins-44-yard-interception-return

 

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