Game: Cardinals at Falcons
Play: Cut after cut Gabriel maneuvers his way around Cardinals
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
There are a few times every season where you likely end up scratching your head upon hearing the name of the player who produced the standout movement performance of the week. It happened earlier this season in week 9 when Broncos RB Kapri Bibbs was our weekly recipient and it’s likely about to happen again today.
Picking up where Bibbs left off we find relatively unknown wide receiver Taylor Gabriel of the Atlanta Falcons standing firmly atop the movement ladder this week. Gabriel flies under the radar even more by playing on the same team at the same position as one of the very best in the business, fellow Falcon WR, Julio Jones. On Sunday, Gabriel not only laid down moves that I selected this week’s award off of, but he also produced another similar play later in the game that ended with a diving Superman-style leap into the end zone that easily could’ve been featured here, as well.
Fun fact: the currently win-less Cleveland Browns released Gabriel at the start of the 2016 season (I’m sure they had their reasons). Well, that’s a “fun” fact for anyone who is not a Brown fan.
What happened movement-wise on the play?
With his MVP candidate of a quarterback Matt Ryan standing in the shotgun straddling the 40 yard line, Taylor Gabriel is lined up in the slot to the left of Ryan with his lead foot on the 37 yard line. As soon as the ball is snapped, Gabriel slices backward with an open power transition step to set-up the wide receiver screen (note: this “step” ends up being a step to a short, controlled shuffle to get himself into position).
Gabriel catches the ball at the 40 yard line and while securing the ball he immediately flips his head to his hips to get himself positioned to read & recognize where his next moves shall take him. With Falcon blockers quickly getting out in front of him on the screen, he also realizes that he has more interpersonal space between himself and any other party on the field (approximately 5 yards) than he expected so he gets in two quick acceleration steps. This acceleration phase is short-lived as he elects to use the first Falcons block to his advantage and executes a unilateral speed cut off of his left leg at around 38/37 yard line. This decision turns out to be an effective one as a nice little seam exists for Gabriel to pick up some quick yards…and also gives himself the opportunity to show off some moves in a bit, as well.
For the next 7 to 8 yards, Gabriel hits the gas pedal and quickly the yards begin to accumulate. While in the midst of the set-up running lane, Gabriel starts to scan the landscape in front of him for potential affordances for his next actions. Though the actual biomechanics of some of the moves on this play are stupendenous, one of the most fascinating characteristics on the whole play was the movement set-up that happens here; at around the 33 yard line, till around the 31, his visual gaze appears to fixate on the wanna-be Cardinal defender standing around the 25/26 yard line (granted, it should be noted that I don’t know for sure that his eyes ‘fixated’ per se but this would be my best guess though I wish we would have some visual gaze data on the docket for this!). Thus, as he sees that the defender is moving to Gabriel’s left (the defender’s right) and is slightly off-balanced in that way too, Gabriel elects to again perform another speed cut off of his left to maneuver to his right.
As he executes this cut, it gives him just enough room to bypass that Cardinal defender and move onto the next one who is headed in that direction with the number 18 on his mind. Notice Gabriel’s eyes once again here, as soon as he gets enough room past the initial defender, the gaze of his head pops up to get situated on the next aspect of the movement problem (i.e. the next guy). Through using a constraints-led approach and lots of open environment learning tasks that are representative of ones such as this in training, I can tell you first hand that one of the most clear & common affordances for action is a defending player moving at high speeds in one direction and the offensive player to zero in (with his visual gaze/quiet eye), decelerate his body (through any number of deceleration styles) just enough to get his feet relatively close to parallel to give himself a two way option…this almost always hesitates (and panics) the defender enough for the offensive player to execute their preferred and/or desired movement strategy. Long story short: at the 25 yard line, Gabriel puts on another move (this time a cut off of his right foot and onto his left in a lunge re-acceleration type of variety) on another defender who ends up grasping for nothing but air on his tackle attempt.
After bypassing this latest tackle attempt, Gabriel sees his buddy Julio singled up on a blocking situation with former All-Movement Team DB, Patrick Peterson (at this point, Gabriel looks like he could care less about the other Cardinal defenders pursuing from behind as it’s likely that he can feel them and knows that they’re going to be part of the wash in a bit). From the point where his last cut took place at around the 25/24 yard line till the 17 yard line, he performs some short-stance deceleration steps which allows Peterson to be put at a severe disadvantage that he has found himself in; a much bigger, physical man blocking him and a very elusive dude ready & willing to go anywhere he is not. Thus, at the 17 yard line, Gabriel one more real sharp cut (a left-foot plant crossover) which gets Peterson completely turned around with no chance at even showing down #18 and keeps Gabriel in a solid body position to get right back into his re-acceleration mechanics (Note: because of the combination of Gabriel’s stature, the speed he was moving at, the intention for the movement after the cut, and the directional angle of the cut, I really like the use of the crossover here!). From there, it’s just a few glances over his shoulders and then off to the homestretch of the race to find himself in the end zone soon enough.
Okay…watch this one on repeat from any vantage point…if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to get enough!