2016 Play of the Week – Week 13

Game: Panthers at Seahawks

Play: Rawls roaring again


What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

It’s hard to believe that we are already in the last quarter of the season. The time when player movement skills sometimes start to get a little more sloppy as the human organism tries to find ways to deal with the necessary evils associated with accumulated fatigue and stress (both physical and mental). This also often leads to dynamic offensive skill players who haven’t gotten as many reps over the course of the season to stand-out on our movement play of the week while they are competing against opponents who are behind the movement eight ball. This is definitely one of those weeks as we find Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls as our featured performance of this week, still relatively fresh from not playing through most of the first half of the season (suffered a fractured fibula in Week 2).

Rawls just happens to be one of my favorite movers to watch in all of the League as he came on the scene for the Seahawks last year and took the NFL by storm before being sidelined at the end of last season (much as he was for a portion of this season, as well). In fact, after getting the opportunity to see him play live in person on a couple of occasions last season I left highly impressed by the young back’s movement skills especially for being just a rookie last year (especially a relatively unknown one from a MAC school). This even led him onto the third team for my All-Movement Team for 2015.

What happened movement-wise on the play?

Thomas Rawls begins the play lined up as the single set back behind former All-Movement Team QB, Russell Wilson. He immediately performs a quick plyo drop-step from his stance to give himself the timing as well as the forward lean & position to deliver some quick force through his steps into the ground. Wilson hands the ball off to Rawls right at the 50 yard line and two steps after taking the ball Rawls realizes it’s time to get his change of direction-on right off the bat when at the Panther’s 48 yard line he throws his left foot down and performs a short lateral transition step to his right.

Though effective, this subtle lateral step likely could’ve been performed just a tad squarer to the line of direction that he was looking to go (meaning, his right foot was just a little too far out in front of the left) as it would’ve allowed for a slightly better balanced position for reacceleration or another change of direction move (which is what was/is going to come). Don’t get me wrong though; I still love the cut as it was violent and on a dime.

When the right foot goes down into the ground, the left follows in a crossover type of fashion to attempt to get into reacceleration from here. The right leg, which now acts here as the plant leg for this crossover, is in an efficient coiled position to give a good & safe platform for the crossover to take place from (which is one of my pet peeves however Rawls is a back with a naturally low COG so it’s more likely for him to be able to control this degree of flexion during the crossover compared to a taller RB).

Once Rawls comes out of the crossover move and the left foot hits the ground, the gap that he was hoping to potentially utilize to get north and south dynamically closed in a hiccup (like so many areas of green space happen to in the NFL). Because it occurred when his foot was in mid-air, his sensory-perceptual system must pick up on the changing information quickly and make a decision for a different or at least modified movement action instead. However, as the foot strikes, this slight indecision (or should I call it re-decision?) causes him to have to reorient himself & his balance where he then elects to go into a few short, transition steps that are performed in a wider, skater-stride type of fashion (again to assist in the re-balancing act).

Note: It should be said that this perception and decision making was likely all occurring at a subconscious, bottom-up, type of processing because of the spatial-temporal constraints that this all must occur within while constraints of the environment and task are dynamically changing as well (i.e. this is true movement problem solving at its finest).

By the time he hits his third re-acceleration step out of the crossover you can see his eyes up and processing what could come next. About 7 yards ahead of the emerging problem, when Rawls is on the 45 yard line, he sees his WR, Tyler Lockett (another former All-Movement Team member from 2015), blocking for him which creates the problem stemming from the interpersonal coordination required between Rawls and his teammate plus an opponent. From this reading & recognizing, Rawls realizes that he will likely have two choices (to go on Lockett’s inside or his outside hip) depending on how the problem changes.

Thomas Rawls

Because of the early perceiving and further anticipation, the information that is gathered to Rawls from the Panther’s defender (#24) shows that he is going to head to the sideline in attempt to gain contain. However, also because of the early information-gathering, at the 43/42 yard line, Rawls hits the acceleration gas pedal because he feels as though the gap that has been created on Lockett’s inside hip (and sealed by another Seahawks blocker) is plenty of an affordance for him to hit with a head of steam and get through easily without being caught by the pursuing Carolina defenders who don’t have much of an angle given Rawls’ great short distance burst.

Rawls pic 1.jpg

The young Seahawk RB read, anticipated, decided, and acted correctly; so much so that by the 35 yard line Rawls now finds himself with nothing but green ahead of him and off to the races with opponents behind him. Here, he while having to reposition the ball and change hands, and his opponents in hot pursuit with their arms moving in a “more technically-sound” pattern, there is just no way that they will catch him with the 35 yards left to cover (if it would have been 36-37 that’s a different story-haha). However, here I do want to make the mention to all to analyze & study Rawls linear running mechanics & movement signature closely here once he’s in the open field…it doesn’t quite look so textbook or technical model-like as proposed by many pundits, yet it is very, very effective (and I would argue probably efficient too based on his particular strengths & weaknesses).

Overall, this is a great play and movement performance and one that I would tell you to watch from both the sideline as well as end-zone camera views to be able to fully appreciate. To watch Thomas Rawls back in action and back in form, check out the play here!




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