It’s time…Super Bowl LI is just a few days away. And for most football fans it can’t come soon enough. Both inside and outside of the football world it is a bonafide national holiday. And for this particular football movement specialist, it is a day like none other as I get to hear takes from people everywhere who feel so enlightened to share their thoughts on what will happen in the game or who they believe are the game’s best movers (usually this deals with them looking at the statistics or gravitating to the guy who is flashiest or fastest). To help arm you for your football parties I want to share a few thoughts on who are my movers to watch in the big game and what allows them to do what they do.
If you will recall from our All-Movement Team a few weeks ago, the AFC Champion New England Patriots actually did not have a single member on our team. However, as you will see below, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have guys that are more than worthy of fine analysis of the mastery of their movement skills. The NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons is sprinkled with unique playmakers on both sides of the ball that will dazzle you with the dynamics of their moves.
So, without further adieu, who will I be watching Sunday afternoon?
Tom Brady, Patriot QB
Wait, what? Tom Brady? A great mover? If you are thinking, “but Shawn, you did see his NFL Combine video right?” then you probably are part of the majority here. But hear me out. But, before we go there, just for kicks…enjoy this!
So what puts Brady on this list? Well, if you are really watching the nuances of his skills, the GOAT (greatest of all time) at the QB position is a masterful mover in his own right. Let us not forget that any superior sport skill is built on a platform of masterful movement. To watch Brady sequence his feet in the pocket as a response to his intentions on the play and what he must do in relationship to the pursuit of oncoming rushers is a sight to behold. He’s always ready to sling it under a variety of movement problems. Additionally, though I am no QB Coach, it goes without saying that he can make all the throws and does so in an equally efficient & effective fashion. Finally, you can’t be the GOAT especially at this position without having the ability to perform under pressure & anxiety (in fact, this is one of the hallmarks of mastery). Of course, this is exactly where Brady has excelled throughout his career.
Devonta Freeman, Falcon RB
The game’s best decelerator at any position (not only in this game but arguably in the entire NFL!), you will see a wide diversity of movement skills emerge in a variety of contextual problems that Freeman will face. A member of our All-Movement Team the past two years, Freeman isn’t always the most patient of runners…in fact, instead, he often looks as though he’s running like his hair is on fire; this leads to the violent deceleration force contacts which rapidly propel him out of breaks aggressively as a by-product. Note: it’s his precise perception-action coupling that really allows him to do what he does biomechanically.
Dion Lewis, Patriot RB
Though it’s likely that the name of either LeGarrette Blount or James White could be uttered equally as much as Dion Lewis when the Patriots have the ball on Sunday afternoon Lewis is the easily the most masterful mover of this RB room. He can break a game open with one run with his unique quickness of the first three steps of his acceleration out of preliminary movement actions. Additionally, because of his unique deceptiveness in agility actions, it often leaves defenders mistiming their attack angles and tackling attempts and instead ends up grasping for air.
Julian Edelman, Patriot WR
A member of our 2014 All-Movement Team, Julian Edelman has long been one of my favorite movers to watch across the whole League. As you will see Sunday, Edelman utilizes fast, sharp, and rapid slicing actions in all plants and breaks (both in route running and when a ball is in his hands). If the Patriots win on Sunday, you can bet that Edelman will be a big reason why (along with a certain #12 of course). Note: don’t be surprised if you see this cat have a big return on special teams, as well.
Julio Jones, Falcons WR
The freakiest of athletes walking the planet at the WR position (now taking this distinctive title when Calvin Johnson retired last year). Though not the most precise of route runners, Jones uses his unique specific motor potential to run by guys and even when he doesn’t get past them he’s still technically open as he has the ability to out-jump anyone in the League as well as use his body to create just enough separation to get his hands on balls that others simply cannot. Let’s not kid ourselves here…Belichick is more than up to the uphill challenge of taking Jones out of this game…but Jones could still end up being a really bad dude (in a really good way for Atlanta fans) on Sunday.
Taylor Gabriel, Falcons WR
Not to be outdone by his superstar counterpart playing outside of him (i.e. Julio), Taylor Gabriel could be Sunday’s X-factor for the Falcons to best the Patriots. Being a cast off last year from the Cleveland Browns (yes you read that right), Gabriel sometimes goes unaccounted for because of the star power around him but he and the Falcons becomes the benefactor for this. With this special start, stop, and start again capabilities, Gabriel can blow this game open if he gets a few feet of daylight and a ball in his hands. Arguably, Gabriel had the best movement play of the year in 2016 when in week 12 he laid down this filthy display of movement prowess & proficiency.
Martellus Bennett, Patriot TE
With all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski out with injury for the Patriots don’t expect Brady to have much less to work with at this position when they take the field Sunday. A much better-rounded mover than Gronk, Martellus Bennett can run any route in the tree and is a deceivingly dynamic runner with the ball in his hands after reception. Admittedly, though his brother Michael (DE for the Seahawks) has been featured on a few All-Movement Teams in the past, Martellus Bennett probably should have gotten at least mentioned on this year’s Team (yes; I messed up!).
Vic Beasley, Falcon OLB
An honorable mention performer on this year’s All-Movement Team, Beasley is as disruptive of player as you will watch on defense Sunday. Beasley led the entire League in both sacks and forced fumbles, so if he can rattle the cage of Brady he could change the entire landscape of the game. Beasley is all about pure speed off of the edge but I will be curious how much Coach Dan Quinn expects Beasley to use more versatility to attempt to shine from other spots on the field. He is surely capable of it; he appears to be the heir apparent to Von Miller as the new masterful mover in town at the position as he becomes more adept at utilizing a variety moves will rushing the QB.
Dont’a Hightower, Patriots LB
Few backers run the field side to side like the Patriot’s Dont’a Hightower and it shows in his ability to almost always be around the ball when it comes to a stop. Hightower is asked to do a ton of things in Bill Belichick’s defense and he does them all equally well. On Sunday it’s likely you will see him trying to lay the smackdown on Falcons RB tandem Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman anytime either gets their hands on a ball.
Deion Jones, Falcons LB
The Falcons rookie backer Deion Jones is able to do a whole lot and consume ton of green grass in the process. He is relatively light for the position but this allows him to be much faster and more explosive to impact the game like few at the position can. Still relatively unknown to most, you will see Jones running with both backs and tight ends all over the field.
Malcom Butler, Patriot CB
Can Butler be the star of the big game yet again? If you will remember, Malcom Butler ended the Seattle Seahawks’ dreams just two years back and changed the course of his entire career. Butler will be tasked with keeping the explosive Falcon playmakers under wraps is this star DB…and this of course starts and ends with covering Julio Jones which you should see a bunch of on Sunday.
Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen, Falcon Safeties
I list these two together because they are the new version of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas (of course, Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn was in charge of those two for years). Their movement strategies and solutions feed off of each other and they can not only impose their will by delivering punishing blows but can cover too so it shores up a lot on the back-end of the defense (especially with the large amount of crossing patterns that comes with the Patriots). Look for both of these guys to be enforcers on Sunday roaming all over the field.
Okay! There ya have it. Hopefully I was able to offer y’all a perspective of which players could shine based on the coordination and organization of their movement skills on Super Bowl Sunday. Between the commercials and music performances, the party food and drinks, be sure to turn your friendly banter to the graceful and impressive movement that we are surely about to watch Sunday for four hours by some of the game’s very best.