Game: Raiders at Redskins
Play: Chris Thompson breaking out in front of our eyes
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
As usual, week 3 of the NFL season didn’t leave me short of choices regarding the League’s best. For starters, we had our week 1 top performer, rookie RB Tarik Cohen, with the near-walk-off winning run in overtime when he cut through the Steeler defense; if it wouldn’t have been called back for him having stepped out of bounds (or did he?!), I may actually be doing another write-up on him right now. We also had past All-Movement Team performer Odell Beckham, Jr, performing one of his now-routine circus catches that show us what true kinesthetic sense, awareness, and skill at the WR-position is all about. Finally, we saw TY Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts blaze past the Cleveland Browns en route to a long-hitting catch and run.
When all was said and done though, it’s a 2017 breakout playmaker for the Washington Redskins, Chris Thompson, who is getting our recognition of being this week’s best of the best. They say that in the NFL stars shine brightest on Sunday nights and if that’s true, Chris Thompson is well on his way to doing what he did that evening more often as this season continues to play out after he amassed 188 all-purpose yards to assist his Redskins in overtaking an AFC top contender in the Oakland Raiders.
What happened movement-wise on the play?
The play begins with the game already late in the third quarter and the Redskins already up 14. Washington is on their own 14 yard line with a 3rd down and a long 19 yards to go. Quarterback Kirk Cousins accepts the shotgun snap with his feet between the 11 and 12 yard lines and with the large cushion between the Raider’s DB and Cousins’ new stud do-it-all RB/WR, he knows immediately where he is going with the football. Chris Thompson, #25, pops forward horizontally from his stance with one hard acceleration step and executes an angle slice to set himself up, straddling the 13 yard line, ready to receive the bubble screen pass from Cousins.
Thompson receives the ball and immediately stares down two Raiders defenders who are already in pursuit. The visual perception gained from this stare down is important to the level of mastery displayed in this play and the organization of the skill execution as a whole as it allows Thompson, whether it’s more consciously or subconsciously occurring, to account for the amount of opponents present for him to deal with as he attempts to overcome the challenges of this respective problem.
Once he takes in adequate information regarding these two defenders and he knows that their placement on the field affords him the time and space from them that they present little threat to him in the immediate future. He hits his acceleration pedal for the next 5ish yards which brings him past his fellow WR’s block being carried out on the 19 yard line. He uses this block as an affordance to shield himself from Bruce Irvin (#51 the Raider LB who Thompson just got done taking in the information from). His acceleration sequence here actually isn’t done in all-out fashion because in order for this play to pan out the way that it was drawn up and for Thompson to pick up the chunk of yardage needed, he also needed to allow the time for members of his offensive line to get downfield and pick up blocks on suspecting DBs at the 24-26 yard lines. And pick up blocks they did!
At the 20 yard line, Thompson gathers his feet underneath his center of gravity and tighter within his base of support so he is able to execute a subtle crossover cut under adequate control (this cut takes place as he straddles over the 20 yard line). He takes a few transition steps (over short distance where the only intent is to prepare himself for subsequent dynamic movement patterns in acceleration coming up) to bypass some of the traffic and trash laid down by his OL. These transition steps allow him to, again under control, execute another subtle (meaning, not overly sharp or overly high force absorption) crossover cut on the 25 yard line.
Once he hits the 25 yard line, it’s easy to see his sole intention now is to hit the gas pedal hard as he gets into full acceleration mode. This allows for the next 10 to 12 yards to be picked up in a hiccup! For all intent and purpose now, it’s essentially off to the races.
Once Thompson gets past the first down marker and gets loose into the open field, we can see the importance of his kinesthetic sense & awareness as he attempts to continue to take in perceptual information (specifically visual sensory data) from his dynamically-changing surroundings in an attempt to ensure that he is not going to be caught from behind. We also get to see the next 40 yards go flying past for Thompson is one of the rare instances where a player on an elite football field will get to show where pure linear speed work plays this massive of a role into the success of a player’s execution on a play. Even with this crisp and clean linear speed mechanics/technical model that Thompson has on display here, notice he’s still always taking in the perceptual information from his environment (which, in my opinion, isn’t required enough during most activities geared towards speed training).
Of course, typically guys of Thompson’s anthropometric features/stature (5’8” and 191lb; which often relate to incredible short distance acceleration burst and less top speed maintenance) combined with the movement solution that was required in this situation (he hit the gas pedal hard early; this will likely lead to less ultimate acute speed endurance ability), we see some things fizzle in the last 10 yards of the run of course after most of the damage had already been done. Thus, he was brought down by Raiders CB, David Amerson, after he had rattled off 74 yards and brought his team down to the 10 yard line.
Click below to watch the new Washington playmaker doing his movement thing here: