2017 Play of the Week – Week 4

Game: Eagles at Chargers

Play: Blount channeling his own Marshawn impersonation

Blount pic 1

What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

Because of the nature of our blog here, where we center our focus on examples of efficient movement in time and space in response to opponents on a football field, we often find ourselves featuring athletes who may fit a certain mold. You could say that we are somewhat biased towards celebrating those who rely on dexterous and diverse movement toolboxes and make those around them look silly. With this, we may also seem biased towards players who are smaller in stature (and center of mass) and rely on these qualities of their movement dynamics (their respective toolbox) to positively compensate and overcome the challenges they face from their often larger opponents. However, I don’t want to discriminate here against bigger players who have equally proficient movement even if it doesn’t seem to come as natural or as frequent as their smaller counterparts…thus, today I get my opportunity to feature one of these guys.

Take a moment and remember back to 2011; the NFC playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints gave us the run that really made Marshawn Lynch well-known when he laid down the famous 67-yard winning touchdown run and afforded him the nickname, “Beastmode.” This run featured Marshawn dodging, weaving, and throwing around Saint wanna-be tacklers who had numerous opportunities to bring down the big Seahawk back. Well, it seems as though every year since, we see runs performed by RBs and other skill-position players alike where it appears inspired by Lynch when they go Beastmode themselves. Though this play doesn’t quite match that which Lynch gave us six years ago (do sequels with other actors ever measure up to the originals?), our run today by LeGarrette Blount of the Philadelphia Eagles is impressive in its own right and it is our week’s top movement performance!

What happened movement-wise on the play?

Though often not thought of as the most fleet of foot (how many 6 foot tall & 250lb men do you know who are?), LeGarrette Blount has actually, to the surprise of some, been featured on our blog here before. In fact , it was his playoff performance back in 2015, while playing for the New England Patriots, that I utilized (ironically along with Marshawn Lynch) as an example in my blog post, “Football Agility: It’s NOT about the Strength.” This post, which would end up being one of my most controversial ones I have written in my years with this blog, can be read here:

https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/football-agility-its-not-about-the-strength/

In a nutshell: LeGarrette Blount is sneaky agile! Let’s take a peek at what he does here to prove me right!

The play begins with the Chargers up 2 points in the 4th quarter, 2nd and 6 from their own 29 yard line. Blount is the single RB lined up deep behind quarterback, Carson Wentz. Wentz takes the snap and Blount accelerates controllably to him to receive the hand-off at close to the 25 yard line. With 5 yards between he and the work being done at the line of scrimmage, Blount is able to quickly perform a visual scan of what lies in front of him and how the constraints may shape the problem(s) he’s about to face. One of those problems stands 10 yards in front of him staring him down in the form of a pretty dang good Charger LB in Jatavis Brown. Another one of those problems stands to Blount’s left in the form of Charger DE Joey Bosa. As it so often does on an NFL football field (honestly any football field, as well, it just depends on the relative capabilities of the respective players involved), the problem changes really quickly. For the time being, the Eagles very willing run-blocking offensive line takes care of both of these stellar defenders when Brown gets sucked into a block by the OG and Bosa is chopped down by an Eagle TE.

Because of the above mentioned OL efforts, Blount, who has covered the first 5 yards both scanning in an attempt to understand his tactical options (specifically where he is going to go and when he will need to go there) and accelerating to the 30 yard line, now sees a gap which easily affords running through. In fact, this gap contains a whole lot of green grass not only sufficient for picking up the 6 yards needed for the 1st down but also much more!

When he sees this real estate, Blount takes his controlled linear acceleration, crosses over on his left leg and into a right leg initial acceleration step with intention on hitting his maximum speed as quickly as possible. Because of the bad (aka good on a football field) intentions driving this action response (i.e. he’s coming in hot), he travels the next 5 yards in a hurry taking him to the 34/35 yard line. It should be noted that while traveling over that yardage, he was able to see the Chargers deep safety and really zone in on the potential strategy that said defensive back may have: with Blount coming in hot with a full head of steam, most DBs here are only going to have one singular mindset…go low!

Blount pic 5

However, this is where we see the true mastery of Blount’s agility skill. With the DB coming into the picture having accelerated himself to now standing on the 40, with the expectation that he has to go low to take down the bigger man, Blount knows he has him right where he wants him: he’s got the option to go through him or around him to either direction (based on the open spaces). Luckily for the delight of our movement breakdown, Blount goes with the latter.

He goes from being in an all-out acceleration mode to being able to shorten his stride, coil his left leg in a flexed position with minimal heel strike to land only slightly in front of his base of support, and drop his center of mass quickly to execute a sharp deceleration action (we see this right on the 35 yard line). This step serves as the penultimate step as he throws his opposite foot down hard to cut off of.

It should be noted that those smaller statured RBs or WRs that I often feature here on the blog, will usually be able to get closer to their opponent in either 2nd or 3rd level movement problem solving (on a LB or DB) by maintaining more horizontal speed to the point of the cut because of their unique ability to control themselves along the space-time continuum more effectively in response to dynamically moving opponents (though Blount does a wonderful job here especially for a bigger dude).

It should be noted that if you pause the highlight or go frame-by-frame through Blount organizing his movement solution dance from the 35 to the 37/38 yard line, you will see him even leaning to his right in a feinting action with his entire torso all the way up to his head in an attempt to fake and deceive the Charger DB. As he does this, it requires the DB to second guess to open up just enough time and space for Blount to go in the direction that he initially desired to (to his left). It wasn’t enough space that didn’t keep the Charger DB from getting his hands onto Blount and grasping at his right ankle. This gets Blount off-balance to the point where he has to bend at the waist and even briefly utilize the ground to re-gather himself and his balance.

After doing this, there are now two more Charger DBs who have entered the party. Though it could be argued as to how willing they actually were in their participation based on what is about to go down. Blount perceives their presence to his left (whether he directly fixates his gaze on them at any point enough to know what they afford is doubtful…instead, he either sees them in his peripheral vision or just feels them in his space) and now attempts to deflect them as he desires to get back on his horse and back to acceleration. One of these defenders goes low and the other goes high (we call this in ecological dynamics, a “shared affordance”). Another right ankle tackle attempt at bringing down the big man is a half-hearted one and the Charger DB, rookie Desmond King, now is placed in a position where he is going to go for a ride on a 250lb horse! Blount reaches out a stiff-arm that due to the tight space allotted between he and the DB, didn’t come with the full magnitude of force that it could’ve (luckily for King).

Blount pic 4

The stiff-arm (i.e. pseudo grab) is initiated around the Philly 45 yard line and Blount continues on his linear path down the field with King draped over him to around the San Diego 45 yard line when Blount finally gets King off of him. It’s now that Blount shows surprisingly good re-acceleration efforts to gain ground from the smaller DB all while looking back behind him in case he must do something else to assist him in this cause. Blount veers gradually to his right side all while increasing separation from the pursuing Charger crew and eventually ending up near the sideline where the Chargers can finally get to use the boundary as another defender. Of course, King didn’t learn well-enough the first time the stiff-arm and ride was employed and the two partake in a similar dance commencing at the 20 yard line. This time the result is slightly different where Blount now says “enough is enough” and puts the Chargers rookie on his backside before being eventually brought down around the 5 yard line by additional help that was pursuing him from behind.

Click below to watch the 2017 Beastmode play right here:

https://www.nfl.com/share/10103061-7033-0000-0085-47507acc48b4

 

 

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