Game: Buccaneers at Cardinals
Play: ALL-DAY Long in Arizona
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
A week ago, in week 6 of the season, the Arizona Cardinals made what could end up being a blockbuster trade to alter their season and change the landscape of the NFC (and NFL) in the process when they traded a 6th round pick for the individual who is undoubtedly the best RB in the last decade, in Adrian Peterson (from here on out listed as AD; All-Day).
Honestly, when AD was traded a week ago to the Cardinals I was ecstatic for him for a number of reasons mainly oriented around the fact that I strongly feel as though he is still the RB who led the league in rushing in 2015 (and I also strongly believe he can be that guy given the situation present in AZ). People will scoff at that statement but those people don’t get what makes AD tick especially from a movement skill-set standpoint. People say RBs can’t play after 30 (note: he’s 32 now) and point to his yards/carry average from three games in 2016 (when he missed 13 due to a meniscus injury to his right knee) and five anomaly games in New Orleans where he never really got any semblance of a fair shake at finding his groove and rhythm as a runner (note: AD is the definition of a rhythm runner who needs reps to get his style matched to the demands of that specific game). People will also say he’s lost a step and without that speed there is no way that he can be as effective as he once was. Thing is; he doesn’t need to have the same processes towards execution as he used to (with a reliance on physical characteristics) as long as he finds ways to reach the same outcomes. On Sunday, in his debut for the Arizona Cardinals, you will see just that and the way that he did it is something that actually is near & dear to my heart as you will come to find out.
What happened movement-wise on the play?
Before we go further, I will add the disclaimer that as some people are aware, I do personally know and have spent a bit of time working with Adrian in the past. If you feel the need to cry wolf and scream that I am biased, please realize that as any player I’ve ever worked with will tell you, I am WAY more harshly critical on their movement skill execution and performance than anyone else out there could be (I mean, c’mon; I still have yet to put Everson Griffen on the 1st Team of my All-Movement Team so that should be indication enough!). Additionally, to a blog post like this one, it allows me to bring a really unique perspective as 1). I know at least the work that the player and I deliberately partook in to address the respective movement skills that we see being displayed and 2). I have watched, broken down, and analyzed an extensive amount of film on that player; as I may have said before on the blog, there is no player that I have studied more closely over his career than Adrian Peterson (even well before we worked together). Thus, I think this helps me bring unique perspective to this week’s post.
This play begins just across midfield with the Cardinals up by 11 with 10 minutes to go with a 1st and 20. Adrian is lined up 8 yards deep as the single back. He takes one read transition step with his right leg and gets into three tempo acceleration steps to take the handoff from QB Carson Palmer at the 47 yard line with the RB’s eyes up and scanning early. With an early, gapping running lane to his left, he takes a directional step to his left straddling the 49 yard line. This attempt is quickly thwarted as two Buccaneers defenders come just free enough to deter his path. Honestly, this lane is likely an affordance that would have invited AD into it with his old short-distance acceleration (which was of world class levels for at least the first six or so years of his career).
Under these particular constraints though, Adrian elects to take two short & choppy re-gathering steps in a staggered fashion which ends up evolving into a lunge deceleration (with right leg forward) to a quick crossover reacceleration step with his left foot to reorient his directional path towards his right where there is a lot of green grass and a rather lackadaisically-standing Brent Grimes who has no idea as to what he’s in for next. He pushes that left foot down sharply back and behind him to pick up the first two steps of this reacceleration in a quick turnover fashion while also assessing the affordance field in front of him (this is a fancy way of saying the contextual problem that lies ahead).
He actually begins performing this sensory-perceptual assessment from approximately 5 yards away (while he is running laterally from left to right across the formation) while he’s near the 50 yard line and Grimes has his right foot on the 45. This is an aspect of the skill execution that is imperative to the successful organization of it in response to what the opponent gives you as it helps one understand what options are present. Here now, as the next two steps go down he zeroes in on Grimes as the defender closes potentially realizing he’s got a very bad man approaching quick!
With Grimes now 3 to 3 and ½ yards away (which is an adequate, closer to optimal spacing for where agility actions should occur for most) firmly in AD’s cutting action crosshairs, Adrian can begin some feinting and faking actions performed from eyes, head, and shoulders in an attempt to either deceive or confuse the defending opponent. Well, for most defensive backs in the open field here we will see the eyes’ visual gaze begin to drift distally to this faking action as they do here for Grimes. If this would be a RB who may be more ‘scat-like’ in their style, it’s likely that the DB will stay zeroed in proximally at the hips/bellybutton.
This sequence from Peterson causes Grimes to not only stop his feet but also bite enough on the fake that dictates a shifting of his weight to his left (towards the sideline) and out of position for the action AD is about to execute next. Once he reads the position and balance that Grimes is in, AD understands his two-way go has worked perfectly and he elects to bring it back inside to his left; Grimes’ right.
This position from Adrian is set-up by a widening-out deceleration action with his last two steps going into the plant. From here, he executes his cutting action then from a really wide, sharp right foot plant away from his body which creates an efficient position to lean into and reaccelerate from. His left foot snaps down up and underneath him which springs him back towards his left (when AD is “off” with his cutting solution, his left foot will reach out in front of him and his foot will land with a vertical shin and maybe even a strong heel strike that he then must pull himself over the top of to get to accelerating again).
Don’t get it twisted; though Grimes did in fact get juked, he was actually in a relatively decent biomechanical position (though he lacked in perception and decision-making and thus his action response timing was off) to be able to still counteract here in catching up to AD now. Thus, Grimes himself now matches Adrian’s reacceleration (just accelerating with his right foot first) and takes a number of rapid steps before diving at AD’s feet and getting just enough of them to catch him off-balance and only allow the Cardinals RB to pick up a few more yards after he carried out such an appropriately timed cut.
You know how I mentioned at the onset of this post that this particular movement skill was near and dear to my heart? Well, one of the main overriding objectives in our work together last year was that while AD worked to return from a meniscus injury that required surgery, we deliberately worked to develop coordination (in relation/conjunction with other movement patterns), control (variable stance width, depths, and angles of deceleration/re-acceleration), and organization (executing it/variations of it at the right time and right place versus changing situations) with this style of power cut executed particularly off of his right foot (with the right leg being the surgery side though we always focus on improving both sides symmetrically of course).
This type of power cut is one that I feel as though in order for AD to be in possession of the most well-rounded movement toolbox for him, one that represents the most diversity (possessing multiple solutions for the similar problem) and dexterity (control of a solution for any problem) is this style of cut. When “on”, I’ve seen him be able to have more directional options in time and space as well as re-acceleration options, as well (such as when he executed it with a spin move to make Earl Thomas look silly in Seattle and with a plyo-step versus Lance Briggs back in 2013). Thus, from my perspective it’s a hallmark cutting solution for AD and becomes a signpost for him to have an adaptable movement skill-set as he heads into the future.
Honestly, we never got to see the full fruition of this work together in that by the time his season was complete we never were able to fully test its use under the ever-changing conditions of his demands. Well, it’s quite obvious that he has been working by himself on the fine-tuning and polishing of this strategy and adjustability of it as a solution while on-field since. Thus, when I saw him execute it with such supreme control and at appropriate timing not only once, but also a couple other times under other contexts (at a different place on the field with different intentions or changing problems) it made me smile from ear to ear.
I did have a hint that it was in his toolbox and he was starting to feel comfortable executing it when I saw him play in week 1 in Minnesota versus the Vikings and a version of it showed itself there so I was hoping it was just a matter of time till it emerged again at the right time & space (note: one should never force the execution of a respective movement strategy but instead it should emerge connected to the problem that needs to be solved).
The great thing about this all is I hope and pray as well as believe that this is only a beginning glimpse of the special sauce that Adrian still has in store for 2017. If he can remain adaptable in his movement strategies and the control of the execution of the actions being carried out in response to multiple contexts, there are very few problems that he won’t be able to solve. Yes, even at 32 years old and yes, even with diminishing steps lost. Let’s all watch and see!
Click below to watch AD doing his re-inventive thing here on this week’s play: