2018 Play of the Week – Rookie Preseason Edition

Game: 3 Various Plays (Cle/NYG, LAR/Bal, Min/Den)

Play: Rookies finding their movement ways early

What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

Like players (as well as referees too), when a Movement Coach has spent some time away from a task, he has to get his sensory system & perceptual skills re-attuned to the specifying information within the environment to calibrate actions around. Or, in the Movement Coach’s case, couple his (i.e. my) movement analysis to. Though I am in constant analysis mode year-round to guide the skill refinement sessions for my players, it’s just a little different animal when I go about whipping together Play of the Week analysis for readers here of this blog. Because of that, this year, I couldn’t think of a better way to get my game back honed in than to feature some of the NFL’s newest movers in my own preseason rendition of a Play of the Week post. Besides, I have a feeling that we may be seeing more of each of these performers throughout the course of this season and beyond so I may as well as get accustomed to peeling back the layers of their unique movement skills as they unfold and emerge in action.

What happened movement-wise on the play?

We start out with none other than Saquon Barkley…on his very first run as a Giant nonetheless (albeit preseason). This may be the most long awaited NFL debut for a player in recent times; or at least it feels that way for a guy who devotes his whole being to the study of movement on a football field. In fact, let’s not forget that leading up to the NFL Draft, I did my own breakdown analysis of the soon-to-be Giant and speculated that he may be in possession of the most attuned and adaptable of movement toolboxes that I could remember for a player entering the league (check that out here: https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2018/04/25/2018-nfl-draft-preview-opening-the-movement-toolbox-of-saquan-barkley/ ). And on the first snap of 2018, the Giants let Barkley display what that hype was all about.


On the first play of Barkley’s NFL career, from the start to the finish across the 39 yards that were covered, we essentially get to witness everything that I believe makes this RB the heir apparent to the RB movement skill throne: 1). The combinations of agile cutting actions seen on the 11 yard line where he goes from his left foot in a snappy jab action to propel himself coiling into a leaning powerful position to accelerate up-field from. 2). We must not forget that these nifty biomechanics were set-up with an exceptional understanding of where he is in time and space in relation to his opponents (and teammates) and the task in front of him while behaving with his calm confidence in knowing that he can find an emergent movement solution when the time comes for him to execute it/them. 3). At the 17 yard line, with a safety closing in but still approximately five yards away, Barkley understands a wide range of affordances for action for himself personally, and he knows that based on the angle taken by the safety combined with his own personal accelerative burst, he has the ability to initiate a slight re-directional step off his left foot and tickle the gas pedal to exploit the space to his right.

You can watch this fantastic play in its entirety here:


Second, we find ourselves paying close attention to a really intriguing movement prospect for 2018 in Baltimore Raven rookie back-up quarterback, Lamar Jackson. Being a former Heisman trophy winner drafted in the first round, I personally do not believe that the Ravens selected Jackson with intentions of keeping him on the bench behind former Super Bowl winning QB Joe Flacco for very long. But, my job here isn’t to make personnel decisions; instead, it’s to analyze masterful movement. And, without question, Lamar Jackson is a dynamic mover who presents certain challenges to a defense that they just don’t witness week-to-week. On this play that we will feature below, you will get a glimpse of exactly what I am talking about. Ironically, it just so happens that I was at this very game seated in the first row, first level, at the 15 yard line. Thus, I got an up close and personal view of the movement solution that Lamar Jackson organized at this time.


I know, I know…people are going to say, “But the opponents he’s facing are not NFL starters.” Guess what? I don’t care! Put first teamers, second teamers, shoot…put NFL All-Pros out there with Jackson here and I firmly believe he would still score on this play. This type of problem is exactly where Jackson’s skill-set is currently set to thrive within; with a bunch of space to one half of the field and the option to still throw or run, Jackson’s options for solving the global problem in front of him remain abundant. Even within the smaller, local interactive problems (think 1v1, 1v2, etc) that make-up the play, Jackson’s solutions were made for this. Just watch the outside foot, unilateral power cut that he puts the defender on skates with; he sees his opponent shuck the teammate’s block and start to pursue to his left, as he sees the commitment to go in that direction, while planted on his left leg he simply (and seamlessly I may add) elects to bring his right foot down quickly and go into acceleration intention. The moves aren’t done yet; with a lot of green grass to work with and a bunch of Rams defenders pursuing as Jackson runs from east to west parallel to the 5 yard line, he keeps his eyes up while moving at sub-maximal speed. When the Rams defensive back has shown that he has overcommitted to chase Jackson to the sideline the young Raven simply throws his left foot down and crosses over it with his right foot to get north and south to pay dirt.

You can see the former Heisman trophy winner doing his thing here:


Finally, our last rookie feature goes out to the new Denver Bronco RB Royce Freeman. In another game that I had my eyes closely set-on due to a number of individuals I partner with playing in the game (though all out of the game on the bench by this point), Freeman was a guy that I had heard a good amount about from his college days but had yet to see in action very much beyond highlights.


I don’t personally know Anthony Harris (back-up safety for the Vikings) but I feel bad for him. With 15 yards standing between any starting NFL RB and yourself as a safety is not a desirable position to be in; especially when there’s also about 10 yards wide worth of a space for that RB to work with, as well. Though there would also be a chasing DE coming off the left side, Freeman was able to do a lot of dictating in showing off his movement arsenal on this play for his first-ever NFL TD. The impressive move from Freeman here is with Harris coming at him hot, still about 10 yards away, Freeman deceptively stutters his feet briefly to get Harris not only hesitating but also guessing as to which direction, and in what manner, Freeman was going to go. With an optimal space/distance separating between the two, Freeman punches his left foot in a crossover action to his right to get himself into reacceleration mode. The best Harris can do here now is get his hand onto him but not enough to gain a firm grasp or even hope to bring Freeman down. Between this deception, and a good enough block from his WR on another Viking safety who gets turned around on the play, Freeman has plenty of space on the sidelines to work towards and end up finding himself with the Broncos first TD of 2018.

You can watch our final rookie preseason action clip here:




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