2019 Play of the Week – WK14 – Nick Chubb

Note: Just as we did in 2018, throughout the 2019 NFL season we will be placing our scope of analysis during our Movement POW on utilizing the reciprocal relationship between a problem and a solution (and the performer and his environment) as the foundation of our investigation. However, we will be looking to take that another step further this year as we aim to center our discussions on the potential information transactions and energy exchange which occurs between the two (problem and the solver) which serve to channel the movement solutions organized. You can find out more on the importance of this focus here:


PLAY: Chubb brings out a lot more than speed to break the long run



GAME: Bengals at Browns

PLAYER: Nick Chubb, Running Back, Cleveland Browns

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Other Contenders:

  • Lamar Jackson, Quarterback, Baltimore Ravens: This play could have easily been the Movement Play of the Week. And maybe, it actually should have been. However, being that we have featured Lamar Jackson on three previous occasions this season, and also there’s likely a feature on him coming up in about a month or so once the season is over (hint, hint!), I thought we would highlight a different player’s movement skill this week. However, here is the video from yet another juke heard around the world which was organized by Jackson as it was only fitting that this is the play that takes him over 1,000 for the season. Let’s remember here, the guy he’s leaving grasping for air also plays in the NFL.


  • George Kittle, Tight End, San Francisco 49ers: With the game on the line in the 4th quarter of a shoot-out between two of the NFL’s very best teams, the NFL’s most skillful moving tight end took over the game when the 49ers needed it the most. On 4th and 2, Kittle rattled off a 39 yard catch and run that was rather Beastmode-esqe in its structure.

Pertinent Problem Constraints at-play:

Organism –

In his second year in the league, the Cleveland RB has been one of the sole bright spots in what was a really highly anticipated season turned quite dismal for the Browns. In fact, through 13 games, Chubb is sitting atop of the NFL Rushing Leader board ahead of Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey while averaging over 5 yards per carry in doing so. Additionally, no RB has touched the ball more in 2019 than Chubb has. So, what we have in Nick Chubb is a guy who has been exposed to a variety of situations and movement problem experiences and has found his rhythm in doing so. Though it’s week 14 and this means that no player is not without being banged up in some way (especially at the RB position and carrying that kind of workload), Chubb has been showing movement skill expertise over the course of the second half of the season, as we are about to see on display today.

Environmental –

Thank goodness that this is a division rivalry game so there’s a little fire being that these are two below average teams (one real bad). This one was held on the grass field at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland which is one of the most rambunctious places to play in all of the NFL (even when the Browns are underachieving). Sunday’s weather brought temperatures in the mid to high 40’s with mostly clear skies for most of the game. A great day for football.

Task –

1st and 10 from Cleveland’s own 40 yard line, the Browns are leading by 1 point early in the 3rd quarter. Chubb was facing a unique situation at this point on Sunday compared to most other games of 2019. In the first half of the game, he had just seven yards on only three carries. Thus, we could speculate that he was not in his usual groove prior to this point. The run that was the outcome of the emergent movement solution execution we are about to dive into would be the springboard for a huge second half that would see him go for nearly 100 yards.

Information Present/Affordances for Action

Local Problem of Significance #1:

Split the gap…

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As soon as Chubb gets the ball from his QB, Baker Mayfield, he has his first local problem to overcome; two Bengal defenders bearing down on him, one angled inward from his right (#30, the safety) towards his running alley, and the other (#58) who is momentarily spying Mayfield before attending to Chubb (luckily, he’s planted at an angle to attack towards Mayfield here which affords Chubb enough comfort to avoid any potential threat from him as #58 must ‘false/plyo step’ before attacking towards Chubb).

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The ‘likely’ specifying informational variables which would prove to be relevant would be oriented around the spatial-temporal relationship between Chubb and these two defenders, signified by the space of green grass between them, and the movement kinematics of the respective opponents (mostly of the free safety here). Finally, what is lurking just behind this first local problem to solve is surely to add a layer of information to perceptually connect to too.

Local Problem of Significance #2:

Interacting with the various sources of perceptual information…

As Chubb comes out of the solving of that initial problem, Bates gets just enough of Chubb’s right ankle (i.e. haptic information) to deter him slightly be briefly knocking him off balance. However, Chubb quickly regains this dynamically while almost immediately getting his visual perception up and onto the landscape which exists in front of him.

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Here now, though he elects to get into an acceleration mode for a few steps to get a little speed going, its followed up by very controlled transition steps through and around the traffic in the open space. He’s picking and choosing his path here rather eloquently and I feel it’s all because he’s biding the time necessary to accurately pick-up the information about the unfolding problem as he navigates around obstacles in the environment (both opponent’s and teammates who can assist).

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When he crosses the 50, #21 for the Bengals has what is probably the best opportunity at bringing him down. This would be a good time to bring up that Chubb is 220+ pounds though, who is equal parts of sheer athleticism, unique anthropometric features, and gifted physical qualities. Thus, going high on him to bring him down to the turf is likely to not be overly fruitful more times than not especially for a cornerback in space with him (thus, showing the lack of intentionality and tackling skill by #21 here). So, we see Chubb quickly shew #21 away with relative ease but the cool thing is, as he’s doing so, he also has the perceptual wherewithal (i.e. skill) to get his eyes back up yet again and determine the next invitations for action in his affordance landscape.

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Local Problem of Significance #3:

Split this gap too?…oh wait, I am receiving another invitation over here…

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As the contact between Chubb and #21 is through, Chubb perceives another large gap of space in front of him right down the middle of the hashes which is created by the 3v2 situation which is unfolding. Depending on the disposition of this problem (the amount of space available of the gap, the interactive movement dynamics between his blockers and the defenders, etc) and how it will meet the state of the performer’s movement toolbox at that time (his current effectivities), this will determine the mutual, reciprocal relationship of the entire system as well as the affordances which will be available and which one is the most functional to accept.

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With his visual gaze oriented in front of him, Chubb is able to pick-up (i.e. though I don’t know where exactly his eyes are!), that #23 for the Bengals is coming free from the attempted block from Chubb’s teammate. As he connects to this information, Chubb starts his search process for additional affordances for action (check his head turn and resultant visual scanning starting at the 37 yard line).

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Then and there, he is able to see his teammate #13 (i.e. Odell) running downfield to assist him and Chubb makes the decision (likely subconsciously) to change his locomotion path and begin veering to his right as well as to the outside of this teammate-blocker dyadic relationship unfolding. As he does, #22 actually does a decent job responding and flipping his hips to turn his path, as well. However, the speeds that Chubb is at already creates a tough problem for #22 to solve and the angle of pursuit along with the amount of space available to exploit for Chubb is too daunting of a task for #22. The best #22 can do is close enough of the space to get Chubb second-guessing if he can actually get to the corner and then ultimately changing direction back to the middle of the field at this time.

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What qualities stick out that make this the Movement POW:

1. Constant scanning for accurate perception

With this year’s emphasis on the nature and role of information to guide movement in our Plays of the Week, I feel as though the importance of the need for active constant scanning of the landscape in order to give the performer the opportunity to pick-up and detect the information should be quite obvious. As you watch the Chubb play, be sure to watch how his head turns and how it may relate to where his eyes are pointing as well as what they could be picking up as he does so. Note: the regulation of his movement behaviors are dependent on this.

2. Shared affordances

Picking up where point #1 left off, part of what allows Chubb to get the outcome that he does is based on the process of execution which was guided by the interactive nature between he and his own teammate, OBJ, down the field as we discussed above in our investigation of information and affordances. Quite simply, Chubb is attuned to the movement behaviors and interacting problem-solution dynamics from the relationship occurring between his star WR and the pursuing Bengal’s DB, and it is very apparently shaping the on-going control of Chubb’s movement behavioral dynamics.

3. The right speed for the right time

If you consult with most performance enhancement specialists, they will tell you that “speed kills” and “football is a game of acceleration”, etc. And though that is certainly the case at times under the constraints of certain problems, the truth is, at most times, the game is about operating at the maximum controllable velocity which allows you to solve the problems in front of you and around you. As UFC Fighter Conor McGregor once stated, “precision beats power and timing beats speed.” Chubb shows off these qualities within his movement skill-set here with pizzazz.

Of course, his ability and knack to get into acceleration mode is still imperative to the functionality of the global movement solution he coordinates. However, equally as important are the times where he’s feathering the gas pedal or executing through subtle transitional steps to give himself the time to adequately pick-up information about the situation that is unfolding.

How could we potentially guide athletes to acquire similar movement skills?

Those three stand-out movement qualities culminates in what I feel is a rather obvious recommendation for the learning environments we design: it is absolutely vital that we give the opportunities in practice/training for a player’s organized movement solution to be informed from what’s around them or in front of them.

This is certainly something that we have discussed quite extensively over the year. However, it baffles me how few football coaches and performance coaches alike elect to develop the movement skills related to speed and change of direction (i.e. agility) in context!

As it relates to both of these movement skills (linear speed and COD) being executed on a football field, they are almost always expressed in relation to a relatively unique and unfolding problem disposition which is connected to the interactions between one’s self in relation to an opponent’s movement behaviors as well as our teammate’s movement behaviors.

So, in a nutshell, let players go solve movement problems as it’s the context of the situation that will determine the organization of the content!

Did this breakdown intrigue you and you want to understand sport movement skill and behavior more deeply? Well, you’re in luck! I am part of an exciting new movement education project entitled EMERGENCE which will aim to uncover how many of the concepts, theories and principles live and breathe within movement behavior in sport. Check us out at http://www.emergentmvmt.com and get involved!

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