Note: To assist us in our investigation of the movement problem-solution dynamics in American football, we will be placing a special significant emphasis on the affordances for perception and action which may be present in the play and serve to channel and guide the movement behaviors which ultimately emerge for the respective player. You can find out more on the concept of affordances here:
PLAY: A long house call for the rookie Rodgers
GAME: Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns
PLAYER: Isaiah Rodgers, KR, Indianapolis Colts
- Kyler Fackrell, OLB, New York Giants – The New York linebacker, spearheading a spirited Giants defense attempting to garner their first win of the season, snagged a Dak Prescott pass and immediately switched roles and went on the offensive as he weaved through traffic and housed an interception to put the Giants up big in the first quarter on Sunday. As noted by the numerous times that I have featured a defensive player scoring after a turnover on this blog, there’s very little that is as impressive on an American football field than this type of role reversal (magnificent kick or punt returns often fit that distinction though!).
- Dak Prescott, QB, and Cedrick Wilson, WR, Dallas Cowboys – In the same game, Dak and one of his many talented wide-outs hooked up on the trick play in ‘Philly Special’ style where Wilson took a reverse from the Cowboy RB (who had already taken the hand-off from Prescott) before flipping the ball to Dak for his first-ever receiving touchdown. Like the defensive to offensive transition play, there’s something awfully impressive about players executing a movement or sport skill that is somewhat novel at a high level (passing for a wide receiver or catching for a quarterback). This, of course, all occurred before Dak went down with a gruesome ankle injury later in the game (on that note: big thoughts and prayers go up his way for a full recovery!).
Pertinent Problem Constraints:
- If you are unfamiliar with Isaiah Rodgers, you’re not alone. I personally had to do a quick google search just to get caught up on exactly who he is and what he’s about. That said, though he’s a cornerback, he’s actually not even on the two-deep of their weekly public depth chart at corner. Ironically enough, on some published depth charts, he’s not even listed as the starting kick returner for the Colts either. However, all that matters to him and to the Colts, is that on this given play, he was on the field performing those duties with a major opportunity to make a much more major impact…which, for a rookie, can mean a whole lot for where and how he will be listed on the depth chart in coming weeks especially after a play being made like today’s!
- Though relatively unheralded being a sixth round pick, Rodgers did have a solid senior season at Umass and though he didn’t have the chance to compete at the NFL Combine in Indy last winter/spring before the NFL Draft, he did have a Pro Day where he recorded a 4.28 in the 40. Now, let’s keep in mind that this reported number likely isn’t of the laser variety, so there’s probably some wiggle room as to what it actually is. Additionally, if you are a frequent reader of this blog, you probably know just what I think of the value of 40 times for American Football at the NFL level. However, it does offer some speculative insight in that it’s likely that Rodgers is able to use this physical performance characteristic in his individualized movement problem-solving processes for perceiving and acting upon certain affordances for action.
- The mostly sunny, mid-60’s temps of Sunday’s noon game where the Colts visited the Browns at their home First Energy Stadium, created a perfect backdrop for professional football in the fall. I have talked in the past here at ‘Football BTS’ about playing in front of the crazed Dawg Pound fans, on the Kentucky Bluegrass surface, being one of the best experiences for many players. However, only 12,000 fans were allowed for Sunday’s outing, so a far cry from the normal ambiance that fills that Stadium.
- There was a relatively influential 13-15mph wind within the stadium Sunday which could certainly play a role in the kicking game (as it pertains to the distance the ball would travel, the exact path that it would take, etc).
- With the Colts trailing the Browns 27-10, they are in desperate need of a spark after the Cleveland scoring drive, where the Colts are now at risk of having this game get blown wide open with just a few minutes elapsed in the 3rd quarter.
- Having a player who can flip the field (or, in this play’s case, potentially score) on special teams is a great way to change momentum. Unfortunately, based on today’s NFL, few kicks are ever even attempted to be returned. Thus, it changes the task ever so slightly (in modern day NFL); for those on both sides of the problem-solution equation (the kick coverage unit of the Browns and the kick return unit of the Colts) have less exposure and experience in covering/returning respectively. This reality gets magnified when we remember that many of the players existing in these roles may not be overly accustomed to the dynamics of such a task either as many where stars in college and thus, played primarily on offense or defense (i.e. they didn’t have to play special teams). So, it’s safe to say that Rodgers, even though he’s a rookie, may have a slight advantage as he receives this ball and makes the decision to bring it out of the end-zone…
Information Present/Affordances for Action:
Local Problem of Significance #1
Location: 10 yard line to 20 yard line
Key opponents: Entire kick coverage unit of the Browns
Key teammates: Entire kick return unit of the Colts
Leading up to this point, certainly significant affordances were perceived, as well as accepted and rejected; namely around Rodgers’s movement behavior in the form of his selected path, based on what was unfolding in the interactive relationships across the global array of the field.
However, to avoid getting lost in too many details, we will pick this analysis up, somewhere ‘around the time’ (we cannot be certain as to when exactly this affordance was selected and decisions were made) that he more firmly decides as to what affordance he’s going to aim to exploit….we will call it, for the sake of analysis purposes, occurring around the 10 yard line. It is here that we begin to see him veer to his right, down the numbers, and begin to ‘narrow his perceptual search’ for information as it exists within a more limited landscape of affordances on this 1/3 of the field.
Though still-shots don’t always tell us the entirety of the problem-solution story, we can clearly get a glimpse here, from the end-zone camera angle, how the landscape of affordances that Rodgers has available for relevant information pick-up, how his perception-action processes are being regulated based on both the disposition of the problem (macro and micro), and ultimately, the path he’s selecting (aka decisions he’s making).
This more local (micro) problem of significance then, culminates in a number of options that Rodgers is likely perceiving here, actively making a decision around, and organizing his movement behaviors in relation to. Generally speaking (as remember, affordances are frame-dependent), he’s likely picking up information here as to determine if he should head towards the sideline or if he should head on a path traveling straight ahead next to the numbers.
Local Problem of Significance #2
Location: 20 yard line to 35 yard line
Key opponents: #2, Cody Parkey (K), and #36, M.J. Stewart (CB), and #28, Kevin Johnson (CB)
Key teammates: #16, Ashton Dullin (WR)
After he ‘chooses’ his path through the lane and gap that he aims to exploit, he hits the acceleration gas pedal hard to burst through it before it closes (knowing that at this level, affordances disappear rapidly!), while simultaneously locking his visual perceptual gaze on the free man (the guy who is not being blocked) who just so happens to be the kicker (lucky for Rodgers!). He stays on the gas pedal to chew up space rapidly which is enough to strike some panic and fear into the unsuspecting and likely unwilling-to-engage kicker.
As Rodgers crosses the 30 yard line, with the interpersonal distance between he and Parkey now set at an adequate 5 yards, Rodgers gives Parkey a slight head nod to his left (likely combined with some manipulation of his eyes to assist) which freezes Parkey enough and lifts his center of mass all while Rodgers likely already knows he’s going to pursue a path to his right to the outside of the on-going interactive relationship between his teammate, Ashton Dullin, who is blocking Kevin Johnson. This affordance selected ends up being a ‘correct’ choice because Rodgers must also be mindful of the hard charging pursuit of M.J. Stewart who is coming from left to right rather quickly. Obviously, it’s unclear as to when, and even if, Rodgers detected the movement behavior of Stewart here, or if he got lucky based on his chosen affordance.
Local Problem of Significance #3
Location: 35 yard line to 50 yard line
Key opponents: #28, Kevin Johnson (CB), and #89, Stephen Carlson (TE)
Key teammates: #16, Ashton Dullin (WR), and #45, EJ Speed (LB)
Once he makes Parkey miss and slips the combined tackle attempt from Parkey and Stewart, Rodgers quickly refocuses his attention (his perceptions and his intentions) onto the next problem in front of him. Though knocked slightly off balance and thus slowed temporarily, as well, Rodgers continues to pick-up what opportunities exist on the horizon here.
The key specifying information to perceive here is flowing from the behaviors of the pursuing defenders in Johnson and Carlson, combined with the opportunities which may be represented in the space in front of Rodgers (what’s left of it between the pursuing defenders and the sideline boundary) along with potential inviting affordances about space available to cut back inside and behind the defenders (which is the affordance he ultimately accepts). He uses this information pick-up to execute an inside foot lunge deceleration strategy to a crossover agility action (not an easy strategy by any means but obviously Rodgers is more than capable of it based on his movement toolbox and action capabilities).
Of course, the play doesn’t technically end here; as there is still a good amount of real estate left to chew up. However, based on the significant advantage that Rodgers now exists with in this problem, the only thing left to do is to put his linear speed to use and give one final glimpse to the jumbo-tron for good measure to confirm what his perceptual pick-up was telling him…there was no one left who would be in a position to catch him.
Qualities which make this the Movement POW:
1. Traffic navigation
I know, I know…pretty obvious, right?! But the point remains; even in a kick return type of situation, success is not all about hitting more maximal speeds in a straight line or over a long distance. Yes, this play came to its completion with Rodgers in the open field running away from everyone else. However, without the traffic navigation in tighter spaces, where the ability to accurately perceive openings as opportunities while operating closer to ownership speeds based on the unfolding situational context is of higher importance, Rodgers would not have ever gotten to the point where he could put the pedal to the floor and run through all the gears.
2. Deceleration Skill in-context
Yes, the explosive burst of Rodgers was evident and on display (including how he attacks gaps between interacting parties on the field), but it’s the ability to slow himself proficiently, and perform the lunge-crossover cut in an appropriate fashion, time, and place which allows him to break this one open. As I try to harp on to coaches of all kinds, the ‘right’ way to decelerate, in order to set one’s self up for an optimal directional change and subsequent re-acceleration, all depends on the athlete’s ability to have multiple tools (i.e. deceleration, stopping, and planting strategies) to be flexibly adjusted to meet the contextual demands of the peculiar problem.
Guiding and Facilitating Similar Movement Skills:
Coaches across the performance enhancement world rant and rave about linear speed as the holy grail of movement skills to attain. However, if you aren’t able to operate at the optimal speed, based on what’s unfolding in front of and around one’s self in terms of interactions between teammates and opponents, all the speed in the world is worth very little.
On this same note, many have now begun to hit on the importance of deceleration abilities in American football players (and other field-based sports). Unfortunately, many of the training means and methods utilized in attempts to develop these qualities are performed in isolated and/or de-contextualized fashions. Namely, many coaches, all with the best of intentions, will have their athletes routinely perform decelerating type actions…often aimed to technical execution and proficiency (i.e. geared around biomechanical considerations)…often in blocked or serial and pre-planned types of ways (the athlete knowing where they are going to stop and how they are going to stop)…all in the ultimate expectation that the player will begin to develop the brakes to go along with the gas. I will be the first to admit, I was once very firmly planted in this camp (there’s even an old school NSCA National Coaches Conference video circulating the web of a younger, longer haired Shawn, preaching to the deceleration choir). However, I have now realized that I wrong then…and if this is how you are currently doing it (as mentioned above), I hate to break it to you, but you are wrong too.
Now, deceleration should certainly be prioritized in American football movement skill training. However, it’s how it’s carried out, and what it’s carried out in relation to, that matters most. Let’s start by remembering that in sport, decelerating often takes place with the intent to change direction and/or re-accelerate immediately after the deceleration pattern execution. When one stops with the intent to make this type of subsequent action, the entire behavioral dynamics will be vastly different than if one is decelerating just for the sake of coming to a complete stop. Pertaining to the what (it’s being carried out in relation to), it’s intuitively obvious that within the context of the real, organic, sport environment, the deceleration movement action is most often coordinated, controlled, and organized in relation to the behaviors of an opponent.
To remedy this, I would like to recommend that Sport Movement Specialists and Performance Coaches look for more ways to address deceleration skills under these contextual considerations (e.g. with the expectation for the athlete to perform an evasive agility action after the deceleration phase, in relation to the unpredictable movement behavior of an opponent, etc). As a guide in facilitation, you can and should certainly advise the player to explore executing with
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!
Know the main point of the game. The goal of American is to score points by carrying the ball from a starting point on a 120-yard long and 53. 3-yard wide field into a specially marked 10-yard-deep area at either end of the field called an end zone. Each team uses the end zone in front of them to score while trying to prevent the opposing team from reaching the end zone behind them.  Each end zone has a Y-shaped structure called the field goal which is positioned on the end line. The field goals are used to score points with special kicks
The end zone that a team is defending is usually referred to as “their” end zone. Thus, a team with 70 yards ( 64. 0 m ) to go before it can score a touchdown is 30 yards ( 27. 4 m ) from its end zone. Teams trade possession of the ball according to strict rules. Whichever team is in possession of the ball is known as the “offense;” the other team is called the “defense. ”
Learn the time divisions. Football is divided into four quarters of 15 minutes each, with a break between the deuxième and third periods called “halftime” that is normally 12 minutes long.  While the clock is active, the game is divided into even shorter segments called “plays ' or ' downs. '
A play begins when the ball is moved from the ground into the hands of the players, and ends when either the ball hits the ground, or the person holding the ball is tackled and his knee or elbow nuances the ground. When a play is over, an official called a referee, places the ball on the yard marker which corresponds to his or her judgment of the place where the forward progress of the player with the ball was stopped. Each team has 4 downs and within those downs, they have to make ten yards from the line of scrimmage ( the starting point ). If the team fails to do so within the 4 downs, the offensive team has to hand over the ball to the opposing team. If the offense succeeds in taking the ball 10 yards in the 4 downs they get another 4 downs to move the ball 10 yards. The teams have 30 seconds to get into formation and begin the next play.
Play time can stop for a few different reasons : If a player runs out of bounds, a penalty is called, a flag is thrown, or a pass is thrown but not caught by anybody ( an incomplete pass ), the clock will stop while referees sort everything out.
Penalties are indicated by referees, who throw yellow flags onto the field when they see a violation. This lets everyone on the field know that a penalty has been called. Penalties normally result in the offending team losing between 5 - 15 yards of field place.  There are many penalties, but some of the most common are “offside” ( someone was on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped ), “holding” ( a player grabbed another player with his hands, and either player doesn’t have the ball, instead of blocking him properly ), ' false start ' ( When a player moves before the ball is snapped ), ' Unsportsmanlike conduct ' ( When a player does something that doesn’t show good sportsmanship, and “clipping” ( someone contacted an opposing player other than the ball carrier from behind and below the waist ).
The opening kickoff - At the very beginning of the game, the head referee flips a coin and the home team captain calls out which side of the coin will be face up. If correct, that captain may choose to kick off or to receive the opening kickoff or allow the visiting team captain to make that choice. Once the kicking and receiving teams are decided, the team captain who lost the coin toss gets to decide which goal his or her team will defend during the first half. This initial play is called the kickoff, and typically involves a long kick down field from one team to the other, with the team that kicked the ball rushing towards the team receiving the ball in order to prevent them from course the ball a long ways back towards the kicking team’s end zone. After halftime, there is a second kickoff by whichever team did not perform the opening kickoff. Throughout the second half, the end zones each team defends is the one opposite the end zone that team defended in the first half
Downs - The word “down” is synonymous with the word “chance” or ' plays ' in American . The offense is allowed four downs to move the ball at least 10 yards ( 9. 1 m ) towards the end zone. Each play ends in a new down. If the goal of 10 yards ( neuf. 1 m ) from the first down is achieved before the fourth down is over, the count resets to the first down, commonly noted as “1st and 10” to indicate that the standard 10 yards ( neuf. 1 m ) are once again required to reset to the first down.  Otherwise, the downs count from one to four. If four downs pass without resetting to the first down, control of the ball passes to the other team
This means that a team that moves the ball 10 or more yards on each play will never be on the deuxième down. Every time the ball is moved 10 yards ( 9. 1 m ) or more in the proper direction, the next play is a first down with 10 yards ( neuf. 1 m ) to go.
The distance required to reset to the first down is cumulative, so course 4 yards ( 3. 7 m ) on the first down, 3 yards ( 2. 7 m ) on the second, and 3 yards ( 2. sept m ) on the third is enough for the next play to be a first down again.
If a play ends with the ball behind the line of scrimmage, the difference in yards is added to the total number of yards required for a first down. For example, if the quarterback is tackled sept yards ( 6. 4 m ) behind the line with the ball in his hands, the next play will be noted as “2nd and 17, ” meaning that 17 yards ( 15. 5 m ) must be covered in the next three plays to reset to a first down.
Instead of playing the fourth down, the offense can choose to punt the ball, which is a long kick that transfers control of the ball to the other team, but is likely to puissance them to start farther up the field than they would otherwise have been.