Why do people lower their head and lean forward when they want to accelerate from a standstill or near standstill? I don’t know but I know they do. According to Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson, leaning forward takes away some of the mass from over the center of gravity, which is inefficient because that force is then not effectively transmitted into the running surface. Which explains his trademark lean. I would guess then that initial acceleration is achieved through driving energy through the balls of the feet, and lowering the head and leaning forward shift the center of gravity forward.
Whatever the case, a lowered head and forward-shifted posture are an unmistakable sign of hustle. See it and know someone is busting their ass.
Here’s DK Metcalf.
It’s not a great photo but it’s the best available. Here’s another, no better, but from another angle.
DK Metcalf does not have the ball in his hands and he’s not going to. He’s lowered his head and torso because there’s some small chance he can positively affect this play. To do that, he needs all of his speed quickly as he can muster it. He’s gotta hustle. It’s not required and it’s not expected and it’s very possibly not gonna amount to a damn thing, heck he may even injure himself in the attempt, but DK Metcalf has to hustle a very long ways across field to try. He has to.
Back to the beginning of the play—Seattle and Philadelphia are tied 3-3 with 1:36 left in the second quarter. A promising drive has very nearly stalled out. It’s third and 10 at the Eagles’ 43. The Seahawks overload the short side of the field.
Tyler Lockett has motioned in. Metcalf’s wide. David Moore is working from the slot. Philly is aligned in a 4-1 dime formation, with Nigel Bradham (#53) showing blitz from a two-point stance. They’re running cover 1 man.
Jalen Mills (#31) will blitz if his assignment, Jacob Hollister (positioned more or less opposite of Mills), blocks. Malcolm Jenkins (#27) is in man coverage of Travis Homer. This leads to a weird outcome.
Metcalf and Moore run in-breaking routes. Lockett runs a corner.
The coverage isn’t perfect. Any one of the three receivers could be targeted if Wilson were working from a clean pocket, but though the pass rush is more threatening than dangerous, Wilson is forced into shifting around and looking for passing lanes. Typically, I would say Wilson should step into the pocket. The interior pass rush doesn’t amount to much, and by staying back and testing the left edge, he puts his tight end and tackles in a tough spot. But right defensive end Derek Barnett has worked a wicked spin move on Fant and stepping up would be stepping into the path of Barnett.
Wilson ditches the pocket. This improves Fant’s angle and he’s able to recover and chuck Barnett. You might notice Germain Ifedi facing the wrong direction in the above screencap. Here’s a quick aside about Ifedi and Joey Hunt.
Ifedi is beat badly by Vinny Curry (#75). He barely touches Curry before Curry begins cutting inward. You can see that here. Curry is free and about to exploit a pass rush lane.
The five in white is Ifedi chasing him. The nine in green you see in the scrum is Fletcher Cox. He is being doubled by Hunt and D.J. Fluker. Cox is winning. When he focuses his attack on Hunt, Hunt falls down, tripping Cox and Curry. The legs you see leaning to your right are Hunt’s legs as he falls.
Which is how we arrive at this odd tableau in which two Eagles pass rushers are on their knees but otherwise unblocked to Wilson, and both of Seattle’s guards have their numbers to the end zone.
It’s a very Taoist take on blocking, I must say. Okay back to our primary narrative thread.
Wilson works through his progressions while Bradham closes. Lockett, deepest, may be open but it’s a damn hard throw when you can barely step into it. Metcalf has improvised, but his go route has achieved no separation. And Moore is free but he’s well short of the sticks. A couple years ago, Wilson probably eats this and braces for the sack. Wilson 2020 gives his receiver(s) a chance to do something special.
The throw is weak and dies well short of Moore. Moore comes back for it. Eventually running seven yards toward the line of scrimmage to catch, check his momentum, and begin running right and upfield.
Cre‘Von LeBlanc (#34), for no reason I will ever know, lunges as if to tackle Moore when Moore breaks back toward the ball. Thank goodness that he does.
Now we’re back to the beginning: Metcalf’s determined sprint to help his teammate.
Some nanoseconds later:
He lands a block worthy of Hines Ward. (I know. I know. I hate him too but damn could that man block.)
That block adds at least five yards to the play.
Mike Trout, the best player in the obscure sport of baseball, lasted until the 25th pick of the first round. The reason for his slide are not that important, but I remember reading that one scout said of all the things they underestimated about one of the greatest players to ever play, the most crucial miss was that they did not know just how much he loved baseball. Trout improved so much so quickly because he loved the process of improving. Work was play. Hustle was play. Practice was play.
There’s just not that much reason for Metcalf to work so damn hard to block for Moore. But who needs a reason to have fun with your buddies?