I am often asked my opinion on things that involve football. The questions range from how to find which player position best suits a child to who I think will win the Super Bowl, and pretty much everything in between. I have many thoughts on the game, on coaching, and on improving performance, so I am starting Passing Thoughts to share some of those thoughts. I welcome your comments and conversation. –KR

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Getting Back to the Basics: All Fundamentals Team

USA Football is an organization that is very focused on improving player safety in the sport. I have posted many of their links and articles because I think the emphasis on learning proper fundamentals is extremely important to overall safety in the sport. One of their safety-focused campaigns is to select an All Fundamentals Team comprised of 26 NFL players who exemplify proper football techniques for youth to emulate. 

The All Fundamentals Team for 2012 can be found here.  I wanted to share the list with you and add some thoughts on which players I thought represented the "best of the best" when it comes to fundamentals.

1. Charles Tillman (Corner, Chicago Bears)
Tillman had an amazing year, and that is mainly because he is so fundamentally sound at his position. Tillman has an amazing ability to break down on the ball carrier, commit to tackling and then punch the ball out as he is tackling. Seeing a player punch at the ball as he is tackling is a great reminder for all defenders! Watching Tillman should remind all coaches to teach kids to eliminate space, break down, never stop their feet, commit to tackling the opponent, show NO HESITATION, drive through the ball carrier, and then punch or rip the ball out. Tillman has perfected these skills, and he is a great example of excellent fundamental tackling!

2. Haloti Ngata (Nose Tackle, Baltimore Ravens)
Haloti Ngata is one of the most unselfish players in the NFL. Ngata is able to control two gaps on the defensive line, while still engaging offensive linemen to protect his LB. The NT position is asked to take on two offensive linemen and not allow them to get off the line to block the LB. The LB is then the one that is able to make all the tackles. Ngata is able to do this better than anyone and is still able to get pressure on a QB. He is able to bring a combination of size, strength, speed and great technique to dominate his opponents. It is also good to watch how Ngata gets his hands on the offensive linemen, staying below the offensive lineman's shoulders to have leverage, and then continues to drive the offensive lineman to disrupt the offensive play. Ngata is another great player demonstrating the value of football fundamentals. 

3. Matt Ryan (QB, Atlanta Falcons)
Matt Ryan has very good fundamental skills. I enjoy watching Matt Ryan take 3, 5, and 7 step drops.  As you watch him, he keeps the weight on the correct parts of his feet, then when ready to throw, transfers weight towards his front foot, so he is able to make a great throw. Ryan's eyes are always reading the defense, while he keeps two hands on the ball with the ball tight to his body. When setting to throw, Ryan has no wasted motion. The ball is elevated and gone, with no "hitches" or elongated movements in his throwing.  Ryan is really the ideal QB for young QB’s to watch and learn from because of his solid fundamentals and his poise! Not only does he have excellent football technique, Ryan does a very good job of keeping his composure, not getting rattled and leading his teammates.

4. London Fletcher (LB, Washington Redskins)
London Fletcher has been playing in the NFL for 15 seasons and has a streak of 240 consecutive games. Fletcher is the catalyst for the Redskins defense, and is considered to be the heart and soul of the team as a leader. Fletcher's longevity is attributed to great health, luck and solid fundamentals. Fletcher is very instinctive and rarely misses a tackle. The Redskins are able to keep their middle linebacker on the field, no matter the situation. If it is an obvious passing down, he is able to make the drops that are needed for a LB to cover specific areas or key on the running back out of the backfield. Week in and week out, Fletcher is on the leaderboard for tackles.

5. Chad Greenway (LB, Minnesota Vikings)
Greenway has always had solid fundamentals dating back to his days at the University of Iowa. He has been able to excel in the NFL as a defender that is able to eliminate space between himself and the ball carrier, and then finish the play by making the tackle. If you watch Greenway, he is very good with keeping his head up, driving his hips through and continuing through the ball carrier, so there is no chance to miss the tackle. Greenway is an excellent player for young kids to watch with the proper technique of playing the LB position!

As you can see from the All Fundamentals Team list, these players are successful from a performance standpoint as well as safety.  You can work a lot of drills and skills in football, but the essence of excellent performance will always break down to solid fundamentals!

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