The NFL has started collecting data from RFID chips that are embedded in player’s shoulder pads and releasing them to the public in commercialized clips and articles to promote their product. But they release a lot more data to NFL teams, giving coaches a large amount of data to go through. This includes speed of the players on the field, distance covered, locations of players on the field and much more.
Coaches have not been quick to use this data, especially during the season according to ESPN’s latest article on the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. The general consensus from the coaches quoted in the article is they can see if a player is fast on a certain play, film doesn’t lie, and we don’t know enough about the data to know how it will help right now.
The chips have been used by teams to track player exertion on the practice field, logging how many miles a player runs, max speeds, and when a player might be reaching a point that makes them more susceptible to injury. Managing player’s workload has been emphasized more since the last CBA, and team’s are using technology to take it a step further.
Wearable and other data-monitoring technology is available to players, and a few like Redskins QB Kirk Cousins are taking advantage of the additional information to improve their game.
In speaking to them over the course of the past year, at least one potential tool drew interest. While fans and media focus on the velocity of the football, quarterbacks and their coaches are more interested in trajectory. Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, for example, practices three different types of throws and would be interested to see them plotted for analysis and improvement.
A "Level One" throw, Cousins explained, is a line drive. "Level Two," he said, "is when you get the ball up and over somebody and then back down quickly on an intermediate throw." Finally, a "Level Three" involves the quarterback throwing "a deep ball that hangs up in the air and has a huge arc to it."
Every route in the Redskins' playbook requires one of those three trajectories, depending on the overall play call and the defense employed. Using data chips in the ball on game day could help quarterbacks not only evaluate their throws, but also as a more efficient way to project their impact on specific defensive backs.
"That would be pretty cool," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "It would be kind of like what you see with a golf ball and the trajectory it takes down the fairway. That could be something especially good for deep balls because you see so many quarterbacks throw it too flat with not enough air."
Redskins backup Colt McCoy, meanwhile, thinks that trajectory reports could help a quarterback adjust to his receivers.
"Some receivers, you might want to put more air under it on a deep ball than others," McCoy said. "Some guys are better at tracking a 50-50 ball in the air. That would be a good thing to know."