On the horizon: Game planning utilizing heat maps to track defensive movement and chips measuring first downs

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One thing that has always puzzled me from both the perspective of a fan and as a coach is how a proudly self-proclaimed "game of inches" like football still hasn't found a way to use technology beyond the judgement of officials to do things like spot the football and measure first downs.

Sure, there have been attempts to use technology to just precisely that over the years, but very few things have really stuck. 

However, change on that front, as well as a variety of other ways to use data in an effort to make the game better, could be on the horizon, according to Jonathan Jones and peice he shared for CBS Sports today.

Dating back to 2017, Wilson has been putting nickel-sized RFID tags in balls to measure metrics like velocity and RPMs in every throw of every NFL game over the last several years for Zebra Technologies. That technology has been used for player tracking as well over the last several years and all that game data has been shared with organizations.

It's largely due to that data being available, and seeing how fast players were traveling during collisions on kick offs that we saw a change to the kickoff rules a few years back. 

So with that technology in play, it would seem that we could get it to use for first downs and spotting the ball more accurately, right? Well, we're not quite there yet, but the article shares that we're not too far down from being able to do something close to that, although challenges remain in terms of a chip not being able to sense when an elbow or knee on a runner is down.

"Is it feasible that RFID technologies, other technologies, can help support game management processes? Yeah, it's technically feasible. Technology can provide added benefits and there are opportunities for that. What those are, we're still in a period of discovery and consideration. But in terms of accuracy and locationing, we're pretty close," Zebra's VP of business development shares.

Here's where I think things get really interesting from a coaching perspective though. Could having the player tracking data be used in the game planning process eventually?

According to the article, the data being collected now would allow for the ability to "develop heat maps of defensive player schematic tendencies to show what that safety is doing in a certain down-and-distance situation."

That's not all. With data coming directly from the ball, teams could also have data available to help them make a decision on if a veteran quarterback like Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Alex Smith are worth signing or bringing in for a workout based on their ball velocity and RPMs.

With that type of stuff upon us, it's not far fetched at all to think that all kinds of data could soon be collected while at camps at showcases and used by college football programs in the recruiting process as well.

Really fascinating stuff to think about.

Head over to CBS Sports to read the full piece.