Game: Colts at Broncos
Play: Miller-time on a Sunday for the Colts
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
For the record, when Cardinals RB David Johnson was named our Movement Play of the Week for week 1, I selected him over last year’s Super Bowl MVP, Von Miller of the Denver Broncos, and the movement displayed on his clutch sack over Cam Newton. Well, with his extraordinary week 2 exhibition, it wasn’t just ONE play that Miller made that stood out as the top movement performance of the week…it was a handful of plays that were THAT much more proficient than his peers. Because of this, I could no longer deny him from the top spot this week.
That all said, as with most weeks evaluating the NFL’s top movers, it wasn’t necessarily an easy selection process. In fact, Ameer Abdullah laid down some sick agile moves in traffic against the Titans that left my RB-loving eyes bursting. Additionally, I was in person at the Packer-Viking game as Minnesota WR, Stefon Diggs, laid claimed to the NFL that he could currently be the most agile mover in the whole League (that is outside of last year’s Mover of the Year, Antonio Brown). So, selecting Miller wasn’t an easy choice but definitely the most deserving because what he was able to do (especially when the game was on the line under pressure & anxiety) on Sunday was just that special.
What happened movement-wise on the play?
Von Miller is no stranger to being recognized at Football Beyond the Stats. In fact, he has been on my All-Movement Team the last two seasons dating back to 2014. Last year, he was probably even within a whisker of being named my Mover of the Year if it wasn’t for maybe the most masterful mover of close to the last decade, Antonio Brown, nailing down that top choice. Because of this, I was a little disappointed when both Miller and Brown decided to go on Dancing with the Stars this past season (and take away from precious mastery acquisition time in their careers) instead of really striving to fill in what little gaps each individuals have (and yes; every player…no matter who they are, still has things they can refine!). But, let’s not get it twisted here: Von Miller has been an effective & efficient mover for awhile!
As mentioned in the introduction, it wasn’t one play that Von made that will be recognized here. Instead, I want to use the whole work of highlights to illustrate the given points I made about him in last year’s All Movement Team blog:
- Diversity in dynamics
To get a glimpse of these things first-hand, just watch this compilation of number of Von’s highlights here over 1:41….
There is a lot that goes through my head during that video but a few aspects of Miller’s mastery really pop out.
First, the ability to perform in situations which represent the highest pressure & anxiety for game situations. There is no time in American football that this is more on display than when a primetime NFL game is on the line in the 4th quarter. Here, people often talk about individuals being clutch performers versus those who are labeled as “chokers.” Well, an aspect of movement mastery is being able to coordinate, control, and organize movement in similar fashions under these typical key performance inhibitors (e.g. pressure/anxiety, chaos, fatigue, etc) as one does when they are fresh and in the first quarter of games.
Under pressure (just like in times of extreme chaos or fatigue), the organism’s brain resorts to those movement behaviors that it knows best: the athlete doesn’t rise to the occasion…instead, they fall to the level of their preparation (note: this isn’t my quote but I think it’s true!). Miller’s movement strategies and solutions are so solidified (yet flexible to be adaptable to the chaotic problems he faces) that they falter so very little in these “crunch” times that he appears to be moving at a whole different speed from everyone else. This is why in his last three games (last year’s Super Bowl and the first two games of this season), he has produced sacks when the game mattered most.
We see this quality in his sack-fumble that led to a Shane Ray fumble recovery TD to seal the deal on Sunday. Here, he lulls the RT to sleep with a “change-up” rush style…moving slower than usual (on purpose) till at just the right time he speeds up and then sits, dips, and then drives back inward towards QB, Andrew Luck, with an angle that very few players across the League are capable of. The combination of his technical execution (the positions he finds himself in through the path of the patterns he executes from) along with his specific motor potential (rapid eccentric rate of force absorption and isometric ability) to move at this angle relationship (from the ground to the RT) is a rare sight to behold.
Second, that plyo-step! Like, what is that?! Really?!? I am the first to admit that I am notorious for not only allowing a plyo step (some unjustifiably call it a ‘false step’) to emerge on-field but often also encouraging it with my players who are more dynamic in their capabilities. Quite frankly, I find that, at least in these respective players, a plyo step often puts the athlete in a more advantageous position to deliver horizontal force in very short periods of time. Not only that, but it is often also that which naturally & authentically self-organizes for some players during quick reaction situations.
However, even with all of my study, I do not believe there is another player in the entire league that can get the same acceleration projection angles with their plyo step that Miller does. When his rear foot drops back quickly, his whole body lays into a force vector that actually appears as though he’s driving off of sprinter blocks (and on the front-side of this exists a loaded flexed leg ready to hammer back with aggression). He’s able to do all of this because he gets SO coiled on his front lead leg right prior to the ball being snapped by a rapid, eccentric action that causes a stretch reflex to store (and then release) so much more energy. However, this is all only made possible due to his brain and behaviors seeing and knowing when to properly time this coiling action a split-second prior to the snap.
Last but certainly not least, I see a player who is so masterful that he is out there just solving problems. Throw a movement equation at him and he will reach inside his movement arsenal and solve it. I often quote Siff & Verkhoshansky when I say, “sport is just a problem solving activity in which movement is used to produce the necessary solutions.” Well, Von Miller, in the midst of his performance on Sunday, summarized this quote as well as any player can in less than two minutes worth of highlights at the game’s highest level of qualification.
As I have stated numerous times before, at many levels movement mastery is about possessing a diversity of movement skills so the athlete can remain adaptable and look to match their respective solutions to the peculiar problems at-hand. In the short video above, we see Miller rush the QB with speed around the edge to outclass the RT, a bullrush to overpower the RT, and movement strategies to deceive the RT. He will go executing from a wide and low position on one play (based on the constraints of that problem) to narrow and high on the next…and the thing is, he will do both extraordinarily well. You see, as week 2 proved yet again about Von Miller, this is no one track pony of movement skill…this is quite possibly the most masterful mover currently on the defensive side of the ball in the entire NFL.