November 06, 2017
Leading up to the Philadelphia Eagles' matchup against the Denver Broncos, the opposing player who was most widely discussed during the week was edge rusher Von Miller, and rightfully so, seeing as Miller is arguably the best defender in the NFL.
Miller is only in his seventh season, and he already had 80.5 sacks leading up to Sunday. He's a five-time Pro Bowler, he was first team All-Pro three times, second team All-Pro twice, he was Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he carried the Broncos' defense to a Super Bowl, when he wrecked games against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game and the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl. In short, as an offense, you better have a plan for him, or he's going to create havoc.
On Sunday, the Eagles had a plan for Miller, and they executed it brilliantly.
In the stat sheet, Miller appeared to have a great day. He had 8 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and a sack/fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Miller was indeed good against the run, however, those stats are wildly deceiving, as Miller was a complete non-factor as a pass rusher until the game was completely out of hand and the Eagles had already put in their third-string RT.
Doug Pederson, Frank Reich, and the Eagles' offensive brain trust used a variety of ways to slow Miller down, which we'll show in gifs:
On the Eagles' first touchdown of the day, the Eagles ran a run-pass option (RPO). Carson Wentz put the ball in the belly of his runner, and the offensive line blocked down to the left as a group, purposely leaving Miller unblocked. When Wentz pulled the ball out to pass, Miller had committed toward the back to some degree, rather than coming at the quarterback. That is something the Eagles had scouted during the week, according to Doug Pederson.
"It's a read option, read the defensive end," Pederson said. "It just so happened we were on the right hash. I think Von was over there and we knew their D-end was closed a little bit. It's just something that we build into that play. It's a Day-One-training-camp, Day-One-OTA play. And it's just a one-step hitch-and-go, and we got 21 (Aquib Talib) to bite on the play. Did a great job throwing the ball on the run and Alshon getting in the end zone."
With Miller neutralized by the read option action, Wentz had plenty of time to calmly loft his pass over the head of Talib, who was also fooled by the read option look.
On the Eagles' second touchdown, the Eagles left Miller unblocked once again. This play wasn't designed to fool Miller specifically. Rather, it was a basic screen play to help offset the blitz, and it was an extremely well-executed play by Wentz and the Eagles' offense.
After a play fake to Corey Clement, Miller thinks he has a gift one-on-one pass rush opportunity with an undrafted rookie running back, when... Whoops! It's a screen! Uh oh...
On a side note, watch Wentz's eyes on this play. After the play fake, he purposely stares down Trey Burton (lined up as the FB) in the flat, which draws the Broncos' linebackers in that direction, before dumping it down to Clement on the screen. That is so subtle, but so freaking good.
The Eagles chipped Miller on occasion, here with LeGarrette Blount, who is lined up as a slot receiver (lol):
And here with Trey Burton:
This was an interesting play design. Here the Eagles run a fake jet sweep to the left, again, with the entire Eagles OL blocking down hard to the left. Having been unblocked previously on similar looks, Miller thinks he's going to be unblocked again, and isn't fooled. Except, "Wait, where'd this wide receiver come from?"
Above, Pederson used Mack Hollins, a very good blocking receiver to tie up Miller just long enough to give Wentz time to throw on the misdirection.
One of the best ways to get opposing pass rushers off their game is for the quarterback to vary cadence at the line of scrimmage. Miller is a player who tries to time out the snap count and get a jump on the snap. Wentz did an excellent job of varying his cadence, getting the Broncos to jump offsides three times (Miller once).
And yes, Lane Johnson blocked Miller one-on-one on pass plays eight times, by my count. With the aid of all of the above messing with Miller's mind, Johnson completely shut him down in those opportunities, and he was physical in doing so. Here's Johnson violently swatting Miller on an outside rush:
And here is Johnson absorbing the initial force of a Miller bull rush, and then planting him into the Lincoln Financial Field turf. To note, this was actually Miller's best pass rush against Johnson on the day, since he was at least able to flush Wentz from the pocket:
ProFootballFocus had Miller as the highest graded player in this game, which is absolutely laughable, and totally devoid of any reasonable context.
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