Week 13 Mismatches: Von Miller poised to dominate in Cincinnati
Here's a breakdown of four significant mismatches we expect to see in Week 13:
Broncos LB Von Miller vs Bengals RT Bobby Hart
The 2018 season has seen more of the same from Miller, with the perennial All-Pro racking up 37 tackles, 10 for loss, 17 quarterback hits, 10.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two pass deflections, and an interception. Miller has filled up the box score in his eighth season.
Hart, on the other hand, has struggled this year. Although he’s been slightly better in pass protection than run blocking, Miller will likely feast in both areas.
Hart tends to struggle with the better speed-rushers in the NFL, and Miller is one of the more elite players in the game. Hart had a lot of trouble with Dee Ford of the Chiefs earlier this season, and he’s not as well-rounded or as nuanced of a pass-rusher as Miller. Here’s an example of Hart’s inability against speed this year:
On this play, Hart is responsible for blocking Ford (No. 55) in pass protection. Once the ball is snapped, Hart fails to get enough depth in the ‘kick slide’ portion of his pass set. This forces Hart to stop his kick slide and turn his shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage to attempt to push Ford past the pocket.
Ford is able to race by Hart (and the running back’s chip, which partially gets in Hart’s way) and finish with a sack-fumble, which was recovered by the Bengals.
If Hart thought blocking Ford was tough, wait until he tries to stymie Miller on the edge. Miller has unique upper- and lower-body flexibility, which allows him to contort his body to reduce his blockable surface area as he speeds around the edge. Here’s a great example:
Here, Miller is in a two-point stance with an outside shade over Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Once the ball is snapped, Miller explodes out of his stance with long strides, gobbling up ground to challenge Schwartz’s edge.
When he gets within distance, Miller feints as if he’s going to use a long arm technique. However, as soon as Schwartz tries to shoot his hands over Miller’s long arm, Miller drops his pad level, allowing him to stay tight around the edge. This forces Schwartz to miss with his strike and allows Miller to finish with the sack.
Opposite of Hart, No. 58 is poised for a huge day, especially considering that Bradley Chubb's presence on the opposite side makes it difficult to double-team him. Expect Miller to finish with a sack or two and be a pain in the rear for the Bengals' offense all day long.
Eagles DT Fletcher Cox vs Redskins' interior offensive line
The Redskins' offensive line is reeling right now. The unit that was one of the best in football to begin the year has been ravaged by injuries, as Washington has four interior offensive linemen on injured reserve.
This has forced the Redskins to start the trio of Jonathan Cooper, Chase Roullier, and Tony Bergstrom. These three battle in the trenches but lack the continuity and talent to consistently play at an above-average level. They struggled mightily against the Cowboys’ rag-tag group of defensive tackles on Thanksgiving, and things only get more difficult this week, as they face one of the best interior defenders in the NFL - Fletcher Cox.
Even though the Eagles have struggled this year, Cox has been fantastic, accumulating 32 tackles, five for loss, 21 quarterback hits (third among all defenders), and four sacks. He is a menace against the run and pass, and he’s one of the toughest interior defenders to block one-on-one. Cox has a refined tool kit and outstanding hand technique, which allows him to batter, bludgeon, and blow by offensive linemen with ease. Here’s a great example:
On this play, Cox is aligned at the three-technique position, an outside shade over the right guard. Once the ball is snapped, Cox attacks the right guard’s outside edge, feinting with a two-hand swipe to raise the hands of his opponent before opening up the space necessary for him to sequence into a powerful rip with his inside arm.
From there, Cox is able to turn his hips and sack the quarterback all while absorbing the right guard’s last-ditch effort to push him beyond the pocket.
Cox should be able to have his way with whoever lines up across from him against Washington. Keep an eye on No. 91 Monday night, he’s set up to dominate.
Bears LB Leonard Floyd vs. Giants RT Chad Wheeler
Khalil Mack (rightfully) gets most of the credit for the Bears’ outstanding defense, but he’s not the only impactful edge defender on the roster, as Leonard Floyd has developed into a quality player in his own right.
Floyd is one of the defenders whose stat line doesn’t adequately convey his level of play this season, recording 29 tackles, four for loss, five quarterback hits, and a sack. Although those numbers aren’t impressive, Floyd has evidently taken the next step in his development and has become a more well-rounded player.
This week, Floyd has a great opportunity to enhance his stat line, as he gets a juicy matchup against Giants right tackle Chad Wheeler. The right tackle has struggled on the edge this season, giving up more than two pressures in every game but two. Wheeler is a second-year undrafted free agent who was thrust into a starting role too early.
A below-average offensive tackle when left one-on-one on the edge, Wheeler will be in deep against Floyd all game.
As a pass-rusher, Floyd is effective on stunts and uses his long frame when rushing off the edge. Though he will likely be able to generate pressure on the quarterback, Floyd is really going to make his presence felt against the run. Here’s an example:
Here, Floyd is aligned in a two-point stance with a slight outside shade over Minnesota's tight end. As soon as the ball is snapped, Floyd gets double-teamed by the wide receiver and left tackle. Even while engaged with the wideout, Floyd is able to attain inside hand position on the left tackle.
Once the wide receiver combos over to the filling Bears defender, Floyd does a great job of standing his ground while maintaining the separation necessary to disengage from the block and make the tackle.
Expect Floyd to be a huge reason why the Bears' defense bottlenecks the Giants' run game while generating pressure off the edge.
Colts DE Kemoko Turay vs. Jaguars LT Ereck Flowers
To the surprise of many (but not yours truly), Kemoko Turay has been one of the best rookie edge defenders in the league this season. Accumulating 13 tackles, one for loss, 11 quarterback hits, and four sacks, Turay has shown improvement each and every week.
This week, Turay will get a great opportunity to add to his box score, as he will be matched up with Ereck Flowers, who is one of the worst starting offensive tackles in football. Flowers, who was released from the Giants earlier this season, is a mess technically, as he relies on his size and brute strength to get the job done. Flowers’ footwork is clunky and uncoordinated while his hands lack accuracy and timing.
Turay should be able to take full advantage, as his versatility has impressed for a rookie this season. At 6-foot-5 and 253 pounds, Turay’s pass-rush is built off his speed, as he has the lower-body flexibility, balance, and explosiveness to blow by offensive tackles off the edge. Here’s an example:
On this play, Turay is aligned in a wide-nine technique with a wide outside shade over the left tackle. Once the ball is snapped, Turay explodes out of his stance with a wide angle of entry, forcing the left tackle to cover a lot of distance with his pass set. Once he gets within distance, Turay employs a cross-chop to win the edge as he flattens to the quarterback for the sack.
On top of his prowess as a speed-rusher, Turay has shown an ability to win outside, inside, and through offensive linemen, using well-timed hands and an impressive ability to convert his speed to power.
Flowers is going to have his hands full with the rookie pass-rusher all game. Don’t be surprised if Turay is able to notch his first two-sack game of his career against the Jaguars.
John Owning is a football writer at theScore. He has written for Bleacher Report and Football Insiders. He was also the lead NFL content editor at FanRag Sports. John provides analysis on the Dallas Cowboys for the Dallas Morning News and edits for The Quant Edge. Find him on Twitter @JohnOwning.