Hearing the name of an offensive lineman during a game is usually not a good thing and right guard John Miller had his fair share of name drops in 2015. According to Pro Football Focus, amongst all guards that took 50% of their teams snaps John Miller was graded as the 4th worst overall. He graded as a -27.4 overall, -19.8 pass blocking (5th worst), and a -7.9 run blocking (10th worst). So to say he struggled is a massive understatement.
I am sure there were some very logical explanations as to why he struggled. Some of those struggles could be attributed to his high ankle sprain. Some could attribute his rough season to the loss of his mother or a complicated blocking scheme operated by Greg Roman. But as a pro you have to work through those things, the NFL season is a grind and John Miller is trying to bounce back from an up and down season. So far through three preseason games, he appears to be doing just that.
Have you noticed that none of the media outlets have really written or discussed John Miller recently? Again, that is a good thing and when I turned on the film and watched all 74 snaps in three games, I can see why. The guy has played really well! According to Pro Football Focus he has yet to surrender a sack, QB hit or hurry. Yes, the same guy that allowed 2 sacks, 5 QB hits and 26 QB hurries last season has not surrendered a pressure. Currently, he is graded as a +1.9 in pass blocking and a -1.6 in run blocking.
Time to go to the “eye in the sky” to analyze how far he has come and just where his game could go. The high ankle sprain suffered in week 11 was to his post foot (in pass protection) and it definitely contributed to his struggles. Most fans don’t know this but the inside foot is referred to as the post foot and the outside foot is referred to as the set foot. The post foot or left foot for lineman on the right side is important because lineman put most of their weight on that foot. It is the foot that pushes off when kick sliding in pass protection. A lot of coaches teach 70/30, 70% of the weight is on the post foot with the other 30% on the right while in their stance. So you could see how an injury to Miller’s left ankle could have screwed with his pass protection. Well, it was no surprise that when I looked at the game where Miller had the most issues, the pass rush moves were to the inside.
For example, Miller’s worst game in 2015 came against the Eagles his first game back from his injury. In that game, Miller allowed 6 QB hurries, posted a -8 overall grade along with a -3.3 pass blocking grade and chipped in 3 penalties. But why was that happening? Miller was up against a formidable set of defensive linemen and the Eagles believed that Miller may overset or overcompensate in his kick slide because of his injury. So they lined up their interior players in the 3 technique positions and even some 4i positions inside the tackle. This would force Miller to push off that ankle to kick slide wide. But Eagles defenders instead attacked Miller’s inside gap much like defensive end Vinny Curry does on this play.
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As you could see in the clip Miller stops moving his feet which ultimately leads to him losing leverage of the defender. Fletcher Cox forces Miller to do the same with his raw power.
But as Miller stated in an article by Tyler Dunne back in July, his approach to the game had to change. He was used to just to executing the techniques of blocking. Such as the proper hand placement, footwork etc. But he was not cognizant of the approach leading up to the execution.
“As Miller explains, he more fully understands how to take on a defensive tackle positioned in a 1-technique, a 3-technique or head up. Picking Richie Incognito’s brain daily helped.”
“Most people associate “footwork” with a player dotting I’s on a virtual quick-foot ladder, just going crazy on it. But that’s not the case here. By footwork, Miller means precise timing on how he approaches a block.”
Understanding how a defensive lineman is going to try to attack you as a guard is half the battle. Miller appears to better comprehend that angle and how to counter defensive linemen’s attempts. If you look at the Bills second preseason game you can see Miller putting that into action. Jonathan Hankins appears to be in a 4i/4 technique on the tackle but on the snap shoots inside of Miller. But Miller doesn’t let him take the gap.
On this play, the Giants are in a 5 man front and the nose tackle attempts to shoot the A gap. Miller gets beat off the ball but doesn’t panic. He gets his left hand inside, right hand on the shoulder, executes a hop back to regain his balance and locks the defender down.
Look at Miller’s hand placement and footwork versus a very athletic defensive end in Odighizua.
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There is no doubt that Miller’s footwork and strength have improved. Look at him work to the play side, drive the defender and keep his feet moving allowing him to swing his hips into position to wall off the defender. That is textbook zone blocking.
Miller zone run pic.twitter.com/wvnZnrwghI
— Cover 1 (@cover1eturner) September 2, 2016
The second year player only played 17 snaps versus the Colts but he was quite effective. The Bills call a power run to the left and Miller has the inside linebacker in his sights. Look at him drive the defender.
Does he still struggle? Yes, he continues to struggle with powerful defensive lineman. Specifically, when his pad level is high. Here he fires out of his stance late, Harrison gets under him and disrupts the entire play. I am sure he is happy that Snacks is out of the division.
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On this play, his pad level is bad as he zone blocks left he pops up and the defender gets underneath him. But what is different this year is that he doesn’t give up, he locks out his play side arm, keeps sliding his feet play side and stays in the play.
Bad pad level, but no panic, locks out his play side arm and keeps his feet moving pic.twitter.com/LiPj60Ku8z
— Cover 1 (@cover1eturner) September 1, 2016
The Bills made a commitment to Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito this offseason so the Bills are bringing back all of their starters from 2015. That continuity will definitely help the Bills lineman. The combination of Mills and Miller gelled at the end of last season. Miller played his most consistent ball grading out at a +1.6 overall. They do a good job of working together on the following play versus the Giants.
Mills passes the defensive end onto Miller as the Colts bring the blitz.
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Miller has committed to being a pro by paying attention to his diet, workout regimen and technique. He has broken down the game into a science. Players are taught certain techniques by the offensive line coaches during the individual time of practice. The players are then supposed to put all of those techniques together and execute at a high level on Sundays. Miller finally seems to realize that and with the tutelage of the veteran lineman, offensive line coach Aaron Kromer and a scheme that puts the onus on the lineman, John Miller should be able to take that next step this coming season.