Roy Miller Will Be the Key to the Jacksonville Jaguars Defense in 2013
His impact will be most obvious against the run. Jacksonville ranked 30th in rush defense in 2012, surrendering 141 yards per game on the ground.
Meanwhile, Miller anchored a Buccaneers front that led the stingiest run defense in football last season, yielding only only 82.5 rushing yards per game.
New head coach Gus Bradley will count on Miller to make that kind of impact in Jacksonville. He'll deploy him as the nose tackle for his hybrid 4-3 fronts.
Here's a look at how important Miller is against the run. The play below is from Week 3 of last season against the Dallas Cowboys:
Notice how Miller is aligned in a tilted or cocked position at nose tackle. From this alignment, he can attack either gap to the side of the center.
His primary task is to clog up the middle. He must draw and command a double-team block.
This creates clear lanes of pursuit for both inside linebackers, as they are free to attack downhill and flow to the ball carrier.
Now, there is no room for Dallas running back DeMarco Murray inside. He is forced to bounce his run to the edge of the defense.
With Miller still holding the middle, fellow defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is free to make the play.
McCoy ultimately dropped Murray for a three-yard loss, and it was clear that Miller was the key to a Bucs' run defense that limited Murray to 38 yards on 18 carries that day.
Simply by commanding two blockers, Miller secured the middle of the defense. He forced the run to the edge and kept linebackers and linemen free to make the tackle.
A look at the Jaguars attempts to stop the run last season shows why they need a player like Miller. In Week 5, they allowed the Chicago Bears to amass 214 yards rushing.
Running back Matt Forte accounted for 107 of those yards, and he was certainly helped by the Jaguars inability to command the middle.
Notice how both defensive tackles are being stood up by single blocks on this play:
This allows two Bears offensive linemen, the right tackle and the center, to move out towards the linebackers.
Without a double team being forced in the middle, the Bears are able to get a blocker on each of the Jaguars three linebackers.
The crucial block comes from the center. Due to the fact that neither defensive tackle drew a double-team, the center freely moves forward and blocks the middle linebacker.
This prevented the Jaguars from getting penetration through the middle and chasing Forte down before he made the outside. Once there, he had a clean edge to aim for, due to the outside linebacker being blocked by the right tackle.
The result of the play was a far too easy 14-yard gain. It all stemmed from the tackles not controlling the middle and keeping blockers off the linebackers.
In Bradley's scheme, the tackles have to control the middle and help disrupt running plays at the line of scrimmage. As coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks defense, Bradley relied on Brandon Mebane as his nose tackle.
A look at the way he played this vital role shows why Bradley targeted Miller for his defensive revamp in Jacksonville.
On this play against the New England Patriots in Week 6, Mebane takes the same cocked stance as Miller did against the Cowboys:
Once the ball is snapped, Mebane quickly draws and locks up two blockers. His ability to hold the double-team creates free lanes of attack for both inside linebackers.
As the play develops, Mebane continues to occupy two blockers. That leaves the linebacker K.J. Wright free to meet running back Stevan Ridley in the hole.
Ridley was dumped for a short gain, thanks to Mebane filling the middle and keeping blockers off the linebackers. That's what the nose tackle must consistently do in Bradley's defense.
Another look at Miller's performances reveals everything that Bradley is looking for.
Against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5, Miller dominates the middle to help limit Jamaal Charles to a short gain.
He is again aligned in the tilted position. This enables him to cover two blockers, even before the ball is snapped. It also allows Miller to concentrate on penetrating one gap.
Once again, Miller quickly occupies a double-team at the snap. This creates two huge lanes of attack for his linebackers.
With Miller not being forced off the line, even by two blockers, linebacker Lavonte David fills the middle. This forces Charles to the outside. He is soon stuffed for a a minimal gain.
This is a perfect example of solid nose tackle play. Although Miller didn't make the tackle, his work controlling a pair of blockers, created the tackle for the defense.
If Miller is doing his job this season, Jaguars fans likely won't notice him much. However, they'll certainly get used to seeing linebackers like Geno Hayes and Paul Posluszny making plays.
The Jaguars have a run a 2-gap 4-3 system for years. That scheme required the tackles to take on blockers head-on, similar to linemen in a 3-4.
Bradley will let his linemen attack single gaps. If Miller wins in the middle, linemen and linebackers will make more plays at or behind the line of scrimmage.
It may be a pass-first league in the modern era, but no defense will succeed if it is soft against the run. The Jaguars have learned this the hard way in an AFC South division featuring Arian Foster and Chris Johnson.
In 2013, they'll face Charles again, as well as Bradley's old team featuring the bruising runner Marshawn Lynch. The schedule also includes a trip to Wembley to battle the San Francisco 49ers and power-runner Frank Gore.
Without a solid run defense winning on early downs, Bradley won't be able to unleash the full range of his pressure schemes. His hybrid front "Leo" rusher will have fewer pass-rush opportunities if teams can still dominate the Jaguars on the ground.
Miller will be the key to Bradley's system as the tilted nose tackle. He has the skills to be the foundation of a revitalized defense.
All screenshots courtesy of CBS Sports, Fox Sports and NFL.com Gamepass
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