The NFL has gone high-tech. New for the 2015 season, every player has a tracker embedded in his shoulder pads that collects data like velocity, distance traveled and proximity to opposing players. Zebra Technologies is the company behind the tech, and the insights they provide are letting fans see the game in a whole new light.
Week 11 produced more impressive data, and many of the players behind the numbers were STACK athletes. Let’s take a look at who popped off the spreadsheet and tell you about the workouts behind their performance.
All data courtesy of NFL.com
1. J. J. Nelson, Arizona’s Secret Weapon
J. J. Nelson is living proof that speed kills. The Arizona Cardinals drafted Nelson in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft, hoping that his electric acceleration would add a new dimension to their offense. Nelson had been quiet for much of the season, but he exploded in his team’s Week 11 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. He gained 142 yards and scored a touchdown on just four receptions, giving the banged-up Arizona offense the deep threat they desperately needed.
After scoring only seven points in the first half, the Cardinals entered the third quarter looking for a big play. They got it on their first drive, as Carson Palmer threw a beautiful pass to a streaking Nelson for a 64-yard touchdown.
On the play, Nelson reached a top speed of 21.78 mph, fastest of any ball carrier on his way to the end zone in Week 11. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as Nelson clocked a blazing 4.28 in the 40-Yard Dash at the NFL Combine.
STACK caught up with Nelson before the Draft to learn how he builds his supersonic speed. He stressed that much of it comes from hard work in the weight room and a focus on traditional football lifts. “Squats, Lunges, Power Cleans—all of that stuff helps a lot,” he said. “That’s where you get your strength and that’s how you build explosiveness.”
RELATED: J. J. Nelson’s 3-Exercise Speed Workout
2. Cam Newton, Pocket Passer
The game plan for the Carolina Panthers in Week 11 was simple—beat the Redskins through the air. Cam Newton stuck to the plan. His 5 passing touchdowns were a career high, and his 21 completions equaled his season high. Newton has always been known as a dual threat, but against the Redskins, he proved he can thrive in the pocket.
Coming into Week 11, Newton was averaging 9.52 yards per drop back. Against the Redskins, that number fell to 7.98 yards per drop back—indicating that Newton relied less on his legs and more on his arm than usual. For context, Tom Brady owns the lowest average yards per drop back so far this season with 8.67.
The Panthers are still undefeated, and Newton’s growth as a passer is a big reason why. Throwing the football accurately depends heavily on core strength, a trait Newton builds with exercises like Body Saws. “The core is your foundation. Whenever Cam performs an athletic movement, a strong core will help that movement be more efficient,” says Nate Costa, Newton’s personal trainer.
RELATED: Build Speed and Strength with the Cam Newton Workout
3. Eddie Lacy is Getting Downhill
It’s no secret that Eddie Lacy has struggled this season. We’re sure your buddy who drafted him in fantasy football has brought up that fact repeatedly. But Lacy seemed to find something in Week 11, and his 22 carries for 100 yards helped the Packers beat the Vikings. It was Lacy’s first 100-yard game of the season, and it likely came as a result of a tweak to his running style.
The stat called “distance run per scrimmage yard gained” (or DRPSYG) reveals how far an RB has to run to gain one positive rushing yard. In week 11, Lacy’s DRPSYG was 4.37 yards—his lowest since week 4. Week 4 was Lacey’s second best game this season, in which he totaled 90 rushing yards and averaged 5 yards per carry.
What does this tell us? Lacy is at his best when he’s running downhill and getting vertical—which should be no surprise for a guy who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 234 pounds. Although he does have some quickness, Lacy’s power is his bread-and-butter. When he runs downhill and builds momentum, he can consistently grind out tough yardage and use his size to advantage.
Lacy builds his bone-breaking power with drills like Uphill Sled-Resisted Sprints.
RELATED: Eddie Lacy: The Power Back