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 12 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. Carson Palmer Ran Faster Than AP
Although Carson Palmer wasn’t a popular pick for MVP coming into the 2015 season, his stellar play has him in the thick of that conversation. Palmer has piled up 27 touchdowns versus just 9 interceptions and is averaging over 300 passing yards per game. Although his arm is a big reason why the Cardinals are 9-2, it was Palmer’s legs that made a crucial play in week 12.
With just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Cardinals tied with the 49ers, Palmer surprised everyone by pulling the ball down and sprinting into the end zone for his first rushing touchdown since 2012. On the play he reached a top speed of 18.88 mph—slightly faster than Adrian Peterson’s Week 12 top speed of 18.86 mph.
That Palmer can still make plays like this is a marvel. When he tore his ACL last season, many experts believed his career was over. It’s hard to blame them—it was Palmer’s second ACL tear in 8 years, and it was hard to imagine someone his age bouncing back from such a debilitating injury. But Palmer worked his tail off in the off-season, spending eight hours a day rehabbing and working out with a focus on coming back even stronger. It’s safe to say the hard work paid off, since Palmer now has the Cardinals looking like legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Check out the incredible off-season routine that rebuilt Palmer from the ground up.
RELATED: The Long Road Back: Carson Palmer’s Grueling Recovery From a Torn ACL
2. Luke Kuechly Can Do it All
With their Week 12 dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys, the Carolina Panthers remained undefeated. The outstanding play of Cam Newton has been pivotal, but we cannot overlook the Panthers defense. It is one of the best in the NFL, allowing just 312.5 yards of offense per game—second best in the league after Denver—and their 28 total takeaways is six more than any other team.
If Newton is the linchpin of the Carolina offense, Luke Kuechly is the heart of their defense. Though he missed three games early in the season due to a concussion, Kuechly leads the team in total tackles and has tallied three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Two of those interceptions came in Week 12, as Kuechly haunted Tony Romo all game. And Kuechly took one of those interceptions back to the house for a pick-6, registering a top speed of 18.37 mph—the fastest of any interception return in Week 12.
With a dynamic offense built around Cam and a punishing defense led by Kuechly, the Panthers are a good bet to remain undefeated.
Kuechly builds his acceleration and lower-body power with drills like Uphill Sled Drags.
RELATED: Building Linebacker Power with Luke Kuechly
3. Eddie Lacy Is Picking Up Steam
Last week, we pointed out that Packers RB Eddie Lacy is at his best when he’s running downhill and using his momentum, size and power to his advantage. That fact was proven once again in Week 12 against the Chicago Bears. Lacy racked up 105 yards on 17 carries, notching consecutive 100-yard games for the first time this season. He did it by running downhill, breaking tackles and earning tough yardage.
The stat called “distance run per scrimmage yard gained” (DRPSYG) reveals how far a running back has to run to gain one positive rushing yard. In Week 12, Lacy’s DRPSYG was just 2.72—his lowest of the season. That means he was predominantly running downhill and avoiding an east-west running style, which is exactly how you’d expect a 5-foot-11, 234-pound back to find success.
These aren’t dazzling big plays, but they’re the kind of tough runs that wear a defense down over time (especially in the colder months). While the Packers’ passing game has been slacking recently, their running game has picked up. If Lacy continues to run this efficiently, and the air attack rounds into form, the Packers should have a potent offense by the time the playoffs roll around.
Lacy builds his dynamic balance of speed and power with drills like Uphill Sled-Resisted Sprints.
RELATED: Eddie Lacy: The Power Back