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The Juice is Loose: Why Explosiveness Matters in the NFL

The Juice is Loose: Why Explosiveness Matters in the NFL

When evaluators are discussing players, a descriptive term that receives frequent use is “juice.” “This guy’s got serious juice,” says one scout. “He has the juice to take it the distance,” explains another. “That dude is a one-man Tropicana juice factory,” states a creative, wordsmithing third.

The trait their juicy jargon is portraying is explosiveness. While explosiveness is commonly thought of as a component of speed (and shows up on tape that way), its importance on a football field has more to do with how it relates to movement efficiency.

To illustrate this concept, imagine you have two athletes with identical physical profiles, and, specifically, the same maximum stride length. If both athletes get in a stance, explode out at full speed for three seconds, and stop exactly where they are at the third second, the more explosive of the two is the athlete who covers more distance.

That is to say, the more explosive athlete is the athlete who generates more output (ground covered) with the same input (time), thereby making him the more efficient mover.

Coming back to the field now, football is a game of two types of leverage: vertical (in terms of pad level) and spatial (in terms of relative body positioning in space). Flexibility wins the former, and explosiveness wins the latter.

Explosiveness enables offensive tackles to beat pass rushers to the corner. It allows ball carriers to defeat defenders’ angles to the pylon. It allows cornerbacks to quickly close and undercut deep outs.

In all cases, efficiency triumphs. The spatial leverage to the desired point (the corner, the pylon, or the catch point) is won by covering more ground in the same limited amount of time during a given play.

The juice is loose in the clips below. Watch how explosiveness wins plays all over the field.

Forget the league. Tyreek Hill is one of the most explosive athletes in the world, and this play is a stunning showcase of that truth.

From his single-side, nasty split alignment, Hill hauls in a Patrick Mahomes pass around midfield. As soon as he crosses the 40-yard line – BOOM! – he’s shot out of a cannon to cover nearly 20 yards in two seconds and angle off three Bills defenders, who aren’t explosive enough to gain ground and catch him.

Coupled with chucking the deuces up 15 yards from the endzone, that’s some disrespectful juice.

Check out Nick Bosa’s clinical speed rush to beat Seattle left tackle Duane Brown for a sack here. Bosa launches like a rocket out of his stance to beat Brown to the corner in under a second! That’s explosion.

Once he was out-leveraged, Brown was powerless. Once Brown was powerless, Russell Wilson was, too.

On this outside zone play, the Saints’ Alvin Kamara initially has a chance to chunk the Tampa Bay defense for a big gain. When he clears Ross Cockrell, he has the leverage advantage to beat Devin White to the sideline and turn it up.

Suddenly, White finds another gear to close like a heat-seeking missile and knock Kamara out of bounds for a negligible gain. If the dictionary used videos instead of words, a clip of the instant White accelerates to outrace Kamara would be used to define explosiveness.

Read More: Evaluating the Evaluators