Lawrence Timmons demolition of Jeremy Hill at the goal line reveals the technique behind the primal force.
Be it blowing up buildings or ball carriers, successful linebackers and demolition experts understand that timing and placement are essential components of a successful job.
Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons demonstrates both timing and placement with his dynamite, blowing up Jeremy Hill inches from the goal line during the first half of Sunday’s game.
Putting the 230-pound Hill on his back is a display of knowledge, patience, leverage, and explosion that’s every bit as awesome to me as the planned implosion of a building.
Timmons begins with an appropriate read of the play and maintaining responsibility of his gap. Big plays on offense often happen when defenders abandon their role and vacate their assigned position.
Big plays on defense often happen when defenders maintain a disciplined, team-oriented role. There are exceptions, but team play makes big plays easier.
On this play, the Bengals run from an I-formation. The left guard pulls behind the center and right guard. The fullback follows the pulling guard into that crease behind the pulling guard.
Timmons knows his gap responsibility is between the left tackle and left guard. It’s not the designed area for Jeremy Hill to run, but it’s close enough to the double team and lead blocks that Hill could easily cut back if the planned crease is too crowded.
It’s this understanding of the play design and how a runner could read the field that encourages a veteran defender to remain patient—even on a quick-hitting red zone run. At the snap and the pull of the left guard, Timmons slides a step to his left and reads the pull.
Once Timmons sees the location of the pull, he stops and squares his body downhill at the point the pulling guard vacated. If the pulling guard was working to right end on a power play, Timmons might have flowed towards the center of the line.
He’d do this because the cutback to the left side on a power play would be unlikely, but he will be in the position to flow to left or right end at moment’s notice. Instead, the left guard’s pull is to the middle of the line, creating a far more distinct possibility that the gap the guard vacated could be a target for Hill to attack.
This is all happening fast and Hill stops moving to square downhill, keeping his arms and hands out so he can sift past a potential obstacle or be prepared to deliver a hit on the ball carrier as soon as he identifies what’s about to unfold.
As soon as Timmons sees Hill working his gap, Timmons explodes towards the hole with his head down and hands out. It’s like watching a sprinter come out of his blocks.
Timmons aims low so the collision point is under Hill’s pads. When he makes contact with Hill, the hands arrive under the runner’s pads and the hips roll upwards to generate the force that lifts Hill off the ground and backward.
Watch the video a few times and you see the efficiency and precision of his movement. The impact may appear savage and primal in the best sense of football, but Timmons isn’t a wild man.
His movements are calculated and surgical. He’s like a marksman shooting at a moving target, only his body hands and shoulders are the projectile and his feet, legs, and hips are the firing weapon.
While I’m a big fan of Ryan Shazier’s athletic ability, I’m a bigger fan of Timmons’ discipline and technique. Shazier makes splash plays, but his freelancing opens equally big plays for the offense.
Timmons is linebacking in its maturity. When I’m looking at defenders, I’m seeking prospects that have that explosive element but play under control.