Many fans love turning on their TV’s on a Sunday afternoon and seeing the spectacular throws, catches, and runs by offensive players. You watch the post game highlights and see many more offensive clips which seem to always revolve around skill players. Fans live and die for stuff like that. For me personally, nothing is more beautiful than a solid pass rush.
My favorite part of defensive football is probably the dissecting the front 7. I love to see what teams will do with the front, and how they are going to make life difficult for offensive players. I love to watch a lot of my game film from the end zone camera just to see what teams are doing up front. Some teams tend to be more basic. They play a base over (3 technique to the strength) or under (1 technique to the strength) and bring 4 rushers to apply pressure to the quarterback. Some teams hate to bring any more than 4 rushers because they feel that they will suffer in the secondary. Other teams, typically 3-4 defenses, are more exotic in the looks up front. Capers alone can show up to 6 or more fronts a game. His philosophy is to confuse the front 5 offensive lineman and send constant pressure. In this article, I will talk about the pressure that he sends up front and how the Packers utilize different pass rushing techniques in order to wreck havoc on the quarterback.
Basic Elements of a Good Pass Rush
So what is it that makes a good pass rush? The first thing that comes to my mind is speed.
Green Bay comes out here in an over front with Daniels occupying the 3 technique (outside shade of guard). Notice how Daniels is slightly tilted inside so that he can have leverage on the guard once the ball is snapped. One of Daniels biggest advantages is his speed off of the ball. When I attended training camp this year in Green Bay, I saw the defensive lineman, daily, do ball get off drills. A coach will have a ball, give a cadence, then move the ball simulating a snap, and have defensive lineman get off as quick as possible. It definitely transitioned well for Daniels in week 1.
Watch how quickly Daniels rips across the guards face here. He attacks the outside shoulder, then quickly “rips” underneath. The rip technique is nothing more than taking your outside hand, sometimes inside hand, and “ripping” it underneath the offensive linemans inside shoulder. This gives Daniels leverage. The old saying is so true, “The lower man will always win” and Daniels proves why here.
Hand placement is so crucial to a good pass rush. Defensive lineman must constantly use the hands on every single snap. He constantly fights off the offensive linemans hands so he has the advantage in the rush. Its a violent battle between offensive and defensive lineman in this area. Each is fighting for hand placement. The offensive lineman wants placement in order to drive the defensive lineman off the ball, which, in turn, the defensive lineman must knock the hands down in order to perfect his rush.
Pursuit is crucial to a good pass rush. Daniels here takes a great angle to the quarterback and gets his job done. The shortest distance to a point is always a straight line. Even if slightly off, it will disrupt the timing of a rush. This has probably been my favorite sack so far of the season.
The Swim Technique
This was one of the best defensive plays of week 3. Newly acquired Packers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks shows us here a textbook swim move. Brooks lines up here in a 5 technique, outside of the tackle, and comes off hard on the edge. Along with the rush, Brooks is also the primary force player. He is the one responsible for “forcing” the play back inside.
The swim technique is one of the most popular and effective pass rush moves by defensive lineman and outside linebackers. Some prefer that players don’t use the swim move because it exposes the ribs and can sometimes allow players to get “too tall”. I like the swim move, but it takes a good player to really perfect it.
As we see in the above clip, Brooks starts out with a strong punch to the outside shoulder of the tackle. He takes his inside arm and “swims” over the shoulder of the tackle and gets by easily. His initial punch got the tackle off balance, he kept his feet moving and took a good angle to the quarterback. A big key, as he shows here, is not getting tall with the swim move. The swim arm needs to be short and quick so the rusher can get by the tackle quickly. This is tape that should be used to show how to perfect this move.
The Speed Rush
It is only fitting that Clay Matthews is used as an example for a good speed rush. The elements of this pass rush technique are simple; get to the quarterback as fast as possible.
The Packers come out here in dime personnel. One of the advantages right off the bat is that some of the most athletic guys are on the field. Matthews starts out in a 3 technique. He has played here part of the season so far, and it has been a good look for the front. His inside foot is back, as opposed to his regular stance in which his outside foot would be back. Matthews and Fackrell are running a twist stunt on the wide side of the field. Fackrell will rip across the face of the tackle and shoot the B gap, and Matthews will loop and contain. In the speed rush, you want the tackle to come out and attack you, which he does here against this twist stunt. Matthews main objective here is to beat the tackle to the corner. What needs to happen is that Matthews must establish his speed before any of the other pass rush moves can set up.
As Matthews turns the corner, on his third step he makes contact with the tackle. Once his inside foot hits the ground as he turns the corner, he must establish leverage. He rips under cleanly and takes a good path to the quarterback. Again, pad height is crucial. In order to be effective in this rush you must dip the inside shoulder while maintaining leverage and get upfield. Its important though that Matthews, or any rusher, doesn’t get too far upfield. If that happens, he creates an ally for the quarterback in which he can take off up field and the defense loses contain.
The Bull Rush
This is one of the oldest and one of the best pass rush techniques. Nick Perry shows a great bull rush here. As opposed to the speed rush where you want to beat the tackle to the corner, in the bull rush you want to meet the tackle head on. As Perry shows here, it is important to get off the ball quickly and bring the hands. As with the other techniques, hand placement is important. Typically, the inside hand would go to the outside of the chest plate and the outside hand on the outside shoulder of the blocker. The player rushing wants the facemask to be in the arm/shoulder of the blocker. He is simply going to use his power and drive the blocker towards the quarterback. Perry is a great example of this. He is a strong outside linebacker. His leverage here is perfect. He gets a strong punch on the tackle and brings both hands quickly and knocks him off the line of scrimmage. This rush seems to work well from a 4 technique, or head up on the tackle. It is a difficult rush to defend because the blocker really needs to anchor down and use his strength to defend it.
So far this season I feel as if the front 7 has done a tremendous job in defending the run and getting after the quarterback. We hope to see this continue throughout the season and make life difficult on opposing offenses. The key to a successful defense begins with the front, and I believe that the Packers have what it takes to become one of the best fronts in the league.
Go Pack Go!