On Pass Rush: The Sacking of London

It happened. Sacks. Lots of them. Seattle’s defensive line finally registered the sackimonious day Seahawks fans had been yearning for. The pressure vacuum resultant of the mass exodus of talent last offseason placed a call to action on the remainders’ shoulders. They have answered. The group tallied six sacks in this week’s game with two more stolen, snatched by penalties or rather by the status-quo preservationists known as referees—agents of Big Quarterback. The ensemble raked in additional hits and hurries as well, besieging Carr all game. Seemingly everyone got shine.

Again, the effort was led by Frank Clark. I, asininely, had been doubtful of the conduciveness of Frank Clark’s skill-set toward fulfilling the role of Carroll’s LEO in his fronts, despite his body of work to date; that role being speed-rush the outside, force the QB to get moving early, and speed up his reads. In the past, when rushing speed paths outside of the tackle, Clark has primarily been able to win only if he beats the tackle’s set cleanly. This is hard to do with any frequency that on its own would deem a pass rusher viable at a featured position with particular requirements. Not only is Clark this year able to consistently bend the edge with more than just blistering speed, he’s managed to up his frequency of speed rush “wins” at an alarming, dare I say, Von Millerian rate. And he still has his devastating counters. He is EDGE1 emergent. Bona fide.

For Clark’s first pressure of the game, Kolton Miller is aggressive in his set. He looks to engage early and neutralize the devastating speed rush that Frank has been putting on tape before it can get started.

clark hurry speed bull

Clark recognizes this and transfers to power immediately. He gets perfect hand placement of his inside arm on Miller’s chest, bull-rushing him back while his outside arm gains wrist control on the tackle’s. Clark rotates his hips throughout the rush, getting Carr flushed and running.

On this next play, Clark is aligned at left end and stunts to the B-gap. His movement is so sudden it doesn’t even require an influence step to expand the right tackle outward setting up the inside.

clark sack penalty

He brings down Carr here, but the refs call a penalty on Griffin – an impressive snap nonetheless.

For Clark’s first real sack, he again employs his dastardly speed chop-dip-and-rip. As he did against Whitworth last week, Clark beats Miller before he can comfortably get off the line. By his third step, the sack is essentially made. This is just pure talent and Miller has no answer.

clark dip rip sack

Clark’s ability to win with speed early pays dividends for the rest of the game and his rush plan. Miller is so tasked with protecting the outside as well as now being antsy and rapid in his kick-step, that Clark can feast with his inside counters. Here he initially declares a power rush, feigns a transition to the outside, which Miller is obliged to respond to given how badly he had been beaten already, and then swiftly counter-rips to the B-gap. Miller is already off-balanced and not in a position to recover. He falls over in the process. Clark nearly gets to Carr, who flees the scene.

clark hurry flush out

Clark has now beaten Miller with outside and inside moves. The only thing left is a clean bull-rush. Well here we go. The Defenestration of Kolton Miller (2018):

clark 5

Clark is aligned wide and sees that Miller now has outside help with the chipping RB. He takes one step up field to gain just enough depth and widen Miller before converting to a devastating degree of power. What is there to say? He knocks the Left Tackle on his ass and envelops Carr.

Clark put forth a master class against Oakland. His development of a well rounded pass-rush approach built off unmatched explosion and speed has been spectacular and will only continue to grow.

Quinton Jefferson had the unit’s next best performance and (pleasantly) surprisingly most of his work came aligned at defensive end as opposed to 3-technique. Jefferson won with bull-rushes and hand fighting, walking back Oakland’s tackles with ease all game.

jefferson flag penalty

Here Miller initially jump-sets. Jefferson defeats at the point of attack winning with inside hands. He is able to, quite literally, leverage this into a nasty long-arm placed on Miller’s inside shoulder and walks him back all the way to Carr. Tragically, the refs ruin the fun here and call yet another sack-stealing penalty.

On this next snap, Jefferson sustains a chip block and engages with Miller thereafter chopping down his outside arm to win the corner. QJeff closes in for a QB hit:

jeffeson qbhit

Here’s Jefferson again fighting through contact on the play-action fake to register a ref-free sack on Carr that he shares with Clark who transitions to a cross-chop to get into the backfield after reading a run:

clark jefferson sack

While Clark had by far the most eye-popping performance of the night and Jefferson did his thing, Jacob Martin’s presence in the absence of Clark in the second half was as promising as you can get from a 6th-round rookie. Martin does not have the natural ankle flexion and ability to run a tight path to the QB to be an elite edge-bender. What he does have is decent get-off, ability to eat up space in a hurry, and impressively strong hand-work to corner on tackles at the apex of his rush path for ~240 pounds.

On Branden Jackson’s sack (that he manufactures with an excellent stab-move), Martin is aligned at left end:

martin jackson

Martin gets vertical in a hurry swinging open the right tackle’s stance well before he would be comfortable doing so relative to the QB. He is forced to lunge for Martin knock him off his path. With his hands drawn out, Martin expertly chops down with his inside arm to soften the edge. Had this been a deeper drop, the sack would’ve been his.

Martin again uses the same inside-chop-club-to-rip combination to secure positioning on the tackle, who this time elects to vertical-set him, respecting his speed. Martin executes it perfectly:

martin 2 angle

From the first angle, it is easy to see that Martin does not have the natural bend that Clark does. After all, they tested quite differently. The conventions of Martin’s rush is speed, hands, and motor. Against teams whose offense require the quarterback to drop deep, we may see Martin feast and a make a name for himself.

For good measure, here’s yet another example of him hitting that inside-chop move, this time from right end against our well-acquainted friend Kolton Miller.

martin chop

Martin doesn’t have that flexibility to turn the corner like the elite speed-rushers, but what he does having going for him to mitigate that is how deliberate he is flipping, or better yet, rotating his hips throughout the process of his rush. He can secure ground for himself once he clears that tackle with his chop-club or chop-rips by wrapping those hips around to take better angles at the quarterback.

Wait, shit, he whips Miller again here with the same move:

martin chop 2

Had Carr not taken a very short drop and gotten rid of the ball in an instant, this would’ve been a sack.

Despite Martin’s limitations as a bender, he’s proven himself as a viable technician. As the season progresses we can hope to see him be a regular in the rotation. He’s got the stuff.

Jarran Reed cannot be forgotten. Here he is wrecking shop:

reed sack

Carr brings this one on himself here. As soon as Reed starts to beat the left guard to the outside getting to his rip, Carr immediately bails. Reed tracks Carr the whole way and disengages from the block fluidly and wraps up.

This QB hit is perhaps his most impressive snap of the game:

reed qb hit

He’s aligned at 3-technique. His first step is to the outside to expand the guard’s set, which is then followed by a powerful club back to the inside. This gets the guard off-balanced and knocked back. Reed fluidly rips under and gets to Carr. As we saw in his sack against Arizona, this is the sort of ability that Reed has been building on this year. In 2017, his bull rush became quite effective. This year he is showing the ability to gracefully capitalize off of his powerful hands and win cleaner earlier in the snap with lateral movement. The man has four sacks this year and is tasked with the most grunt-work of any of the interior defensive linemen. He’s making the most of his opportunities against the pass.

Now there is one caveat to all this fun: this breakthrough team performance came against an offensive line riddled with injuries that is coached… “coached” …by one Tom Cable. Truth be told, the Raiders aren’t really coached by Tom Cable. They are possessed by Tom Cable. And it was the Seahawks who took it upon themselves to perform The Exorcism of the Enemy’s Pros to rid them of such an affliction. It didn’t appear to work as Cable hasn’t been fired yet and to be honest I had been sitting on that pun for a while and just wanted to use it, please clap.

The Raiders are down and out yes, but it was better to see the defensive line dominate a group that it should dominate than not. Frank Clark is sacking his way into Elite Edge discourse. Quinton Jefferson and Jarran Reed continue to flex and expand their impact on a weekly basis. The remainder of the interior are proving themselves as something more than non-factors. Even Shamar Stephen got a sack! And Jacob Martin is putting forth the body of evidence that he might be something more than a 6th-rounder.

Six sacks a week is not a pace we should ever expect the Seahawks to sustain, but this week’s game could serve as a watershed moment for the pass rush moving forward. We miss the production of Bennett, Avril, and even Sheldon Richardson, but The Leftovers can play. They can sack.

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