On Pass Rush: Good-Bye Week, Hello Detroit

The Seahawks’ defensive line got an extra week to bask in the glory of avenging the Tom Cable-scorned Seahawks Fandom, delivering Derek Carr to the turf six times. It was a coveted breakout performance and a sign of things to come to be sure, but a statline difficult to replicate weekly.

This week saw three sacks and four additional hits on Matthew Stafford in Seattle’s 28-14 (but felt like it should’ve been 35-7) victory over the Detroit Lions. The loss sent Matt Patricia into a character crisis, suggesting that he may not be Bill Belichick and is instead Matt Patricia. But that hasn’t stopped him from berating the press.

This week’s pass rushing totals are probably a better indicator of the defensive line’s talent level. Oakland’s injured and Cable-coached state was thusly taken advantage of, serving as somewhat of a litmus test for everyone after Clark, confirming that they can win match-ups that they should on paper and that they are viable as pass rushers, even if to what degree remains to be seen.

The Lions appear to have much better coaching and coordination up front. They were not susceptible to each and every stunt or designed pressure that the Raiders were in Week 6, nor did they lose one-on-one match-ups at will. Still, Clark and co. were not non-factors and managed to abate an otherwise unabated quarterbacking experience for one of Big Quarterback’s most precious, Matthew Stafford.

Let’s take a look:

The Edges:

Detroit’s Tackles sought to deep set Seattle’s Edges all game. Given what Clark has put on tape this year, and Jacob Martin’s skill set, it made sense to take away the outside first. This largely worked, as neither of the aforementioned registered much production by way of outside moves, when aligned wide.

Clark battled all game long, working half-man, mostly stalemating, or getting run off the arc. His primary speed-chop-rip-n-dip was not an option this go-around, but his deliberations when cornering and overall process was another tally in the affirmative that he is improving in that regard. He did have success converting to power, walking the left tackle into Stafford’s NFL-subsidized personal bubble (get the government out of MY defense) a number of times with additional instances of the left guard coming to the ground and giving the tackle help at the last second.

First, let’s see Clark working to the tackle’s outside half:

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Clark doesn’t “win” here, but the anatomy of his rush here sees him turn his hips and square his shoulders toward the QB. He attempts to power the LT back throughout this process. Fluid transition to a rip after his last effort at separation and getting the tackle off-balance may have paid off here.

Here’s another example of Clark realizing his get-off isn’t getting him where he wants, and is forced to try and soften the edge for himself.

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He again fails to “beat” the tackle, but these reps indicate that Clark is adjusting his rush mid-snap if he reads that his primary objective is being taken away. Clark can’t win in this instance with blistering speed. He smartly gets his hips churning toward the QB and engages half-man with tackle, attempting to separate laterally relative to him with a long arm and beginning to flatten his angle. He nearly does so successfully, but is not able to sustain the positioning and gets ran off.

Clark will not always be able to get pressure on account of beating tackles’ sets alone. He will have to find ways to incorporate hand work to manufacture corners so his excellent bend can take advantage. What he has displayed this year — in contrast to last — is managing to direct his path inward before he clears the tackle. Last year, when not attempting a pure speed path, his hips and shoulders would often be still pointing upfield in these instances. He now is laying the groundwork to convert more of his rushes into pressures. The club-rip and push-pull combinations will come in time.

As mentioned above, Clark did successfully convert to power often this game.

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In the above gif, Clark uses his long-arm/stab move, again operating with control on the tackle. Stafford gets rid of the ball, but if a target did not present itself, Clark could have easily gotten off the block here and had a chance at a sack.

As for Jacob Martin, Detroit’s right tackle probably took one look at all 242 pounds of him, recalled how he whooped both of Oakland’s tackles last week with stellar hands and speed, and knew that the plan was to get deep quick and vertically set him all day — nullifying his speed. If you want to corner on that, you better hope the QB is taking a 15-step drop or that you can get your inside hip on their outside hip faster than you can say something that is said really fast.

Martin’s early engagements saw his outside moves nullified. Here he is not able to eat up ground quickly enough relative to the tackle, and misses with his chop before the tackle catches him at the top of his rush from left end:

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This forced him to begin converting his speed and width to power or counter to the inside.

Here he attempts to power the tackle back:

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In theory, this is what the RT is baiting him into, as Martin’s primary element is speed. He honors the invitation and commits to a bullrush, ramming the tackle back a yard or two. The tackle anchored late, but in time to stall him. Stafford is forced to move off his spot here, but is still able to complete the pass.

Ultimately, he wasn’t able to generate enough push all game in these instances, but he does show a semblance of ability to convert to power. At Temple, Martin did have a shot-put or pseudo-hump counter to open up the inside on deep-set or over-set tackles. It was quite potent:

He didn’t deploy said counter in this week’s game, but look for its use as he develops his pro game in lieu of NFL tackles’ savvy in forcing rushers into moves they don’t seem best geared toward. He has untapped power.

Despite his opponent’s game plan, Martin did game him back. Here he finally wins the outside, forcing Stafford to step up and into the warm embrace of one Frank Clark.

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In the first Martin gif, a jab-step is attempted that does not influence the tackle enough to freeze him and buy Martin depth up the field. In this instance, keen to how determined Detroit is to keep him from running the arc, he feigns power with a hard jab-step at this time a shallower depth and tighter angle, obliging the tackle to shorten his set and allowing for Martin to get high enough and win position. Once he does, he times his outside-arm swipe, inside-arm cross chop combo perfectly to clear the tackle’s hands and thus pave an angle to flatten toward Stafford. Stafford feels the pressure and is forced to move up, sacked by Frank Clark. This is another display of excellently timed hand work from Martin, as well as an advanced rushing process.

Here’s an alternative angle:

He knows his strengths and he knows how tackles are playing him. And he’s showing the ability to adjust.

Dion Jordan was able to suit up this week after nursing his knee for a couple of weeks. He did not quite have the explosiveness or twitch so far this season that excited many in the beginnings of his career reclamation late last year. He appears to have regained himself, as his bull-rush was punishing this week. Multiple times Detroit’s right tackle gave ground on him.

On one snap, Dion nearly had a sack, doing everything but bringing Stafford down, whose escape lasted about three strides before Jarran Reed stripped him and Seattle recovered.

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This is explosion, inside hands, and leg-drive. I counted about three additional Jordan snaps of his bull rush walking the RT back with only help from the RG or a chipping RB knocking him off of his path. The monstrous sack he had on a bullrush in Arizona last year was no accident or one-off.

The power is real.

On this play, Seattle stunts the strongside of the defensive line with a looper coming around, or looping even, off of it. Dion stunts from RE out of a 6-technique and finds himself stacked up with the left tackle who he is able to flip his hips inside on, gains wrist-control with his left arm and rips through for bona fide pocket penetration on a design that isn’t even meant for him to get free.

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It appears that Jordan is back and ready to resume his mounting momentum of last season.

The Interior:

Shamar Stephen produced another sack this week, however it was Jarran Reed who was able to free him up.

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Reed stunts inside. With as often as he has won with club-swim counters this year, the left guard may have seen the move to the inside with this in mind and attempts to wash him down. This works against the lineman’s favor, as it actually propels Reed into the rest of the Detroit OL and pushes himself out of position to pick up Shamar in time, who does the rest. Hustle.

Reed also delivered a nice quarterback hit on Stafford:

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He initiates with a bull-rush, knocking the center back, which he extends into a stab move, gaining separation and setting up the club-swim release toward Stafford. Reed’s hand placement and strength is a constant advantage of his that will keep freeing him up like this.

For fun, on a play where it delivered no consequence, here’s Poona bullrushing the right guard into the ground.

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Stafford completes the pass, and the #all22 angle didn’t pick all of it up, but yes, Poona demolishes this poor soul. He knows a thing or five about leverage. His height that contributed to his UDFA status works in his favor more often that not. Low man wins.

On to the next one.

Sack Philip Rivers.

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