On Pass Rush: A River(s) Passes Through It

Slim sackings this week. The Chargers came in having only surrendered ten quarterback takedowns all year. The Seahawks managed two. Play-action, jet-motion, and only twenty-six pass attempts limited clean pass rush opportunities for the defensive line to really get after it. Los Angeles was also selective in using a tight-end to chip Frank Clark, obstructing elsewise-efficient angles toward Rivers. Phillip himself is also one of the very best quarterbacks in the league when under pressure. When coverage seems to win the first phase of the play, LA’s receivers are very good at finding soft spots, and Rivers is very good at working the pocket. The Chargers’ offense is in tune with itself to a coverage-breaking degree.

When the pressure did come, it was mostly the pass rushers getting off their blocks in snaps where the coverage did its job. Still, there were instances of early pressure that affected both Rivers and the play in a positive manner for the defense. Much of it came off of the left edge. Seahawks fans’ well-acquainted friend, Russell Okung, held his own at the other end save for one error forced by Jarran Reed — who had a better day against the pass than the run — sacking Rivers and getting the ball back for Seattle in a crucial situation.

Let’s look at that sack and the rest of the interior rush while we’re on the topic:


Norton calls a tackle-end stunt. Reed is aligned at 3-technique with Dion Jordan at 7-technique. Reed, the stunter, or “smasher,” smashes the C-gap, with Jordan looping, or “scraping,” in over the top of it. The Left Guard is late in picking up Jordan due to trying to push Reed to his outside help. Okung recognizes this and has to divide his attention to both Reed and Jordan. Reed realizes that Okung is distracted and off-balance and commits to his bullrush. In an attempt to correct, Okung gets his hand inside and out-lengths Reed, but Reed instantly forklifts Okung’s arm up and off of his chest and bulldozes all the way to Rivers. Often with stunts, the looper is the one that is being schemed open and thusly the one expected to generate pressure. Reed’s role as the stunter affords him little space to operate. However, his remarkable ability to create separation in a phone-booth through use of hands and strength is what gets the defense off the field on this critical play.

Earlier in the game Reed demonstrated again his skill-set to get off blocks.


Coming from left 3-technique, he comes out of his stance against the guard’s set and immediately establishes control. He gains extension with his inside arm and controls the guard’s outside arm with his own. Reed does not have top-tier lower body explosion to be an elite interior pass rusher, but his hand use is prodigious. He works the guard back, and leverages his outside arm control into a hip-flip and subtle pull-rip to get to Rivers harassing him before the throw. It doesn’t affect the play much as Reed’s work is slow-to-build, but in scenarios where he doesn’t win right out of the gate (and he can and has) he is able to grind through snaps when quarterback’s hold the ball just long enough.

Quinton Jefferson landed some impact this week as well. On this snap, he’s in at left end out of base. The Chargers run play-action so the DL reads run and doesn’t have an opportunity to jet out of their stances. Jefferson’s documented ability to get off the block on action protections revealed itself once more this week:


He achieves separation with a long-arm and attempts a fork-lift with his left arm, but fails to gain wrist control. Still, it opens up the guard and Jefferson is able to transition to a rip and get upfield, hurrying Rivers who is forced to evade and check down into a tight window — incomplete.

Jefferson later generated as clean a pressure as you can hope for out of a 3-Tech.


He comes out of his stance met by the left guard who sets aggressively. Jefferson defeats the guard’s hands with a violent double swipe, yet his angle is widened. He makes the best of it and drives vertically, clearing said guard, and then exhibits substantial dip and bend at 290 pounds, hurrying and hitting Rivers’ into a poorly-set deep throw that falls incomplete.

Shamar Stephen, not known for his pass rush, still flashed this week. In this iteration, he aligned at 1-technique:


At the snap, the center slides to Reed, who counters to the A gap from 3-technique. The guard slides to pick up Stephen, who achieves inside hands immediately, standing him up. He extends his right arm and just drives him back into Rivers, who is forced to make a throw with a rusher in his face which falls incomplete.

While the positives sure were positive, this was about the full extent of them.

Onto the EDGES.

The defensive ends had similar (un)success. There were some highlights, but the Chargers mostly kept Rivers clean and his bad wily self-abated pressure frequently.

On Clark’s sack, he is aligned on the left, standing up. Rivers makes a half-hearted play-fake to the running back, but the offensive line run blocks, forcing the defense to read run and slow down their pass rush:


Clark gets into his run technique on the right tackle who jump-sets the backside (putting himself on an island with Clark), but immediately recognizes pass thereafter and suddenly swipe-rips his hands away, gets lateral, and bends it back toward Rivers, sacking him.

It was inevitable that Clark’s talent would make itself felt at some point despite the Chargers’ game plan.

Again from the left edge, Clark shows off his long-arm that is becoming one of his staples:


He explodes vertically, eating up ground quickly, and, by his third step, swings open the right tackle’s hips with his chest high. This invites a conversion to power, which Clark converts, getting full extension with his inside-arm stab-move and walking the tackle deep into the pocket. Rivers is forced to move up, gets hit by Jefferson who gets off his block, and makes a desperation throw that hits the ground.

Jacob Martin and Dion Jordan didn’t have huge games but talent insists on itself, with neither laying goose eggs. For Martin, a sure sack was in his sights that was derailed by a holding penalty. He rushes from left end here:


The right tackle vertically sets early, aware of Martin’s strengths, but Martin feigns inside with a stutter step. This freezes the tackle’s drop and gets him lunging to brace for power. Martin squares his hips as part of his jab step as well as to club down the tackle’s outside, now lunging arm, securing the corner at about five yards of depth. Martin gets vertical again and bends at a tight angle, but gets held by the right tackle, drawing the penalty.

Martin’s initiation into the Seahawks defensive line is nigh-complete picking up the Near-Sack-Master mantle of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Long may he near-sack.

Jordan, registering a better game against the run than pass, was able to execute his bullrush again this week to effect. Other attempts he couldn’t quite get it rolling.


In this instance, the right tackle appears to take on his power immediately, but Jordan’s path is initially vertical. The tackle then retreats hastily and gets perpendicular to the LOS. Jordan recognizes this, immediately triggering his power move. He is able to gain depth, release and get inside, but Rivers has a receiver wide open and gets the ball out.

Rasheem Green had his first game back from injury, playing very few snaps and not showing much by way of athleticism. In the preseason, he generated much of his pressure with heavy hands, and fluid hip movement. Here he attempts his jab-club combo:


He manages to slither through in part because of Gordon running into and pinning the guard on his route release. Regardless, Green is able to open the guard up, but doesn’t display the suddenness to really eat off of it.

The day didn’t total a lot of pressure on Rivers. Individual players were able to apply their abilities through-out the game in timely spots. It wasn’t a cakewalk for the quarterback, but the pass rush left something to be desired.

They face the Rams this week and an offensive line unit that is perhaps the league’s best. Fortunately, Frank Clark is Andrew Whitworth’s kryptonite and Dion Jordan will have more juice for round two. Martin is more progressed this go-around, and hopefully Green flashes more raw athleticism. Reed and Jefferson form a consistent presence in the interior. Seatle must call on them all to kick it up a notch.

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