On Pass Rush: Preseason Week 1

It’s difficult to glean much from the first week of preseason. Seattle’s young players are jittery while the more established are just trying to get into hitting shape. Most are trying out new moves to see how their offseason work applies to a live game situation — especially at defensive line.  Coaches are feeling things out as much as the players with scheming; not necessarily just to attack the opposing team’s offense, but to also collect data on their own players. Nonetheless, there was far from nothing to document in the Seahawks’ first exhibition game. Early seeds of where the pass rush is headed have been planted. With Ansah and Collier both sidelined for the preseason, Jacob Martin and Rasheem Green will continue to receive the lion’s share of our attention.

The primary foci on Rasheem Green will be if he has regained his pre-sprain quickness as well as the incorporation of power into his rush plan. The former seemed to be there and has been an emphasis of Pete Carroll’s. On Thursday, Green did appear quicker off the ball, especially in the run game. Frequent blitzes and zone-pressures asked him to slant to the inside often while he was the recipient of slide protection in a handful of his outside reps. Because of this, there really wasn’t much of an edge for him to rush when aligned at defensive end — where he really excelled this time last year — and thus his edge quickness is still unclear.

Power came with mixed results, and that element appeared to be a point of personal emphasis for Rasheem. Here he is aligned at left 3-technique (outside shoulder of the right-guard) and slants into the center:


Green’s snap timing and get-off are there, and is able to get catch the center on his heels when engaging his bull-rush, gaining about 6 yards of knock-back. The center anchors and Rasheem doesn’t decidedly pressure the quarterback, but it’s a sign of his development in that department.

Green comes from the same spot this time, rushing the guard. After again gaining initial knock-back, he stalls:


This time he rushes the left guard from right 3-technique. He fires out of his stance and immediately gains control over the guard’s wrists:


While this keeps his pads clean, he doesn’t have the leg drive to build off of it and is once again stalled.

It’s possible that Green may not be the type to bulldoze linemen directly into the quarterback’s platform, but he is gaining enough depth that an escape move or counter could capitalize off of it. We know Rasheem is sophisticated in that arena — the arena of using technique to manufacture corners with the hip turn and flexibility (relative to size) to flatten thereafter. Perhaps next week we see attempts that marry both elements for more complete rushes. Simultaneously, it would be nice to see more overt power generated in his bull-rush too.

Like Green, development of power in Jacob Martin’s game is of interest as well, although in a different vein given their respective skillsets. The hope is that Martin can intersperse enough power so that tackles simply have to respect the bull-rush, preventing frequent deep-sets that nullify his speed by default. And as has been said, he did have a power game in college.

Without much further ado let’s look at a solid rep converting his speed to power. From right end:


Martin reads that the left tackle gains enough ground in his 45 degree set that to pursue an outside path would mean widening to an unworkable angle or having to create a hard corner. Jacob is capable of the latter, but an effective transition to power will make tackles think twice about prioritizing their speed to cancel his outside rush for fear of being off balance. Martin lands his hands just under the tackle’s shoulders, lifting him off his base and backward. Had the quarterback not released the ball right at the bottom of his drop, it’s possible that Martin could have closed in sooner or replaced hands for another power followup. To this point, this has not been an element of his pro game.

Martin also heavily worked his cross-chop into this game. This is a move that he is likely working to perfect which is apropos given the somewhat straight-angle path he often takes when rushing tackles’ outside halves.

On his sack, the tackle actually defeats the move. Martin isn’t able to break the tackle’s punch, and is stunned instead getting knocked off balance. But his recovery allows him to continue to dig and bend toward the quarterback who has been flushed:


In this next sample, Martin, again with the cross-chop, beats the tackle to an intersection that would merit a transition to power, but does not really bait out the tackle’s hands — as the straight angle path (rushing more diagonally toward the QB rather than more up field off the snap before bending a wider angle) often forces:


Martin kind of whiffs on his cross-chop attempt but his depth on the tackle, who is using a catch-technique, allows him to rip under his adversary’s outside arm and through, forcing the quarterback to step up. It’s kind of a janky rep, but shows good process from Martin as well as his lack of elite bend. His cross-chop development journey (if you will) should be fun to watch as the preseason and regular season unfold.

Earlier in the game, Martin had his best rep — a clean win off of a quick inside-counter to hurry the passer:


The left tackle quick sets Martin thinking he can preempt his speed, but the young rusher is aware to it and quickly counter chops to the inside — a staple of Frank Clark’s game last year.

All in all it was mostly an uneventful showing from the defensive line. The other guys were just as impacted by the lack of clean chances to really get after it. Barkevious Mingo looked fast, but couldn’t gain depth — a couple of times he converted to power with bull-rushes or long-arms, but not to the point of pressure. There is a lot of work to be done. This weekend’s game will hopefully provide more opportunities.

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