Pass Rush! The pass was rushed. The Seahawks’ defensive line yielded four sacks, five hits, and consistent pressure on Andy Dalton and his beat up offensive line to help spur Seattle into an in-character messy Week 1 victory. The recently-acquired Jadeveon Clowney had a great first game on short preparation, but Quinton Jefferson was the line’s star with two sacks, additional pressures, critical passes defensed, and multiple tackles-for-loss. Rasheem Green also delivered impact and was instrumental to the team’s collective harassment of Dalton.
With Ziggy Ansah sidelined, Jarran Reed suspended, and Jacob Martin in Houston, both Jefferson and Green had before them the precise opportunity that Pete Carroll gets high on — and they took advantage. Until Ansah and Reed return and become fixtures of the rotation, these two are being leaned on for supplementary pressure to the main dish that is Clowney. And with that, they aim to show that they aren’t to be relegated so easily once the long term nickel vision forms.
Before unpacking Jefferson and Green’s game, let’s quickly focus on The Clowney Inaugural. Summarized, Jadeveon created pressure multiple times on his patented counter-club-swim to the inside from the edge. Until Ansah is introduced, we’ll be seeing Clowney more outside than we might otherwise.
From left end here:
Clowney presses a straight line path, which keeps the tackle’s set and shoulders square, providing an even surface for Seattle’s newest weapon to engage — or at least sell — a bull-rush, as he does here. The tackle ducks his helmet preparing for impact. Jadeveon seamlessly transitions to his counter-swim inside, showing an uncanny ability to twist his torso and get skinny into the gap. The tackle fails to block him, but gets away with a hold preventing what was probably a sack.
This time from right end:
Clowney rushes a power path again but presses the outside to widen the tackle just enough to set up the inside swim. The upfield explosion and lateral agility is elite here, and once again, his upper body contortion to get skinny is elemental to how he wins. All three traits combine for easy pressure on Dalton, who sails an incomplete throw on his target — pressure mattering!
Again from right end, Clowney stutter-steps and counter-swipes to the inside:
After clearing the tackle, the elite explosiveness and vertical speed take over, springing him deep into the pocket and forcing a poorly-formed throw. A coverage bust allows for a completion, but the inside-moves are LIVE.
Nonetheless, this move was adjusted to as the game went on, with Cincinnati’s tackles overcommitting to the inside. Frustratingly, Clowney didn’t make efforts to work the outside that was yielded. There were a couple of failed in-out steps followed by a swim or cross-chop to the outside, but he wasn’t sudden enough — nor were the angles favorable — and the tackles were keen to it, latching onto his hip and driving him far off the pocket.
Despite this, Clowney’s bull-rush was far from rusty and he was able to get pressure throughout the game with it:
Here, he rushes straight down the center, places inside hands, and jacks the left tackle back deep. The running back staves off disaster and doubles him, but Jefferson is alert and loops around the Clowney-induced pocket collapse, flushing Dalton out. Jadeveon might register a hurry on his own here, but it also shows how his skillset works in junction with the rest of the line.
Moving forward, one would want to see Clowney’s outside moves more frequently. Because of this, his straight-line rush paths would force tackles to account for inside, outside, and down the center moves and not just have to worry about one or two paths. In addition to his cross-chop and swim, Jadeveon’s jab-club-into-rip procession could make an appearance as well — a move in his outside escape stash that he used in Houston, even if inconsistently.
Quinton Jefferson, Sunday’s unexpected MVP, got his work done with mean bull-rushes and excellent situational awareness.
For his first sack, Quinton engages his bull-rush from right 3-technique and stems to the inside before gaining control of the guard’s outside arm. He executes a second effort with effective rotational power to get free and track down a flushed Dalton.
For his second sack, Jefferson showed his interesting ability to slip or slant in front of blocks against slide protection on play-action passes. This is savvy as much as it is lateral quickness. From right end:
Once he beats the block, he explodes into the backfield to collect his prize.
This time Jefferson is aligned at nose before expanding to the left guard and walking him all the way into the quarterback:
His bull-rush, this time from right end, registers devastating pressure. Notice Green’s bull getting home as well, helping force the early dump-off:
Jefferson’s lateral quickness at his weight class and heavy hands are combining for something significant. He showed lots last year and was an important player, but Q-Jeff is out to prove he’s more than reliable depth this year.
Back to Rasheem Green: perhaps the most exciting aspect of his role in the play outlined above is his snap get-off. He is simultaneously fluid and un-quick for his size, so timing up snaps will help him in every regard as a pass rusher. He shows severe power here, which he centered on most of this preseason. But even then, this rush exceeds the power output of any given August snap.
Earlier in the game, Green again showed his improved snap timing on an outside rush, from left end:
And as always, his half-man work at the top of his outside-arc rushes is powerful. His bend is decent for a “big edge,” but he loses a yard or two in his drift. Perhaps a more focused effort to dip or a jab-step sooner in the rep to halt the tackle’s depth and shorten the corner is in order.
On his sack to close the game, while an excellent display of effort in his pursuit, Green shows similar problems of cornering too deep relative to the quarterback:
Had Dalton not taken off, it would have been difficult for Green to bend back to the quarterback’s platform in that scenario. Still, more positive signs. His strength and technical proficiency in the half-man position are intact, proving effective against NFL tackles, while his snap reaction is improved remarkably. To offset his general speed issues, we should hope to see more varied footwork to open the outside sooner.
Green has had quickness issues inside, but he still figures to factor in there at some point — especially as power becomes more and more prevalent for him, though the skillset composition of the rest of the line will merit putting Green at end quite often. He’s on the brink of putting forth a complete rush repertoire to help support the big fish on the roster.
With Jadeveon Clowney demonstrably being very much Jadeveon Clowney, the Seahawks have dominant front line players with respect-demanding understudies that could combine for an elite team pass rush in time.