On Pass Rush: Sacking their BeHeinz

Despite another win, the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive line experienced a bit of a comedown when attacking the passer on Sunday versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. This was to be expected, given their first two opponents’ respective offensive line situations. Cincinnati was working with an injured group already wanting for talent, while Pittsburgh boasts one of the more talented and cohesive units in the league. These elements, combined with the Steelers’ desire to build much of their aerial attack on quick concepts, made for few chances to get to Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph.

Still, Jadeveon Clowney was able to impact plays despite being the lone “problem” for which Pittsburgh schemed, while Quinton Jefferson and Rasheem Green continued to reinforce their strengths and development tracks.

Clowney often found himself the recipient of either a guard sliding to aid the tackle he was rushing or a chip from the running back. There was little space for him to work with and, with the caveat that it’s only his second week of live football since last season, it was an unproductive day for him against a line better than the one he faced the week prior.

On one of his cleanest wins, Clowney beats the right tackle with a sudden counter-swipe to the inside:


After closing the distance, baiting and then reacting to the inside punch at the last second, the right guard slides to him and prevents the clean shot at the quarterback that was often there versus the Bengals.

Outside of that, inside moves were mostly preempted, and outside moves didn’t open up much either. Perhaps this was due to what could have been a mandated rush path geared toward containing Roethlisberger, and less conducive for angles to manifest. Nonetheless, Clowney was able to grind through for slow-building bull-rushes, deep into the pocket at times.

Here he fires off the line, stutter steps, and powers into the left tackle from right end:


In a semi-failed effort to angle his opponent off, the left tackle folds inward. This allows Clowney to free his outside and get a hand on Roethlisberger, who is forced to make a short throw from an uncomfortable base.

Again, Clowney is able to use his bull rush:


He transitions at the last second — this time to a rip — to get pressure on the quarterback. After gaining enough depth, his rip transition flushes Rudolph up.

Quinton Jefferson arguably stole the show again this week. Like Clowney, he was blocked fairly well but managed a few clean wins to the outside with his quick and hard corner moves.


From right 3-technique, Jefferson rushes fast up field to the left guard’s outside. With his speed gaining him depth and opening up the guard, Q-Jeff’s hip and shoulder turn allow him to maintain an angle on the passer and half-man positioning on the guard. He then engages and snatch-rips through to get clean before landing his inside arm on the passer, who vomits out a quick pass.

On this rep, Jefferson wins even quicker and at a much more shallow depth, pressuring Roethlisberger to escape laterally and into another hurried throw:


Once again from right 3-technique, Jefferson rushes speed to the outside but engages a bull, showing off his upper body flexibility. After getting the left guard bracing and slowing his set, Q-Jeff promptly jerks the guard toward him before ripping his opponent’s inside arm through leaving him in the dust. What really finishes this rep off is Jefferson’s ability to dip with his rip and turn while bending a tight path. This is about as clean a rep as a 3-tech can hope for.

In addition to his speed finesse, Jefferson’s power was equally as effective this week as it was last. Quick releases didn’t see bull-rushes lead to pressure, but his power was alive against a stalwart line.

Here he is rushing the right guard:


Again, a swift release prevents pressure, but Jefferson is able to create a sizable chunk of knockback on a talented guard in David DeCastro.

Seahawks fans may be right not to expect consistent Jarran Reed-esque production from a rotational defensive tackle. But this is now consecutive performances of Jefferson bringing pressure with his quickness, heavy hands, and motor.

Rasheem Green had another game at left end, often playing LEO or as a passing down rush end. Like last week, he embattled the right tackle over the course of the game, trying to work half-man with mixed — but nonetheless evermore promising — results.

On this first rep, Green mistimes his cross-chop with his inside arm:


The tackle is able to keep his hands free and maintain his foot speed, enabling him to run Green off beyond Roethlisberger’s drop.

A few snaps later, Green gets another good opportunity to rush, and tries the same inside-chop followed by a club combination.


This time Green, perhaps impacted by the tight end’s chip, rushes a straighter path. He sells the initial engagement, thus halting the tackle’s set. As the lineman draws his hands, Green expands to the outside suddenly enough and starts rotating his hips toward the quarterback. He finishes the tackle with his cross-chop to keep his chest clean and the outside club to clear his shoulder. Everything goes right up until that point. The only problem is that Green can’t bend tight enough back toward Roethlisberger and, thus, doesn’t affect the play.

This rep serves as a microcosm of Green’s strengths and weaknesses. He has a savvy strength-finesse approach but lacks quickness to eat up turf and set up half-man angles earlier in the rep. As was mentioned last week, Green still has options to try to mitigate his deficiencies; if he were to rush a straighter path from a tilted wide alignment, he might force tackles to set tighter to match his angles. This would allow jab steps to be somewhat more effective for which his ornery and precise transitions to the outside can provide better angles.

Of course, contingent on selling the jab step is putting on tape one’s ability to power guys effectively. And like last week, Green got himself a win rushing pure power that opens up a rip to the inside:


With Ezekiel Ansah reportedly making his Seahawks debut next week against the Saints, the defensive line is set to receive not only more front line talent but a positive domino effect. Clowney will have a running mate and the defense will be less dependent on the depth’s contributions, even though those contributions are on the rise.