The general opinion seemd to be that we've had enough chat about Rex Grossman for the time being, so let's look at probably the best asset the Redskins have right now, their pass-rush. After all, the four most important things to have in the NFL is a franchise QB (for obvious reasons), a franchise LT to protect that franchise QB's blind-side, a DB to defend the pass of that QB, and a pass-rusher to generate pressure resulting in forced throws, sacks and forced fumbles. The Redskins are lucky enough to have not one, but two star pass-rushing outside linebackers in Brian Orakpo and rookie Ryan Kerrigan. However, those two aren't solely reliable for the pass-rush. We have three big Dlineman up front in Stephen Bowen, Adam Carriker and Barry Cofield who eat up blockers to allow 'Ker-rakpo' 1-on-1's on the outside. In this post, I will look at what these guys bring to the table, but what better place to start than our two-time pro-bowler, Brian Orakpo.
This is the typical Brian Orakpo we all know and love. His trademark speed-rush, where he uses his athleticism and speed to get around the outside before his blocker can get a solid hand on him. The Cards here are running a play-action and are (stupidly) leaving a TE to block Orakpo 1-on-1
Orakpo already has his inside foot about level with the TE's left foot. For those not sure of the relevance of this, its huge. It's the equivalent of a WR having 2 yards on a DB. Orakpo is level with the TE before Kolb has faked the hand-off. He's got a huge advantage and the TE hasn't got the speed to keep up with him.
The TE made a good effort to push Orakpo off-balance, but he can't hold the block long enough.
Orakpo accelerates once he gets past the TE and hits Kolb before Kolb has the chance to sence the pressure. Classic Orakpo that we've seen the past few seasons. There have been some concerns that this is Orakpo's only pass-rush move. Lets have a look at one of Orakpo's sacks against the Rams.
This is a play-action bootleg from a stretch run play that is not too dissimilar to what our offence runs. The key to these bootlegs is to cut off the back-side of the play, otherwise they get a free run at the QB. Usually this is done by a TE, a FB or even a WR in motion. But, quite inventively, the Rams pull their Center out and let him cut off Orakpo, while letting their LT, LG and RG take on our 3 Dlinemen 1-on-1 (which is unusual to see 1-on-1 blocks against a 3-4 base defence).
Orakpo notices the play-action fairly early. Look at just how low he gets on the Rams Center here. It's great technique for a bull-rush type move. The aim is to get under the blocker, get your hands on his chest and drive him back before getting off the block and hitting the QB.
This is exactly what he does. Notice the hand position, they are perfect to be able to get a strong push on the center and drive him back towards the QB.
He then does a great job of pushing off his block (forcing the Center to fall to the ground) and hitting Sam Bradford before he can throw the ball to his hot route (also circled on the screen). If Orakpo can add this type of pass-rush move to his armoury (and from the tape of this game, he has. All of his sacks came from a bull-rush move) then he can be a deadly pass-rusher for the next decade. Like we saw from Ware on Williams last week, if a tackle doesn't know if your going to fly past him on the outside, or bull-rush inside or through him, the tackle is going to struggle to block you consistantly. To be a true great of the game, he needs to evolve his pass-rushing moves, and adding this one is a great start.
Now we move onto a guy who is very very quickly becoming one of my favourite redskins, Ryan Kerrigan. Let's revisit a sack against the Cardinals that I've broken down before (I have just copy and pasted it from before, but it was such great technique it deserves to be seen again).
It's second and 10, 29 seconds left in the half. Kerrigan gets a one-on-one with RT Brandon Keith. Kolb has 4 reads to get through, the one highlighted, the 10 yard 'in' route, is his "hot read", meaning, if Kolb has a big blitz coming, or feels under pressure, the "hot read" instantly becomes his first target, because he is the most likely to get open quickly.
As Kerrigan initiates contact, you can see just how low he gets on Keith. His shoulder pad level is the same level as Keith's chest. When watching offensive and defensive lines at work, you'll notice the player who gets lowest will win the battle because they can get under the opposing player and push them whatever way they want to. Another thing to take note of is Kerrigans' hand placement, which is circled in black. It's exactly where a coach would tell a pass-rusher to get his hands, on the chest, but close to under the shoulder. With these two key pieces of technique from Kerrigan, he's able to push the Tackle back with a bull-rush move.
Kolb see's that Kerrigan has the advantage on Keith, and decides that the pressure is too much, and to check down to his hot read. You can see in the picture above Kolb actually starts to wind-up to throw as the receiver comes out of his break. But as you can see here:
Kerrigan has pushed the Tackle back too far for Kolb to get a clean throw off without his arm/the ball hitting the Tackle, thus forcing Kolb to step up in the pocket. However, by stepping up in the pocket, Kolb gives Kerrigan an open shot at him. Kerrigan takes full advantage by getting off Keith with ease, and wrapping up Kolb before he can get his throw off.
This has been the move I've seen Kerrigan use most successfully. But his sack against the Rams shows that he isn't one dimentional either.
On this play, we show Bradford the infamous "0 blitz" (a blitz I personally really like despite the criticism it has come under). Bradford motions a WR to come in to give him more protection from the big blitz. Kerrigan's job on a "0 blitz" would be to read and react to his man. If the TE in front of him runs a route, he has to drop into coverage. But in this instance, we are only displaying the "0 blitz". We actually only rush four defenders in the end.
But the Rams appear to send the TE out on a route to take Kerrigan out of the blitz. Kerrigan has coverage behind him and can go full-out after the QB. He gets a chip from the TE which he manages to get past with no problems.
He takes on the WR, and again has no problem getting past him. Notice Orakpo's pressure from the other side. He forces the tackle back into Bradford, making Bradford scramble to avoid the sack.
Kerrigan makes up the ground in no time, showing off his endless motor he was known for in college. He was also known for forcing fumbles, which is what he does here (Cofield recovered it). The red line is to point out just how much ground he had to make up. He had to get from one lot of hash marks, to a yard outside the other. Brilliance from Kerrigan. This just goes to show you can't leave him, or Orakpo with anything other than a tackle, and preferable a TE or RB to chip them. Nobody can afford to double-team both outside linebackers, block the push up front 1-on-1 AND expect WR's to get open in time for the QB to make a throw. This duo could be huge for us for a long time.
Next up, the man who recovered the fumble on the last play, big Barry Cofield. There we're some doubts over whether he could make the adjustment from a 4-3 DT to a 3-4 NT, but he's quickly put all of those doubts to rest. I believe this is partially down to Bowen. It may just be me, but I've noticed on a lot of pass-rushes, Bowen is the man drawing the double teams, and Cofield gets 1-on-1's (not all the time, but more than you'd expect from a NT). Lets have a look at an example of this. Here's a play from Cofield which forces a hurried throw and an incompletion.
Cofield attacks the gap between the Guard and the Center. The Center gets pre-occupied by the threat of a potential rush from a LB, who ends up dropping back into coverage. The Center then moves to his left to help the LG block Bowen.
Cofield gets a nice angle on the RG, and uses his strength to get inside (he looks slightly high in his stance, but he is coming off the block well before getting slightly chipped by the RB).
The chip from the RB allowed the RG to recover enough to slow Cofield down and avoiding the sack. But Bradford by now is well aware of Cofield's presences right in front of him and has to hurry to get the ball out
Cofield does an excellent job getting a hand on Bradford before he releases the ball, disrupting the process of him throwing the ball and making it fly off target. This is the kind of thing Cofield can do up the middle when he is 1-on-1. But the other thing I've noticed he does really well is getting hands up and tipping passes, he did it twice against the Rams:
And here's one when he's drawing a double team block late in the 4th quarter:
Cofield undoubtedly is a big upgrade at NT, and is a big part of the much improved pass-rush and defence in general.
I mentioned earlier that I felt Bowen was drawing a lot of double teams. Well there's a legitimate reason why, they simply have to sometimes. Lets have a look at his sack from the Rams game.
We rush four defenders on this play. Bowen gets a 1-on-1 with the LT.
Bowen shows off his pass-rushing potential here. He angles the LT out wide, before coming back inside. He does an amazing job of keeping the LT's hands off him and gliding past him.
This point of the play is just plain scary. He only has eyes for Bradford, and his closing speed is amazing for a guy of his size, he genuinely looks like a linebacker in that picture.
He wraps up and slams Bradford to the ground before he knows what him him. Bowen has been yet another fantastic addition to our defence, and really solidifies the Dline. The fact that you could make cases for teams to put double teams on Bowen, Cofield, Kerrigan AND Orakpo is a huge reason why we're succeeding at getting to the QB. Teams have to choose who to double-team and who to leave 1-on-1, and the way these guys are playing right now, whoever is getting 1-on-1 is beating their block and putting heavy pressure on the QB. The pressure from this defence can come from any position, and that will stand us in good stead going forward.