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Can the Redskins pass rushers dominate the NFC East in 2020?

Hogs Haven looks at all four teams in the division in an effort to identify the best and the weakest of the NFC East

The draft is done, the free agents have been signed, the coaches have met their players. Now there’s not much to do but wait for training camp. While we wait, it seemed like it might be fun to evaluate and rank the NFC East position-by-position.

Last off-season, Hogs Haven published articles that focused on ranking position groups in an effort to identify what the division would look like in 2019. This year, we’re going to do it again.

Click here to see all the Ranking the NFC East articles

NFC East Positional overview

There were some big headlines surrounding the edge rushers of the NFC East over the past couple of months. Of course, for the Redskins, it started with a switch to a base 4-3 defense that should unleash a more furious pass rush from both the interior of the defense and the defensive end positions, playing to the strengths of veterans like Matt Ioannidis, Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan. In the April draft, the Redskins selected one of the most-hyped edge rushers to come out of college in recent decades, Chase Young, adding him to a talented stable of defensive beef to terrorize NFL quarterbacks and running backs. The Redskins led the division in sacks in 2019, and now have the potential to lead the league in 2020.

In March, it was announced that Aldon Smith, who had not played an NFL game since being suspended by the NFL late in the 2015 season, when he was with the Raiders, had applied for reinstatement to the NFL. While awaiting announcement of the commissioner’s decision, Smith signed with the Cowboys in April, and was actually reinstated officially in May. After more than 4 years off the NFL field, it’s anybody’s guess whether Smith, who will turn 31 in September, will be the dynamic player he once was (he had 19.5 sacks in 2012 and totalled 42 sacks in the first 43 games of his career).

He joins Demarcus Lawrence, who established a reputation and got paid by Jerry Jones when he tallied, per PFF, 7 sacks in three games (and 12 sacks in the first 12 games) of 2017. Since that time, Lawrence’s production has been inonsistent.

  • In the final 7 games of 2017, he produced 3 sacks per PFF.
  • In the 2018 regular season, he put up an impressive 13 sacks per PFF / 10.5 per official NFL stats, but was blanked in two playoff games.
  • In 2019, he accumulated a pedestrian 6 sacks per PFF / 5 sacks per official NFL stats in repayment of his $11.6m cap hit.

When you consider that the Redskins DT Matt Ioannidis tallied 13 sacks over the past two seasons (per PFF), the 19 from Lawrence is clearly untenable production from a guy whose contract is about to hit the Cowboys’ salary cap in a big way.

In 2020, Lawrence should be looking for a resurgence that the Cowboy front office needs in order to justify his cap hit(s), which will come in at $21.9m in 2020, rising annually until he is scheduled to hit $26m in 2023. With a $53m dead cap hit this season, the Cowboys are committed to Lawrence for at least two more seasons. Gone is Robert Quinn, the Cowboys’ 2019 sack leader, making the Cowboys something of an enigma at the pass-rusher position in 2020.

The Eagles rely primarily on Brandon Graham from the Edge, but he is stronger against the run, and, at 32 years of age, it’s fair to wonder if his production might begin to tail off soon (though he’s averaged 8 sacks per season over the past two years). Derek Barnett is not really a sack-producer, but as a second-year player, Josh Sweat produced 5 sacks in 2019.

The Giants were last in the NFCE in 2019, with 36 sacks (Redskins were #1 in the division and 10th in the NFL with 46). They don’t really feature a “star” pass rusher. There has been talk that Lorenzo Carter may transition to an off-the-ball linebacker, and Gettleman seemed to focus primarily on OL and LB in the draft, leaving them looking likely to bring up the rear again in sack production in an NFCE division where the Cowboys have the potential to do better and the Redskins added serious new talent with the drafting of Chase Young.

PFF grades & other stats (which differ from official league stats) for selected edge rushers

The film room - Andrew’s analysis

In this section, we’ll offer a look at a few of the top players in the division, with an analysis of their styles, skills and limitations written by Andrew York, who has volunteered to co-author this series with me.

Andrew is a self-taught film analyst with a pretty impressive resume. He has a PhD in Experimental Particle Physics and has spent several years doing research with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, and now does R&D work as a US government contractor. He will put that analytical brain to work this off-season helping to analyze some of the top players in the NFC East.

He will break down film from 4 NFCE edge rushers:

  • Demarcus Lawrence
  • Brandon Graham
  • Montez Sweat
  • Chase Young

Click here to see the 2019 film breakdowns of Ryan Kerrigan, Ryan Anderson, Lorenzo Carter, Derek Barnett, and Brandon Graham

Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys

Demarcus Lawrence (along with Ryan Kerrigan) has been one of the most productive edge rushers in the NFC East the last several years. Drafted by the Cowboys in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft after a trade up with the Redskins, his career with the Cowboys started out slow due to a mixture of injury and usage, but he broke out in 2017 with a 14.5 sack season.

Hesitant to extend him long-term based on one productive season, the Cowboys elected to let him play 2018 on the franchise tag, and he followed up with a 10.5 sack season despite playing through a torn labrum (an injury he’d actually sustained the year before). The Cowboys then placed a 2nd franchise tag on him and eventually extended him to a 5-year, $105 million contract with $65 million guaranteed, making him the highest-paid non-QB at the time. However, Lawrence refused to receive corrective surgery on his labrum until the final contract was signed in April of 2019. As a result, he missed all of training camp and the preseason to rehab, and his first football contact came in week 1 of the 2019 season.

Statistically, Lawrence’s 2019 season was extremely disappointing. He only recorded 5.0 sacks and 30 total tackles — both numbers the lowest of his career in a season where he played all 16 games. The question is: why? Was it injury-related, due to gameplanning, or is he putting forward less effort now that he got his big payday?

After watching film of Lawrence, I feel confident saying that his play has not regressed. In fact, I think it has improved noticeably. Last year when I watched his 2018 film, I thought he was primarily an effort player. He didn’t win with speed or power so much as constant, relentless effort, often working his way back into plays when many other players would have given up. He was the kind of player who would chase a RB 30 yards to get a tackle from behind, or keep trying counters against an OT until he found something that worked.

Watching his 2019 game film, there seemed to be more purpose and better execution behind everything he did. He rushed the QB with a plan, and did an excellent job of stringing together multiple pass rush moves to get there. In addition to better technique, he also showed more power, battering through more players, making me wonder if this is due to the labrum repair. In addition to being a skilled pass rusher, Lawrence is an excellent edge setter in the run game and is good at bursting through the OL to get a tackle for loss.

So why did his statistics regress? I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s a combination of factors. Teams are accounting for him more. According to Next Gen Stats, he was the 5th most double-teamed edge rusher last year, yet still had the 3rd highest Pass Rush Win Rate (ability to get pressure within 2.5 sec of the snap). In addition, it looked to me like teams often utilized a short passing game against him. However, all the attention he received opened things up for his teammates on defense, and fellow edge rusher Robert Quinn — who is now with the Chicago Bears — managed to get 11.5 sacks last year, his first double-digit sack total in 5 years.

Demarcus Lawrence

Cowboys vs Eagles, Week 7 highlights | NFL 2019 on YouTube

Posted by Bill Horgan on Saturday, March 14, 2020

[0:45] Lawrence (top of screen) lines up opposite Eagles All Pro RT Lane Johnson. Lawrence explodes off the snap and lunges inside with his right foot, then “eurosteps” outside to bend around the edge.

The move forces Johnson to plant his inside foot, leaving his feet too far forward to follow Lawrence around the pocket. To compensate, Johnson has to lunge forward after Lawrence, and Lawrence takes advantage by grabbing his arms and pulling him over, overbalancing him. Lawrence also takes advantage of the momentum transfer to pull himself past Johnson and towards the QB, getting a strip sack.

The whole thing was expertly done, with each move setting up and transitioning into the next. Note how much bend Lawrence gets as he moves around the edge, he’s practically at a 45 degree angle with the ground. That bend allows him to maintain his leverage on Johnson (using him as a post) while turning the corner around him.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Saturday, March 14, 2020

[5:33] Lawrence (bottom screen) again lines up opposite Johnson. This time, he doesn’t lunge inside first, not disguising his intentions to rush around the edge. Johnson therefore is able to kickslide around with him and keep him out of the pocket.

However, the pressure Lawrence creates around the back forces Wentz to step up in the pocket and into the waiting arms of Robert Quinn, who rushed from the opposite side and decided to break inside.

There were quite a few plays like this where Lawrence didn’t get the sack himself, but enabled another player to get the sack with the pressure he created. And again, look how low he gets as he bends around the edge.

Demarcus Lawrence

Cowboys @ Giants, Week 9 highlights | NFL 2019 on YouTube

Posted by Bill Horgan on Saturday, March 14, 2020

[1:15] Lawrence (bottom screen) lines up opposite Giants RT Mike Remmers and TE Rhett Ellison. It looks to me like they’ve positioned Ellison to chip Lawrence if he tries to rush around the edge. Instead, Lawrence breaks inside after the snap, basically digging his left shoulder into Remmers and bullrushing him backwards while trying to bend inside around him. Because Remmers didn’t react fast enough, he’s lost his leverage and has to try to block Lawrence from the side, a losing battle. Lawrence’s relentless march forward eventually ends with a big sack on Daniel Jones. This play shows Lawrence’s intelligence and versatility in coming up with a pass rush plan that avoids the chipping TE and his relentless power in driving back the much larger Remmers.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Saturday, March 14, 2020

[2:49] Lawrence (top of screen) and the Cowboys are making a goal line stand. Lawrence overpowers his blocker after the snap and leaps over him into the backfield, wrapping up Saquon Barkley’s legs and getting a big tackle for loss.

This play showcases Lawrence’s ability to keep track of the ball carrier and beat blocks to penetrate into the backfield for a TFL.

Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles

Brandon Graham was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1st round of the 2010 draft. A productive yet unspectacular presence on the Eagles’ edge for the last 10 years, Graham has generally notched 5-9 sacks per season. Having watched him in the Eagles’ recent “All Or Nothing” documentary, he also seems to be an important leader and veteran voice in the locker room.

Graham wins with strong, active hands and relentless pursuit of the ball carrier. He is built like a bowling ball and does not have the most elite athletic traits, but makes up for it with grit, tenacity, and technique. Most of his statistical production comes against lesser NFL talent, but even against good teams he can make plays with his persistence and constant focus on tracking down the ball-carrier and never giving up on the play. He will often get stonewalled by good OL in 1-on-1 matchups though, where his lack of elite athletic traits is apparent. Graham is a sure tackler, but is not difficult to evade due to his stiff hips and poor lateral agility. He is best used as a missile driving straight to the ball carrier, using his hands and patience to defeat opponents along the way.

Brandon Graham

Eagles vs Jets, Week 5 highlights | NFL 2019 on YouTube

[3:20] Graham lines up opposite the LG (Alex Lewis, a backup). He does an excellent job keeping his hands active, and beats both the LG and RG with active hands as he tracks down the ball carrier. He also does a great job keeping his eyes in the backfield on the ball, allowing him to track down the QB as he moves down the line.

[5:35] This time Graham lines up on the edge, opposite the RT (Chuma Edoga, a backup). Graham does an excellent job keeping his hands active and inside those of the RT, allowing him to control the RT and shed him once he reads the play. The RT is also really terrible. Nevertheless, Graham does a great job keeping his eyes on the ball and tracking down the ball carrier to get a tackle from behind. This again shows Graham’s disciplined, relentless play, though his success is partly due to inferior talent on the opposing team.

Brandon Graham

Eagles @ Cowboys, Week 7 highlights | NFL 2019 on YouTube

[5:02] Graham lines up top of screen and is unblocked at the snap. Ezekiel Elliott runs to his side and is able to juke Graham out of his shoes to avoid the tackle and get a big first down. Graham did not look especially agile when sealing the edge, looking much better when he had a target he could pursue in a straight line.

[5:18] Graham lines up opposite All Pro RG (#70) Zach Martin. Graham gets a good rush, but is easily handled by Martin. This is generally what it looked like when Graham lined up against the more talented players in the league. Graham has good technique and gives great effort, but he simply doesn’t have the traits to beat the better athletes in the NFL.

Montez Sweat, Washington Redskins

Shaquan Montez Sweat was a 1st round pick of the Redskins in the 2019 draft, filling the need for an edge defender to play opposite Ryan Kerrigan. When I reviewed his college tape for last year’s rankings, I noted that he was long, strong, and blazing fast, but very raw in his technique. Sweat won in college either by being so fast he simply ran around the opposing OL, or so long and strong that he picked up the opposing OT and threw him aside. Those tactics wouldn’t cut it in the NFL, where many of his opponents would be as fast and strong as he is.

Watching tape of Sweat’s rookie year, many of those same impressions seemed true. He has an explosive first step and can accelerate quickly at the line. He is best at bull rushing opposing OTs, using his long arms to stand them up, get them off balance, and using his strength to throw them aside.

Sweat is a straight-line runner, showing very little bend around the edge (watch video of Von Miller to see what that should look like). However, Sweat can win around the edge using his speed to run past the OT and his long arms to pin him in place while he corners him. The problems arise when Sweat can’t out-athlete his opponent. Sweat bullies lower-tier OTs he goes against, but gets stonewalled by the better OTs in the NFL.

Early in the season, he seemed lost when his first move didn’t work and got washed out of plays. Later in the season it seemed like he was starting to develop more of a pass rush plan, but he’s still slow to employ counters when his first move doesn’t work.

Sweat is an excellent edge setter. Because he is so good at standing OL up, he often has leverage to shed them if a ball carrier attempts to run by him. This ability to disengage combined with his large tackle radius make him very effective at sealing his side of the line. In addition, he can be fast enough to run around the line unblocked and into the backfield for a TFL, though he doesn’t do this nearly as often in the NFL as he did in college.

Indeed, I saw him get baited into trying this on a few fakes, taking advantage of his explosiveness to leave him out of position to guard the edge (example shown below on a QB keeper). For the most part though, he was smart and disciplined enough to recognize fakes and maintain his assignment.

A minor thing I noticed is that Sweat needs to work on his tackling in an open field. I think because he almost always tackles in and around the pocket by grabbing onto players with his long arms, he is actually not that good at making running tackles in space, though he isn’t called upon to do it often in any event.

Although Sweat rarely dropped into coverage in college, he actually performed pretty well when asked to do so last year. Perhaps because he played TE in high school, Sweat seemed to have decent recognition of routes and did a good job guarding his zone in coverage. I think that also speaks well of his discipline and intelligence. He also shows a lot of effort and never quits on a play.

All-in-all, I think Sweat played well in his rookie year, though he still leaned heavily on his athletic gifts to make plays. He needs to get better at bending around the edge, improve his repertoire of counters and pass rush moves, and develop a more consistent pass rush plan. He also needs to get better at timing the snap, as he’s often a tick slow to react when the play starts. Still, almost all of his problems are coachable (except maybe his bend), so he has a lot of potential to grow with another year of experience under his belt. I also think he will benefit greatly from moving to a 4-3 defensive front where he can focus on rushing the QB and setting an edge against the run.

Montez Sweat

Redskins vs Bears, Week 3 highlights | NFL 2019 on YouTube

Posted by Bill Horgan on Saturday, March 14, 2020

[0:21] Sweat lines up top of the screen, opposite Bears LT Charles Leno Jr. Although Sweat is not the first one off the line of scrimmage, he accelerates so fast from the line that he runs past the LT, using a long left arm to pin the LT in place while Sweat turns the corner, locates the QB, and accelerates quickly after him, getting the sack despite a desperate hold by the LT.

Here, Sweat uses his quick acceleration and long arms to defeat a lower-tier LT, enabling him to win around the edge despite very little bend.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Saturday, March 14, 2020

[5:04] Sweat (bottom of screen) again lines up opposite the LT. He starts his rush like before, accelerating to the edge. He does a good job winning the initial punch, getting his left hand on the LT’s chest while the LT fails to land a punch on Sweat. The LT loses the leverage game, is stood up and off his base, but manages to sidestep quickly enough to prevent Sweat from getting around the edge. The entire time, Sweat has his left hand on the LT’s chest, controlling him, and when the LT shifts to the edge, Sweat pushes him outside and redirects himself inside, into the pocket.

If Trubisky hadn’t thrown an immediate checkdown, Sweat would have had another sack. This play again shows Sweat’s acceleration and long arms, but also his strength and the effectiveness of his initial punch.

Sweat is much stronger than he looks given his lean frame. This play also shows how terrible coverage on the backend can render a good pass rush ineffective.

Redskins @ Cowboys, Week 17 highlights | NFL 2019 on YouTube

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, May 7, 2020

[2:22] Sweat lines up top of screen opposite Cowboys backup LT Cameron Fleming. The Cowboys use play action, and Sweat sidesteps slowly out of his stance until he diagnoses the run fake. Then he surges towards Fleming while keeping his eyes on the ball the whole time.

Sweat manages to get inside Fleming’s chest and walks him back, then does a good job swiping the LT’s arms away and redirecting inside to follow Dak. When Dak tries to break the pocket towards Sweat, Sweat uses his long arms to wrap him up and get the strip sack.

Even in college, Sweat got a lot of his sacks and tackles this way, containing the edge rather than breaking into the pocket, then using his long arms to trap a ball carrier trying to escape.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, May 7, 2020

[5:18] Sweat lines up top of screen again. This time, the play is a run fake and QB keeper.

Sweat darts forward after the snap unopposed into the backfield, and homes in on the RB. Unfortunately, he should have been tipped off by the fact the LT let him run by unopposed that this might be a fake. Instead, Prescott keeps the ball and runs easily through the lane Sweat just vacated to get a big first down with his legs.

On the plus side, Sweat did a great job exploding into the backfield, and he did get many TFLs in college on similar running plays. In addition, notice that Sweat quickly realizes his mistake, turns around to locate the ball, and chases Dak some 20 yards downfield to the sideline to knock him out of bounds. That’s some effort and pursuit!

On the downside, this was actually the second time in this game that Sweat gave up a big run to Dak because he failed to diagnose the play. Both times Sweat bit on the fake, the Cowboys were using this same zone block that allowed him to rush in unblocked, and Sweat’s eagerness got the better of him.

Chase Young, Washington Redskins

Chase Young was a top 10 overall prospect coming out of high school and played 12 games as a true freshman at Ohio State, garnering 19 tackles (5.0 for loss) and 3.5 sacks. He was elevated to a feature role his sophomore year and recorded 34 tackles (14.5 for loss) and 10.5 sacks as well as earning second-team All-Big Ten accolades. He truly broke out his junior year (2019) with 46 tackles (21.0 for loss) and 16.5 sacks. Not only was his sack total the highest in the nation, it broke the Ohio State single season record of 14.0 sacks. This is particularly impressive considering he was suspended 2 games for borrowing money in order to fly his girlfriend out to the previous year’s Rose Bowl.

The consistent and dramatic rise in production over every year of his college career indicates an ascending player, and it’s no surprise the Redskins drafted him 2nd overall in the 2020 NFL draft.

The first thing that stands out when watching film of Chase Young from last year is that teams game-planned around him from the very beginning of the season. He was double teamed in almost every play (sometimes triple teamed) and the moment a team made the mistake of leaving him with a 1-on-1 matchup, he made them pay with a pressure, tackle for loss, or a sack.

I don’t know how to convey this sentiment properly for people who haven’t watched his college games, but the closest I can compare it to for Redskins fans is the level of game-planning that went into playing Lawrence Taylor. Yet, despite 2 missed games and that level of effort spent finding ways to stop him, Chase still managed to break the Ohio State sack record!

What makes Chase so dangerous? He has an explosive first step.

He’s not only one of the first players to react to the snap, but he’s also able to accelerate to full speed faster than any player his size should.

He has very good bend around the edge, meaning he can keep his balance while leaning into a turn in order to turn at a very sharp angle while running around an OT, which allows him to get to the QB in as few steps as possible.

He has excellent use of hands, keeping his hands down and out of reach unless he needs them, but using them effectively to drive a blocker back with punches to the chest or quickly swiping away the punch attempts of a blocker to prevent him from gaining any leverage.

Chase is a very good tackler (with good tackle radius) and once he gets hands on a ball-carrier, that player is going down.

He is also very precise about attacking the hand holding the football, causing 7 forced fumbles last year alone.

What’s more, Chase always seems to have a pass rush plan based on the initial look of the offense. If the offense leaves a TE to help chip outside, Chase will go inside or bull rush to avoid the chip. If the offense doesn’t give obvious outside help to the LT, Chase will bend outside to avoid possible double teams inside from the nearest guard. Some recent online film breakdowns of Chase brought up concern that Chase is a one-trick pony because he rushes outside so often, but when I was watching him, it seemed clear that the reason he did this was to avoid inside OT/OG double teams (which he gets all the time).

Chase Young does have a few weaknesses.

He can lose track of the ball and become susceptible to fakes (particularly QB keepers).

He is not very reactive as a pass rusher in that he seems to decide what he’s going to do pre-snap, but is slow to react to post-snap developments that suggest a different plan is better.

He also seems to take himself out of plays once he decides he’s done his job. I saw a few plays where he was assigned to set the edge and he relaxed once the run broke in the opposite direction instead of trying to chase it down when he had a chance (though small) to impact the play. Similarly, there were a few times he forced a turnover where he seemed to act like the play was over even though the ball was still live and he could have helped recover/return it or block (example below).

There’s one elephant in the room I feel the need to discuss, which is the bowl game loss to Clemson where Chase didn’t rack up many traditional stats. People who claim this as evidence he “doesn’t show up in big games” either haven’t watched the game or don’t understand what they’re watching. Clemson gameplanned around Chase Young just as heavily as every other team that year, which by itself causes disruption by limiting the types of plays they can run.

After watching that game, I was also struck by the truth of the saying “sacks are a QB stat”. To my eye, one of the other factors preventing Chase Young from getting more stats in that game was Trevor Lawrence’s pocket awareness and ability to throw the ball away as soon as Young was near. Still, Young caused tremendous disruption by forcing so many wasted passes that resulted in incompletions. Lawrence had a completion percentage of more than 70% most games last year, but it dropped to 55% against Ohio State.

Clemson also took Chase Young out of the game by simply running Trevor Lawrence in the opposite direction as Chase many plays, resulting in Lawrence rushing for 107 yards on 16 carries, the most rush attempts and yards of his college career, but not a strategy every NFL team can employ.

Ohio State vs Cincinnati, all Chase Young plays | CFB 2019 on YouTube

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 4, 2020

[0:38] This play is really Chase Young in a nutshell. Chase lines up outside the LT. As soon as the ball is snapped, both the LT and LG turn Chase’s direction and it’s clear they intend to double team him.

Chase sets them up by faking a bullrush at the LT to freeze him in place, but as soon as he engages with the LT, he swipes away his hands, sidesteps outside, and turns and sinks his hips to bend around the edge. Not only has the LT lost the hand fight and lost leverage (he can only attack Chase’s side and back as he runs around), but Chase is effectively using the LT as a shield against the LG.

The LT lunges desperately, practically falling on Chase’s back as he runs around (which I think is an uncalled penalty, though hard to tell from this angle), but Chase doesn’t break stride and shoots right to the QB, getting the sack. This is particularly impressive when you consider the LT knows his job is to contain the edge in the double team, so his #1 priority is to get outside and funnel Chase to the LG. But Chase comes up with a plan to freeze him in place and bends around him so fast that the LT has been defeated before he knows what’s going on.

Not only does Chase show all the physical traits you’d want (explosion, bend, power, and balance) and great technique with his hands, but he also puts together a good pass rush plan that helps him avoid the double team. I think this is the reason Chase uses an outside rush so often, because he is trying to avoid a double team by the LG (which happens more times than not).

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 4, 2020

[1:15] I wanted to show this play because one of the few flaws in Chase’s game is that he sometimes doesn’t do a good job keeping track of the ball and is susceptible to fakes like this.

The starting alignment looks as if the TE is aligned to help the LT by chipping Chase. But after the snap, both the TE and LT run past Chase, leaving him unblocked. This should have set off alarms for Chase, but he’s too concerned with tackling the RB. He pursues to the opposite side, only to realize it was a fake handoff and the QB kept the ball, running through Chase’s previous position for the first down.

Given that this play required the OL to block every DL except Chase and the RB ran away from Chase just to lure him out of position, I think this entire play was designed around neutralizing Chase schematically. This was simply one of many examples of plays designed around Chase Young.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 4, 2020

[2:32] This play shows Chase’s tackle radius and ability to set the edge.

I think there must have been a missed assignment here, because Chase is left unblocked and the RB runs towards him, which is a bad idea. Perhaps wary from the previous fake, Chase takes a hot second to make sure the QB isn’t keeping the ball, but once he identifies the ball carrier, he stops and reaches out with his long arms to wrap him up, sealing the edge.

Chase is overall above average (though not elite) in run defense, with a good tackle radius and strong arms as shown here. His main weakness in run defense can be a bit of slowness to diagnose the play, also shown here.

Ohio State vs Wisconsin, all Chase Young plays | CFB 2019 on YouTube

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 4, 2020

[0:05] This is kind of an interesting play because Chase lines up as the MIKE linebacker rather than putting his hand in the dirt. This makes it difficult for the OL to double team him because they don’t know which gap he will attack and they can’t ignore the DL in front of them.

Chase blitzes the strong side A-gap and instantly defeats the hands of the RG to run past him. When I say “instantly”, you’d be forgiven for thinking Chase was left intentionally unblocked — I had to watch it a few times to see what happened.

Chase runs right up to the RG as if for a bull rush, getting him to square up. Once the RG is braced, Chase quickly sidesteps around him while swiping his hands away and is past without breaking stride. The QB quickly dumps the ball off to the RB and Chase stops on a dime, locates the ball carrier, redirects himself, and shoots toward the RB, getting there for a tackle for loss before any of his teammates (some of whom were nearer).

This play shows not just Chase’s ability to instantly defeat 1-on-1 matchups, but also his ability to stop on a dime and accelerate in a completely different direction, as well as his sure tackling. It often looks like Chase is just playing at a different speed setting than other players, bouncing all around the backfield making plays in the time it took his teammates to get off their initial blocks. Pretty amazing for a 265 lb man!

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 4, 2020

[0:42] For those who are worried that Chase is a one-trick pony who can only rush outside, study this play carefully.

Chase is lined up top of screen slightly outside the LT. There is a TE lined up outside the LT who looks in position to chip if Chase rushes around the edge.

How would you attack if you were Chase in this situation? Chase rushes the LT and punches inside his chest, standing him up before immediately dropping his hands and rotating inside, so the tackle has no leverage on him and is hanging at Chase’s side. Chase then shoots to the QB, dragging the LT with him by the arm. The RB moves to intercept Chase inside before Chase has even beat the LT, indicating the RB’s assignment was to guard against Chase inside (quite visible in the replay). Chase bull rushes the RB back to the QB while dragging the LT with him, collapsing the entire left pocket by himself and allowing a DT to rush around the edge and flush the QB towards Chase, who uses a spin move to free himself of the LT in time to get the sack.

In this play, Chase developed a pass rush plan that avoided the chipping TE by rushing inside the OT, though it turned out the RB’s duty was to guard the inside rush lane against him.

This also shows the amount of resources teams had to throw at Chase, using both a TE and RB to assist their LT. Despite this, Chase still won the matchup and got the sack.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 4, 2020

[2:30] This is both a positive and a negative play by Chase Young.

First, the positive. Chase lines up outside the RT. He is so explosive after the snap that he’s practically past the RT before the RT has a chance to stand up. He also does a great job again of swiping away the RT’s hands and preventing him from gaining any sort of leverage. Within 2 seconds, Chase has bent around the edge to the QB and got the strip sack, doing a great job of aiming his right hand at the ball in order to force the fumble.

This strip sack shows how incredibly explosive Chase is off the edge, as well his excellent hand swipes that allow him to seem unblocked as he runs into the backfield. It also shows why teams rarely left him in 1-on-1 matchups like this.

Now, the negative. After the ball comes out and a teammate picks it up to run it back, Chase has an opportunity to block for him. Instead, Chase just eases up and takes himself out of the play while several of his teammates run up to act as blockers.

I saw too many examples like this, where Chase just gives up on the play once his primary job is accomplished, even though there is still more he could do. I don’t think it’s that he’s lazy or lacks motor (though I’ve seen some people suggest the latter). I think he’s just so single-mindedly focused on his primary assignment that he eases up when he thinks he’s accomplished it instead of looking for more work. It’s something he should improve though, and I hope the coaches point it out to him if it happens in the NFL.

A look at the top of the depth chart for each team

Of course, no position group consists of just one star player. In a sport that is as physically demanding as football, one in which player injuries are common, the unit depth is as important a factor as the skill of the star players.

Here, we’ll take a look at the top of the depth chart for each team — the pool of players from which the ones on the final 53 seem likely to be chosen. Not all the players listed will make the team, and I might easily miss — especially for the Redskins’ division rivals — players who will make the Week 1 roster, but this list should give some idea of the relative depth of the four positional groups.


  • Demarcus Lawrence
  • Tyrone Crawford
  • Aldon Smith
  • Dorance Armstrong
  • Joe Jackson
  • Anae Bradlee
  • Jalen Jelks


  • Brandon Graham
  • Derek Barnett
  • Josh Sweat
  • Genard Avery
  • Shareef Miller
  • Casey Toohill


  • Lorenzo Carter
  • Oshane Ximines
  • Kyle Fackrell
  • Chris Peace
  • Carter Coughlin
  • Cam Brown


  • Montez Sweat
  • Chase Young
  • Ryan Kerrigan
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Jordan Brailford
  • James Smith-Williams


Who is the best Edge Rusher in the NFC East?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Ryan Kerrigan
    (134 votes)
  • 5%
    Montez Sweat
    (39 votes)
  • 53%
    Chase Young
    (391 votes)
  • 0%
    Lorenzo Carter
    (0 votes)
  • 3%
    Brandon Graham
    (27 votes)
  • 0%
    Derek Barnett
    (1 vote)
  • 18%
    Demarcus Lawrence
    (138 votes)
  • 0%
    Tyrone Crawford
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Aldon Smith
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Dorance Armstrong
    (1 vote)
735 votes total Vote Now


Which NFC East team has the BEST Edge Rushing group (taking backups into account) in the division?

This poll is closed

  • 96%
    (645 votes)
  • 0%
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    (13 votes)
  • 0%
    (6 votes)
665 votes total Vote Now


Which Defensive Player will lead the Redskins in sacks in 2020?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Ryan Kerrigan
    (26 votes)
  • 9%
    Matt Ioannidis
    (57 votes)
  • 28%
    Montez Sweat
    (182 votes)
  • 53%
    Chase Young
    (338 votes)
  • 0%
    Ryan Anderson
    (0 votes)
  • 2%
    Jonathan Allen
    (18 votes)
  • 1%
    Daron Payne
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    A linebacker
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    A safety
    (3 votes)
633 votes total Vote Now