Balance and Balancing
In our baseline teaching the rush is made up of two contain rushers and two interior rush lanes.
On a drop back pass the QB is looking to plant his foot on the fifth step and deliver the football to his primary read. Next, he will step forward into the pocket which we call his +1 and look to his next read. He will again step forward on his +2 and look to his final read. Finally, he will look for an opportunity to escape the pocket. In our pass rush philosophy, the throws on the 5th step must be pressured with great snap reaction and takeoff. The +1 and +2 throws are pressured with the combination of the interior push and the contain player’s squeeze. If one of these elements is lacking the QB will be able to step up into the pocket or slide laterally outside the pocket. Rushers must also use their film study to anticipate the QB’s next move. All QB’s have tendencies. Where does he look to escape? How quickly does he look to escape? If he is a runner and abandons his progression before the +1 we must be aware and adjust. If the QB looks to escape early, interior rushers need to be ready to transition to a two-gap technique and disengage from blocks. We must understand when to make that transition. Contain rushers must account for the QB’s change in depth and be ready to come under pass sets when they reach the QB’s depth.
All rushers have an aiming point in relationship to the QB. The contain rusher in the QB’s face should be aiming for the midpoint of the QB’s Chest. He is treating the pass rush like any other tackling opportunity. The interior rusher in the QB’s face is looking to get to the QB’s lead hip. The interior rusher to the QB’s back is aiming for the QB’s lead shoulder. The blind side contain rusher is aiming for QB’s up field shoulder.
If the offense changes the launch point for the QB (scramble, half-roll, sprint out, or boot) the pass rusher’s aiming points remain the same. Get to your aiming point no matter where it goes.
Players must understand when they have a two-way go on a pass blocker.
Here the Tackle has a two-way go on the guard and has the freedom to make an inside pass rush move. The End as a contain player should only come underneath the offensive tackles pass set when he reaches the depth of the QB.
We can rush 4 from our 3-4 package by blitzing the OLB and slanting the DL. Here the LB is the contain rusher and the End on has a two-way go on the guard.
Understand the Protection Scheme and Our Plan of Attack
If we are running the NCAA blitz and the scouting report on our opponent is that the pass protection is half-slide. If the slide is away from the pressure the DE on the long stick must know what that means.
The OT is manned on the DE with the rest of the OL in a slide technique. The DE needs to understand that the OT has him man to man. This will allow the DE to heavy his alignment to make beating the OT across his face easier. Also by getting inside more quickly it creates a more clear pass rush lane for the interior blitzer. The DE must also anticipate that as he goes inside he will feel pressure on his back from the OT. The DE must pry up the field and get to his interior rush lane responsibility. The pry will help insure the DE does not end up being pushed across the center and losing rush lane integrity.
Against a slide protection going toward the blitz the DE’s plan must be different.
Scout your Opponent & Develop a Plan
We tell our players that the coaches will deliver the big picture breakdown of the opponent but players must learn about the individual they are going against. We give our guys a full checklist of things to watch on film to know what to expect from the OL they will be lining up against. Where we must improve is helping our players understand the game within the game. Players need to develop for themselves a plan of pass rush attack vs. their opponent. They should use the information they gather from their film checklist to develop their plan. If you are a 3 technique expecting a two-way go, how are you going to capitalize on that advantage? If the OL posts (puts lots of weight on) his inside foot when he sees an inside move, how are you going to attack that tendency? Are you going to jab inside and work his outside edge? What will you counter with if he is able to recover? Does the OL over set to a speed rush? Can you get him to over set and work a counter club move to beat him to the inside? I think we have done a good job indoctrinating our guys about earning the right to rush the passer. Our players believe in the idea of stopping the run on 1st and 2nd downs to get themselves in green light pass rush opportunities. Now if we can help our players to do more reflective learning in creating their own pass rush plan of attack we will be even more successful. I think that reflective learning will help our players be more creative in their pass rush. I am also a believer in visualization and if this model encourages our players to visualize more than I am all for it. Overall, I think a player who believes he has earned the right to rush the passer and helped develop his individual plan of attack will be both motivated and excited. We are going to ask players to verbalize their plan against their opponent and practice that plan in our 1on1 pass rush period.
Work a Move
We teach our players a number of pass rush techniques and help them to develop their best move and a counter. When we grade practice and games one part of a DL’s grade is a technical grade. Technical grades are based on knowing the call, proper alignment, stance, etc. D-linemen receive a technical grade for every play they are on the field. For pass rush opportunities the DL receive a pass rush move grade. The scale is ++, +, 0,-, -- with a double plus being the best and a double minus being the worst. If a player received a 0, he attempted a pass rush move but it wasn’t successful. If the player was graded +, the pass rush move resulted in pressure and if he received a ++ the pass rush resulted in disruption of the pass. While a grade of – means the DL did not attempt a pass rush move. Typically this means a DL ran directly into the OL and blocked himself. A grade of - - is for a critical error. Critical errors in the pass rush are taking the path of least resistance and leaving your rush lane or losing contain and the offense was able to capitalize. Also giving up on a pass rush earns the grade of --. With HUDL we are able to send out DL film with notes so they can look at their pass rush grades from practice and games. I think we can use this film to guide our DL as they develop their pass rush plan.
We work hard to coach finish to our team. For pass rush finish means: sacks, disrupted passes, and strips. We chart every practice in terms of pass rush production and post the results in the locker room. Players take the competition seriously and want to be the best pass rusher each day. This will also serve as a tool to help guide players in developing their pass rush attack. What worked and what didn’t?
Overall I think by helping players understand the big picture (global learning) and challenging them to think (reflective learning) we will build better pass rushers. I also think these concepts will help us make in game adjustments as well as help players self-correct. If a player isn’t seeing on the field what he expected based on game plan he will be able to communicate that to coaches between series. Also the hope is that the player can evaluate what is happening to him and adjust his pass rush plan during the game. This type of self-correction is only possible if the player fully understands the bigger pass rush picture and has thought about what his other possible plans of action might be.