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The Film Room: The Importance Of Rushing The Passer Well

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In this week's installation of the Film Room, we take a look at the undeniable importance of putting pressure on the QB.

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech is pretty bad at getting 3rd down pressure. That's the absolute nicest way to put it. There simply isn't a way to say that we were good. We've improved since last year, but not by much.

One of the things our defense struggles with the most is getting off the field on 3rd down. We saw this glaringly in our Thanksgiving day matchup with the Texas Longhorns. If we get off the field on 3rd down, this game would not have been anywhere near as close. It would have kept our defense rested for much longer (they started cracking against the run in the 3rd), allowed our offense more time to wear out the Texas defense, and would have given us superior field position in a game that was just not technically sound for most of the first half.

On this play, we get next to no pass rush. A huge part of pass rushing is getting depth into the backfield. As you can see, we got none. Now this might be a strategy employed by David Gibbs to keep the quarterback from scrambling, but it also could be a terrible pass rush. It appears that there is a "spy" to the top of the formation, so it's likely to be a bad pass rush.

I know that it is very difficult to get a good pass rush out of a 3-man front. But our two defensive ends didn't even try an outside move. They both went to the inside shoulder of the OT, allowing the UT offensive line to simply stand in place, kick dragging maybe 3 feet before the ends are on them. It looks like all 3 of them went for a "bull" rush, where the DL tries to bowl over the OL with pure strength. When it works it's devastating, but it did not work here.

As a result of the subpar pass rush, QB Jerrod Heard has ample amount of time to survey the field and throw the ball. There is no secondary in the entire world that can cover wide receivers forever. With a poor pass rush, it becomes a matter of when the WRs will get open, not if.

This pass rush was slightly better than the first. The nose guard pushes the center back into the pocket using the "bull" rush technique discussed earlier. Hinton is the spy at the bottom of the OL, and Jackson makes a good "flash" move on the OT. A "flash" move is simply when a DL fakes one way, then quickly goes back to the other. The result of this "flash" move is that now the guard is looking at Jackson, not the nose guard.

The nose guard's pass rush is better than before based on one simple tweak to the attack: Instead of bowling into the chest of the center, he's rushing half a man. He chose a side and stuck with it. Now, if he's quick enough, he can force the center to turn his hips towards the DL as the DL continues to move by him, potentially drawing a holding penalty. To the center's credit, he readjusts well and walls the nose guard off from the QB. Unfortunately, the damage was already done. The pushing of the pocket from the nose guard causes the QB to release the ball a quicker than he wants to.

The QB forces the ball into a tight window made tighter by the zone coverage of Pete Robertson, and we have a dropped pass and a 3rd down stop. The pass rush did not make all the difference, but it did make a significant difference. There is a much different demeanor in QBs when all they can see in the line is their color jersey versus when the opposing color begins to leak through.

Now we see what happens with an effective pass rush. The left side of the DL, Fehoko and Robertson, are running an end-first twist. Essentially, they will twist around each other in order to hopefully catch an offensive lineman with his shoulders facing the wrong direction. Texas's OL picks it up well, but they have to use 3 linemen to do it. That means Alston and Jackson are in 1-on-1 situations, a far cry from the 3-on-5 they faced earlier in the game.

Tevin Madison will get the sack in the stat sheet, but Branden Jackson was the one who made this play happen. He notices that Alston has engaged the guard close to the line of scrimmage, and that there's an opening to the inside. The OT sees this at the tail end of his kick-drag, and tries to move to compensate. The number one rule of pass protection for the offensive line is "don't let anyone in free to the inside of you". Here, we see exactly why.

Jackson plants his outside foot, deflects the OL's attempts to lock him up, and beelines into the gap. This happens so fast that Jerrod Heard has absolutely no chance to throw the football. As soon as Heard finishes his drop back, there is pressure from the back side. The result of the play is a Tevin Madison sack, but that sack was helped greatly by a great decision from Jackson and the attention that Robertson and Fehoko demanded with the stunt.

Pass rushing has not been our strong suit. The biggest strides we can make on defense are in the areas of getting off the field on third down. In our bowl game against LSU, I would bet that we will be in some situations where we need a good pass rush to get off the field. We can talk trash about the secondary all we want, but as we can see, the defense just runs smoother when the big guys up front are doing their jobs.