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Defensive Line Play Versus the Pass

The major part of any defensive lineman's job on game day in the National Football League is pass rushing. As a rule, the professional defensive lineman will face pass protection schemes on more snaps from center than all of the other run blocking schemes combined. In reality, regardless of the competitive level at which he plays, a defensive lineman should never be surprised by a pass read. He must anticipate that he will have to be a pass rusher on every snap. He should play the pass and react to the run. In order to play the pass, a defensive lineman should constantly be aware of the coaching points for the numerous pass rush techniques. For example, a defensive lineman should address the following guidelines involving his role as a pass rusher.

* Have a plan. An effective pass rusher predetermines his move. Pre-snap planning the move increases the quickness factor of the move.


* Maintain a consistent stance. Prior to the snap of the ball, a defensive lineman should crowd the ball and take a good stance, but he shouldn't tip his stance and alert the offensive lineman as to where he is going or what move he is going to make.


* Pass rush from a shade alignment. A defensive lineman should align in an inside or outside shade. Such an alignment enables a defensive lineman to attack only half the man (his opponent). Forcing an offensive lineman to commit to one side is of ten the initial step in making a good move. A shade alignment not only allows the defensive lineman to get his hat in the crack and penetrate, it forces an offensive lineman to commit to one side.


* Recognize the pass blocker's set. The depth of the quarterbacks drop is a factor that determines the type of pass rushing technique that is most effective in a particular situation. For example, a short quarterback drop mandates that the defensive lineman execute a quicker pass rush move (e.g., grab and rip)


* Keep in mind the precept "same hand, same foot." The primary key to finishing all pass rushing moves (e.g., slaps, swims, rips, etc.) is to have the defensive lineman adhere to the "same hand, same foot" precept. Whenever a move is finished, the defensive lineman should use the same foot as his primary hand to finish the move. For example, when punching his right hand over to perform a swim technique, the defensive lineman should swing his right foot across to gain upfield position on the blocker.


* Use his hands with sharp movements. A pass rusher should visualize his hands as those of a martial arts master. Accordingly, he should use his hands in sharp movements to stun and jerk the offensive lineman. The defender's hands should be wielding a razor, not a sledgehammer.


* Use a counter move when caught (i.e., when your original move did not work). A defensive lineman should have a counter move to every base pass rushing move. For example, the counter move for the rip is the re-rip or swim.


* Spin or club the blocker when being carried past the quarterback. A pass rusher should never "give up" on his pass rush and allow himself to be carried past the quarterback.


* Keep his weight and momentum going forward. Above all else, a pass rusher should keep his feet moving and avoid dancing.


* Know the quarterback. The best pass rushers familiarize themselves with a particular quarterback's escape mechanisms. As such, a defensive lineman should use film study (to the extent possible, depending on the specific resources available) to identify the opposing quarterback's escape moves.


* Run through the sack. A pass rusher shouldn't jump or leave his feet to sack the quarterback. He should run through the sack and land on the quarterback, using the quarterback's body to cushion his fall.

The pass rushing ability of a defensive lineman is enhanced by his practice of the proper getoff technique. Getting off on the snap with a big step enables a defensive lineman to gain a jump on upfield penetration. All factors considered, dropback pass protection is normally easily recognized by a defender who reads on the run. As the defender replaces his up-hand with his back foot in taking a big step, he reads the screws of the offensive lineman's headgear. If the screws pop up and the offensive lineman shows a "high hat," the defensive lineman should read dropback pass. An offensive lineman showing a high hat should face a defensive lineman who gets his hat in the crack and attacks the pass rush lane. Since an attacking read-on-the-run lineman focuses on his getoff and on gaining penetration on every snap, he should never be surprised by a high hat read. He must maintain the mentality of a pass rusher on every down.


 

 

 

 

 

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