Pressure Schemes: Blitzing Without Rush Lane Integrity

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles has faced many blitzes in his young career, and after being sacked a league-high 55 times, he has put in work to improve his ability to climb the pocket and escape pressure schemes. Brian Filipiak looks at one such example of Bortles beating the blitz.

Every defensive game plan makes finding ways to generate pressure on an opposing quarterback a primary objective. Defenses must take heed, however, as  quarterbacks with the ability to use their legs to extend plays can demoralize an undisciplined defense with impromptu scrambles and passes from beyond the pocket. Pressure schemes, blitzes and pass rush principles that fail to account for the skill set of the opposition are doomed from ready, set, hut.

The Miami Dolphins defense experienced first-hand this common pass rush dilemma in Week 2 against Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. With Jacksonville facing a 3rd-and-5 from their own 14-yard line, Miami rolled the dice with a six-man pressure scheme versus the second-year QB, who had the fourth most rushing yards at his position last season:

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The blitz design as well as the individual failures to maintain rush lanes leave a glaring hole in the A gaps. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (#93) – shaded over the inside shoulder of the right tackle – is not only unable to gain penetration but also gets ridden out of his rush lane and never counters the momentum of the block. Similarly, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (#90) – aligned as a 3 technique between the left guard and left tackle – is forced wide and has his shoulders turned by the block of LG Zane Beadles. Neither defender stays square to their target, which prevents them from tracking the movement of the QB in the pocket. Both defenders deviate greatly from their original pass rush landmarks.

This leaves linebacker Jelani Jenkins (#53) in an extremely tough spot with a split-second decision to make. Playing a read/rush key, Jenkins’s first responsibility is the running back. If the RB releases into a route, Jenkins will follow in coverage. But if the RB remains in pass protection, as he does, Jenkins has the option to rush the passer. The linebacker – who also has an alternate option to stay home and mirror the passers movements in the pocket – elects to shoot for the larger of the two rush lanes. However, the elusive quarterback ducks behind the block of center Stefen Wisniewski and hightails it out of trouble. Playing man coverage with a single high safety behind the blitz, the Dolphins have little run support from their secondary, leaving plenty of green for Bortles.

After extending the drive with his legs, the QB caps off the possession five plays later with a touchdown pass. Blitzers beware: Bortles, – and other QBs with movement skills – will find ways to exploit poor pass rush principles and pressure schemes that lack rush lane integrity.

Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Filipiak.

Brian Filipiak knows about proper blocking technique, the basics of run defense,  how to defeat an overload, and the point-of-attack.

All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.

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