Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith is the most physically talented tackle in football, and showcases his dominance through elite athleticism, play strength, discipline, and overall technique. Marrying his rare physical traits with an increasingly improving skill set has resulted in the mastering of the position when he’s been healthy. Despite struggles with a bulging disk in his back and a strained MCL that caused him to miss three games in 2016, Smith graded out as the #2 overall LT according to Duke Manyweather of Bleacher Report’s NFL1000.
Apart from the sheer physical prowess that Smith possesses over nearly every pass-rusher he faces, there is a refined array of techniques that Smith employs to protect the QB, none more prevalent than his signature snatch and trap technique. This is a technique that is predicated on the pass-rusher’s weight distribution being too far out in front of their bodies when they lean and initiate contact, leaving them susceptible to their head and shoulders drifting too far in front of their feet. Once Smith detects the above situation he uses either the two- or one-hand snatch and trap to use their momentum against themselves, burying them in the ground in the process.
The snatch and trap is an advanced technique that can backfire on the blocker if his own weight distribution is off, or if his hand placement / timing is inaccurate or mistimed by just a couple of inches. Additionally, the technique requires the blocker to start strong by explosively driving out of his stance to get to his spot, then intersecting the rusher by winning the half-man relationship. Without beating the defender to the spot, the blocker must play catch-up and stress his set to cut off the corner, oftentimes turning his shoulders towards the rusher prematurely, giving the rusher a two-way go back to the inside. Smith is rarely ever beaten around the corner, so he is consistently winning the half-man relationship with precise and explosive footwork, dictating and imposing his will on pass-rushers of varying skill sets. The sheer number of times Smith uses this against pass-rushers is staggering, often multiple times against the same player in the same game.
Context: 2016 Week 8 at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. Smith successfully uses the snatch and trap technique five times, including the four times highlighted below versus Pro Bowl pass-rusher Connor Barwin. Barwin likes to use a long-arm technique to gain leverage as he works to corner and close on the QB, and Smith skillfully used that strength against Barwin repeatedly throughout this matchup.
Smith drives out of his stance with outstanding pad level and discipline to keep his hips square to the line of scrimmage, taking away the two-way go for Barwin, forcing him to attempt to turn the corner. Smith is a technician with his hands, and utilizes independent hand usage to knock Barwin off balance with a quick but powerful outside strike. Once Barwin recalibrates himself, he uses a single arm to reinitiate contact. This acts as a lever for Barwin’s body weight, and Smith is in perfect position to quickly snatch and trap Barwin’s arm at the elbow, causing him to collapse onto the ground.
Barwin can typically use his long-arm technique to gain leverage and work around offensive tackles, but Smith is constantly making pass-rushers uncomfortable by taking away their options and using an array of hand techniques to break their contact and keep them off balance. Smith forcefully comes down on the wrist of Barwin (breaking his only means of maintaining contact and balance) and simultaneously absorbs Barwin’s forward momentum by gradually backing up and using his body as a shield between himself and QB Dak Prescott.
Barwin attempts to convert speed-to-power and compress the pocket, but is stoned by Smith’s pad level, stout anchor, and excellent hand placement. This forces Barwin to lose all leverage and stand straight up while Smith maintains contact and traps his arm before snatching him to the ground.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. Smith breaks initial contact and disrupts the flow of the rush, forcing Barwin to reinitiate contact using his signature long-arm technique that has served him well so many time in the past, only to allow his shoulders to get too far over his feet. Smith needs only a moment to process Barwin’s mistake, quickly trapping and snatching above Barwin’s wrist, negating his only means of remaining upright.
Very rarely will a premier pass-rusher like Barwin have one of his strengths as a pass-rusher used against him like Smith did in this matchup, but the physical traits and skill set of Smith allow him to physically manhandle and dominate any level of competition that the NFL has to offer.
Explosively driving out of his stance to beat the rusher to the spot and winning half-man leverage are the primary reasons why Smith is able to consistently implement this technique successfully. Griffen is one of the best in the league at converting speed-to-power, but in order to be effective generating power there first needs to be space to build up speed. Due to Smith’s elite range and quickness in his 45-degree set, he is able to close the gap and limit Griffen’s power at the point of attack. At the point of attack, Smith shows excellent pad level and mobility to sink in his hips and anchor, effectively negating Griffen’s initial surge. Griffen responds by trying to create space for himself with a long-arm technique, not realizing the more forcefully he leans into Smith the easier it is for him to counter. Smith wastes no time to collapse Griffen’s elbow, taking away all balance, and sending him to the turf.
Context: 2016 Week 11 against Baltimore Ravens LB Terrell Suggs. Smith often will expose his chest in pass protection, luring rusher’s with the opportunity to gain access to his frame. Suggs takes the bait but Smith promptly absorbs the contact and executes his signature snatch and trap on Suggs’ wrist, eliminating his source of balance.
Smith is able to gauge and process when pass-rushers’ weight distribution is too far forward exceptionally fast, and because he is consistently operating with a strong base, his movement is rarely restricted. Smith’s discipline to stay square to the line of scrimmage as long as possible paired with his elite play strength, balance, and coordination lend themselves to being able to execute the snatch and trap technique better than anyone else in the NFL.
Ultimately, Smith’s ability to successfully use the same technique multiple times in the same game against high competition is a testament to Smith’s brilliance as a pass-protector, technician, and athlete.
At age 26, Smith has 92 starts in six career seasons, and enters his prime in 2017. As long as his back and body hold up moving forward, we will continue to be treated to Smith’s mastery of the position, and one of the most devastating techniques that an OL can employ, the snatch and trap technique.
I watched every pass from the Cowboys 2016 season for this project, including the 2016 divisional playoffs game against the Green Bay Packers. Here are the 30 examples I found of Smith executing his infamous technique on unsuspecting pass-rushers: