clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

This Is How the Jets and Other Teams Exploit Pass Protection Schemes

New, comments
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

One technique teams frequently use on offense to slow down a pass rush is to leave extra backs of tight ends in to help with pass protection. It is common sense that having more pass protectors will make it tougher to get to the quarterback. That extra blocker can allow extra resources to be dedicated to a particularly problematic pass rusher.

Of course leaving a back or a tight end means there will be less receiving options on a given play. Defenses might use the defenders that would have been used to cover these receivers to drop into coverage and clog passing lanes.

There is another option, though. These guys can blitz and take away the benefit of having the extra blocker.

Take this play against the Rams from last Sunday's game.

The Rams have three receivers on the field, and the Jets are playing man to man coverage.

The other two receivers are running back Benny Cunningham and tight end Lance Kendricks. Darron Lee has Cunningham, and Calvin Pryor has Kendricks. Because the Rams are worried about the pressure package the Jets might bring, they keep Cunningham and Kendricks in.

Perhaps Cunningham can help out against Muhammad Wilkerson off the edge.

It might have been possible if Lee had just stayed in coverage, but he reads the play correctly and blitzes, occupying Cunningham.

In doing so, the Jets have negated the advantage the Rams might have gained by keeping an extra blocker in to help. In fact, the Jets have flipped the script. Keeping an extra blocker in gave the Jets an extra rusher.

On the other side, Pryor also blitzes. With Kendricks engaged, Pryor moves inside where he is picked up by the right tackle.

It comes at a price, however, because the tackle being occupied by Pryor means he cannot provide inside help to the right guard who really needs it against Lorenzo Mauldin.

Mauldin pushes Case Keenum into Lee, who is in position to team up with Mauldin to clean up the sack because his blitz took him upfield.

If you think back all the way to the first game of the NFL regular season this year, you might remember Cris Collinsworth commenting on how frequently and effectively the Broncos were using these "green dog" blitzes to combat the Panthers leaving extra blockers in to help block.

As Chris Brown wrote for the departed Grantland site, these reads can get even more complex.

In a piece about Bill Belichick from two years ago, he discussed the way a playcall resulted in a big sack in New England's one point victory over the Jets in Week 16 of 2014.

Today’s offenses are nimble enough to redirect their pass protection schemes toward the most likely blitzers at the line. Belichick, however, enables his defenders to regain the advantage by teaching them to read the offense, specifically the center. For example, Belichick frequently calls blitzes with potential rushers lined up to the offense’s left and right, with each reading the center’s movement. If the center slides toward the keyed defender, he drops into coverage, and if the center slides away from the keyed defender, he turns kamikaze and blitzes the quarterback.

..................................................

Today’s offenses are nimble enough to redirect their pass protection schemes toward the most likely blitzers at the line. Belichick, however, enables his defenders to regain the advantage by teaching them to read the offense, specifically the center. For example, Belichick frequently calls blitzes with potential rushers lined up to the offense’s left and right, with each reading the center’s movement. If the center slides toward the keyed defender, he drops into coverage, and if the center slides away from the keyed defender, he turns kamikaze and blitzes the quarterback.

Essentially this play had the Pats blitzing five defenders. Four guys were coming no matter what.

The fifth guy depended on the protection the Jets called.

If they slid right, it would be the player on the left of the formation.

If they slid left, it would be the player at the right of the formation.

The protection does slide left, and the blitzer comes from the right of the formation.

The Jets had enough blockers to protect successfully, but the defensive playcall and the read the defenders made helped turn this into a disaster for New York. Breno Giacomini sliding left picks up the blitzing linebacker, but so does Bilal Powell looking inside first, leaving the edge rusher unblocked. They both realize this and go to the edge guy, leaving the blitzing linebacker unblocked.

The Jets ended up in a bind because the blitzer came from the direction the protection was flowing away from.

Offenses do their best to come up with protections that read the incoming blitzes and are capable of stopping them. These are some of the ways defenses can take back the advantage. If offenses design their schemes around what the defense is going to do, defenses can build in reads to attack what the offense does.