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The Mental Side of the Game With CJ Mosley

NFL: New England Patriots at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

CJ Mosley posted a big statistical game for the Jets yesterday, but his importance to the defense goes beyond the raw numbers. The mental side of his game mattered too.

Mosley recorded a sack in the game. Yes, that stands out on the stat sheet, but let’s take a look at how he registered the sack.

It looks like Mosley just ran free at the quarterback, but it’s important to look at how the blitz was timed.

He begins his attack immediately at the point where Derrick Henry makes it clear he’s staying in to block.

Mosley was assigned Henry in man coverage. When Henry stayed in to block, Mosley became free to blitz.

Frequently this option is built into defensive plays. If your guy stays in, you are free to go get the quarterback. It isn’t like you’d have much else to do on the play. The guy you are covering isn’t a receiving option. This also helps to eliminate the benefit of leaving in an extra blocker. Now that blocker can’t help out his teammates. He has to block you, or it will be a sack. You might hear announcers refer to this as a Green Dog Blitz.

Because Mosley is so quick to identify Henry is blocking, he gets to Ryan Tannehill before anybody realizes he is coming.

Mosley’s postsnap recognition helped on this play, but his presnap recognition came into play later in the game.

Twice in the contest the Titans converted a third down against a Jets blitz by bunching their receivers to one side of the field in a formation.

Most of the time when a defense blitzes the coverage will be man to man. Any blitz takes players out of coverage to have their rush the passer, and the zones would just be too big for the remaining players to cover.

Bunching receivers is a great way to beat man coverage.

Here in the first quarter the Titans are able to convert one such third down. The bunch allows Josh Reynolds to stay behind the line of scrimmage. This means he gets a running start, which makes him difficult to jam.

He’s able to initiate the first contact against Brandin Echols. The separation this creates opens a passing window.

Tannehill hits him to move the chains.

Early in the second half it’s third down again. The Jets are showing blitz again, and the Titans again are bunching their receivers.

Here we see another one of the advantages of bunching receivers against man coverage. There are lot of bodies in the area, which means defenders have to work through traffic. Here the formation and the horizontal nature of Reynolds’ route forces Bryce Hall to give a cushion. This cushion creates a window.

Tannehill again hits Reynolds to move the chains.

We move to the fourth quarter. The Jets have been burned by bunched receivers against blitzes twice. Again it’s third down. The Jets are showing blitz, and the Titans are bunching their formation.

Mosley starts running around communicating something with his teammates. My guess is that he’s doing something to change the play.

At the snap the Jets don’t blitz. They drop into a zone, and Michael Carter II is able to take away the quick slant Tannehill wants to throw.

Because it’s zone, Carter doesn’t have as many bodies to navigate around. He also don’t have to run step for step with a receiver. He can just wait for the receiver to enter the area he is assigned.

Even though there is a window to throw this pass, Carter is in good position to make a tackle short of the sticks if there is a completion. Perhaps because he sees this (or perhaps because the zone surprised him), Tannehill doesn’t throw giving the pass rush time to get home.

Sometimes I think with players we understandably are so impressed with their athletic ability that we forget how smart they are. NFL schemes are endlessly complex. Being able to quickly diagnose presnap and postsnap makes a huge difference.