Under Pressure: Jacksonville's Sorry Tradition
by J.J. Cooper
There are few positions on the field where poor play is more obvious than offensive tackle. Not coincidentally, it's a position where players are most likely to get pulled for poor play. If the quarterback gets dirty too often, a tackle's struggles are obvious enough that the coaching staff may try someone else.
Much like a reliever in baseball who has given up a couple of home runs, Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Cameron Bradfield got the hook in a Week 2 loss to the Washington Redskins. Bradfield was a second-stringer who was in the lineup because starter Austin Pasztor was hurt, and he showed why he was a second-stringer. He truly earned his benching as he gave up two sacks to Ryan Kerrigan and was nearly beaten for sacks several other times.
Late in the game, the Jaguars coaching staff had seen enough, so they benched Bradfield to replace him with third-string tackle Sam Young. But the next part of what happened is the amazing part. The Jaguars were so unhappy with Bradfield's performance that they cut him. Bradfield had started 11 games at left tackle for the Jaguars in 2013 after Luke Joeckel was injured. He had started 12 games in 2012 and had started each of the Jags' first two games this year. But after Chad Henne was sacked 10 times, the Jags decided that Bradfield, good enough to be a fixture in their lineup for much of the past three season, wasn't even good enough to have a spot on the roster. He was jettisoned as penance for one of the worst offensive line performances of recent years.
It's a pretty shocking move if you think about it, but it has just been par for the course for the Jaguars. Poor play from Jaguars' right tackles is sort of part of the Jacksonville tradition, along with blackouts, empty upper decks, and highly drafted pass rushers who don't pan out.
Bradfield took over at right tackle in 2012 to replace Guy Whimper. The year before, Whimper produced a Joe DiMaggio-like streak of allowing at least one sack in nine straight games in 2011. Pasztor, the club's right tackle last year who is expected to return this week, gave up 6.5 sacks in 2013, which by Jaguars' standards makes him a Munozian-type shutdown tackle.
In the week since he was released, no one has picked up Bradfield. The margin between being a third tackle who is playing as a fill-in starter and being out on the street is razor-thin. Replacement level for a backup tackle is often just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Of the five offensive linemen with the most sacks allowed through three weeks, two of them (Garrett Reynolds and Derek Sherrod) are backup tackles pressed into larger duties.
As bad as Bradfield's performance in Week 2 was, there was another that matched it. The Lions used both Cornelius Lucas and Reynolds to fill in with starter LaAdrian Waddle out because of a calf injury. Neither were great, but Reynolds' fourth-quarter performance was simply abominable.
On a second-and-10 with just under five minutes to play, Reynolds was beaten to the inside by Mario Addison. Reynolds held Addison to keep him from sacking Matthew Stafford, but only succeeded in being flagged for holding and throwing Addison into Stafford's feet. With Addison at his feet, Stafford tucked the ball and was quickly wrapped up for a sack.
On the next play, Reynolds failed to execute a proper kick step. This time Addison beat him to the outside for Reynolds' second sack allowed in two plays.
That forced the Lions to punt. Wisely, the Lions turned back to Lucas when their offense took the field again two minutes later. That didn't help much as Addison beat Lucas to the inside to run down Stafford.
The Lions decided to continue splitting time between the two in Week 3. Reynolds responded by giving up his third sack of the season when Julius Peppers beat him around the edge for a sack.
Pop-Up Pass Rusher
Addison, a 2011 undrafted free agent out of Troy, came into Week 2 with 3.5 career sacks in three pro seasons. With the Lions struggling at right tackle, Addison picked up 2.5 sacks against them and was responsible for a third sack that Dwan Edwards finished off.
Addison added another sack in Week 3 against the Steelers, using his speed to beat left tackle Kelvin Beachum. Admittedly, he has gotten the best of tackles who are either backups (Reynolds and Lucas) or average at best (Beachum), but early this season Addison is showing that he gives the Panthers a quality pass rusher to keep teams from focusing too heavily on Charles Johnson.
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Usually when you're faced with a first-and-10 at your own 1-yard line, teams will either call for a quarterback sneak or a run up the gut to gain a yard or two and give the offense a little more working room for second and third down.
The Chiefs didn't play it safe. They hoped that the Dolphins would be caught napping, so they called for Alex Smith to take a seven-step drop.
It didn't fool the Dolphins, but it did offer a reminder of why teams usually don't call seven-step drops on their own 1-yard line. By the time Smith hit his seventh step, defensive tackle Randy Starks was driving fullback Anthony Sherman into Smith while linebacker Jelani Jenkins was beating guard Zach Fulton to help out. The result was a safety, although in a 34-15 win, it was a mistake with which the Chiefs could live. It will probably dissuade them from calling a seven-step drop from their own 1-yard line anytime soon.
Quick Sack of the Weeks
With this year's every-other-week schedule, we're actually covering two weeks of quick sacks instead of just one.
It's not often that a center whiffs on blocking his man, but when it does happen, you're going to have a great candidate for the fastest sack of the week. In Week 2, Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald flew by Scott Wells for a 1.6-second sack of Austin Davis.
This past week, Rex Ryan and the Jets dialed up the rare eight-man all-out Cover-0 blitz. It worked as linebacker David Harris flew through the middle of the line untouched for a quick 1.7-second sack of Jay Cutler. Normally we don't show sacks from the side view, but in this case, it emphasizes what an all-out blitz looks like.
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Long Sack of the Weeks
It's very rare to see a 7-plus-second sack where the quarterback doesn't leave the pocket. Packers' linemen, you are completely absolved of any responsibility for the Week 2 sack where Aaron Rodgers sat in the pocket for 7.1 seconds before the Jets' Demario Davis finally came free to sack him. Generally, quarterbacks are expected to get rid of the ball in roughly three seconds. In giving Rodgers another four additional seconds, the line more than did its duty.
The long sack of this past week is more conventional. Against a four-man Texans' rush, Ryan Fitzpatrick didn't find anyone open, so he took off and scrambled toward the sideline. Eventually it turned into a sprint for the sideline where Fitzpatrick ran out of bounds for a minor 1-yard loss 7.3 seconds after the snap.