Under Pressure
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Under Pressure: Massie Attack

Under Pressure: Massie Attack
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by J.J. Cooper

The Cardinals revamped their offensive line this offseason by installing rookie fourth-round right tackle Bobby Massie and turning to journeyman left tackle D’Anthony Batiste, who came into the season having played for six teams while making only four starts.

It looked to be a risky gambit, even if the tackles they were replacing -- Levi Brown and Brandon Keith -- were two of the worst starting tackles in the league.

Until this week, the revamped line had managed to hold their own. But on Sunday, Massie found himself completely outmatched in his matchup against Cameron Wake. Wake has one of the quickest first steps in the game. On Sunday, Massie showed that he’s a little slower to get into his drop.

When Wake tried to bull rush or loop inside, he was ineffective as a pass rusher. But when he tried to beat Massie with his speed, he quickly found his way into the backfield, time and time again.

When the game was over, Wake had logged four-and-a-half sacks (all against Massie) and officially picked up five additional quarterback pressures. In going back and logging every Cardinals’ pass play, Wake actually either sacked, flushed, or pressured Kevin Kolb on 15 different pass plays. Every one of the five sacks Massie had a hand in allowing occurred in less than 2.7 seconds. Three of them took place in 2.3 seconds or less.

Being an NFL tackle is a rough life, but any offensive tackle who is failing on one of every four pass plays should be worried about his job security.

It was actually, somehow, even worse than it looked statistically. Once Wake picked up his second sack early in the second quarter, the Cardinals started using a back or tight end to chip him on key pass plays. From that point on, there were seven plays where the Cardinals chipped Wake. On another play, the Cardinals slanted the line Wake’s way so that right guard Adam Snyder was able to help Massie.

Wake isn’t a particularly powerful pass rusher, but Massie did appear to have a good understanding of leverage and setting his feet against bull rushes. Wake was never able to take advantage of Massie over-commiting to getting to the corner. But Massie is showing slow feet, a problem that was apparent again on Thursday night as Massie was worked by Chris Long on the outside speed rush.

The Cardinals still have a pair of games against Aldon Smith and the 49ers as well as a game against Clay Matthews and the Packers. Speed rushers will clearly take note of what Wake did, which means Massie better be working on getting quicker in the weeks ahead.

Bad Call Of The Week

The replacement officials may have returned to calling Division III, high school, and Lingerie Football League games, but we were offered a reminder that even the actual officials can screw things up pretty impressively.

The mistake occurred on a third-and-12 early in the second quarter of the Broncos-Raiders game. Carson Palmer dropped back, but quickly saw that an unblocked defensive back was headed his way. Rather than take the sack, Palmer threw the ball away. It could have been flagged as intentional grounding, as Palmer was in the pocket and threw in a direction where there was no receiver, but no flag was thrown. Instead, the officials somehow ruled that Palmer was sacked by Chris Harris, even though Harris didn’t even hit him until after he had thrown the ball. The play wasn’t ruled a fumble either, the ball rolling around on the ground was simply ignored.

Somehow it ended up as an 11-yard sack against Palmer. Because of the situation, it didn’t affect much -- it just meant the Raiders lost a little yardage in the change of possession. But it is a reminder that all officials are fallible.

Easiest Sack Of The Week

There are all kind of protection schemes to ensure five offensive linemen can figure out how to block defenders coming from a variety of levels and angles.

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It’s safe to say that no protection scheme should ever leave a defensive tackle unblocked, but a miscommunication by the Chargers’ offensive line did exactly that on Sunday. With the Chiefs in a four-man front, San Diego forgot to block defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua.

At the snap, left guard Tyronne Green blocked down, helping out the center. At the same time, left tackle Jared Gaither blocked out, picking up the defensive end, where he got help from a back. It would appear that Green made the mistake -- usually you don’t ask a running back to block Tamba Hali one-on-one, which would have happened if Gaither was blocking down. But it’s also possible that the Chargers’ line were all supposed to block their right gap, which means Gaither made the mistake.

Whoever it was that screwed up owes Philip Rivers an apology. Pitoitua came through unblocked, crunching Rivers under all 6-foot-8, 315 pounds of his frame, just 1.7 seconds after the snap.

Quick Sack Of The Week

The fastest sacks of the year always come through the A-gap (between the center and guard). If a blitzing linebacker or defensive back can time his rush perfectly, and they face a blocking scheme that asks a running back to pick them up, then there is sometimes nothing that anyone on the offense can do to stop a sack.

That’s exactly what happened to the Dolphins on Sunday. Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington timed his rush perfectly, hitting the line at full speed just after the snap. Fullback Jorvorskie Lane was supposed to pick up Washington, but by the time he got to Washington, Washington was already pulling quarterback Ryan Tannehill to the ground just 1.3 seconds after the snap. It is the fastest sack of the season up to this point.

Long Sack Of The Week

Cam Newton is always going to have some of the longest sacks in the NFL because his legs allow him to buy time. Often that gives him a chance to check to another receiver or to take off and run, but every now and then that also means he picks up one of the longest sacks you’ll see.

Newton already had the longest sack in the NFL this year with a 7.1-second sack in Week 1. He topped that this week with a 7.9-second sack against the Falcons. This time Newton dropped back, got plenty of time, stepped up near the line of scrimmage, then ran parallel to the line of scrimmage trying to buy more time. It did buy him time, but not enough; linebacker Sean Weatherspoon tripped him up for no gain.

It was Newton’s fourth sack that has taken four or more seconds. He has an additional three sacks that came in 3.2 seconds or more. Considering he has only nine sacks in 116 dropbacks, the Panthers’ offensive line has done a pretty good job of keeping him upright.


5 comments, Last at 05 Oct 2012, 1:03pm

1 Re: Under Pressure: Massie Attack

Massie isn't a good tackle at this point in his career, but Kevin Kolb has to share a good portion of the blame. Maybe he's shell-shocked, but based on yesterday night's game, he appears to have the worst pocket presence of any QB I've seen since Rob Johnson. Against the Rams, several sacks seemed to happen either because Kolb took an excessively deep drop - meaning the DE didn't even need to turn the corner to get to the QB - or because Kolb pulled the ball down and started looking at the defensive line at the first hint of pressure. Even with Massie's suckitude, a QB like Manning or Brees probably would have been able to get rid of the ball on at least half those sacks.

2 Re: Under Pressure: Massie Attack

"Every one of the five sacks Massie had a hand in allowing occurred in less than 2.7 seconds. Three of them took place in 2.3 seconds or less."

That's pretty conclusive evidence that it's the line's fault, not Kolbs. If you want to blame someone other than the line, blame the coaching staff and the management that thought these guys could play.

3 Re: Under Pressure: Massie Attack

And then sometimes it's that the veteran is just better than the 4th round rookie. I didn't see the game last night, nor the game against Miami. But Wake and Long are pretty good pass rushers, who would probably start on any team in the NFL. You have to give the Cards' coaches some credit--as JJ mentions, they did chip Wake some, starting in the 2nd Q. (He doesn't mention if they did the same thing against Long.) So they recognized there was a problem, and at least tried to fix it.
RE: the front office--maybe there aren't/weren't any other tackles available that would have been a clear upgrade. Let's face it: WAYNE HUNTER!! is starting for STL. Now, they might want to try to get one in April. But at this point, what are they going to do?

5 Re: Under Pressure: Massie Attack

At least in the Rams case, Wayne Hunter is an injury replacement. For Arizona, Massie is the actual plan. And I'm guessing that not only that, there's no plan B, because if there was, surely the'd have gone to it by now.

4 Re: Under Pressure: Massie Attack

I was also befuddled by the sack call. The ball was thrown before the defender made contact ith Palmer. I think the correct call was definitely grounding but perhaps the ref forgot to throw his flag and then made up a call that got the correct result.