Under Pressure
Dum dum dum dugga-dum dum.

Under Pressure: Stiff Locker

by J.J. Cooper

The Titans beat the Jets on Monday Night Football mainly due to the disaster that is the Jets current offense. But it wasn’t a good night for quarterback Jake Locker, especially when it came to his pocket awareness.

Throughout the Jets game, Locker demonstrated an inability to play comfortably within the confines of the pocket. The Titans offensive line would pick up their blocks -- even blitzes -- and Locker would have open receivers, but the ball never made it out of his hands.

Locker had the longest sack of the week, and one of the longest of the season, when he took an 8.3-second sack where he dropped back, bailed on the play when he still had a clean pocket, and ran to the sideline, where he was run out of bounds.

As you can note from this shot of the play, Locker actually had a receiver come open with a clean pocket to throw, but at the time he was standing with his feet parallel to the line of scrimmage, in no position to throw. Locker had already decided at that point to take off instead of looking to throw.

Later in the second quarter on a first-and-10, Locker was again given a clean pocket. And as the photo shows, he had open options to throw to, but again decided to hold the ball, giving Garrett McIntyre time to get free and wrap him up, 3.9 seconds after the snap.

A similar situation occurred in the third quarter, when the Jets sent safety LaRon Landry on a safety blitz. Since Locker was dropping back into his end zone, he was understandably a little jumpy about getting too comfortable in the pocket. But the line picked up the blitz, and Locker had plenty of time. Yet again, Locker decided to take off and run, and the pocket collapsed on him.

Locker’s sack rate for the season (5.6 percent) isn’t outlandish, and he has not shown the same discomfort in the pocket in other weeks, so this may just have been a Rex Ryan defense getting the best of a young quarterback. But, for one week, Locker was doing a pretty good impression of Christian “Take Off At The First Sign Of Trouble” Ponder.

Helping Out

Von Miller didn’t get a sack against the Ravens. With J.J. Watt picking up three sacks last week to tie Aldon Smith for the league lead with 19.5, Miller appears to be falling behind in the race for the Defensive Player of the Year award.

But while he was shut out, Miller showed once again that even when he’s not getting sacks himself, his speed can help out his teammates. Late against the Ravens, Miller got an amazing jump to anticipate the snap count. As he fired off, he was able to drive Ravens right tackle Kelechi Osemele back into the pocket. Osemele did a pretty good job of recovering to stay between Miller and Joe Flacco, but in doing so, he also got tangled up in guard Bobbie Williams' legs. That made it easy for defensive tackle Derek Wolfe to beat Williams to the outside for a sack.

It wasn’t Miller’s sack, but it wouldn’t have happened without him.

Helping Out, Part II

As mentioned above, Watt picked up three sacks, but like Miller, he also had a sack that he caused without getting credit for it.

Late in the Titans-Colts game, Watt looped outside to engage right tackle Jeff Linkenbach. Watt drove Linkenbach back into the pocket. Because Linkenbach stayed engaged and managed to keep Watt from using his massive wingspan, quarterback Andrew Luck was able to tuck the ball and dodge Watt’s rush, but that meant that Luck ran right into Connor Barwin. Barwin got the sack, but it was Watt’s bull rush that led to it.

Short Sack of the Week

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has not always been a friend to the Bengals offensive line this year. He has been among the league’s worst at long sacks, picking up 16 sacks that are classified as coverage sacks.

But this week, Dalton picked up a sack where the line should be apologizing to him. Clint Boling appeared to get confused with his assignment, which allowed Fletcher Cox to come unblocked for an easy sack in only 1.7 seconds.

Unblocked sacks haven’t been a big problem for the Bengals this season. Dalton has three in 510 pass plays, but that actually rates as better than average.

Here’s a look at how the entire league stacks up. (Through Week 15.)

Quarterback Team Unblocked Sacks Att Pct. Quarterback Team Unblocked Sacks Att Pct.
Michael Vick PHI 9 343 2.6% Ryan Lindley ARI 1 151 0.7%
Kevin Kolb ARI 5 210 2.4% Colin Kaepernick SF 1 168 0.6%
Mark Sanchez NYJ 9 451 2.0% Andy Dalton CIN 3 510 0.6%
Russell Wilson SEA 7 379 1.8% Joe Flacco BAL 3 521 0.6%
Jake Locker TEN 5 285 1.8% Brady Quinn KC 1 175 0.6%
Chad Henne JAC 3 236 1.3% Jay Cutler CHI 2 412 0.5%
Ryan Tannehill MIA 5 450 1.1% Matt Hasselback TEN 1 235 0.4%
Christian Ponder MIN 5 455 1.1% Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF 2 472 0.4%
Peyton Manning DEN 5 532 0.9% Josh Freeman TB 2 490 0.4%
Nick Foles PHI 2 232 0.9% Eli Manning NYG 2 502 0.4%
Carson Palmer OAK 5 588 0.9% Brandon Weeden CLE 2 524 0.4%
Matt Schaub HOU 4 496 0.8% Matt Ryan ATL 2 564 0.4%
Robert Griffin WAS 3 379 0.8% Matt Cassel KC 1 296 0.3%
Sam Bradford STL 4 517 0.8% Tony Romo DAL 2 600 0.3%
Aaron Rodgers GB 4 519 0.8% Matt Stafford DET 2 657 0.3%
Philip Rivers SD 4 531 0.8% Cam Newton CAR 1 456 0.2%
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 3 422 0.7% Tom Brady NE 1 583 0.2%
Drew Brees NO 4 598 0.7% Alex Smith SF 0 241 0.0%
Blaine Gabbert JAC 2 300 0.7% John Skelton ARI 0 216 0.0%
Andrew Luck IND 4 601 0.7%

At the top of the charts for unblocked sacks are three quarterbacks on disappointing teams. Michael Vick’s nine unblocked sacks are largely a result of offensive line problems. Early in the season, he did fail to recognize a couple of safety and corner blitzes. (These are usually the quarterback's responsibility -- he usually has to see and sight adjust to a receiver on a hot route.) But by my count, seven of the nine unblocked sacks came when the Eagles either failed to slant their line to pick up an overload blitz or simply botched the blocking assignments.

The story was similar for Kevin Kolb, playing in front of the extremely leaky Cardinals line. Kolb was nabbed by a cornerback blitz, but he also had four unblocked sacks where the Cardinals failed to pick up linebackers or defensive ends who should have been picked up.

For Mark Sanchez, the biggest problem is his susceptibility to blitzing defensive backs. Four of his nine unblocked sacks have been picked up by blitzing members of the secondary. The Jets offensive line has done him no favors either. They left Bruce Irvin unblocked on one play where they slanted the line the other way. They let Jerod Mayo run through an A-gap untouched. And, on one play, the Jets ran a play-action bootleg that managed to run Sanchez right into an untouched Dont'a Hightower.


2 comments, Last at 22 Dec 2012, 7:10pm

2 Re: Under Pressure: Stiff Locker

Hey J.J., I'd be interested to know how many of Peyton's unblocked sacks came when Manny Ramirez was playing RG instead of Kuper.