Under Pressure: It Gets Harder

Under Pressure: It Gets Harder

by J.J. Cooper

Cowboys center Travis Frederick become the latest to find out that Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe is a much tougher test in his second year than he ever was as a rookie.

Poe recorded two sacks against Frederick and the Cowboys, raising his season total to 3.5. He didn’t record a sack as a rookie.

But more so than just recording two sacks, it was the way Poe did it that was impressive this week. Poe manhandled Frederick twice. He flew by Frederick for a 1.6-second sack and tossed him aside for a 2.1-second sack.

While Poe was running down Tony Romo before he could even start looking for a target, DeMarcus Ware was recording one of the easiest sacks he’ll get all year.

Ware’s first of two sacks on Sunday came when Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was asked to run a play-action bootleg to Ware’s direction. Because of the design of the play, Ware was left unblocked, which is never a good idea. Ware never bothered with the play fake, and hit Smith just after Smith realized that this was probably the worst play in the playbook to call.


Being an offensive lineman is never easy, but sometimes, it can feel like you’re asked to do the impossible.

Saints center Brian De La Puente was asked to do the impossible on a second-and-10 play call in the team’s game against the Buccaneers last Sunday. Blocking Gerald McCoy is a tough enough task on a normal play, but on this play, the Saints asked De La Puente to block McCoy, even though McCoy was lined up in a 3-technique, on the left guard’s outside shoulder.

The play design had left guard Ben Grubbs pulling for a fake sweep. The hope was that the play-action fake would sucker McCoy into flowing to his left, towards De La Puente, who would pick him up.

It didn’t work that way. Instead McCoy fired upfield immediately at quarterback Drew Brees. De La Puente was left to try to do the impossible--get his head across the hard-charging McCoy’s body to slow McCoy down. It didn’t work and by the time Bress had finished his play-action fake and started to look downfield, McCoy was picking up his first sack of the season.


The Browns have plenty of problems. They’ve traded away the No. 3 pick in last year’s draft just a little after a year after he was drafted, and they’ve also apparently given up on their other first-round pick from last year’s draft, Brandon Weeden, with the announcement that they’re starting Brian Hoyer at quarterback.

But add right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, their second-round pick from last year’s draft, to the list of problems.

Schwartz had a solid rookie season, giving up four and a half sacks over 16 sacks. This year has not gone nearly as well as he’s already given up four and a half sacks. Schwartz gave up two and a half sacks this week after giving up two to Cameron Wake in Week 1.

Schwartz’s biggest problem has been handling defensive ends speed. Wake beat him to the outside twice and Elvis Dumervil did the same this week. Arthur Jones did roller skate Schwartz back into Brandon Weeden for the final sack Schwartz allowed on Sunday.


First-round pick D.J. Fluker is a big part of the Chargers’ attempt to rebuild their offensive line after a disastrous performance in 2012. Overall he’s played pretty well this year, but against the Eagles he did get a reminder that life in the NFL is a little tougher.

Fluker was a little bit late to slide out to pick up Eagles’ defensive end Connor Barwin. Barwin responded by throwing Fluker to the ground, stepping over him on the way to an easy sack.


The Cowboys telegraphed that they were coming with a double A-gap blitz with linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter lined up over the center. But they executed the blitz quickly enough that it didn’t matter that they made it clear pre-snap what they were doing. Lee gave himself up by occupying the center while Carter flew into the backfield, wrapping up Alex Smith before Jamaal Charles had even started blocking him.

The sack took only 1.3 seconds, but unlike many of these quick sacks, it does have someone to blame. Charles could see what was coming, but instead of throwing his body at Carter, he gave a somewhat ineffectual shove to Carter as the linebacker flew by him.


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Often in the past, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been known to buy some time with his feet, shrug off a sack and find a way to somehow convert an impossible third and 13 to keep a drive alive.

With the 0-2 2013 Steelers, Roethlisberger is more likely to dodge several pass rushers, run around for a while, buy some time and get sacked for an 11-yard loss. That’s what happened in the Steelers loss to the Bengals on Monday night. Roethlisberger danced his way out of sacks twice, but he never found an open receiver before Geno Atkins wrapped him up, 9.0 seconds after the snap.

Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton also buys plenty of time, but he too did his offensive line no favors in the long sack department. Newton was sacked in 5.9 seconds when the Bills ran him out of bounds near the line of scrimmage and another time in 5.2 seconds when he ran into one of his own offensive linemen for a six-yard loss.


3 comments, Last at 29 Sep 2013, 10:56am

1 Re: Under Pressure: It Gets Harder

I believe a full breakdown of the Dallas game would show that Poe made two impact plays and was decent in the run game (where the Cowboys' main failures were on the outside), but that Frederick held up pretty well outside of the two sacks.

Cowboys blogger Rafael Evla does a good job breaking down the Poe red zone sack:

Seems that the scheme had Murray responsible for slowing down Poe-- Murray has had issues abandoning his blocking assignments to routes that are not short enough to be helpful to his now-imperiled QB. So I don't know that I'd put it on Frederick, although I know that fits the column theme of "first year OLs" better.

2 Re: Under Pressure: It Gets Harder

The La Puente observation reminds me of something described by OG Jerry Kramer (#64 of the Packers during the Lombardi days) in one of his books: he was detailing something similar in a game against the Cowboys. To paraphrase they were running a play where the guard (wasn't Kramer) was to pull for a sweep, but it was a naked play for the FB to take the handoff into the vacated "alleged" hole. Why? Experience in the past was that if the guard pulled, "a smart, quick defensive tackle--like Bob Lilly (now in the HoF)--would immediately read this and follow the guard down the line, not a slow lumbering (type) who would just go forward." And the play worked because it was against Bob Lilly, with no one in the hole, there was a real gain of yardage. As I remember, the correct course DT was to continue down his lane. Looks like McCoy did what he was supposed to do, and had a straight shot to Brees for a sack.