Under Pressure: The Top Rookie Pass Rusher

Under Pressure: The Top Rookie Pass Rusher
Under Pressure: The Top Rookie Pass Rusher
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by J.J. Cooper

Teams looking for pass rushers in the 2014 draft didn't have a whole lot of choices in the first round.

Only three defensive linemen were drafted in the first round: Texans No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and Chiefs' defensive end/outside linebacker Dee Ford.

Clowney played in only four games, didn't record a sack, and is already on injured reserve. Ford has played only sporadically, recording a half-sack and three tackles in 12 games. Both have been disappointing so far.

But 12 games into his career, Donald has shown the kind of strength and burst that the Rams hoped to see. His six sacks leads rookies, and he's getting better and better. Donald has five of those six sacks in the last seven weeks.

Donald is undersized for a defensive tackle, but his quickness makes him a very difficult matchup for guards. As he shows here, his quick first step can get him into the backfield.

And while he's undersized, he's also short (he's 6 feet tall), which means he can get leverage on taller offensive linemen.

When 2015 rolls around, Clowney will have to prove he can stay healthy. Ford needs to prove that he deserves more playing time. But Donald is already showing that he's a valuable part of the Rams' frightening pass rush. He's a big reason that the Rams have picked up 27 sacks in their last seven games after picking up one in the first five games.

Dominant Once Again

J.J. Watt once again simply took the game over in the Texans' win over Tennessee. The final stats may look like a normal day for Watt -- three tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble. But if you watch the game, you'll see a player who can't be blocked.

Tennessee would have struggled to block him if rookie left tackle Taylor Lewan had been able to play. But with him out and Will Svitek trying to fill in, the Titans simply didn't have a way to block football's best defensive lineman.

As they usually do, the Texans moved Watt around through much of the game. By the fourth quarter, though, when the Texans realized that the Titans were not going to give Svitek much help, they lined up Watt over Svitek and just let him beat the overmatched tackle snap after snap.

Nothing the Titans could have done would have really helped narrow what ended up being a blowout loss, but it wouldn't have hurt to have left a tight end on Svitek's side a little more often to at least give Watt a different look.


Want an easy sack? Have the center blow the snap count. Cowboys center Travis Frederick snapped the ball while the rest of the Cowboys offensive line waited for the actual snap count. Left tackle Tyron Smith deserves the most credit for remaining completely still even as he got almost knocked over by the chaos happening around him.

Oops, Part II

If a blown snap makes for a crazy sack, the gallant but flawed attempt by Jets tailback Bilal Powell and fullback John Conner to pick up a blitz made for one even crazier.

Both Powell and Conner saw Koa Misi coming on a blitz, but in their attempt to slow him down, they ended up blocking each other, giving Misi an easy sack.

Oops, Part III

Colts safety LaRon Landry had picked up one sack in the past two and a half seasons. So he had reason to be excited when he was left unblocked on a safety blitz against the Jaguars. It was a well-called blitz and a protection problem for the Jaguars.

What's amazing is on the very next play it happened again. Two snaps, 1.5 sack for Landry after he'd picked up one sack since 2012.

Quickest Sack of the Weeks

The quickest sack of Week 13 is the quickest sack of the season. Normally, on a X-fire cross blitz, the first blitzer through the A gap gives himself up in the hopes that the second blitzer can come free.

But in the rare case where the first rusher comes free, you get a very quick sack. David Harris timed the snap well and Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill never had a chance. Just 1.2 seconds after the snap, Harris had a sack.

The fastest sack of Week 12 came when Cardinals' safety Deone Bucannon came unblocked for a 1.5-second sack against the Seahawks.

[ad placeholder 3]

Longest Sack of the Weeks

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson buys time with his feet on a regular basis. He's also the most prolific running quarterback in the league; his 233 DYAR are more than double any other quarterback. He would have had even more if not for a mistake in Week 13.

After dropping back and looking for somewhere to throw against the 49ers, Wilson saw an opening to his left and took off. He had plenty of room to run but just before the line of scrimmage, he hit the football against his leg and fumbled. He dove on the fumble, and the 49ers covered him for an 8.1-second sack.

Wilson also had the longest sack of Week 12 as he held the ball for 6.5 seconds on a scramble to the sideline.


6 comments, Last at 28 Dec 2016, 4:51am

#1 by DavidL // Dec 05, 2014 - 3:27pm

Wow, #66 in that last GIF just didn't feel like blocking anyone, did he?

Points: 0

#2 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 05, 2014 - 3:46pm

Yea, he was so focused on blocking the guy coming in offscreen from 10 yards away, that he literally pushes out of the way the guys 2 feet in front of him.

Points: 0

#3 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 05, 2014 - 3:48pm

The two Jets blocking each other on the failed blitz pickup may not be as visually spectacular or disastrous as the Buttfumble, but philosophically it's almost as bad.

Points: 0

#4 by Raiderjoe // Dec 06, 2014 - 7:02am

A. Do,ald gerat potrntial. Sakd this before draft. Good for 4-3 defense. Short for psition but low man wins and has great drive,,footwork, strength

Points: 0

#5 by LelouchViBritannia // Dec 07, 2014 - 10:10pm

Top rookie pass rusher? I think Khalil Mack would have something to say about that.

Points: 0

#6 by pokem23 // Dec 28, 2016 - 4:51am

It has been always a great pleasure to such website for information. http://gta5moneycheats.com/

Points: 0

Save 10%
& Support JJ
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and JJ Cooper. Use promo code WRITERS to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip JJ.