I was on 1040 AM earlier this week and I was asked if the Bucs have a shot against the Packers. I said that they do have a shot but only if the Bucs defensive line dominates the game and gets Aaron Rodgers off his game. Now I know people are highly skeptical that this could happen and honestly while I think we have enough talent to do it I'm not sure we will get it done on Sunday either. However I did say the same thing two years ago before the game down here when the Packers were coming to town. And I think most people would agree we have more talent up front now than we did then. Sure enough that Bucs defensive line went out and had their best game of the season and helped lead the team to victory. But just like two years ago I understand the skepticism so I decided to post some thoughts about what our game plan up front should be in order to dominate their offensive line again in my opinion.
First let me talk about their Offensive line. The weakest link in my opinion is the left tackle. The reason being is his set is so predictable. He is basically going to kick step twice, then turn his shoulders and try to ride the defensive end past the quarterback. That makes it hard for a speed rush to work most of the time but it also opens him up to all kinds of well timed inside moves. My preference would be our right end take three speed rush steps up field low and hard then spin back inside but we don't really have a lot of defensive ends that like to spin. That is ok though because Adrian Clayborn has a really good inside rip move and a good bull rush to inside rip move as well. His biggest priority has to be to get off the ball low and hard first though. The reason is if he doesn't sell that he is going to try to run around the left tackle then he never will turn his shoulders and really jump on the speed rush. That means he will be in a better position to block the inside rush which will make it harder for Clayborn to win.
The right tackle is a back peddle guy and I'll be honest I always hated those kinds of pass blockers. He doesn't get much width on his kick step and he rarely jumps on the right end. What he wants is just to stay directly between the right end and the quarterback almost forcing you to run into him rather than around him to get pressure. The problem for the defensive end is that although the tackle is back peddling, he is also staying low and preparing to be bull rushed. So he tried s to give you only one pass rush to use in a bull rush and he is setting to block that same bull rush. That and the fact that Rodgers doesn't take many really deep drops makes for quite the conundrum for the left end.
I think the way you attack that guy is line up tighter (closer) to his outside foot, get a great get off, and try to beat him to a spot five yards behind his outside foot on every play. I believe that Michael Bennett has the explosion off the line and the speed to beat him to that point on a regular basis but this year he has started dancing at the line off his get off a lot. It is going to be hard for that kind of move to work this week because the right tackle isn't trying to jump on any inside fakes. He will just continue to back peddle putting even more space between himself and Bennett. I know the worry for most left ends most weeks is that the go too deep around the quarterback and allow him to step up in the pocket and or escape to his right hand. Just for this week I would suspend that worry. I would tell Bennett to speed rush outside until his tongue is hanging out. Eventually as he keeps beating the offensive tackle to that spot, even if he isn't getting sacks, it will cause him to adjust his pass set. And once he starts having to either bail out and or getting more width then he will be wide open for a bull rush/inside move. But I wouldn't try that until later in the game.
As for the two guards and center they aren't anything special but they work ok as a group. In general the guards are going to set back for speed and only jump set at the line either on play action or versus a blitz. Now this gives all of our defensive tackles the option of bull rushing or making a quick inside move off the snap. And because Rodgers doesn't take a deep drop its possible to get push in his face using just those two pass rush options. I wouldn't advise any of the guys to try to make an finesse outside rush this game because Rodgers is so effective at moving around the pocket and when necessary taking off up the field when he finds a lane to run. If you are going to bull rush you commit to it and go all in on the bull rush. If you are going to make a quick inside move do it right now and don't stop until you get inside and up the field. This will not be a game where the inside rushers can afford to be indecisive or get stuck at the line.
Now if you have been paying attention you might be able to paint a picture in your mind of how these different pass rush plans will all work together to put pressure on Rodgers. You have the right end coming inside getting quick pressure and cutting off running lanes, you have the inside guys getting push and or making quick inside moves to cut off running lanes and you have the left end coming around the horn in case Rodgers feels the push coming right at him from the tackles and right end and decides to escape by dropping deeper around the rush. And this isn't a game plan just for a few 3rd and longs, this is a plan I would have the defensive line execute on almost every drop back pass until their offensive line adjusted to it.
Don't get me wrong its definitely easier said than done for it to actually work out this way. The point is if every one follows their individual game plan and is decisive with their moves then it all fits together like a puzzle to put them in the best position to get pressure while not allowing Rodgers lanes to run around in the pocket.
I also believe the Packers' offensive line is susceptible to pass rush games but I would only use two. First and foremost I would use TEX games as the lead pass rush game. The defensive tackles start in a 3 technique, come off with a rip move in the snap then try to get to the offensive tackle's back. The defensive ends, and this is REALLY important this week, get up the field low and hard for at least 3 steps and when they feel the defensive tackle get to the tackle's back they loop back inside. If the defensive ends get up the field this week and really sell the speed rush the TEX games will be very productive. Especially since Rodgers will likely see the middle open up and believe he will be able to just take off running right up the middle. He will likely never even see the defensive ends looping back inside before they hit him. But if those defensive ends don't sell the speed rush then the game will get blocked up and give option time to slice our secondary up.
A TOM game with the two inside rushers would also be a good option against the Packers. I haven't had an opportunity to watch a lot of film and break down which way the center slides obviously but assuming the Bucs have then they should know which way the center is going in certain sets. And with the Packers' center being a guy who moves decisively to the side he his supposed to block and the guards taking deeper sets it opens it up for the defensive tackle away from the slide to make an inside move, get to the center's block and penetrate while the defensive tackle to the side comes off low and hard to attract the guard and center then loops around to the opposite B Gap. Its a little risky because if its run wrong or the center blocks in the opposite direction from where they anticipate then it could part like the Red Sea and give Rodgers a wide open lane to see down the field or take off running. But still it could be a home run for them so I would sprinkle it in.
The Bucs should definitely NOT us EX games this week where the end comes inside and the defensive tackle on that side loops around outside for contain. The reason is with the guards dropping back instead of coming forward its going to be hard to penetrate that B gap. And if the end doesn't get penetration the game doesn't work. I just don't see that working out well for us.
One overlooked advantage of using pass rush games also is that in my experience it helps defensive linemen recognize screens. The guys who loop inside or outside generally get to see the offensive linemen releasing down field. Thus they have an opportunity to get involved in defending the pass. That is extremely helpful when playing a West Coast offense like Green Bay's that uses screens almost as a part of their running game.
That would be my pass rush plan for the Bucs defensive line versus the Packers. It is just one man's opinion and for sure not the only way to get it done. But I do believe if they rush Rodgers in this fashion they would have a lot of success and as we have seen this year you aren't going to beat that guy with coverage. He is simply too good and he has too many weapons. But if he is on the ground he can't complete many passes so that is where my focus would be in the game plan.
See you on Sunday!
PS: Two things.
1. Albert Haynesworth doesn't seem to like to play with his left hand down. Its a small thing but technique wise it kind of takes his first step a little wide when he is lined up on the right side. For that reason I would keep him lined up on the defense's left side as much as possible where that isn't a problem.
2. JerMichael Finley isn't a good blocker at all at tight end. I know this post is about pass rush and the Packers aren't a big time running team but when they do dare run the ball with him lined up as a tight end at the end of the line our guys should totally dominate that match up.