This is how I party. In my down-time, I’ve been trying to google about how to improve the defensive line play. In particular, I’ve been interested in the Dallas Cowboys because they have seemingly put together a terrific defense with a defensive line of good, but not great players. Some of those players are mere castoffs and essentially picked up off the scrap heap to be part of a pretty good Dallas defense. Not great, just good. And just good is what Texas Tech needs
Maybe I’m attracted to this idea because of proximity and it’s the team that I main watch, but there is something to what Rod Marinelli has done throughout his career.
Marinelli employs this concept where he calls each of the down linemen rushmen, the idea being that no matter what, he wants every one of those linemen bringing it each and every play and he wants a rotation of eight. It sounds simplistic because it is:
“I always use the term ‘four equals one,’” he said. “Four men equals one in terms of rush lanes, in the run (game), everything we’re doing. We’re all accountable to the defense.”
And Marinelli really does run out 8 guys on a consistent basis, take note of the snap counts on the defensive line where no player has more than 59% of the snaps, of of the eight, no player has fewer than 26% of the snaps. It’s not absolutely 50/50, but it’s pretty close.
The one thing that’s absolutely puzzled me for the past 3 or 4 years is the defensive line’s inability to escape. When searching for Marinelli things on Brophy Football, I ran across this post about defensive line play and I found myself both nodding and shaking my head all at the same time (emphasis mine):
The get-off, separation, and escape have to be conditioned into defenders as the rhythm in which they operate….if they are STILL ENGAGED with blockers after the 5th step, you have problems. Those offensive linemen / blockers don’t have the ball!
How many times have you seen one of Texas Tech’s defensive linemen do this?
Also, we should be conditioning them to accomplish each movement in coordinated footsteps. This isn’t unmetered “free time”, it is a choreographed dance they need to be working with. They should be making contact on the first step, separating/leveraging on the 2nd step, etc….just teaching get-offs on air has really no game time application. Getting them from the coiled hips (stance), to contact, to extension (separation) is what is going to determine the line’s success on game day.
This is Texas Tech vs. Baylor. For me, arguably the defensive line’s best game. Watch this spot, right here, where every single one of the defensive linemen are working in unison. They all are going under the left shoulder of the opposing defensive lineman and making a move where Malik Jenkins is able to clean up and make the tackle. The very next play, every single lineman is taken out of the play and Jah’Shawn Johnson and Jordyn Brooks come up to make a play from the safety and linebacker spot. Now watch the very next play. Baylor is going with 12 personnel, so that’s 7 blockers, but regardless, every single one of the defensive linemen are still with their offensive linemen after their 5th step. This is exactly what an offensive lineman wants to do. There’s no separation, there’s no pressure until Brooks comes in late, but even he’s chipped off by the running back. That’s the problem.
Count the steps. Replay it each time and count the steps for each defensive lineman. There’s no clear action on any of the defensive linemen’s part and there’s no move being made.
Watch this second series. The first play, the only player that gets off his blocks is Broderick Washington and he’s away from the play (not his fault, just pointing it out). Second play, the line gets off their blocks and I think that’s a decent play. The third play, no one gets off their block except for Kris Williams, who is ripping through the lineman at the top of the screen, but the play is going away from him. The next play shows Washington getting free, but it’s a quick out and there’s not hardly any time for a rush. Second and 7 shows the defensive line just swallowed up, but bailed out by a hold that wasn’t necessary on the second level on Luke Stice. Second and 13 and the entire line is moved off the line of scrimmage for 3 yards or moved out of the play. However, this is the play where Jah’Shawn Johnson stripped the ball and Stice recovers the ball. That’s a win for the defense, but it was a play made by Johnson.
You get the idea. There’s more bad than good, and that was Texas Tech’s best game.
I think the key here is that hopefully, the Baylor game was an indication of some improvement and consistency. I want to emphasize that this was a game where the defensive line did do some good things. There was pressure and there were turnovers and big plays behind the line of scrimmage, but I think given the number of plays that Texas Tech runs through, Gibbs and David Patrick have to have rushmen. They cannot afford to run out the same guys drive after drive. In fact, after three drives, Texas Tech is still running out Breiden Fehoko. He might be a bit gassed, but this is pretty much unacceptable. This is right after Texas Tech scored on 1 play, the 40 yard pass from Mahomes to Cantrell. The line is Fehoko and Mychealon Thomas, who is doing some really good things with his hands and moving.
That’s Fehoko, still engaged with his lineman, who he took on one-on-one. The quarterback is about to throw the ball (he’s at the 41) and Fehoko is still engage and at the original line of scrimmage. I’m not faulting Fehoko here (although he’s not making any moves with his hands or really trying to disengage at all), like I said, he’s probably gassed from playing three straight drives. It’s up to the coaches to pull players if they’re tired. When coach Patrick said that his best players were still here, I think this is what he was talking about.
I think the point of all of this though is that when we say that Texas Tech needs to find a pass rush, there’s not one guy that’s going to do it. I don’t think “that guy” is on this team just yet (maybe some of the younger players will develop into that). There’s not a guy that I think is capable of double-digit sacks. The Cowboys have 36 sacks, which puts them 13th in the NFL, which isn’t bad or great. Not one player has more 6 sacks and I think that’s by design. I hope, that by design that Texas Tech is able to develop a collective pass rush.
In watching these old clips, the drills aren’t revolutionary, but that’s one thing that Marinelli somewhat demands, which is that you give give it your all each and every rep.