After one other slate stuffed with sacks, stops, and stuffs, let’s evaluation the standout performers from the trenches throughout Week 16:
Defensive Lineman of the Week: DT Aaron Donald, Rams
After two straight quiet weeks, Donald made some actual noise in opposition to the Arizona Cardinals, ending with 5 tackles, 4 quarterback hits, and three sacks in one in every of his finest performances of the season.
Donald dominated the Cardinals’ offensive line all through the sport, as his quickness and hand method had been an excessive amount of for the opposition to deal with. His first sack was an amazing instance:
Donald is aligned because the 3-technique defensive deal with with an outdoor shade over Arizona left guard Colby Gossett. As soon as the ball is snapped, Donald explodes out of his stance and pushes vertical.
The deal with’s vast alignment and get-off forces Gossett to succeed in exterior his body to try to decelerate the push. That is precisely what Donald desires, as he makes use of a perfectly-timed cross-chop to defeat the opposition’s palms.
Donald finishes with an efficient club-arm transfer, which eliminates Gossett’s skill to get better and permits No. 99 to get his hips on monitor towards the quarterback. From there, he accelerates to the center of the pocket to deliver down Josh Rosen for the sack.
Along with his three sacks in opposition to Arizona, Donald improved his whole to 19.5, three behind Michael Strahan’s single-season file of 22.5.
Nevertheless, Donald is so efficient at dashing the passer that it is simple to overlook how excellent he’s in opposition to the run:
Right here, the Cardinals make the unwise selection of leaving Donald single-blocked within the run sport and are punished accordingly.
As soon as the ball is snapped, Donald expands exterior and forces Gossett to lunge to make contact, and the Rams deal with eats lunging linemen for breakfast.
As Gossett makes an attempt to make contact, Donald is ready to parry the strike together with his exterior hand and carry out a rip transfer together with his inside hand to clear contact and get hip to hip with the guard. From there, Donald is ready to zoom into the backfield and end with the deal with for loss.
Donald’s skill to dominate video games in opposition to each the run and move makes him the most effective defensive tackles to ever step foot on an NFL area. Sunday was simply one other instance of that.
Cross Rush of the Week: DT Malik Jackson, Jaguars
After being one of the crucial disruptive inside defenders in soccer by way of his first two seasons with the Jaguars, Jackson has struggled this yr. He entered Sunday’s contest with simply 32 whole tackles (5 for loss) and one sack after recording 40 tackles (10 for loss) and eight sacks in 2017.
Jackson did not precisely proper the ship versus Miami, however his fourth-quarter sack supplied a glimpse of the participant he will be when he is at his finest:
Jackson is lined up because the 3-technique defensive deal with with an outdoor shade of Miami’s left guard. After the ball is snapped, he slants his rush from the weak-side B-gap into the strong-side A-gap, leaving him one-on-one with Dolphins middle Travis Swanson.
As soon as he will get inside placing distance, Jackson executes a long-arm stab together with his inside hand to ascertain the gap whereas utilizing a chop transfer together with his exterior hand, inflicting the Dolphins’ middle to tumble ahead as he missed together with his strike.
From there, Jackson pursues and brings down Ryan Tannehill for the sack.
In a yr when little has gone proper for Jackson, it was promising to see him show the method that led the Jaguars to offer him a six-year, $90-million contract in 2016. This fourth-quarter sack proves Jackson nonetheless has the talents to play at a excessive degree.
Run Defender of the Week: DT Brandon Mebane, Chargers
After lacking the earlier 4 video games to spend time together with his spouse and household following the untimely beginning of their daughter, Mebane made his return to the sphere in opposition to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night time.
It was in a shedding effort, however Mebane was unbelievable in opposition to the run, accumulating six tackles in 20 snaps.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 311 lbs, Mebane makes use of his pure leverage benefit to constantly maintain his floor, and when he attains superior hand placement on the level of assault, he is almost unimaginable to cease in opposition to the run:
Mebane is aligned because the nostril deal with with a slight shade over the Ravens’ middle. As soon as the ball is snapped, he fires out of his stance and initiates contact with the middle, permitting him to dictate the motion on the level of assault.
Superior hand placement permits him to drive the middle again a yard, resetting the road of scrimmage whereas creating the separation obligatory together with his size to shed the block and make the deal with after a minimal achieve.
Mebane demonstrates his mastery of the fundamentals, as he makes use of a easy stack-and-shed, or “bull-pull.”
Even in a loss, L.A. needs to be comfortable to have Mebane again patrolling the A-gaps on protection.
Within the Highlight: DE Chris Lengthy, Eagles
Enjoying on one of the crucial gifted defensive traces in soccer, it is simple to overlook about Lengthy. Nevertheless, the Virginia product is constantly one of many higher complementary pass-rushers in soccer.
At 6-foot-Three and 270 lbs, Lengthy makes use of his pace, effort, and lively palms to generate strain as a pass-rusher. He does a wonderful job of contorting his physique on the high of his rush to make it troublesome for offensive tackles to land a strike. Even when he is initially stymied, Lengthy stays lively together with his palms whereas persevering with to pursue the ball.
In an important sport to maintain Philadelphia‘s playoff hopes alive, Lengthy was at his finest off the sting, recording two tackles, three quarterback hits, two sacks, and a pressured fumble in opposition to the Texans.
He actually turned it on when the Eagles wanted him most, as each of his sacks got here within the fourth quarter. When Houston was driving to tie the sport early within the last body, it was Lengthy who got here up with the massive play:
He is aligned in a two-point stance with a large exterior shade over the Texans’ tight finish. After the ball is snapped, Lengthy explodes upfield and avoids the tight finish’s chip block earlier than leveraging his pace up the sting to emphasize the proper deal with’s move set.
As Deshaun Watson reaches the apex of his drop, Lengthy dips his inside shoulder – decreasing his blockable floor space – as he flattens to the quarterback. Watson initially steps up within the pocket to keep away from the push, however Brandon Graham‘s inside strain forces the quarterback to retreat proper into the defensive finish’s arms.
As an alternative of merely sacking Watson, Lengthy can be capable of knock the ball free, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Fletcher Cox. The Eagles turned that fumble into an important landing.
If Philadelphia finds its method into the playoffs, remember concerning the reserve defensive finish who helped make it occur.
John Proudly owning is a soccer author at theScore. He has written for Bleacher Report and Soccer Insiders. He was additionally the lead NFL content material editor at FanRag Sports activities. John gives evaluation on the Dallas Cowboys for the Dallas Morning Information and edits for The Quant Edge. Discover him on Twitter @JohnOwning.