After one other slate full of sacks, stops and stuffs, let’s evaluate the standout performers from the trenches within the divisional spherical of the NFL playoffs.
Defensive Lineman of the Week: LB Dee Ford, Chiefs
Justin Houston had extra sacks (two), however Dee Ford was the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs‘ finest line-of-scrimmage defender of their 31-13 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Ford completed with two quarterback hits, one sack, a compelled fumble, and 4 tackles, together with one for a loss.
Ford’s finest weapon off the sting is his pace rush, as he is among the finest within the NFL at transitioning from the vertical-burst part to the flattening part, which allowed him to build up a career-high 13 sacks within the common season. Together with blazing pace, he sometimes depends on flexibility and well-timed arms – the identical components that led to his sack towards the Colts.
On this play, Ford begins in a two-point stance with an out of doors shade over Colts proper deal with Braden Smith. As soon as the ball is snapped, Ford pushes vertical for 3 steps, beating Smith to the sting and stressing the blocker’s cross set within the course of.
Try Smith’s third step under – he is perpendicular to the road of scrimmage whereas making an attempt to remain in entrance of Ford:
That is dangerous information for any blocker, as their rear finish needs to be going through the quarterback always. Nonetheless, on this case, Smith’s again is going through the alternative sideline.
Subsequent, Ford enters the bend part of his pace rush, which connects the vertical and flatten phases. As soon as he will get inside distance, Ford paws together with his exterior hand, which leads Smith to boost his personal arms, opening up house for Ford to execute a rip transfer.
The highly effective rip transfer permits Ford to energy by means of the contact whereas turning a decent nook on the apex of Andrew Luck’s drop. From there, Ford flattens to the pocket, the place he is in a position to strip Luck for a fumble that is recovered by Kansas Metropolis.
Towards a Colts offensive line that was the most effective within the NFL at limiting stress and sacks this season, Ford persistently received to Luck whereas additionally sustaining his obligations towards the run. The New England Patriots will definitely be in powerful towards Ford – one of many league’s most improved edge defenders – within the AFC Championship Sport.
Cross Rush of the Week: DE Brandon Graham, Eagles
Right here, Graham begins exterior of Armstead after which pushes vertical for 2 steps earlier than squaring up the blocker and bobbing barely inside, which causes Armstead’s toes to freeze for only a second.
Despite the fact that Graham misses together with his preliminary hand swipe, Armstead’s slight hesitation is all he must win the sting. From there, Graham simply barely turns a decent sufficient nook to get inside vary of Drew Brees earlier than reaching ahead to knock the ball free.
It wasn’t the cleanest sack of the divisional spherical – and the ball was recovered by the Saints – however given Armstead’s blocking prowess, it might have been probably the most troublesome. Graham can be a free agent this offseason, and whereas he solely recorded 4 sacks within the common season, he is proven the power to beat anybody across the edge on any given snap.
Run Defender of the Week: DT Ndamukong Suh, Rams
And although he didn’t make a huge effect as a pass-rusher, Suh was dominant towards Dallas’ potent floor recreation, ending with 4 tackles and a ton of different disruptions. As a result of Donald obtained a lot consideration, Suh was typically single-blocked by Cowboys heart Joe Looney – and it didn’t go nicely for Dallas. Here is an excellent instance:
On this snap, Suh’s the nostril deal with and is aligned within the play-side A-gap between Looney and Cowboys proper guard Zack Martin. Dallas is operating an outside-zone idea during which Looney’s tasked with reach-blocking Suh to the within.
Nonetheless, as soon as the ball is snapped, Suh does nicely to remain forward of Looney and forestall the attain block. With Looney unable to cross his face, Suh intelligently makes use of his proper hand to create separation after which continues pursuing down the road of scrimmage unencumbered, ultimately making the deal with for a loss.
It’s uncommon to see a defensive deal with start in an A-gap and make a deal with close to the numbers, however Suh’s a uncommon expertise. General, the Cowboys’ excellent dashing assault managed simply 50 yards towards the Rams, and Suh was a significant component all through the sport.
Within the Highlight: DE Adrian Clayborn, Patriots
Adrian Clayborn‘s by no means going to guide the NFL in sacks – recording simply 2.5 within the 2018 common season – however he is a pleasant complementary piece on New England’s line of defense. Whereas cross dashing off the precise facet, Clayborn makes use of distinctive motion patterns and an excellent cross-chop transfer to search out success.
In the meantime, the Los Angeles Chargers make use of the worst beginning offensive deal with duo within the NFL, and Clayborn took benefit on Sunday, particularly throughout this sack:
Right here, Clayborn’s begins with a large exterior shade over Chargers left deal with Russell Okung. As soon as the ball is snapped, Clayborn first veers inside, which prevents Okung from getting the required width in his cross set to defend the cross chop.
Making issues worse, Okung makes an attempt a two-hand strike whereas making an attempt to hop again exterior, that means each of his toes are off the bottom. Clayborn predictably makes use of the cross-chop transfer to defend the strike earlier than transitioning right into a rip transfer whereas powering by means of the contact.
From there, Clayborn fights by means of Okung’s egregious maintain to journey up Philip Rivers for the sack.
Not like most of the high pass-rushers, Clayborn isn’t blessed with nice athleticism or energy, and he doesn’t possess an unlimited array of strikes to compensate. As a substitute, he is largely a one-trick pony, counting on different footwork to arrange his cross-chop transfer.
However not each pass-rusher will be Von Miller, and Clayborn nonetheless performs a beneficial function for the Patriots whereas proving able to beating the league’s non-elite offensive tackles.
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 offers evaluation on the Dallas Cowboys for the Dallas Morning Information and edits for The Quant Edge. Discover him on Twitter @JohnOwning.