A lack of pressure has been a constant issue for the New York Jets over their nine-year playoff drought.
Previous sack breakdowns:
- Why sacks are a misleading stat for evaluating individual defenders
- Film: Sacks created by the pressure of someone other than the finisher
- Film: Sacks created by excellent coverage
- Film: How pass-rushers can make a positive impact on non-sack plays
Teams and front-seven players are deservedly knocked for failing to rack up pass-rushing production over a long period of time. But what exactly do the negative effects of a silent pass-rush look like on a given play?
Let’s look back at the Jets’ 2019 season for examples of how poor pass-rushing can hamper the defense.
Weak four-man rush
The simplest form of pass-rush failure is the inability to create pressure with a four-man rush.
When a team rushes only four, they do it so they can drop seven defenders into coverage to give themselves a numbers advantage in the backend. If the four-man rush can create pressure despite being at a numbers disadvantage against the men in protection, the defense is in an almost unbeatable position considering the number of players they have clogging up throwing lanes.
However, if the four-man rush fails to get home, the defense is in trouble. No defense can hold up in coverage forever, regardless of how many men are back there. If the offensive line (and any other protectors) does its job – maximizing its numbers advantage to give the quarterback a clean pocket – somebody will inevitably break open.
The Jets rush four on this play and create no pressure whatsoever. On the offense’s right side, Kyle Phillips is taken out of the play as Rex Burkhead uses his route to essentially run Phillips off the line. Inside left, Foley Fatukasi draws a double-team to create one-on-ones for Bronson Kaufusi (outside left) and Steve McLendon (inside right). Neither can win their battle. Jakobi Meyers toasts Darryl Roberts and Tom Brady gets an uncontested throwing opportunity.
The Jets rush four on this play and do not even come close to Lamar Jackson. The MVP converts a wide-open deep touchdown to Marquise Brown after the Jets bust a coverage. Had the pressure gotten home, Jackson may have had to scramble or release the ball before the coverage bust occurred. Instead, Jackson has enough time to recognize it, and Baltimore gets six points due to the lack of pressure.
(Side note: Nathan Shepherd violently shed Marshal Yanda just as the ball was thrown on that play. It was late in the rush, but an impressive flash nonetheless.)
When a defense blitzes, the goal is to get home quickly. They are sacrificing men in coverage for a numbers advantage up front with the hope of instantly destroying the play. Failing to do so makes it nearly impossible to win the down as the offense gets a favorable matchup between its receiving options and the defenders in coverage.
The Jets send five rushers on the following play and are completely shut down, leading to an easy first down for Pittsburgh.
All five defenders on the line of scrimmage get a one-on-one matchup and all five fail to penetrate the pocket. Neville Hewitt is in man coverage on the running back and rushes once he sees the back stay in to protect, but even Hewitt cannot slip through. Diontae Johnson takes advantage of his one-on-one matchup against Arthur Maulet outside, and Devlin Hodges finds him from a clean pocket. This play showcases the risk of a blitz – if it’s thwarted, the offense will probably win the play easily.