The Art of Rushing the Passer: Introduction

Hello fellow Packer fans! In this post we will take a look at the art of pass rushing, and this year’s pass rushing prospects. After this past year it has become evident that you can never have enough pass rushers. Our OLB corps struggled for the most part, and Clay Matthews missed several games. That has to change if this 3-4 is supposed to work. Of course Nick Perry will be healthy for next season, but I still wouldn’t mind getting another guy to work into the rotation, while adding depth in case injury happens. Hey, anything to keep Walden riding the pine right? First things first, let’s go over the arsenal of moves available to an elite pass rusher.

Bull Rush:

The bull rush is pretty much the first move a player develops. This is because it is the simplest move, and in high school many of the elite college prospects are far more athletic than the man they’re facing. It is important that the rusher fully extend his arms into the OT he is facing, this is because more force can be generated and it will keep the OT from doing the same. Pass rushing is all about leverage, and this technique especially requires leverage. Once the ball has been snapped, the rusher will take 3-5 steps before engaging the OT. Once the rusher begins pushing the OT backwards he needs to think: Can I keep pushing the OT until reaching the QB, should I disengage and move in for the kill, what move should I use next? A lot of times bull rushes don’t work, and the rusher needs to use a different move to get to the QB.


The most important facet of the rip move is to gain leverage. The rip move is when the rusher uppercuts the OT’s arm (it can be either the outside arm or the inside arm, leverage is all that matters). What a lot of OT’s do to counter the rip move is to hook their arm around the rusher in order to try and slow them down, most of the time this gets called for holding though. Here is a picture of a rip move, you might recognize it...



Normally the OT's arm is not draped on the rushers shoulder and around his neck like that. This rusher needs to lift his right arm more in order to get more leverage. Of course, this could be a penalty, I'm not sure though.


This is one of the more difficult to execute moves, as it requires great quickness and balance. The best example of this move is the way Dwight Freeney does it, I’m sure you’ve seen it before. It often looks like a speed rush, where the rusher is trying to get around the OT, but then the rusher quickly spins inside to get to the QB. It works if the OT respects your speed/quickness enough to the point where he sets up farther outside in order to deal with all the speed.


The first part of the move is to drive the OT to the same depth in the pocket as the QB, at this time the rusher punches the tackle’s outside arm with his inside arm or by grabbing the tackle with his outside arm and jerking him outside. This makes the tackle shift his weight outside, at which point the rusher rips inside with the outside arm and leg. This merits the term, "crossing the face" of the OT. Our very own Reggie White had a move of this nature, it was called the "Hump" move. White didn’t have to rip under the OT every time because he clubbed so hard that sometimes the OT would fall over, or be knocked aside. The "hump" move is very difficult to do because one has to be a great edge rusher, have tremendous strength, and good timing.


The first thing about the swim move is that the rusher generally needs to be taller than the OT he is facing. The problem with the swim move is that it gives the OT a chance to punch the rusher, thus disrupting his balance and giving the OT leverage. This move starts like the other moves, with 3-5 steps. The rusher is trying to lower the tackle’s shoulders by using his outside arm to pull the tackle’s outside shoulder to his inside foot. Then, the rusher drives his inside foot past the tackle’s outside foot, this happens while he moves his inside arm over the pulled down shoulder of the OT. Sometimes the rusher "swims" his arm over the OT’s head, this is not advised, as it exposes the rusher to a counter punch by the OT.

Rushing the passer is a constant battle of hands and leverage. The most important thing about rushing the passer is to not allow the OT to get his hands on you. OT’s are generally stronger than the guys they’re facing, and they should be able to direct the rusher wherever they choose. A good pass rusher has several of these moves in his arsenal in order to keep the OT guessing and losing the battle of leverage. The best way to beat the OT is to string several moves together, the key is to fake one move and then execute another. It is hard for OT's to adapt to this while it is happening because a lot of times they do not know what is coming next.

One trick ponies don’t last too long in the NFL because the tackle only has to counter one move. While it is favored that a pro prospect has multiple moves in his arsenal, he can make up lack of technique with superior athleticism and learn technique after being drafted.

I’ll try and get up a post looking at this year’s prospects soon, as I have yet to do any film analysis.

This video is great for showing what goes into a pass rush, and you can recognize the moves I described.

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