Buccaneer OL Review: Week 2 - pass protection (part two)

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After a poor showing in week one, the Buccaneers OL certainly appeared to have a significantly better outing against the Saints - but does the game film bear that out? We turn to the coaches film to find out.

I explained in the first part of the pass protection review how, even on plays where Freeman seemingly didn't get much pressure, there were still defenders coming free due to poor technique, and apparent miscommunication. Let's now turn to some plays where Freeman definitely got pressure on him, before finishing up with some fine, fine protection work by the OL.

Under pressure

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What you see above is the first part of the sack/fumble. I'm going to focus solely on the blocking aspect here. While Freeman held on too long, so I do put the sack on Freeman, he wasn't helped by a horrible combination of passing routes with nary a concept between them. Nonetheless, I want to focus on the match up I've highlighted above - Donald Penn on Cameron Jordan. Let's switch to the aerial shot:

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I've circled the two players in question above. At first, it all seems fine - Penn has helmet inside of Jordan, forcing him outside, but he should be in position to wash Jordan upfield past Freeman. The problem is that Jordan uses his hands very well, and is able to use his slightly longer arms - 35" compared to Penn's 33" - to get separation from Penn, as you can see here:

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I've drawn a yellow line to show you the distance between Penn's and Jordan's feet. It's a pretty significant distance, and Penn's response is to lean into the block - which would prove disastrous if Jordan is able to use a swim move, as Penn would have his center of gravity too far forward, causing him to stumble and letting Jordan pass him.

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Subtle foreshadowing, right? Yes, Jordan uses a swim move to get under Penn, who loses his footing (in the yellow circle), allowing Jordan (in the blue circle) to emerge with an arm in the air poised to grab Freeman's throwing arm...

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... and brings it down to strip the ball.

In the next pass play, Freeman is flushed out the pocket and hit as he's thrown, though the ball gets into Jackson's hands before being dropped (though it was a tough throw and catch for both).

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There are a few match ups that grabbed my attention on this play. The first was Joseph on Akiem Hicks, here in the yellow circle. Keep your eye too on Jon Jenkins, #92 - this guy was an absolute beast against the run when I watched this game, and gave Zuttah fits all day with his technique and strength. Worse still, he's only a rookie - he's a guy I am not glad will be lining up against our center for years to come, if this game is any indication (luckily he's not yet as good against the pass).

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In the yellow circle, if you expand the photo you should be able to see that Hicks' left hand is outside of Joseph's right arm,so that Hicks' arm is actually lifting, and penning in, Joseph's upfield arm. This is to set him for a rip move - something Joseph opens himself up to with his hand placement: note that Joseph's downfield hand (his left) is on Hicks' shoulder, rather than his chest. This will give Hicks' right arm added clearance room for the rip. In the blue circle, meanwhile, Jenkins is attempting to get inside of Zuttah, but the center is holding firm.

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Those three photos show Hicks completing the rip move, getting free off of Joseph's block. There is a technique, similar to the counter-swim technique, for the rip move (which we'll again discuss when we see Penn performing the counter-swim later), but by putting his hand on Hicks' shoulder rather than his chest, Joseph's hand placement was going to make it unlikely he would be able to get in position for the counter-rip. You'll also see I've circled Penn and Carimi blocking Jordan in red. I'll also add, keep an eye on Gallette (#93) on the left hand side - he loops inside after initially coming at Dotson. Because Joseph's been turned round to try block Hicks, there's no-one to block Gallette throughout the play.

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You can seen now in the yellow circle, Hicks just needs to keep his downfield arm on Joseph's chest to keep separation and he's got a clear path to the QB. Jordan has managed to beat Penn outside, but Penn will, with remarkable effort, put all his weight into pushing Jordan upfield, so that he actually ends up overshooting Freeman. Jenkins, meanwhile, being fruitless in attacking Zuttah's inside, starts a spin move to get around the center.

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Zuttah, however, reads it well, can see Jenkins' aiming point and positions himself to get onto Jenkins as soon as he's finished his spin. In the red circle, Penn is extending himself to make sure Jordan is pushed away from Freeman, but Hicks, with his arm still on Joseph, is quickly closing in on the quarterback. Gallette, who had fallen to the floor due to cutting inside so sharply, is getting back up just in time to chase down Freeman.

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In the red circle and the blue circle, you can see Jordan and Jenkins have been put out of position to make a play on Freeman by their linemen; the same cannot be said for Hicks and Gallette...

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...which ends up looking like this.

But it wasn't all bad!

Quite the opposite, actually. I include particular plays in my OL reviews because I feel they illustrate something important, and I picked three of those four plays because they highlighted something that really jumped out on tape to me: hand work. Whether it's poor hand placement, or just beaten by the superior hand work of the Saints (and their DL did seem to use their hands incredibly well to beat the the OL), it's something that stood out on tape as an issue, and one that needs to be corrected. While he's only a semi-lineman, when we get to the run blocking, Luke Stocker shows some atrocious hand placement that straight-up kills some run plays. In general, though, our pass protection was definitely better (though not as good as PFF would have you believe), so we'll finish with two passing plays where not a single pass rusher came free.

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The Saints send four on this play, with an end-over-tackle stunt on the right side of the screen.

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Cameron Jordan tries to get across Carimi's face, but the tackle-turned-guard actually does a good job here, getting his hands on Jordan quickly (even if the hand placement isn't great) and preventing him from getting to that B-gap.

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I've marked with a yellow line the loop Gallette's about to execute, with the expectation that Carimi has been turned around enough by Jordan to let him in behind and have a shot at the QB. However, as marked by the blue line, Zuttah's got his eyes locked on Gallette.

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You can only see his right leg, so I've had to circle him in yellow, but Penn sees Jordan trying to beat Carimi inside, and comes in to block him out. In the reddish-circle, I spotted something that initially seems worrying - Davin Joseph dropping his head again, which typically hasn't ended well - while you can see Hicks is setting Dotson up for a swim move.

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However, as you can see in the red circle, Dotson immediately brings his arm up and gives Hicks a shot to the outside shoulder, turning Hicks' body outwards and preventing him from executing the swim move (a useful counter-technique, but not my personal preferred one, which we'll see on the next play). Meanwhile, in the yellow circle, Zuttah is just absolutely bringing the wood on Gallette, in a very fun-looking hit. Joseph has managed to lift his head, and you may be able to tell from the shot, is actually sinking his backside towards the floor...

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... which is, frankly, absolutely textbook technique. Though Jenkins is ridiculously strong, sinking his hips allows Joseph to dip lower then Jenkins, before firing upwards underneath his pads to stand Jenkins up and kill off all his momentum. I've been critical of Joseph over the past two reviews, but this particular play shows some of the finest OL technique the Bucs have seen over the first two games of the season, using his chops to stop a stronger and bigger opponent - proving that technique wins out over size in the trenches. In the red circle, you can see Gallette falling onto his rear from Zuttah's hit, while Carimi and Penn stop Jordan, and on the other side of the field, Dotson's punch to Hicks' arm not only prevents the swim, but causes Hicks to back up and disengage to try and get around the edge to get to Freeman - a delay which gives Freeman plenty of time to get the pass off.

Unfortunately, the pass was incomplete. You can't have everything in life.

This last play, though, was a 20-yard completion to Vincent Jackson on the Bucs' final possession of the game.

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The Saints will rush five of the six you see in the above shot, with Lofton (who's over Stocker) tracking the tight end when he heads into his route.

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The first two blockers to engage their defenders are Carimi and Zuttah, both circled. The problem is that both these players are bullrushed backwards, though it's hard to tell that from a still shot, naturally.

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Carimi is the first one to counter his bullrush: you can see in the yellow circle, Carimi gets his hands upinside the defender's hands - correct hand placement - while he starts breaking down his feet to stop the momentum. In the blue circle, Martin comes in at a quite frankly dangerous angle - you can see his helmet is completely down, which is a good way of breaking your neck. The DE on Penn, menawhile, has gotten his hands inside of Penn in the red circle - this will set up a swim move to the outside.

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You can see here, Martin wisely lifts his head up slightly, getting his face cage - as opposed to the crown of his helmet - into the chest of the rusher. Penn, meanwhile, is being led around the outside - little realising that the DE is about to use a swim move to try and get inside of him. In the yellow circle, Carimi has, much the same as Joseph on the previous play, broken his feet down enough so that his center of gravity is over his feet, allowing him to push upwards through the DT's pads, killing off the bullrush momentum. Dotson, meanwhile, is getting away with a sneaky hand to the face. You can also see that Zuttah is struggling to achieve the same results as Carimi in dealing with his bullrush.

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Luckily for him, Joseph does what he might (could?) have done on the touchdown play to Roman Harper - comes in and absolutely cleans out the DT, in the white circle. Dotson, meanwhile, has disengaged from the DE's helmet, forcing the DE to widen out a little. Martin has driven his defender back a few yards, while Carimi locks in with the DT. Most interestingly to me is the red circle - the DE has swum around Penn to get inside of him.

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Penn, however, utilises what is sometimes known as the "hip-to-point" technique, and it's one of the most effective counter-swim moves that there is. As the DE swims Penn, he exposes all of his side by lifting his arm up for the swim move. This exposes his hip to Penn; Penn quickly slams his left hand on the DE's hip. Penn's right hand, meanwhile, is already on the DE's chest due to getting his hand in the correct placement initially. With one hand on his chest, and another on his hip, Penn is now perfectly poised to drive the defender sideways - which in this instance would be up the hash marks on the field - and completely away from the quarterback. It's an incredibly effective technique, and Penn uses it perfectly here. It was this technique Stocker could have used earlier, and a related technique - "pit-to-point", where the offensive lineman places his hand in the defender's armpit instead of on his hip - that Joseph could have used against Hicks' rip. Meanwhile, Carimi's defender has disengaged, but too late to affect the play, Dotson has re-engaged with the DE, blocking him out the play, Martin pushed his defender back far enough that even when he's disengaged form the running back, he's too far out to ever get to Freeman, and Joseph's victim is heading facewards into the floor, all of which leaves Freeman nice and upright to complete a 20-yarder to Jackson, all while, apparently, practising his prancing Cera.

Be sure to check back later for a review of the team's run blocking!

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