Lets give credit where it's due. The raiders defensive line coach, Jethro Franklin, has done a great job developing his players. From elevating Khalil Mack's game to developing Mario Edwards Jr., his contributions have been invaluable. Yes, he does have some very talented clay to mold, but watching the film, it's clear that the Raiders defensive line plays with consistent and high-level technique.
This unit was the strength of the defense and kept it afloat while the other defensive units took time to develop. According to the brilliant Arif Hasan (@ArifHansanNFL), the Raiders ranked second in the league in pressure rate on opposing quarterbacks with a whopping 40.3% according to his metric.
A lot of that success has to do with Mack and his enormous improvement this year. He went from 4.0 sacks in 2014 to 15.0 sacks in 2015 under the tutelage of Coach Franklin.
With the offseason additions, the defense even has a chance to improve by deploying their own version of the Death Lineup, which I wrote about here. A technique that you will see Mack and many other of the Raider's pass rushers use is the long-arm technique.
The technique involves getting off the ball and "shocking" the offensive linemen with a strong punch to the chest with both hands. Getting leverage and hand placement are keys to a strong punch.
On the Raiders website practice notes, Franklin stressed the importance of hand placement with rookie defensive lineman, Jihad Ward: "Franklin was in constant discussion with Ward, routinely telling the rookie where to place his hands..." It may seem like a small detail but proper hand placement is essential because it allows rushers to apply force and control blockers.
You can see after Mack gets his hands in the proper position (inside the chest plate), he extends and locks out both of his arms. This action creates separation and push. He then uses one arm to control the tackle and throw him off balance, while keeping his other arm free.
The theory behind this technique is using one arm would allow the rusher to use the length of his arm and body to separate rather than just the length of his arms. It also gives the blocker a smaller surface area to block, as the chest isn't exposed.
Some coaches would coach Mack to place his hand in the middle of the tackle's chest, but Franklin has his players place his hand on the inside shoulder of the blocker.
When pass blocking, the offensive linemen's inside foot is considered his post foot. They have a heavy emphasis to try to keep the post foot low to the ground and in front of their back foot to cut off an inside move because it's the easiest path to the quarterback.
When Mack places his hand on the inside shoulder and extends, he throws the post foot and shoulder off balance and the blocker has no power or base. He gets thrown back and Mack uses his speed to get around the corner to cause a fumble.
Here, Edwards uses the same technique. He gets his hand on the inside shoulder, extends, and throws the tackle off balance. Instead of going outside through, he rips inside to get the sack. Edward's punch on the Tackle's inside shoulder is so strong that it lifts him off his feet and he can't get a good step inside to cut Edwards off.
As you can see, this is a very effective technique, but it takes a lot of practice to master, especially if a player hasn't used it in college. Mack and Edwards has been a living using it, and Mack has developed some good supplemental moves to add to his arsenal. The hope is that Coach Franklin could continue to develop his unit and instill these fundamentals into the Raiders rookies, and based on his recent success, Raiders fans should have the confidence that it will happen.
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