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Qualities Raiders should consider in their search for an edge rusher

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NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Kentucky vs Penn State Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Edge Bender is a player possessing size, speed, and elite hand placement. The edge bender, is set apart by a very unique ability to drop his hips and cut hard and fast around a tackle. The best edge benders have “Oily hips” or an ability to change direction quickly and efficiently, and start off every play with a sprinter’s “get off.”

There isn’t a clear cut definition for an edge player. In fact, modern edge players, play an adaptation of the old 52 defense.

When looking for an edge player, in essence what was formerly a tweener, is now a coveted player. A player measuring 6’2”-6’7” and between 250-280 pounds. Ideally this player will have a 40-yard dash time from 4.5 seconds up to 4.7 seconds, with 10-yard get offs in between 1.5 seconds to 1.8 seconds.

The main job of an edge rusher is to line up outside of the tackle/tight end at the start of the play, set the edge and/or rush the quarterback. These players generally rack up 5/15+ sacks and 30-70 tackles per year. A 3-4 defense uses OLBs. A 4-3 defense uses DE’s. -The Edge Designation| Fantasy Guru

The true edge monsters who rack up sacks are usually the guys on the edge who possess the power and technique to go through offensive tackles. When irresponsibly focusing solely on bend, setting the edge is cast to the wayside.

Getting hung up on the wrong distinction

Oakland Raiders general manager Mike Mayock created a list of football terms and defined them in 2016. As a general rule of thumb, anything containing the word scouting, coming from Mayock, is a gift from the football gods. However, a few concepts are over-used and applied as an end all, be all, solution.

“Running the arc” when an edge rusher uses his speed to run past the offensive tackle and then flattens his path to pursue the quarterback. Which leads to the most common evaluation of edge rusher; “The Bend.”

There are two different types of bend according to Mayock; one is highly covetable, the other is a pernicious lack of flexibility. A “Natural Bender” is a flexible, athletic offensive or defensive lineman that bends at the knees, not the waist. This is the desirable bend to have and often elicits marvel and admiration from all who see it.

A “heavy-legged waist bender” is an offensive or a defensive lineman who lacks the flexibility to drop his hips and bend at the knees, causing them to appear heavy-legged. This trait, causes players to plummet down positional draft boards.

How is this a bad thing or over-used? When glorifying players with one specific trait and glossing over shortcomings in other critical aspects.

The other responsibility

Being able to set the edge and hold it is a critical responsibility for an edge defender. With mobile quarterbacks extending plays longer than ever. Outside zone runs are taking the place of the toss sweep and it is imperative that containment assignments are maintained.

Way too often in running the arc, an edge rusher runs himself out of every play that isn’t a passing play. It’s why offensive coordinators call so many draw plays and screen passes as well as running stretch runs and outside zones to attack this technique.

Speed to power conversion is what sets the elite edge defenders apart from other players at the position. What makes Khalil Mack so special is the 25 pounds of muscle he put on to help him out leverage much larger offensive players.

Finishing plays strong

Pressures are a good measure of productivity for an edge rusher. The difference between pressures, sacks, and forced fumbles/strip sacks is finishing the play. Pressure is good, but if the play isn’t finished, the defense doesn’t get off the field. Strip sacks are the ultimate play for the edge rusher. To get one the edge player must beat the edge blocker, get to the quarterback, register a sack, and create a possible turnover opportunity.

As Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has publicly stated, pass rushers don’t grow on trees. Every guy with burst and a bend isn’t able to win purely off athleticism in the NFL. The other thing to remember about drafting pass rushing edge players is the fact that they often require at minimum 2-3 years to hit their full potential.