Bull Rush: Fine Tuning Critical For Saints

December 22nd, 2009

Former Bucs DE Steve White

JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Steve White spent every season of the Tony Dungy era playing defensive end for the Bucs. He’s spent countless hours in the film room with the likes of Warren Sapp, Rod Marinelli and more. Joe is humbled to now have White, also a published author and blogger, as part of the JoeBucsFan.com team. Below is White’s weekly Bull Rush column that breaks down all things defensive line. It’s simply a can’t-miss read for the hardcore Bucs fan.

Great win Sunday by the Bucs. Our defense went out there and played their best game of the year against a team that we have had a hard time beating at their place.

 The first half was kind of shaky, but in the second half the whole team dominated en route to our second victory of the season in decisive fashion.  Our offense got the running game going and possessed the ball, and our defense hit them in the mouth and got off on third downs.

That was Buc Ball!

As a unit, the defensive line played well. Good, but not great. As happy as I was that we won, I still see areas of improvement. Areas that will need to improve if we want to have a chance in hell of beating the Saints on Sunday. I don’t want to rain on our second win of the season, but I do want to make note of several points where we can get better.

The Seahawks were able to double team our nose tackle and then have the guard come off up to the linebacker and run in the nose tackle’s expanded A-gap. The guy who had the biggest problem with this — and for most of this year — was Ryan Sims. That’s not to call him out because otherwise he played a pretty good game, but you had better believe that the Saints will try the same thing.

The problem as I see it is when Sims feels the double team he plays heavy into the center, which makes it easier for the guard to push him inside. If he could instead put pressure back into the guard, then when the guard comes off he would be in better position to make a play.

That would also make it easier for him to split those double teams and keep the O-lineman from going up to the linebacker. Now believe me, I know it’s easier said than done. That’s over 600 pounds of pressure hitting Sims all at once. Still, its what he and the rest of the defensive tackles are going to have to do going up against this week to keep the Saints from trying to hit the run up inside the A-gaps.

Oh, and someone should get to Dre Moore and tell him to change his stance when he is the weak tackle. If he continues to line up straight ahead instead of cocking his stance, the Saints are going to maul him on double teams because he is giving them too much of a surface to hit.

The second thing that has to get better in a hurry is our pass rush on play-action pass. Now when we are in an over defense, shifted strong to the tight end side, it’s harder to get a rush on play-action pass because of our run fits, but when we are in an under defense, shifted away from the tight end, we should be getting more out of our 3-technique and weak defensive end.

In our under defense, the defensive tackle away from the tight end side is in a 3-technique in the B-gap between the guard and offensive tackle. The defensive end to that side is in a wide-5 technique outside of the offensive tackle. Because there is no tight end there, and because the gap inside of him is covered by the defensive tackle, the defensive end should be getting upfield hard at the snap of the ball. If it is a running play, then this will help him keep everything contained inside of him. But if it is a pass play then getting upfield should help him get into a pass rush move almost immediately.

In fact, when playing under defense, I would tell the defensive end to that side to play pass first and think about pass rush moves pre-snap and then adjust if it is a run. The defensive tackle can also get up field hard, although they have to be more prepared to play the run because the guard and offensive tackle could still combo block him. But if it is a pass, then the D-tackle should be getting into a move on his second step and getting upfield also. Those two guys should be getting after the quarterback on every play action pass.

One of the things I think all of our defensive linemen could improve is getting off on the ball in early downs.

Too many times Sunday I saw the ball being snapped and guys still being in their stance for half a count. I think some of that probably goes back to how we were playing Jim Bates’ scheme earlier in the year which was more of a read and react. Well, those days are over. And it’s time for guys to get off the ball and put pressure on the offensive linemen rather than allowing them to kick-step back and wait on them.

In conclusion, there are two other specific pass rush issues I want to address.

The first deals with our defensive tackles. Our guys are giving up their chest too much and aren’t making enough moves.

The reason for this is that most of them, but especially Roy Miller, are starting off their rushes by reaching out wide for the offensive guards. When they do this, they end up giving up their chest for the offensive linemen to punch.

Even on a bull rush the guy with inside hands wins. So what Miller and the other guys need to do is work on keeping their hands closer together and when they want to work a move, instead of reaching out for the offensive lineman’s shoulder pads, anticipate where their hands are going and knock them down right in front of them.

An offensive lineman is usually taught to punch with both hands to a defensive lineman’s chest. Because of that, if a defensive lineman anticipates this and targets those hands and wrists where they know they are going to be, right in front of their chest, then they have a greater chance of knocking them down than if they are reaching out for them. Chris Hovan is usually really good at this but even he has started reaching out a little too much.

The other issue is with the TEX game (tackle penetrates, defensive end loops inside to A gap). Now if it seems like I am obsessed with this pass rush game, then perhaps I am a little.

Back in the day we made this game one of the most successful around the league and we put fear in the opposing offensive linemen with it. It got to the point where we could fake the game and have the offensive linemen looking like fools. But there is a right way to run a TEX game and a wrong way, and our defensive ends still haven’t figured that out.

Here is the deal: you can’t be late looping inside if you are a defensive end running a TEX game. No matter how far you get upfield and how late you wait, if the defensive tackle gets to the offensive tackle’s back, you win. The ONLY way to screw this game up is if the defensive end loops inside too fast. When you do that then you ruin not only your own rush, but also that of the defensive tackle.

And the result is you have a quarterback back there with time to bake cookies before he throws while both of our guys are blocked up. So please, pretty please somebody get Greg (Stylez) White, Jimmy Wilkerson, and Tim Crowder to get their asses upfield to set up the TEX game and give themselves and their defensive tackles a chance to make a play.

Again, I want to congratulate our guys on a great game and a hard fought victory. But it’s a fact of life in the NFL that you have to go out and prove it every week. Nobody is going to give a damn about this game if we go out and get embarrassed in New Orleans next week.

So celebrate the win and the victory Monday, and then let’s get better this week before we take the Saints to war on Sunday.

9 Responses to “Bull Rush: Fine Tuning Critical For Saints”

  1. aldo Says:

    steve, i wanna ask u something, its obvious we are going to draft a DT sooner than later, we are in a very good position, tell me, what are the prospects u wanna pick for the bucs??? i Suh a really stud?? are mccoy or another one a good choice???

  2. Trox Says:

    I’m really kind of suprised the coaching staff doesn’t give Q. Black the chance to rush at LDE on nickel situations. I would think with his speed it would give RTs fits. I know there was some chatter of this happening in training camp, but I guess it never got off the ground.

  3. sgw94 Says:

    @aldo Suh is a stud but I am still not sold on him as an undertackle. I think he fits more as a 3-4 defensive end or a left end on a 4-3 team that wants big defensive linemen but I still haven’t seen him use a lot of pass rush moves and the scheme in Nebraska requires him to read and react rather than get off the ball upfield. A lot of the things he is doing in college won’t necessarily translate into the pros, at least not on a consistent basis. Its great that he can toss around offensive linemen in the Big 12, don’t get me wrong, but you aren’t going to be a dominant defensive lineman in the NFL unless you develop quick pass rush moves inside and I just haven’t seen that from him. I like McCoy because he has shown those moves but I think the pressure is too high to take Suh if he is available for them to pass on him. I will say this though, a defensive tackle usually takes years to make a big impact, thats why I would prefer getting one in free agency if it were up to me. But I think unless somebody takes him before us you can already put Suh in a Bucs uniform.


    From what I saw of Quincy Black in the preseason he isn’t that great of a straight up pass rusher. He can blitz and he is fast and physical, but he never has any moves either. I will say however that in the last two weeks the Bucs have experimented with some 3-4 looks on 3rd down with Black and White being the outside linebackers rushing off the edge. So far the results havent been all that earth shattering, but they are trying to create ways to get him involved in the pass rush. Of course the easiest way would be to zone blitz on early downs out of under defense, but so far we haven’t done a lot of that.

  4. jvato24 Says:

    Steve, Do you believe a coach like Rod Marinelli would correct these problems ???

    Overall do you see a difference in the game Raheem Morris is calling compared to Kiffin in the past ???

  5. sgw94 Says:


    Yeah, Rod would have probably fixed at least some of the things I pointed out by now.

    As far as a difference in Raheem and Monte, yeah there are differences. They call different kinds of blitzes and Raheem uses 3 man rushes a little more than Monte would have. But I have been good with Raheem’s gameplans for the most part

  6. BigMacAttack Says:

    Thanks Steve. I have been watching more highlights of Eric Berry, and I like that he is playing for Monte Kiffin. He is a superior athlete, no doubt, and I think he walks right into the Tampa 2, like Tanard did with excellent results. I have really taken to heart what you have said about Suh. You haven’t wavered in that assessment either. It seems like our D line is improving and it takes all 4 to be a success. With the a Safety like Berry though, it could shore up our defense for years. I can see more coverage sacks happening as well, so maybe passing on Suh, saving umpteen million dollars and picking Berry 2’nd or 3’rd may be the best move for the Bucs. Depending on the needs of the other 3-13 teams, if they want a QB, maybe the Bucs trade down and still get Berry. Didn’t Monte say that Berry would be a great choice for the Bucs. I think so.

  7. sgw94 Says:

    @BigMacAttack What I value most about Berry is that he is so versatile. He could end up playing the nickle back on 3rd downs or a deep safety or hell in some cases a line backer position and in a pinch a cornerback. With him it would enable us to move Ronde around too since people normally expect him to be the guy blitzing out of our secondary. And he would give us that physical presense when we have 8 in the box that we have been missing. One thing you didn’t see much of during his college career was him missing tackles whether when he was down in the box or out in space. I just think when you have him paired up with T Jack it would open up the world of possibilities for whomever the defensive coordinator is next year. Suh, no matter who he goes to, is going to take time to develop. But I think Berry is going to walk in as a starter next year and ball for which ever team that picks him. I still think we will end up taking Suh if he is available but that doesn’t mean we should.

  8. BigMacAttack Says:

    Thanks big man, I see your point. I watched Tenn a couple times this year, the Gator game closely and the guy is arguably the #1 player in the draft, for the reasons you stated, especially INSTANT IMPACT and that is what we need. I also believe if Mark Dominick was 100% sold on Suh right now they would have pulled the same crap the Rams did by trying to solidify that #1 pick. Also with the way things are now with rookies, pending new CB agreement, I could see $30 Million+ guaranteed for Suh, or a hold out, and none of that makes sense. I like Brandon Spikes if he makes it to the 2’nd round too.

    The Saints proved vulnerable last week. Goodwin, the center got hurt and the Bucs can exploit that. He will play though. I think the Saints left tackle can be beat too as shown by Dallas. Jammal Brown, their starter is a beast, but he’s on IR. The Bucs D line could have a good day if our Secondary is healthy. Dallas tore them up. Watch out for the Brees Screen. Oh yea, maybe no Reggie Bush either.

  9. PoundThatRock Says:


    As usual great insights on the Bucs, especially when it comes to line play. I really enjoyed this writeup, as well as the vlog on the TE play killing our line game. Thank you SO much for the service and I hope you continue your analysis for years to come (if not longer).

    I do have a couple questions related to the DLine and their play I’m hoping you can address.

    While I’ve never played organized football, I do know that for any linemen, some of the most important, and basic techniques, are how high to be in your stance, your footwork and positioning, and the use of hands. Yet as you point out, some of these fundamentals seem to be lacking this year.

    Why do you think these things are not being addressed, and what do you think about Nunn and Wash as the DLine coaches? I know we don’t have the full stable of great pashers and penetrating, disrupting tackles, but when you can point to things like poor hand placement, it just makes me wonder about the job being done by our coaching staff.

    Thanks again Steve. Really wonderful and insightful commentary. I really do look forward to seeing your analysis after each game.