NFL teams try to copy Giants' blueprint at the draft
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Posted: April 14, 2008
If you don't believe a great pass rush can stymie a potent offense, you didn't see the Giants torment Tom Brady in Super Bowl 42. They sacked the Patriots' quarterback five times, flattened him or pressured him on at least a dozen other plays and held a New England team that scored a record 589 points during the regular season to 14 points.
The Giants raised the flag for pass rushers everywhere. NFL teams are notorious copycats -- if one ever wins a Super Bowl using the single wing, the others will ponder switching to that offense -- so players who can consistently pressure the quarterback have become more coveted in the wake of the Giants' championship. Such players are hard to find, and teams that have them don't give them up easily.
The next step will be finding those types of players in the draft.
"Most people in our league understand the importance of the pass rusher," says Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of college scouting. "You're going to see a lot of these pass rushers come off the board quicker than some other positions."
Sporting News' War Room scouts project five defensive ends will be selected in the first round of this year's draft. Several other pass rushers, including some tackles and linebackers, also are expected to be first-round picks.
Most mock drafts have the Dolphins taking Virginia end Chris Long No. 1 overall. Given that Miami is in the same division as New England, Long would be a sound selection. He should be able to help Miami defend Brady and Co. whether he lines up in a 4-3 defense or a 3-4 scheme, which is what he played in college.
Other pass rushers likely to be picked in the first round include ends Vernon Gholston (Ohio State), Derrick Harvey (Florida), Phillip Merling (Clemson) and Quentin Groves (Auburn), who is listed on many draft boards as an outside linebacker; tackles Glenn Dorsey (LSU) and Sedrick Ellis (USC); and outside linebacker Keith Rivers (USC).
Gholston is an example of a player whose value may be slightly inflated because he can rush the passer. His stock shot up after the NFL Combine, where his 37 reps in the 225-pound bench press, 10-5 broad jump and 35 1/2-inch vertical jump led all defensive linemen. But the knock on Gholston is that he is inconsistent and sometimes disappears in games.
Although they aren't first-round prospects, Purdue's Cliff Avril, Michigan's Shawn Crable and McNeese State's Bryan Smith are smaller, undersized players who could play outside linebacker and generate pressure on the quarterback.
Teams can find good pass rushers in every round. The challenge is picking players who will fit in their systems.
Teams that play 4-3 defenses primarily rely on the ends to pressure the quarterback. If they also have a tackle who can collapse the pocket, that's a bonus. The best pass rushers on 3-4 defenses usually are the outside linebackers.
Last season, the Giants generated pressure primarily with their front four. Of their league-leading 53 sacks, 39 1/2 were registered by linemen, including a combined 22 by ends Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan and 10 by Justin Tuck, an end who rotated in primarily at tackle. The line's ability to pressure the quarterback masked some deficiencies in the secondary.
A sack is like a home run for a defense. It can stop an offense in its tracks, take it out of scoring position or force a turnover. That's why premier pass rushers are so valuable.
"The best way to stop a quarterback is to hit him and pressure him and force him to make bad throws," says DeCosta. "That's an impact way of defending an elite quarterback." And that's why you'll see players who can pressure the passer get drafted early and often on April 26.
The draft is deeper in OT's then olb or de. If we do take J Long I hope we can get some kind of upgrade on the D. If not well be looking at a 4-12 record next year.