How Stevie Johnson Broke Our Pass Rush (Updated With Stats)


Okay, forgive me for beating a dead horse here, but I’m not quite done with this pass rush discussion. This post started as a response to Paddy’s great piece on who’s rushing the passer for KC, but I quickly realized that I had a little more to say then would fit in a comment box. So here goes.

First off, if you haven’t read Paddy’s post yet, go do it. Otherwise this post loses some of its context. I actually almost named this post “Who Isn’t Rushing The Passer For The Kansas City Chiefs” as an actual counter post but thought this title was a little bit more of an attention grabber.

Here’s the deal, the numbers in Paddy’s post have most who saw them convinced that the case is closed on the Chiefs pass rush problem. Dorsey and Jackson are terrible at rushing the passer and the Chiefs have them rushing the passer way too much. The solution to this problem is to play guys like Gilberry more in their place.

No one can dispute this, right?


The problem has more to do with Stevie Johnson then it does with Glenn Dorsey.

I’ll explain after the break.

Okay, if you haven’t figured out what the Bill’s Stevie Johnson has to do with this, it’s simple. He ended Eric Berry’s season.

Now our base 3-4 has been crippled by the loss of Eric Berry. Follow me here:

Because EB is out we are playing safeties that can’t cover in his place.

Because our safeties can’t cover, we drop into coverage every LB not named Tamba Hali on passing downs to clog up the passing lanes, which means we essentially NEVER blitz. We got away with this when Hali was single handedly pressuring the QB. The QB then has to get the ball out quick before our poor coverage safeties and LBs can blow the coverage. The problem is the Dolphins found a way to neutralize Hali and everything broke down.

The 3-4 defensive scheme is designed to get pressure on the QB via the blitz. The idea is that you have 4 LBs and on any given play the defense doesn’t know which ones are coming at them and which ones are dropping into coverage.

Not only do we only ever send one LB, it’s always THE SAME ONE. Tamba is the only person defenses have to account for. We never blitz anyone else. Our way of “shaking things up” is having Tamba run over to the opposite side. “Watch out NFL, we may only have one pass rusher, but he’ll come at you from the right or left!!!”

For a base 3-4 team to have only blitzed 5 times as Paddy pointed out is absurd. It takes away the one built in pass rush advantage of this scheme.

Am I defending Jackson and Dorsey’s pass rush abilities? No, they haven’t done a good enough job. Period. That having been said, how much harder do they have it then other 3-4 ends who’s LBs are blitzing on a regular basis. The offensive linemen never have to worry about any extra bodies coming at them. They never have to pass off defenders to the guy next to them and pick up someone else. They can just focus on the same 4 guys who come on every pass play. How many more double teams are our d-line facing then other 3-4 d-linemen because the OL never have to pick up a blitz?

Finally, since Dorsey and Jackson are subbed out on the clear passing downs they lose the advantage of knowing at the start of the play that they are going for the QB. The majority of those “pass rush” totals listed in Paddy’s post for those two guys are base defense passes where the d-line’s first responsibility was to stay in their lane assignments to defend the run before they can start to get after the QB. Even if they diagnose that it is a pass in a split second, that split second is all the time the OL (who already had the advantage of knowing it was a pass) needs to gain position on them for pass protection.

Given that situation even if they were good at rushing the QB (which they aren’t) they would still have a much lower tally of “pressures” per play then someone like Gilberry who comes in on clear passing downs and gets to attack right at the snap. I would wager that if you asked Gilberry to play in Dorsey’s spot and put him in the same situations that Dorsey is in he wouldn’t look that great at getting pressure either, not without some blitzing LBs for the line to worry about. In fact, because of the lack of blitzes this season Gilberry already has looked much worse. Why? Because the OL know exactly what’s coming every time wether its the base defense or the “pass rush package” with Gilberry and Bailey.

Are Dorsey and Jackson terrible pass rushers? Yes. Is that what is wrong with our 3-4 not getting pressure on the QB? Not in my opinion. The problem is we aren’t using the 3-4 the way it is designed. Until we start sending different LBs from different spots on a regular basis then I don’t care if you trade for the best pass rushing 3-4 DE on the planet, things aren’t going to get that much better. It’s just not how the scheme is designed.

Dating back to the start of last season here are the sack totals by position of three of the top 3-4 defenses (Steelers, Raverns, Jets):

LB – 49.5 (70%)
DL – 13.5 (19%)
DB – 8 (11%)

LB – 33 (62%)
DL – 15.5 (29%)
DB – 4.5 (8%)

LB – 38 (66%)
DL – 7 (12%)
DB – 13 (22%)

Total of all 3 teams:
LB – 120.5 (66%)
DL – 36 (20%)
DB – 25.5 (14%)

So why when our entire team is struggling to get to the QB are we fixating on the area that the top 3-4 defenses only get 20% of their sacks from as opposed to the 80% which should be coming from blitzing LBs and DBs? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

These three top 3-4 defenses average 8 sacks per season from all their defensive linemen combined. The Chiefs are on pace to have 4 DL sacks this season. That’s a shortage of 4 sacks compared to the top 3-4 defenses. The KC LBs and DBs are on pace this season for 14 sacks. That is a shortage of about 18 sacks compared to the top 3-4 defenses in the league.

You tell me where the bigger problem is.