Week 15 Mismatches: Broncos' Chubb should wreak havoc on Browns
Here's a breakdown of four significant positional mismatches in Week 15:
Broncos LB Bradley Chubb vs. Browns LT Greg Robinson
To the surprise of no one, Bradley Chubb's been far and away the best rookie pass-rusher in the NFL this season. Due to the presence of teammate Von Miller, the 22-year-old's profited from a high frequency of one-on-one matchups, accumulating 47 tackles (13 for loss), 12 sacks, 18 quarterback hits, and two forced fumbles.
And Chubb's continued to improve, totaling 10.5 of those sacks in his last eight games - second best in that span behind Aaron Donald - which has him just 2.5 away from Jevon Kearse's rookie record for a season. Chubb will have a great chance to close in on that record against the Cleveland Browns and left tackle Greg Robinson.
Robinson's done some positive things this season, but he has a bad tendency to false-step in his pass set and lunge with his strikes, meaning the more technically advanced pass-rushers can take advantage. Chubb may be a rookie, but he's already more refined than a lot of veterans. Here's a great example:
On this play, Chubb's aligned in a two-point stance outside of Los Angeles Chargers left tackle Russell Okung. Once he gets within striking distance, Chubb expands his rush outside and feints with a long-arm move, which gets Okung to extend both arms as he attempts to mirror Chubb up the edge.
But, it's a trap!
As Okung launches his two-hand punch, Chubb redirects inside with a perfectly timed inside-arm-over move, which allows him to sack Philip Rivers. Pay attention to the way Chubb manipulates Okung's pass set, which opens up the inside counter move.
On top of his refined pass-rush skill set, Chubb has an immense amount of power in his hands, which allows him to batter and bludgeon offensive tackles with long arms and bull rushes. Here's an example:
Once he gets within striking distance, Chubb executes a perfectly placed long-arm stab with his inside arm and gets his hand above his eyes, which gives him optimal leverage. This allows Chubb to create a short corner and flatten to the pocket before bringing Josh Rosen down for the sack.
Chubb's having one of the best rookie seasons ever by a pass-rusher, and his combination of technique and power should lead to more big-time production against Robinson and the Browns.
Colts DL Margus Hunt vs Cowboys LG Xavier Su'a-Filo
The UCLA product is technically unrefined, as he relies on his raw strength and hulking frame to get the job done in the trenches. This causes Su'a-Filo to struggle against defensive linemen who are deliberate with their movements. Moreover, he has trouble with opponents who possess the length and hand placement to keep him off their body; if he can’t latch onto a defender, he lacks the footwork and balance to compensate.
It so happens that Margus Hunt - who's listed as a defensive end for the Indianapolis Colts but plays more frequently at defensive tackle - has the length and hand usage to give Su'a-Filo a ton of problems. On an improved defense, Hunt's arguably been the best defensive lineman, recording 24 tackles (13 for loss), five sacks, four quarterback hits, two pass deflections, and a forced fumble this season.
He'll certainly bother Su'a-Filo as a pass-rusher, but Hunt should do more of his damage against the run. This play is a great illustration:
After knocking Larsen back with his initial strike, Hunt rolls his shoulders and transitions into a one-arm stab with his right hand. That allows him to control Larsen while reading the path of the ball-carrier. Once the running back cuts back into his gap, Hunt's able to disengage and make the tackle.
This type of play will give Su'a-Filo problems, and Indianapolis will need to take advantage of this mismatch to stop Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys' rushing attack.
49ers RT Mike McGlinchey vs. Seahawks DE Quinton Jefferson
Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks love to rotate their D-line, but when defensive end Quinton Jefferson - the team's weak link on the edge - lines up across from McGlinchey, the 49ers must take advantage.
In pass protection, McGlinchey should have no trouble mirroring Jefferson up the arc. He performed well against a far tougher opponent in Von Miller last week, as seen in this example:
Here, McGlinchey demonstrates his ability to block one of the NFL's best pass-rushers in space. He explodes out of his stance and stays in front of Miller while remaining balanced in his pass set.
Next, McGlinchey's well-timed punch knocks Miller off his pass-rush track and eliminates any chance of generating quick pressure. And McGlinchey stays patient, landing another two-hand punch once Miller attempts to continue his rush. It results in a beautiful pocket for quarterback Nick Mullens to set up and complete his throw.
If McGlinchey can survive against Miller in pass protection, then Jefferson should be a cakewalk. And in the running game, McGlinchey can leverage his large frame and raw strength to displace Jefferson from his gap, opening alleys for running backs.
If the 49ers - whose playoff chances are long gone - want to play spoiler against the Seahawks, they'll need to move the ball by attacking mismatches like this one.
Dolphins DE Cameron Wake vs. Vikings RT Rashod Hill
Another week means another opportunity for Cameron Wake to show that age is just a number for some NFL players. At 36, Wake's still rushing the passer at a high level, and his 4.5 sacks don't reflect that he actually generates pressure at one of the highest rates in the league.
Hill's started at right and left tackle this season, but he's struggled on both sides. Most of the issue crop up in pass protection, where poor weight distribution and punch timing get him in trouble. Hill also has problems hitting his landmarks while dropping back to form the pocket, which essentially makes him a turnstile versus more athletic pass-rushers.
That's not a recipe for success against Wake, who's still very athletic and has mastered the nuances of pass-rushing - the biggest reason he's stayed so efficient at age 36. Here's an example:
On this play, Wake's aligned well outside of Colts right tackle Braden Smith. He then fires out of his stance and takes an initial step forward before expanding outside and pushing vertical, which manipulates the width of Smith's pass set. Because the first step forces Smith to respect a potential bull rush or inside move, he can't get wide enough to keep up around the arc.
That gives Wake a short corner, and once the two players are close enough to make contact, Wake stabs Smith with a long-arm technique, making the corner even shorter on his way to the apex of Andrew Luck's drop. The long arm also creates enough separation for Wake to lean forward and jump to knock the ball out of Luck's hands.
Don't be surprised if Wake parties like its 2012 (his 15.5-sack season) in the Vikings' backfield after burning Hill around the edge throughout Sunday's game.
John Owning is a football writer at theScore. He has written for Bleacher Report and Football Insiders. He was also the lead NFL content editor at FanRag Sports. John provides analysis on the Dallas Cowboys for the Dallas Morning News and edits for The Quant Edge. Find him on Twitter @JohnOwning.
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