THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald had a potential strip sack taken away from him on Sunday. It could’ve been his 12th, which would’ve been a career high. Donald came from behind to knock the ball loose from Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, but Mariota eventually recovered it himself and picked up three yards running with it.
It was ultimately ruled a running play, and now Donald’s season will end with 11 sacks, tying his career high from 2014 while playing two fewer games in 2017. Donald is among several starters who will not play in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the San Francisco 49ers, even though he tried his best to convince Rams coach Sean McVay to change his mind
DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, MD is known as a powerhouse high school football program and Pat Narduzzi and staff struck gold when defensive end John Morgan and corner back Judson Tallandier committed to Pitt in June. The players are not only teammates, they happen to be good friends and both are looking to make an impact as true freshmen.
Morgan and Tallandier completed their official visit to Pitt last weekend. Pittsburgh Sports Now spoke with Morgan, the 6-foot-2 inch, 245 pound defensive end about his experience.
“I really think it was a great opportunity to spend time with the coaches since the seasons’ over now they get to spend time with the players, stuff like that. Just bringing those guys in like Tyler (Bentley) who was committed to Kentucky and then bringing in JeShaun (Jones) and Shocky (Jacques-Louis),” he said. “Those guys from Florida, being able to bond with them before they make their decision is something that I really thought that Justin and I were able to put a picture on them to make them think about coming to Pittsburgh. The entire vibe that’s going around the city with the players and stuff like that, all of us were to build relationships with those guys before we get in with the summer session before the season gets back up.”
Morgan’s host for the weekend was freshman defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman. He has received scholarship offers from Penn State, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Temple, Syracuse, Rutgers, Bowling Green, Charlotte and Kent State prior to committing to Pitt. Both Morgan and Tallandier spent a lot of time selling the Panther football program to the three uncommitted visitors throughout the weekend.
Morgan has visited Pitt on a number of occasions. He was asked if anything surprised him on the visit. He stated, “There was a lot of more academic stuff we talked about. Most of what they told us I really didn’t know like what (majors) Pitt offered and stuff like that. We found out they were a top school academically and on the football side. You don’t get a lot of schools that are top academic institutions all across the board and get to play in one of the biggest conferences in America for football.”
Morgan spent time with his future position coach, Charlie Partridge. He mentioned they had a conversation about future expectations. “They told me that this summer would be big for me. I have get in the gym, get strong, and get my mind right, “he said. “The opportunity to come in and play as a freshman is there. They said once I sign, they’re going to get me comfortable with the playbook so I can be ready in for that summer session and coming in for summer camp.”
Morgan and Tallandier have been lifelong friends. When asked about his thoughts on playing together in a Panther uniform, he exuberantly replied, “Oh yeah, it’s very special. He and I have been planning on something like this since Little League.”
“It started in eighth grade when we said we be playing in high school together. Now we’ll be playing together for the next three to four years in college and hopefully, if it comes down to God’s blessings, we’re going to the same NFL team when we get ready to make that decision.”
Atlanta Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn is desperately trying to prove himself. The former first rounder hasn’t replicated the success he had during his rookie campaign in 2011. But that won’t stop him from trying, even if he only has one year to make his case.
Clayborn will of course rely on the Falcons coaching staff. He’s familiar with Raheem Morris, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach that drafted him. Even with that support system in place, Clayborn is taking it one step further, consulting with Falcons alumnus Chuck Smith. Credit to Vaughn McClure who broke the news.
If you want to improve your pass rushing skills, Smith is a great place to start. He racked up sacks like McDonald’s Monopoly pieces, absent the chicken nugget-fueled heart burn. Over 8 years with the Falcons, Smith accrued almost 60 sacks. Damn impressive by any standard.
Smith started D Line Inc. in 2002 and currently trains or consults with 50 NFL defensive linemen/pass-rushers. He has trained 48 first-round draft picks, including former seven-time Pro Bowler Richard Seymour, the sixth overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft.
Whatever Clayborn learns from Smith is an added bonus to the instruction he’ll get from his head coach, Dan Quinn. Remember, Quinn earned his reputation in the league for his expertise along the defensive line.
If Clayborn rediscovers what made him a first rounder in the first place, the Falcons are in for a real treat.
“The biggest thing I’m trying to improve on is my line of scrimmage technique,” Campbell said. “I spent the whole offseason training with a (defensive) line coach. Just really working on my hands, my get off, my hip explosion and different things.”
Former Falcons standout “Big Chuck” Smith, a private coach now days, worked with Campbell this offseason.
“Chuck Smith is amazing,” Campbell said. “I worked with him pre-draft. Once I got here I found I wouldn’t really be doing too much on the line of scrimmage stuff so I stopped working with him a little bit.
“But this past offseason, once I found out was playing (strongside linebacker) again, I started back working with Chuck. He’s an amazing guy. He’s helped me out so much.”
Cameron Heyward is low-key the biggest secret of the 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers defense. After being placed on IR last season, Heyward has seemingly come back with a vengeance, leading the team in sacks through Week 11.
One of his team-high seven sacks came at the expense of Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota on Thursday Night Football. With the Steelers up nine points midway through the third quarter, the defense was backed up to their own 11-yard line and facing a 3rd-and-4, Heyward wasn’t going to be denied making a big play. The defensive end rumbles forward, overpowering his one-on-one matchup and grabbing ahold of Mariota… and not letting go!
The play would go down as a loss of 15 yards and force the Titans to kick a field goal: their last points of the game.
The Jets have spent the last decade looking for an outside pass rusher. They have tried drafting them (Vernon Gholston), paying them (Calvin Pace) and finding one off the scrap heap (Aaron Maybin).
Nothing has worked.
Jordan Jenkins hopes he can change that run in 2017. The 2016 third-round pick had just 2.5 sacks as a rookie, so he spent this offseason working with pass-rushing guru Chuck Smith in Atlanta.
“I would hope to be a better pass rusher, after all that work and time I put in,” Jenkins said this week at teammate David Harris’ charity golf outing. “But I can’t really be a good judge of that. I have to let my play be the judge of that this year.”
Smith had 58.5 sacks in his career, which spanned 1992-2000.
Jenkins worked with Smith for close to two months, beginning in February. Jenkins said it was a pass-rushing education.
“He really just helped me understand,” Jenkins said. “You have to really learn pass rush. And I never really was taught pass rush at any level, from high school on up. I didn’t realize how much I was missing until I started working with Chuck.
“He really broke everything down for me — reasons why to do this move, situations where this move will work, situations where this move wouldn’t work. He just sort of helped me understand pass rush, and understand my body movements and just different ways you can use your move. It just helped me understand when I should use a move and when I shouldn’t.”
Jenkins showed promise in his rookie season after the Jets took him out of the University of Georgia. A calf injury sidelined him early in the season, but Jenkins showed strides as the year went on. Jenkins did a good job setting the edge and made a few big plays. He missed one huge play against the Dolphins last year, when he nearly intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass with an open field in front of him.
Jenkins said he is a work in progress rushing the quarterback.
“I feel like I’m pretty good against the run. That’s willpower,” Jenkins said. “And if you’re a man, you’ve got to learn how to set the edge. Just something that’s always been a part of who I am. Pass rush is something I have to really work at. It didn’t come as easy as just being physical with guys.”
The Jets did not address the outside pass rush with any new players. They are hoping Jenkins and Lorenzo Mauldin can fill that void and complement the inside rush the Jets get from Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson.
They did not ignore the position, though. Jets coach Todd Bowles made a change at outside linebackers coach. He fired Mark Collins, who held the post since 2015, and brought in Hall of Famer Kevin Greene. It is a move that seems to excite everyone around the Jets, including Jenkins.
“When you think of pass rushing and you think of an outside linebacker, you think of K.G., Kevin Greene,” Jenkins said. “He physically dominated cats back in his time. You just want to soak up as much information as you can from him.”
Defensive end Adrian Clayborn set a franchise record with six sacks and may have helped to turnaround the Falcons season.
Clayborn destroyed backup tackles Chaz Green and Byron Bell on his way to Cowboys quarterback Dak Presscott.
In addition to the six sacks, Clayborn had seven quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in the 27-7 victory Sunday.
“He energized the entire organization today,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said.
The Falcons were 4-4 and in danger of slipping before .500, with the Panthers (6-3) and Saints (7-2) playing well in the NFC South. A loss to the Cowboys would have be devastating.
“I feel like we now know what we can be,” Clayborn said. “We showed proof of that. We have to take it and keep going.”
Chuck Smith and Claude Humphrey shared the old team record of five sacks in a game. Clayborn was modest after the game.
“You always envision it, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen,” Clayborn said. “I’m no Everson Griffen or somebody like that, my pass rush isn’t as good as (his). But I play the same way every game. It lucked out for me today.
“I only have one move and it works.”
The Cowboys, who played without Pro Bowler Tyron Smith, tried to give their backup tackles some help.
“They chipped me some and it hurt,” Clayborn said. “When they didn’t I just took advantage of it.”
Clayborn knew the Falcons were in a must-win situations.
“You just have to take yourself to that mindset that you not going to get beaten,” Clayborn said. “That’s where I went today.”
Now, that the defense has turned in a dominating performance they hope to build on it.
“It shows that we can do it,” Clayborn said. “We’ve been knowing that we could do it. Now, we’ve shown it. We got that feeling. We know that we can do it.”
Clayborn’s showing energized the rest of the defensive linemen.
“Pass rushers get paid the most money in the league,” defensive end Takkarist McKinley said. “That’s the honest truth. Pass rushers, offensive line and quarterbacks get paid the most money. A.C. came in clutch today. The defense in general came in clutch today. For us to have a statement game like this, we have to build on it.”
Linebacker Vic Beasley, who led the league in sacks with 15.5 last season, was in awe of Clayborn.
“It was pretty amazing,” Beasley said. “I’ve never seen a person put on physical actions like that. It was great to have him on my team.”
The Falcons are set to play the Seahawks on Monday Night Football next week.
“I think collectively, it was our best performance,” Beasley said.
ATLANTA — Former Tennessee and NFL defensive end Chuck Smith is a personal pass-rush mechanics coach who is begrudging with his compliments.
He had 56.5 sacks in nine NFL seasons, including double-digit sacks in three seasons. Thus, when it comes to sacks, it pays to listen. So listen to this about LSU edge rusher Arden Key.
“Myles Garrett is not on this guy’s level when it comes to pass rush,” Smith told GN. “This guy is the best pass rusher in the SEC over the last 15 years. No one is even close.”
“… If he’s not the No. 1 pick next year? Teams are going to miss out.”
Smith said Key will be a 15-sack guy from “day one” in the NFL and that Key’s best position at the next level is as a 3-4 outside linebacker; that is the position he will play this season at LSU.
RELATED: LSU at front of big SEC chase pack for 4-star DE Ronnie Perkins
Smith has worked with Key, an Atlanta native, for a few years, including this offseason. Smith also has worked with Von Miller, Derek Barnett, Jarvis Jones, Markus Golden, Osi Umenyiora and numerous other college and pro pass rushers.
“He’s got bend like Von Miller and a spin like Dwight Freeney,” Smith said of Key. “He knows how to do all the pass rush moves, why to use the moves, how to use the moves and he has edge speed. He can head fake you like Osi Umenyiora. That’s what makes him special. I guess the last thing that makes him special is he has that dog in him. That real dog, and he is hungry to be the best.”
Key took a leave of the absence during the spring for what was termed “personal reasons.” He returned to the team Monday but still is recovering from shoulder surgery, which could put his status for the start of fall camp in question.
Key has said on Twitter that he now weighs around 260 pounds he was listed at 238 by LSU last season. Despite the weight gain, Smith says there is nothing to worry about when it comes to Key’s speed.
“He’s still quick. He’s still moving. He’s actually quicker and just a little bit bigger,” said Smith, who thinks Key will play this fall at about 250 pounds.
Former Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers defensive end Chuck Smith was an outstanding pass rusher. Like many former players, Smith was able to stay involved with football through coaching.
Smith has coached for the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets in the NFL. He was also a defensive line coach at Tennessee, his alma mater. While at Tennessee, Smith recruited a young defensive tackle named Tim Jernigan.
Why is Smith’s story relevant to the Philadelphia Eagles? It’s simple — he has worked with four of the team’s pass rushers, including 2017 first-round pick Derek Barnett.
Smith is a highly sought after pass rushing coach. He has worked with players such as Von Miller, Vic Beasley and Aaron Donald. He is the founder of Chuck Smith Training Systems, which is built upon four principles of pass-rushing.
“I came up with a system called Vision, Get Off, Hands and Hips. I started training with a lot of guys and consulted with college as well as NFL teams,” Smith said via phone interview. “I want guys to think about pass rushing in a new way. Improve your eyes! If you are Floyd Mayweather Jr. and you’re fighting against Conor McGregor, are you going to be looking behind him, at the corner, or are you going to look at where his hand placement is so you can be proactive and reactive?”
There are many position-specific training organizations that focus on developing quarterbacks. Look at how many quarterback gurus that top signal callers go to for improvement during the offseason.
It was a brilliant idea by Smith to develop the same type of position-specific training for the players that are asked to chase the quarterbacks.
“In 2002 I looked at it as a position that was underserved. The most important people on the field are quarterbacks,” Smith said. “The second-most important are the people that go get the quarterbacks. I felt that it was a special training part that people were overlooking. You can’t finish games if you can’t rush the passer. I’ve been studying pass rushing since the ’90s. I studied with Reggie (White) when I was at Tennessee. It’s important to learn the art of pass rush, how the moves work, how size works and how to teach the moves.”
Smith feels there is too much emphasis on how much of an athlete a pass rusher is rather than focusing on what skills he brings to the table. The Scouting Combine has misled many scouts and personnel people over the years. Smith feels there is a quick and easy way to examine what kind of pass rusher a prospect is.
“One of the biggest injustices is the NFL combine. They have two pop-up dummies and that’s it,” Smith said. “It should be, ‘Show me your three best moves. I need to see a spin, a chop and I need to see a head fake.’ That will show you a lot about a player’s skill. They need to focus more on skill than athleticism.”
Here is what Smith had to say about four of the Eagles defensive linemen he has worked with:
On Derek Barnett:
Derek is the toughest guy that was in this draft. He plays with as much effort as anyone in this draft class. He has skills, the ability to use certain moves. He’s the best defensive lineman in this draft.
I talked to Derek about improving his eyes. If you don’t have trained eyes, you can’t get off the ball fast if you don’t have a visual key. You can’t improve your hand placement if your eyes are just looking around and not looking at the guy in front of you.
What I teach is a series of movements of those four keys: Vison, Get Off, Hands and Hips. I teach them how to do their signature pass rushing move. It could be the rip/hump like Reggie White, the spin move like Von Miller, the cross chop like Aaron Donald or Robert Quinn.
Every pass rusher has to develop a signature pass rush move and a counter. That is one of the things I focused on with Derek about over these last couple of years. “Thou shall never do moves that they haven’t mastered.”
We had been working on that spin move for two years. Now it’s time for him to unleash it! He has three or four moves that he can use. Derek has everything in the book.
On Tim Jernigan:
The guys who don’t get sacks don’t have signature moves. Being an athlete has nothing to do with being a pass rusher. Mike Mamula proves it.
His potential is off the charts. I recruited Jernigan when I was a defensive line coach at Tennessee. He can play nose but he’s really a three-technique. He’s an upfield, explosive pass rusher.
He goes to Baltimore, and no disrespect to what they’ve done there, but none of the defensive linemen since Trevor Pryce have really been pass rushers.
It was an injustice done to him as a pass rusher. You have these 4-3 guys with the league built on 3-4 teams and guys that are really explosive pass rushers that are being limited because of the scheme.
On Elijah Qualls:
This cat is the most underrated defensive lineman I’ve trained in a long time. He’s a guy that could have been used differently.
He has explosive power and will wreck shop in the Eagles defensive scheme. He’s a pass rusher, but it’s hard when you’re forced to be a 335-pound two-gapper.
He’s a beast. We worked on some moves, and he’s not the same guy that left the University of Washington. Qualls is going to make noise in that camp. People are going to be shocked at how he wrecks people in camp and the preseason games. He’s ready and he’ll be a shock of the camp.
On Marcus Smith:
Every pass rusher develops at different times. You look at certain guys, it takes a couple of years for them to develop. The one thing that Marcus has is, he has drive. He has skilled moves, man.
This isn’t from Marcus, this is my opinion. The way he was treated in Philadelphia was atrocious. You talk about breaking a guy down, from the organization on down, there were people at the end of the day that didn’t have his best interest at heart.
How about going into a locker room where guys are resentful for you? You go into a building where some people want you and some people don’t. Then you become a 3-4 linebacker, then you become an inside backer — that would shake most people up.
Is it Marcus or is it that his development has been stunted? He has moves, speed, heart and drive. At the end of the day, I believe it will all come together. He can do it, it’s just a matter of him having the opportunities and the support of the organization. It’s time for him to shine.
Former Auburn DE Dee Ford was a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but didn’t burst onto the scene for the Kansas City Chiefs until last year.
The ex-Tiger recorded 10 sacks in his first year as a starter, but he thinks he’s capable of even more in the coming years.
According to AL.com, Ford said he’s working to learn the nuances of rushing the passer:
“It sounds breezy to just run around and hit the quarterback,” Ford said. “It’s not that easy. There are a whole lot of things that come with it.”
Ford is working with former NFL defensive end Chuck Smith, who has also worked with NFL stars like Von Miller and Robert Mathis, among others. Ford said he’s loved working with Smith so far:
“He’s lived it,” Ford said of Smith. “That’s what guys like. He’s been around it. How can you give piano lessons if you’ve never played the piano? Chuck has played the position, and he is so passionate about pass rush. He breaks it down where you won’t forget it. I think he’s a great addition for any player looking to take their game to the next level.”
- Coming off his 10-sack season in 2016, if Ford can improve his game even more for 2017, opposing quarterbacks are going to have a tough time playing against the Chiefs.