Defensive Line All-Stars: Breaking down Week 14's standouts
After another slate filled with sacks, stops and stuffs, let's review the standout performers from the trenches during Week 14:
Defensive Lineman of the Week: DE Myles Garrett, Browns
Prior to Sunday’s action, we detailed why Myles Garrett was primed for a big day against Carolina Panthers left tackle Chris Clark - and it proved to be true, as Garrett was outstanding throughout the Cleveland Browns' 26-20 upset victory.
Garrett took advantage of Clark throughout the game, finishing with five tackles - including two for a loss - three quarterback hits, and a sack. On that sack, the sophomore leveraged his rare speed around the edge to bring down Cam Newton:
As seen above, Garrett aligns with an outside shade over Clark and does an excellent job of timing the snap to immediately stress the blocker's pass set. After pushing vertical for three steps, Garrett executes a powerful rip move to beat Clark's hands and shorten the corner. From there, he showcases effective footwork to make the sharp turn and chase Newtown down.
Garrett is also excellent at converting his speed to power, and the following play - which was originally ruled a sack but overturned to an incompletion - is a great example:
Here, Garrett explodes out of his stance and pushes vertical for four steps, once again stressing Clark's pass set. The tackle scrambles to stay in front, which means that even though he beats Garrett to the intersection point, he can't set his feet to anchor against the bull rush.
That allows Garrett to walk Clark back into Newton's lap, forcing the quarterback to toss the ball at his running back's feet to prevent the sack.
Overall, Garrett's become more consistent and well-rounded in his second season while sitting third in the NFL with 12.5 sacks. But the former No. 1 pick isn't even close to reaching his ceiling - a terrifying prospect for offensive linemen around the league.
Pass Rush of the Week: DE Cameron Jordan, Saints
Cameron Jordan's been one of the best all-around defensive ends in football for the last three years. He plays the run and the pass equally well, allowing him to affect games in a multitude of ways.
Jordan begins in a two-point stance just outside of the tight end. After the ball is snapped, he pushes upfield, utilizing a quick arm-over move to avoid the tight end's chip block.
Next, Jordan turns his hips toward the pocket and attacks the right tackle. Just before he gets within striking distance, a quick stutter-step gets the tackle to slide slightly outside, giving Jordan space to execute a perfect club-to-arm-over move that beats the block on his way to sacking Winston.
Here's the play slowed down. Pay attention to Jordan's upper-body mobility as he executes the arm-over move. Keeping his hips on track while rotating his shoulder so drastically allows him to maintain momentum while staying on a path toward the quarterback:
In a game that saw the Saints' offense start slow, Jordan and the defense made sure nothing came easy for the Bucs' explosive passing attack in a 28-14 win.
Run Defender(s) of the Week: DTs A'Shawn Robinson and Damon Harrison, Lions
This week, we're going to cheat a little bit and name two players from the same team - Detroit Lions defensive tackles A'Shawn Robinson and Damon "Snacks" Harrison. The duo put on a show against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, limiting the rushing attack to 65 yards on 21 carries (3.1 yards per attempt).
In the example we'll highlight below, Harrison and Robinson are aligned straight over the right guard and left guard, respectively, and shut down the running play:
Both defensive tackles play an important role here. When the ball is snapped, Harrison immediately uses an arm-over move to shed the guard before engaging the right tackle. That resets the line of scrimmage and eliminates the running back's ability to bounce outside.
Meanwhile, Robinson absorbs a double-team from the center and right guard. Even though he slips toward the end, Robinson impressively holds his ground at the point of attack by executing an "anchor turn" that uses his left leg as a kickstand. Here's another look:
With one tackle eliminating an escape route and the other plugging the middle, the Lions limit this second-and-7 run to a 1-yard gain.
And this is par for the course, as Robinson and Harrison have become the best run-stuffing defensive tackle duo in the NFL since the latter's midseason trade to Detroit.
In the Spotlight: DL Denico Autry, Colts
With five sacks in the last two weeks, Denico Autry is a worthy player to feature here. He's a former undrafted free agent who spent the first four years of his career with the Oakland Raiders before moving to the Indianapolis Colts this season.
At 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, Autry moves around the defensive line and varies his strategy accordingly. On the interior, he uses quickness to cause problems for slower-footed guards. On the outside, he looks to overpower weaker tackles with violent hand techniques and bull rushes.
And while Autry has sometimes benefited from Indianapolis' secondary forcing quarterbacks to hold the ball too long, his second-quarter takedown of Houston Texans pivot Deshaun Watson didn’t require any assistance whatsoever:
On this play, Autry's aligned in the A-gap between the center and left guard. After the ball is snapped, he quickly swims over and avoids the guard's block attempt before bursting into the backfield.
Here it is in full speed, as Watson has absolutely no chance to survey the field before being brought down:
This is the issue that Autry poses for guards and centers who aren't used to his type of speed in the A-gaps. And while he's been a solid run defender all year, the added pass-rush dimension is taking his game to new heights.
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.