Breaking down Benson Mayowa's game against San Diego

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

What Benson Mayowa showed us in Preseason Week 1 was that he's a natural pass rusher who comes with a repertoire of moves that he can build on. As we saw with Bruce Irvin last year, a lot of young pass rushing prospects, when they first get into the League, have their speed and explosiveness, but due to the low degree of individual coaching that actually takes place at the high school and college levels, are relatively raw in terms of technique and don't often have a repertoire of moves that they have begun to refine yet. Thus, coaches and front office evaluators are banking on, to a certain degree, the ability of their coaches to teach and develop the player from a technical standpoint.

So anytime you get a guy who has an array of moves that he can go to from day one, it makes not only the coaching & learning curve much more efficient, but enables that player to contribute much earlier in his developmental process. The impact of such early contribution us even further magnified with a guy like Benson Mayowa by the fact that he was discovered at a Regional Combine (as we've all heard repeated exhaustively over the last week).

Let's look at the three techniques Moyowa displayed in Preseason Week 1, against the Chargers, when he compiled 1.5 sacks, and contributed at least three other QB hurries.

1. The Shoulder Dip -

On several occasions, Mayowa displayed a natural ability to bend at the hip, dip the shoulder and get under the tackle to turn the corner. This move requires three key attributes (outside of the obvious one: speed) - hip flexibility, balance and understanding of leverage.

Starting with leverage and working backwards, the goal with this move is to be able to get as low as possible, but maintain course by leaning into the blocker without losing footing. Flexibility and balance obviously contribute to establishing this position at the edge, and enable the rusher to shorten the distance he has to travel to clear the edge.

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Davis, Danny and I were texting about Mayowa over the weekend, and as Davis put it, "On the solo sack of Whitehurst, there is nothing much to say, except that I see what you see -- which is that Mayowa has speed to get to the edge, and the balance and flexibility to round the corner and work his way back without losing all his speed or falling to the turf. Conversely, look at how easily Powell is controlled by that right tackle."

2. The Hump Move -

The second move that stood out from Mayowa - which we see on display when he hits Charlie Whitehurst just as he throws (1st gif below) and then again as converges on the combined sack with Heath Farwell (2nd gif below) - is what is technically referred to as a "hump move," which is an interesting way of referencing a move whereby the rusher fires to the outside shoulder of the tackle, before placing his inside hand under the armpit/shoulder of the tackle and throwing the tackle to the outside then subsequently redirecting with a step to the inside where ideally a rush lane is cleared to the QB. This move can work really well on right tackles who are typically a bit heavier footed and can struggle to redirect once their momentum is carrying them to the outside. Mayowa showed a good hump move from both sides of the formation.

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As Davis put it in our text-message conversation - "The QB hit is actually my favorite play, even though it does not result in a sack, per se. The ball is coming out quicker on this play, so it may actually be a better play than the solo sack. What is so interesting is that Mayowa demonstrates technique and vision to know when to do the hump move and when to try to bend the edge. He shows an ability to disengage and work back to the QB. No wonder Pete Carroll is excited."

Three key aspects of this move are 1. selling the outside rush - convincing the tackle that he needs to focus all of his momentum and movement on sealing off the outside. 2. hand quickness and proper placement - getting the inside hand up and under the shoulder of the defender before he can get his own arms extended and keep you out of his frame; 3. agility and burst to redirect rapidly - the ability to stop at the edge and redirect laterally before the tackle can recover to mirror the rusher. We see Mayowa exhibit all three of these elements on several plays.

This move became more effective for Mayowa after he had established that he could reach the edge and turn the corner, as it made his opponent(s) more focused on sealing off the edge and thus left them susceptible to the move back inside.

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From Davis - "Mayowa does a good job of locating the quarterback and shedding the left tackle, partially by using his right hand to punch, which causes the left tackle to lose his balance."

3. The Spin Move -

Mayowa really only flashed this one on a single occasion that I saw, but just like the hump move, the key is selling an outside move first, then utilizing quickness and suddenness to plant the outside foot and instead of remaining squared up and using a hand to move the tackle, spinning back to the inside where the goal is to penetrate the "B" gap between the guard and tackle. This one requires a lot of quickness and a natural ability to maintain balance and position awareness coming out of the spin. As a finish to a good spin move, the rusher would place his outside forearm inside the rib cage or outside the shoulder of his opponent to maintain leverage and then disengage in closing. Mayowa flashed a bit of all of these elements in his lone spin-move attempt, and both hurried and hit the QB to disrupt the throw which fell incomplete.

What jumped out at me the most in watching all three of these techniques repeatedly after the game, was how natural Mayowa went to these moves without hesitation. Many rushers, as they're learning certain moves or techniques, will appear as though they're thinking through each phase of the move, which often results in a sluggish or mechanical process and leads to ineffectiveness until they're able to refine it. Mayowa showed no hesitation and exhibited strong awareness as to which move(s) to resort to based on where he was in the play. For example, if he wasn't able to get off the ball quick enough to turn the corner with the dip move, he seemingly showed good decisiveness to realize it and then commit to the secondary/alternative move.

I noted on twitter last week that Mayowa thus far has not shown elite get-off. But with secondary moves and the decisiveness/instincts that Mayowa has shown us in his first game, he should be able to overcome some of the limitations that may be strengths of other premier rushers. Let's see if he can keep it up.

PS - Thanks to DK for creating the gifs!

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