DraftBrowns.com Editor: Brendan Leister
After going undrafted in 2009, Desmond Bryant has developed into one of the most underrated players in the entire NFL. Bryant signed with the Raiders after the 2009 NFL Draft and has played multiple roles along the team’s defensive line. He has spent time at the defensive tackle position and also at defensive end in the Raiders’ four-man front. Up to this point in his career, Bryant has progressed and improved every season. In four years, Bryant has played in 62 games (started 18), recorded 93 tackles (31 assisted), 10.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two passes defensed, and one fumble recovery.
When free agency began on March 12th, the Cleveland Browns finished off the day with the signing of Desmond Bryant to a five-year, $34 million contract with $15 million guaranteed. Bryant is exactly the type of defensive lineman that Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton loves. At Horton’s introductory press conference in January, he declared that he wants “big men that can run and little men that can hit”. Bryant undoubtedly fits the bill.
Desmond Bryant’s ProFootballFocus.com Profile (you may click on images to enlarge them)
Rushing the Passer
After spending much of his time at right defensive end in the Raiders’ 4-3 defense during the 2011 season, Desmond Bryant flourished on the inside at defensive tackle during the 2012 season. Bryant is an incredible athlete with rare flexibility for a man of his size (6’6″ tall, 310 lbs. according to the Cleveland Browns’ official team website). Not only does he possess an explosive first step, but he also moves laterally with ease, and even bends the edge from time to time. He uses his hands extremely well and he understands how to beat offensive linemen with technique. His rare combination of power and athleticism can make him nearly unblockable from time to time. Bryant does a great job of mixing up his rush moves. The two moves that Bryant relies on regularly are his bull rush and swim move. Bryant has a very high motor and he consistently shows relentless effort in getting to the quarterback.
Desmond Bryant ranked fourth in “Pass Rushing Productivity” amongst all defensive tackles that rushed the passer on 50% of pass plays that their defense was on the field during the 2012 season (28 qualified). Pass Rush Productivity is sorted by “Pressure Percentage”. ProFootballFocus describes Pressure Percentage as “The percentage of pressure a defensive tackle gets a sack, hit, or hurry relative to how many times he rushes the passer.” You may click on the image if you wish to enlarge it.
During the 2011 season, Bryant spent much of his time outside as a defensive end (448 out of 596 snaps overall with 222 of them occurring on pass plays). He ranked 40th in Pass Rushing Productivity amongst all 4-3 defensive ends that rushed the passer on 25% of pass plays that their defense was on the field during the 2011 season (70 qualified). ProFootballFocus’s equation for Pass Rushing Productivity for 4-3 defensive ends is as follows: “(Sacks +0.75xHits+0.75xHurries)/The total number of snaps where the player rushed the passer”.
The following illustrations will allow me to go into further detail in analyzing Desmond Bryant as a pass rusher.
2012 Week 14: Denver Broncos
Prior to the snap, Bryant aligns in a 1-technique in the A-gap between the center and the left guard.
At the snap, Bryant fires out with an explosive first step to the inside with his left foot.
In reaction to Bryant’s hard step to the inside, the left guard also takes a step to the inside. This is exactly what Bryant hoped for. He plants off his left foot and crosses the guard’s face while performing a “swim move”. Bryant’s swim move consists of hitting the guard’s outside arm down with his right arm and then bringing his left arm over the top of the guard’s head. You can see the guard’s outside arm and shoulder directly in front of him after Bryant violently knocked them away in the image.
After performing the swim move, Bryant attacks the B-gap between the left guard and tackle. The guard gets back in position to block Bryant and engages with him. Bryant pushes his left shoulder into the guard and begins to bend the edge as he continues on his path to the quarterback.
Bryant’s athleticism is too much for the guard. He wins the matchup and gets out of the guard’s grasp as he begins to flatten his path to the quarterback. The quarterback feels pressure to his right from the left defensive end and steps up in the pocket.
The quarterback steps up into the interior rush from Tommy Kelly (#93) and has nowhere to go. He subsequently falls to the ground as Bryant closes in for the sack.
2012 Week 16: Carolina Panthers
On this particular play, Bryant aligns in a 3-technique on the left guard’s outside shoulder.
At the snap of the ball, Bryant steps to the inside and crosses the left guard’s face toward the A-gap between the left guard and center.
You can see in this image that the Raiders have called a stunt on the play. The right side of the defensive line has slanted to the inside and the left one-technique defensive tackle is beginning to make his way all the way around to the C-gap outside the left tackle.
Bryant is taking on a double team from the center and left guard as he does his best to penetrate the A-gap between them.
After giving a strong initial punch, the left guard recognizes that a stunt is being executed and moves back to his left to give the left tackle help with the right defensive end. Once the guard has engaged with the defensive end, the left tackle is free to move back outside and attempt to block the free defensive tackle that has come all the way around to the outside.
Now that Bryant is one on one with the center, he decides to execute his bull rush. He puts the momentum that he built up as he slanted to the inside to good use as he combines excellent pad level with great hand placement and extends his long arms up into the center’s shoulder pads.
Bryant shows incredible power on the bull rush as he knocks the center backwards. The force of the collision gets the center off balance and puts him in a position where he has no chance to recover.
Bryant explodes past the center and closes in on the quarterback. He wraps up the quarterback, but he is unable to bring him down without a fight.
This image shows Bryant on the ground with the quarterback’s right leg still in his grasp.
The quarterback finally goes down as the defensive tackle that came all the way around on the stunt closes in and jumps on the pile to combine with Bryant for the sack.
This play is a great example of how important having a cohesive offensive line that has five players that are all on the same page is. Offensive linemen must be able to communicate and adjust on the fly. It can be very difficult for even a great offensive line to block a well-executed stunt.
Bryant begins this next play from the same game aligned in a 1-technique in the A-gap between the center and the left guard.
At the snap of the ball, Bryant crosses the left guard’s face and heads straight for the B-gap between the left guard and tackle. He immediately recognizes that this will be a pass play or a draw because of the way that the offensive line came off the ball. Defenders are often taught to read “high hat, low hat” and the offensive line have high hats. ”High hat” means that the offensive linemen are all high in their stance and dropping back in pass protection. ”Low hat” means that the offensive line is firing out low and looking for someone to block in the run game.
The quarterback does not give much of a play action fake. He merely turns his head and does not extend the ball out to the running back. Bryant’s height (6’6″) helps him to quickly recognize that it is a pass play and he aggressively attacks the B-gap. His athleticism and flexibility are on display as he engages with the left guard with his inside shoulder and begins to bend the edge on his path to the quarterback.
This image shows the quarterback feeling the pressure from Bryant as he hits the top of his drop and begins to climb the pocket. You can see that Bryant’s rare flexibility for a man of his size allows him to bend the edge like a much smaller pass rusher.
Bryant closes in on the quarterback, reaches out with his inside arm, and grabs the quarterback’s left shoulder. Because the quarterback climbed the pocket and moved off his original “launch point”, Bryant’s rush angle has become too wide.
Note: The “launch point” is the point in which a quarterback has finished his initial drop. Once the initial drop has been completed, this is the time when a quarterback is supposed to get the ball out of his hand. Every pass play has a set launch point that the quarterback is supposed to throw from as long as the situation allows it. Of course, we all know that in the NFL, with defenders disguising their assignments, blockers missing assignments, receivers running wrong routes, and pass rushers closing in on quarterbacks, the situation is often far from ideal and improvising occurs regularly.
The quarterback is strong and Bryant’s weak grab of the shoulder pad does not result in a sack. The quarterback begins to scramble out of the pocket as he tries to make a play with his legs.
Two of Bryant’s teammates close in on the quarterback and sack him for a two-yard loss. This sack would have never happened if it weren’t for Bryant forcing the quarterback to leave the pocket.
2011 Week Nine: Denver Broncos
As I previously noted in this piece, Desmond Bryant spent much of his time at 4-3 defensive end during the 2011 season. On this play, the Raiders align in a 5-2 front, but Bryant is still playing the same role that he would be playing if he were the right defensive end in were a four-man front.
At the snap of the ball, Bryant explodes out of his stance and threatens the left tackle’s upfield shoulder. Due to the offensive line showing “high hats”, he knows that this is a pass or a draw.
The quarterback does not hand off the ball on his play action fake. Bryant engages with the left tackle and uses a rip move with his inside arm to try to get the tackle’s hands off of him. You can see that Bryant’s flexibility is once again on display as he bends the edge on the way to the quarterback’s launch point.
The strong side linebacker on the left side of the defense (right side of the image) defeats a weak cut block attempt in pass protection by the running back after the play action fake. You can see the running back on the ground and the linebacker beginning to close in on the quarterback on the right side of the image. Bryant has already beaten the left tackle to the outside and the tackle begins to grab ahold of him.
The quarterback senses the pressure from the strong side linebacker and begins to retreat backwards, trying to do whatever he can to get out of the pocket and make a play with his legs. Bryant fights through the hold after turning the tackle all the way around and finally disengages from the tackle. Above, you can see that Bryant is just now getting away from the tackle and about to close in on the quarterback.
Bryant closes in on the quarterback and combines with the strong side linebacker for the sack. Bryant celebrates with a Heisman pose. It turned out there were two penalty flags on the offense on the play. The left tackle was called for holding Bryant and the offense also lined up in an illegal formation prior to the snap. The Raiders declined both penalties and took the yardage from the sack.
Run Defense and Special Teams breakdown included on page two.