AFC Notes, Insights, Commentary about the NFL

Defenses around the league aim to combat high-powered passing attacks with pressure from the edge.

“It’s paramount to success in this league,” says Houston Texans new defensive coordinator WADE PHILLIPS, whose unit ranks No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed per game (10.0), yards allowed per game (271.0) and passing yards allowed per game (162.5) through Week 2 of the 2011 season. “A great edge rusher gives an offense a lot to worry about. An offense might have to change its entire scheme to make sure a great edge rusher is less of a factor. It can also take a lot of pressure off your secondary when a quarterback is worried about not getting sacked instead of waiting for a receiver to get open.”


The fewest net passing yards allowed per game since 2006:




Indianapolis Colts


Oakland Raiders


Pittsburgh Steelers


Tampa Bay Buccaneers


New York Jets




Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback and Denver Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations JOHN ELWAY knows from experience how outside pressure from the defensive front can wreak havoc in the passing game.

“I know the players who you didn’t want to see across from you, the disruptive players you had to game plan for,” says Elway, who selected linebacker VON MILLER No. 2 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft to serve as an outside pass rusher in Denver.

Pro Football Hall of Famer and Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator DICK LE BEAU places a high emphasis on getting to the passer. LeBeau’s defensive unit ranks first in the NFL with 227 sacks since 2006.

“You need pressure on the ball,” says LeBeau, whose Steelers are tied for an AFC-best six sacks this season.  “You can force the quarterbacks into bad reads, force them into bad throws.  You just have to put him under duress. If he just sits back there with clear vision and plenty of time, these quarterbacks at this level are going to hurt you.”


Teams with the most sacks since 2006:




Pittsburgh Steelers


Dallas Cowboys


Philadelphia Eagles


San Diego


New York Giants




TIPS FROM THE EDGE:  Baltimore Ravens All-Pro linebacker TERRELL SUGGS, who leads the AFC with three sacks this season, on life as an elite edge rusher in the NFL:


Key factors in pressuring the passer from the edge:



“Eye-hand coordination, good instincts and balance are the big things. You have big, strong, fast offensive tackles in the league now and you have to find what works best against them. Sometimes it’s finesse. I also look at where my defensive tackle is, what the coverage is now that I am older. Knowledge is a big asset for me right now.”

Countering double teams and chip blocks:



“You can’t really anticipate them.  You have to go by feel and try to use the linemen’s weaknesses against them. If they are using a running back, you sometimes try to knock him back to hit the tackle.”

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