Having been at dozens of practices over the past two seasons, I've become a true fan of linebackers Mike Vrabel's coaching style. As I've watched and listened, I can't tell you how often I've heard him say these three little words.
For as long as I've been playing or coaching football, this is one of the first things any outside linebacker or defensive end learns. I don't how many coaches I've heard tell an outside/edge player "if you get blocked, that running back is gone. Contain! Don't let them outside of you."
Some version of that.
From Pop Warner through to the NFL, that coaching point remains the same. The one player responsible for not allowing the running back outside of him is the most important player in that particular defense. Over the years, the one responsibility for any outside linebacker or defensive end against the run was condensed down to three important words.
Set. The. Edge.
Vrabel lectured his young edge players throughout the summer on just that, but one guy that he didn't really get too much time with this summer is actually the guy that sets the edge extremely well, Jadeveon Clowney.
After practicing a bit and not playing any games in training camp, Clowney's return was much anticipated in the team's opening game of the season. On the Chiefs second drive of the game, Clowney gave a clinic on how to set the edge.
The Chiefs put two tight ends in a balanced set on the field and the Texans had their nickel personnel in the game, with Kareem Jackson walked up on the line of scrimmage opposite Clowney. The Chiefs called an outside zone run toward Clowney's side, which may actually have been an audible check made by their quarterback Alex Smith when he saw Kareem.
That didn't work out well.
On the snap, Clowney immediately shot his hands at the tight end who was trying to turn Clowney to the inside. The Chiefs tight end lost that battle quickly and within half a second, the edge was set.
Clowney "stabbed" the tight end to keep him at bay and held him off with his strong left arm, keeping his outside arm free, just in case Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles squirted to the outside. Instantly, Charles knew that he had to change course. The result?
J.J. Watt flew in from the other side and made the tackle for a loss.
Later in the game, Watt and OLB John Simon returned the favor for Clowney.
The Chiefs aligned in an unbalanced set with two tackles on the right side with a lone tight end on the left side/backside. They called a power play to the right side away from Clowney, in the direction of Watt and Simon. As the ball was snapped, Watt immediately shocked the Chiefs tackle with his hands and held him at the point of attack. Simon was initially off the ball but read the play immediately, with the fullback in his sights.
Watt held up against the tackle and the guard pulling across too. Simon stoned the fullback on the spot and Charles had nowhere to run...
...and Clowney was coming.
These two tackles for a loss were a direct result of guys setting the edge. Well, it's more like physically dominating the edge but now you get the point.