Football 101: The delayed blitz

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"A thousand one...thousand two."
"One Mississippi...two Mississippi".

Regardless of your count of choice, if you were a playground pass rusher, you had to count out loud before you could sprint after the other team's quarterback.

However, in the NFL, pass rushers are expected to get to the quarterback before anyone can say "One Mississ…"

How fast and quick is that first step?
How quickly can said pass rusher get in the face of the quarterback?

Speed is the thing; every pass rusher will tell you the same thing. But, what happens when a pass rusher (gulp) delays or waits to rush the passer?

Wait, hold on, HOLD ON, what do you mean waits to rush the passer? The delay blitz or delay rush can be one of the most effective, and perhaps easiest ways, to get in the face of the quarterback. The Texans pass rush is dynamic enough with JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and others but a few wrinkles the Texans have unleashed lately have allowed rushers to take an unabated path to the quarterback.

Here's a great example of how the Texans used a delay rush/blitz to get free to the quarterback. This was last weekend against the Tennessee Titans. Late in the first half, the Titans started a drive just prior to halftime and the Texans had their dime, pass rushing personnel on the field.

Typically, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel aligns J.J. Watt opposite Jadeveon Clowney with Brian Cushing, Whitney Mercilus and John Simon inside those two, aligned from guard to guard. This is truly when Crennel taps into his creative side, sending any number of rushers after the quarterback. But, on this play, it was WHEN he called for the rushers to go after the quarterback. Keep an eye on John Simon.

On the shotgun snap, it appeared that Cushing and Simon would show immediately in the A gaps and then drop into zone coverage. Anticipating that Cushing and Simon were rushing, the Titans guards initially eyed the two linebackers but...

...as soon as they took one step backwards, the guards swiveled to the outside to help on Watt and Clowney. Little did left guard Quinton Spain realize but Simon wasn't dropping. Simon just delayed his rush for "one Mississippi", anticipating the Titans offensive linemen would react (overreact?) as they did.

Spain eventually got his head back around but at the same time, Mercilus spun past the Titans center, which drew help from Spain. When Cushing dropped, right guard Chance Warmack immediately turned to help on Watt. With the A gap now WIDE OPEN, Simon then sped up field with no one in his path.

As Mettenberger released the ball, Simon planted his shoulder right under Mettenberger's arm pit, delivering a hit that nearly knocked the air out of the second year signal caller.

All it took to get Simon to that spot cleanly was to delay a count. That delayed rush got Simon to Mettenberger throughout the day and he wasn't the only one. Having guys like Watt and Clowney on the outside forces interior blockers to turn their eyes to the outside often, so a well-timed delay blitz often opens a clear path to the quarterback as Simon found so easily last Sunday.

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