The best way to stop a deadly passing attack is by getting to the quarterback. That's why teams are willing to pay a premium for pass rushers. And that's why teams would much prefer to find them in the draft instead of going through free agency or trades to get the job done.
The dip and rip drill at the Scouting Combine has prospects display their ability to perform what NFL Network's Mike Mayock says are "the two moves that every defensive lineman and linebacker rushing the quarterback has to be able to use" - the rip move and the swim move.
With the rip move, the defender dips his shoulder to get underneath the shoulder of the offensive tackle. Then, the defender lifts his inside arm in an uppercut-like motion to get under and around the tackle. As for the swim move, the defender attacks the tackle with his outside arm to knock him off-balance. Then, the defender uses his inside arm to swim over the tackle and get by him.
But Mayock explains that in this drill, teams aren't just interested in seeing how the prospects perform the moves.
"Those techniques aren't quite as important as running the arc," Mayock said.
In the drill, the defender lines up at either the right of left hashmark with a tackling bag in front of him. Another bag is lined up four yards behind the first bag. A coach will have a ball at the end of a broomstick at the line of scrimmage between the two hashmarks. The coach will move the ball to simulate the snap. The defender will do one of the moves on the first bag and then do it again on the second bag before sprinting towards the quarterback.
"What kind of natural ability do you have to bend, dip and go. You have to accelerate. You can't slow down," Mayock said who added that first-step explosion is key.
Every year at the Combine, there is a lot of discussion regarding players who were 4-3 defensive ends in college but could be 3-4 outside linebackers at the pro level.
The linebacker drill that helps sift out these tweeners is the pass drop and hip rotation drill.
"I can watch tape and I can tell you if a guy's tough. I can tell you if he's instinctive, but what I really want to see in this drill is I want to see if a guy's a three-down linebacker," Mayock said. "It's great if you can be a two-down guy against run, but how are you in the pass game especially in today's NFL where we're throwing the ball more and more."
The linebacker lines up opposite a coach holding a ball five yards away. The coach - who is playing the role of quarterback - will motion with the ball for the linebacker to drop back five yards. Then, the coach will move the ball either left or right at which point the linebacker has to open up his hips and drive in that direction. The coach will have the linebacker change direction two more times before motioning for the linebacker to come back towards the ball. At this point, the coach will throw it and the linebacker has to intercept and take it to the house.
"If you're sitting in the stands, you can't help but notice if a guy's stiff or if he's fluid. It's really easy. It exposes guys that can't move in space," Mayock said. "You never turn your back. You're watching the coach like he is a quarterback. It's pretty easy to see the guys that can transition from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker."
Later today, Bo Wulf will preview who to check out in the defensive line and linebacker drills. Now, you know some of the things to look for when watching the workouts on NFL Network.
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 12:41 p.m., February 28