LSU cornerback Jalen Mills chases after Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Mills is tied for the team lead in sacks with three on the season.
Johnny Football can do everything. He is the best improvisational quarterback in the past decade and possibly ever. One of Manziel's best assets is his escapabalility. Defensive lineman struggle to bring him down when given the opportunity.
No defense has stifled Manziel like LSU did last season. This was mainly due to defensive coordinator John Chavis' "Mustang" package, which put more speed on the field than Manziel was accustomed to seeing.
This year the LSU defensive line has severely underachieved, particularly at defensive end. There is no position more important when facing a mobile quarterback than defensive end.
Defenses must keep "contain" against a mobile quarterback, which means that both outside rushers cannot let the quarterback get outside of them. LSU has done a fair job of that this season.
But the Tigers were lucky to get away with losing contain against Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy in the fourth quarter.
LSU lines up in their Mustang set, looking to close out Florida late in the fourth quarter. On 3rd-and-long, the Mustang is difficult to block because Chavis loves to crowd the line of scrimmage with defenders to confuse the offensive line's pass-blocking assignments.
LSU lines up six defenders at the line of scrimmage, three of which are defensive lineman. Florida has six blockers to block six potential rushers, a ratio that should make them feel comfortable. But by the design of the blitzes and defensive alignments, Chavis feels he can get at least one rusher unblocked.
The player that eventually breaks free is right defensive end Jordan Allen (JA). Notice pre-snap where the left tackle and running back (RB) are focusing their attention; neither are attending to Allen. The left tackle is keyed in on Micah Eugene (ME), and the running back is looking at the group of LSU defenders overloading the left side of the formation.
This looks disastrous for Florida.
Off the snap, Florida's offense runs a "slide protection" to the right. This means every offensive lineman blocks whoever comes through their gap to the right. By doing this, the left tackle leaves his defensive end, Allen, unblocked and focuses on the action of Eugene because he is on his left.
The left tackle believes the running back (or personal protector), which is lined up behind him, will block Allen. But because the running back sees an overload to the right, he immediately runs to the right to help block.
In other words, Chavis busted the protection.
Allen is unblocked and has a clear path to the quarterback. But that the left side of LSU's defense brought pressure is what is impressive.
Chavis runs a "stunt" with Jermauria Rasco and D.J. Welter, which Florida picks up easily while in slide protection. But cornerback Jalen Mills (JM) executes a low and gorgeous pass rush against the right tackle as he begins to turn the edge towards Murphy. Former LSU defensive backs Ron Brooks and Tyrann Mathieu were once excellent rushers out of the Mustang.
Allen gets a free shot at Murphy, which should be an easy sack for LSU. But Allen makes the mistake of not attacking the back shoulder of Murphy, who begins to spin away from the tackle attempt.
When sacking a mobile quarterback, it is important to not go for the kill shot. Allen should have been more cautious and aimed for the 'Y' on Murphy's back instead of the No. 3.
The first reason to attack the back shoulder is to interrupt a quarterback's throwing motion by placing the facemask or arm on the throwing shoulder, which could cause a fumble or bad throw. The second is because if a quarterback breaks free, he must step up into the middle of the rush instead of breaking contain and getting to the outside.
Allen misses the tackle and loses contain as Murphy spins to the outside into acres of space. But luckily enough, Mills' speed put the right tackle flat on his face. He now has a free path to Murphy.
Mills runs down Murphy for a massive sack, which sets up 4th-and-a-mile for a struggling Florida offense.
Florida's pass protection got worse as the crowd got louder. The Gators' communication along the offensive line dissolved on this play. The Mustang formation causes so much confusion, and the crowd noise makes it all the more effective in Tiger Stadium.
Who wins on Saturday?
Manziel's struggles had more to do with the speed and discipline of the entire LSU defense than solely the effectiveness of the rush.
LSU lost key players to a defense that worked well together last year against the Aggies. Texas A&M's pass protection has always been solid under head coach Kevin Sumlin, who will be better prepared this year to take on LSU's defensive formations.
Allen's missed sack opportunity was rescued by Mills' amazing rush, which saved LSU from a big play by Murphy. Allen and the rest of the Tigers defensive players cannot miss opportunities like this one against Manziel.
LSU needs to play together and communicate against Manziel no matter what defense Chavis chooses to play. If not, Johnny Football will put up video game numbers.
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