*** Note: I received special permission from Brian to use the MHR Primer title in this post. I hope it is worthy of his efforts and you enjoy it. ***
It's 3rd and Long. The Offense is in a passing situation and the Defense knows it. Will they blitz the quarterback? Maybe, but one thing is certain, the Linemen are coming full force. Their job is to get to the passer and disrupt his timing or delivery in order to force a mistake such as a batted ball, incomplete pass or an interception. If they can sack the quarterback, great, but taking the passer out of his comfort zone can be counted as successful as well. Getting a hit on the QB early in a game can cause him to "hear footsteps" and take him out of his rhythm.
There are a handful of proven techniques available in a defenders arsenal that will produce an effective pass rush. I'm sure you've heard the commentary in a televised football game when the announcer extols a Defensive End for having a good "Bull Rush" or "Forearm Shiver." We will get to those at another time. In this article, I'd like to focus on the "Swim Move" pass rushing technique.
The Swim Move is a technique that gets its name from the fact that when properly executed the player has the appearance of doing the Australian Crawl or Freestyle swim stroke. A favorite rushing technique among Defensive Linemen, the Swim Move can be the most dangerous. Pass Rushers are normally taught to keep their shoulder pads low, so they can have leverage on the Offensive Lineman, but with this technique he has to rise up above the blocker, leaving the defender somewhat vulnerable. However, if done properly this maneuver can be one of the easiest ways to successfully rush the passer. Timing is the key to a successful Swim Move, as the Defensive Linemen must beat the blocker off the snap of the ball to achieve his goal.
We'll start with the Footwork:
After getting off the ball, the next action is a jab step designed to get the blocker off balance. This is a deception or feint. The Rusher steps in one direction while intending to move another. This is followed by a short balanced step using the jab foot, bringing it in front of the blocker in the opposite direction. Typically the blocker will follow the first step and find himself off balance.
Now for the Hand technique:
Simultaneous to the footwork at the snap of the ball, the pass rusher brings his inside arm up and reaching out to the back of the blocker's outside shoulder pad. He uses that to pull the O-lineman forward, exploiting his lack of balance. Then the Pass Rusher sweeps his outside arm in a wide arc over the blocker's head and across his face while stepping with the opposite foot by him as if swimming by an obstacle. Once the Rusher's hips are parallel with the front of the blocker, he uses the momentum to swoop by him and close with the passer.
Once the defender swims through the line, he wants to be running at the quarterback with his hands up, fully extending and waving his arms. This puts him in position to disrupt the play by temporarily blocking the quarterback's vision, tip the ball, knock the ball down, or make the pick. At the same time, he is poised to make the quarterback rush his throw or sack him. If he can sack the QB with his arms raised the defender can bring his hands down with more force to attack the ball and possibly force the fumble.
In this video, a Wide Receiver matches up with a Defensive Back. The Receiver is using the Swim method to beat Bump and Run coverage. The move is very similar for a Defensive Lineman.
Denver Broncos Defensive Lineman Justin Bannan used this technique last year. I even saw him "Swim" between two Offensive Linemen double-teaming him. He jumped up and swam past both players and put immediate pressure on the opposing quarterback that play.
In this next video, Jay Ratliff of the Dallas Cowboys shows the "Wristgrab" combined with swim technique as he practices with a wrestling coach.
The next time you have your eye on the trenches, watch for the Defensive Linemen using this technique. And when the Color guy talks about the Swim Move, you will know exactly what he is talking about. Maybe you can even impress your friends.