Bud Dupree is three games away from closing out what has been the best year of his NFL career. After failing to record more than six sacks in any of his previous four seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ outside linebacker has put up 9.5 sacks this season. Anytime an event out of the ordinary happens, it is human nature to find an answer for it and many are wondering just where Dupree’s breakout is coming from.
There is no questioning that Dupree always had the athleticism and tools to put together a season like the one he is having but one possibility that some are pointing to is if Dupree and T.J. Watt are sharing pass rush moves and other tricks with one another. Watt confirmed that in an interview with The Athletic, telling him that they would mimic moves from each other’s arsenal.
Sure enough, the last two games have provided proof that this very event is occurring as Dupree is incorporating one of Watt’s textbook pass rush moves. If there is one pass rush move that has become synonymous with Watt, it is the cross chop. Few players, if any, are as effective at chopping or swiping away offensive linemen as the third-year outside linebacker.
Here’s an example of Watt using the move to perfection during last Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals. (First in real time, then in slow motion.)
With Watt’s long and powerful arms, this move is very hard to defend for opposing offensive linemen. The goal here is to beat the blocker’s hands before he has a chance to engage. Watt swipes away the tackle’s arms, thus giving him the leverage needed to win around the corner and apply pressure on Kyler Murray.
Now, watch Dupree use the same move last week against the Cleveland Browns. (first in real time, then slow-motion.)
Dupree really had a good game against Browns left tackle Justin McCray as he dominated him both in the athleticism and mental aspect. Both are on display here, Dupree uses a swipe/chop move to fight his way around the edge. As soon as the play begins, McCray has both hands on the linebacker’s shoulder pads but Dupree unleashes his secret weapon, the chop move, to disengage.
Watch as Dupree plants his right foot perfectly with the chop, giving him the power and explosiveness needed to disengage McCray’s hands. If McCray had an early advantage, Dupree has essentially reset both players back to square one, though not for long. Now that he is disengaged, Dupree can use his speed and power to win around the edge. Dupree does not get there in time for a sack or quarterback hit, though McCray may have gotten away with a bit of a hold, but it is an impressive rep.
This play will not show up anywhere in the box score or in Dupree’s stat line but it will undoubtedly be one of his best reps of the year. For many years, the Steelers’ outside linebacker was a player who could only rely on his athleticism and was a non-factor once neutralized. Dupree is no longer that player. He has now developed a true counter move and he did not have to look very hard or far to find it. In fact, the answer to his issues were just a few yards away. Watt and Dupree have been feeding off each other in more ways than one and sharing certain pass rush techniques is just one of those many ways.
While no one is saying that Watt is solely responsible for Dupree’s growth, it is amazing to see the two share insights to help each other succeed. Watt alluded to the notion that the duo were replicating each other’s moves and now there is finally proof of it occurring.