The art of the pass rusher isn’t just using your favorite moves no matter what. That’s what good pass rushers can do. The great ones, or the ones who aspire to be great, use the moves that work for them and work well against the opponent their facing. Combine film study that leads to a solid pass rush plan with natural talent, and you get an EDGE rusher who can win and win in big moments.
For Alex Highsmith, against the Cleveland Browns and specifically left tackle Jedrick Wills, Highsmith has found his move. The inside spin.
In Week 17 of last season, Highsmith twice dusted Wills with this move. Set it up with outside rushes and when the tackle sets wide and/or the guard is sliding away, counter with the spin. It worked twice in that game, though he narrowly missed out on a sack each time, though the latter led to his teammates finishing things off.
Take a look.
Highsmith finally got that sack Monday night. 3rd and 11 late in the fourth quarter, he hit Wills again with that inside spin. Here, he beat him cleanly and Mayfield had a weak attempt to escape the pocket, almost giving up once he felt the rush after being under siege all night. Highsmith finished the play with the sack this time, his second of the day. It was his first 2+ sack performance in the NFL.
His spin move is not exclusive to Wills. It’s something he’s used throughout the year and in the preseason, we dedicated a film room showing it was going to be one of his top moves this season. Here’s what we wrote back in early August.
“He showed what could be one of his favorite pass rush moves and top counters of the season. The inside spin.”
Highsmith’s sack numbers have come in bunches this season. He has six of them this year, and they’ve all come in four games, three of those being multi-sack performances. With T.J. Watt putting up big numbers on the other side, Highsmith finishing in that 6-8 sack range this year is about my expectation, though he’s earned them differently than I expected.
But the point of this article is to say this. Highsmith has a good pass rush plan, and when he faces Wills and the Browns in 2022, you better believe what move he’ll be setting up all game.