Alex Highsmith knows he’s close to busting down the door and becoming a force off the edge as a NFL pass rusher. To do that, he’s working on finding one or two go-to moves he can consistently and reliably win with. That’s what he said during a Friday afternoon appearance on 93.7 The Fan.
“Really just finding a couple main go-tos and just really trying to perfect them as much as you can,” he told the show’s Ron Cook and Joe Starkey. “I think just working on my spin move and working on my outside cross chop, or my swipe has been some things that I’ve really focused on this year. And also my ghost move as well.”
That’s what all the good pass rushers are capable of doing. They don’t need seven different pass rush moves to win. Some of the great ones just needed two. James Harrison had a rip move and a speed bull rush. That was all he needed to become the Steelers’ all-time sack leader. Dwight Freeney had a speed/outside move and his inside spin as a deadly counter.
Highsmith entered the league as someone capable of pulling off an array of moves. It’s about honing in on what he does best. He mentioned his spin move, which has been effective, his cross chop, swipe, and ghost (faking a long-arm rush and dipping the edge). But he might be wise to narrow that list down and cut it in half. Even having four “go-tos” is a bit much. Two main moves with the occasional changeup is the smart approach, just like a pitcher who throws a fastball, changeup, and sometimes mixes in a slide and perhaps something else.
“It starts with having a couple of those go-tos that you can have and then counter off it,” Highsmith explained.
While that’s encouraging to hear, it’s not the first time we’ve heard him talk about this. He mentioned it last year, telling Sirius he wanted to “perfect his moves.” Here’ what he told Chris Russo last March.
“But I think the main thing for me is perfecting my favorite moves. My couple of outside moves and a couple of countermoves. And if I could perfect those, those are the ones I’m going to be able to go to.”
To date, it’s still hard to pin down what his best move is.
After one of the best camp performances I’ve ever witnessed, Highsmith got off to a slow start in 2021, partially hampered by an injury. But he ended the season on a high note. Including the team’s playoff loss, he recorded 5 QB hits and four sacks over his final four games with four tackles for loss. His run defense throughout the season was steady enough. But he knows his job is to get after the quarterback. And he should surpass last year’s sack total of six. If he does, he’ll be an excellent complement to TJ Watt, just as Bud Dupree was in 2019 and 2020. Which will put Highsmith in the crosshairs of a contract extension, heading into the final year of his rookie deal in 2023.