There are probably not many things that an NFL defensive lineman fears. But if you’re part of the Giants' defensive line, the one thing you do not, under any circumstances, want to see happen is their energetic defensive line coach Sean Spencer running after them during practice.
“What I do is I stand on the sideline while (the defensive linemen) practice, and if they don't get to the quarterback, I chase them to the ball,” Spencer told Giants Country during a video conference call with reporters Thursday. “So that's a good drill, it's called "I'm going to chase you to the ball till you get to where you're supposed to go.”
Spencer, nicknamed "Coach Chaos" for his high energy coaching style, might have chuckled, but make no mistake about how serious he is about his defensive linemen finishing every single play. In the past, the Giants pass rush and, mainly, the defensive linemen, have been inconsistent in finishing plays.
According to league stats, the Giants pass rush finished 22nd in sacks per pass attempt (6.47%).
In digging a little further into the numbers, the Giants defense, per Pro Football Focus, recorded 280 total pressures (sacks, hits, and hurries) last year, of which they managed 36 sacks or just 12.8% of their total pressures.
The numbers were worse for the defensive linemen, who recorded 101 of the total pressures last year. And of those 101 total pressures, they only managed 11.5 sacks or 11.3% of their total pressures.
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While as head coach, Joe Judge, pointed out that not every pass rush is going to result in a sack and that pressures and hits to disrupt the quarterback are just as good, the Giants defensive rush, on the whole, had trouble finishing plays.
That is something that Spencer is seeking to address with this year’s group to get them to create muscle memory to where they’re finishing every play but staying within the scheme.
“The ultimate prize is getting to the quarterback, so to speak. But also, we want to make sure that they're functioning within the defense, so we don't want them to go outside of what we're asking them to do schematically,” Spencer said.
“So you know finish knowing the quarterback's a good thing, finishing off the ball carrier is a good thing.”
When it comes time to play a game, Spencer obviously won’t be able to run out onto the field to chase any of his defensive linemen as he’ll do in practice. But he hopes that if he keeps doing that in practice, the linemen will start to hear his footsteps as part of that muscle memory development.
“It's muscle memory,” he said. “Most of them, in the back of their head, they'll know that ‘Coach will be chasing me right now.’ So they will look to run out the quarterback.”