Defensive Pass Rush Moves Explained

In Defense, Football Content, Positionalby vIQtory1 Comment

One way to shut down a pass game is to close the pocket and put pressure on the quarterback. Closing the pocket using defensive pass rush moves is the fastest way to sack the quarterback!

How do you put pressure on the quarterback? Beat the line of scrimmage with 3 or 4 defensive lineman using pass rush moves. This is the quickest and most disruptive way to get to the quarterback.

It’s the quickest, because the defensive lineman start a yard away from the quarterback. It also rattles the quarterback where he starts to feel pressure that doesn’t exist, because he starts to not trust his line!

Rushing the passer is an art. Once you’ve understood how to line up (learn the gaps and techniques here) –  mastering hand placement and body leverage will help you become a complete pass rusher. Pass rush moves, along with scheme play a big part in a defenses overall ability to get after the quarterback.

Why is edge pass rushing important?

Few Reasons…

  • It puts pressure on the Offensive Tackle
  • It puts pressure on the Quarterback
  • Makes the Offensive Coordinator question his play calls

For more visual examples – our football handbook is loaded with videos, diagrams and interviews with former professional pass rushers.

Adding Pressure On The Offensive Tackle

The first and most obvious reason, is adding pressure to the offensive tackle – especially the left tackle (or the blind side tackle). Pass rush moves can help with the mentally and physically applying pressure.

Playing Tackle (especially in the NFL) is an extremely difficult position. Not only do they have to worry about doing their job correctly – they also need to focus on blitzes, stunts and any checks that happen at the line of scrimmage. Couple this with a good pass rusher and it can be an offensive tackle’s worst nightmare.

Pressure on the Quarterback

Quarterbacks tend to get into trouble when they hit the top of their drop, and their eyes drop from the receivers to the defensive rush. This is why closing the pocket from the edge is so important. Once the Quarterback goes into “panic” mode, it’s rare to get him back into his rhythm.

One hit from the blindside can not only fatigue a quarterback, it can makes him shorten his timing and throw before he hits the top of his drop. Guys like Von Miller and Khalil Mack have been doing these pass rush moves for years and have a tremendous amount of success doing so!

Pressure On The Offensive Coordinator

A good edge rusher forces offensive coordinators to call plays they typically don’t want to. Examples are run away from them, pass away from them and even run plays they don’t normally run.

Young players should model their game after certain NFL players. One example is Von Miller. Von brings an extraordinary combination of both strength and speed to his arsenal and has masted the pass rush moves game.

As Hall of Fame Tackle Will Roaf mentioned in his podcast, he hated facing passing rushers that could win with power. He much preferred the speed rushers.

Roaf states that the power rushers always had him on his heels. In order to defend against the bull-rush, an offensive tackle must drop his hips and lean forward. If caught leaning too much, a simple push pull and rip could catch the tackle out of position. These pass rush moves make even the great tackles nervous.

Pass Rush Moves

In this post we’re going to study the brilliance of defensive end all stars Von Miller, Demarcus Ware and Aaron Lynch from their game in 2014. All 3 of these defensive pass rushers made it an absolute nightmare for their opposing quarterbacks.

We’ll be breaking down the YouTube video below, as well as walking through each pass rush move and why it was used against the leverage of the offensive tackle.

Speed Rip

speed rip

Win with Speed!

This move is one of the most common moves used among young defensive ends. The goal is simple, get around the offensive tackle and close the pocket.

Exploding off the edge is the most important part of this move. Gaining an up-field leverage with speed, forcing the tackle to kick back, automatically gets him out of position.

The speed, coupled with low rip forces the tackle’s hand position to be out of place, which allows the edge rush to leverage himself up field.

Speed Chop

speed chop

Winning again with speed, but using a “chop” as the defensive end approaches the tackle.

Attacking the outside hand and outside foot is the goal here. The “chop” is when a defensive end chops the hand down toward the ground so he can get around the tackle.The chop helps disengage the tackle’s outside hand to gain leverage around the edge.

This rush is similar to the speed rush, but this time we’re going to chop the outside hand and work tight to the hip. The chop along with bending to the football and getting the hips square to the quarterback are key points.

Bull Rush

Bull Rush

Our first power move! The Bull rush!

If you’ve been winning with speed, now it’s time for the bull rush. Here, Demarcus Ware does a great job pressing up field to influence the tackle to kick back. When the tackle is off balanced, this is when Ware sticks his outside foot in the ground and uses that momentum to get under the tackle and push him back.

It’s important to get the tackle kicking back or getting his shoulders to square to you. If all of the tackles momentum, including feet, hips and upper body is leaning back, there’s no possible way he can absorb power of the bull rush, without kicking his feet back – which then the defensive end is able to run around him.

Bull rushing is not just for edge rushers who are strong. Speed rushers can bull rush as well, they just need to be crafty with how they set the tackle up. Often times getting a vertical set, then coming down the throat of the tackle can get them on their toes.

Push Pull Swim

Push Pull Swim

Few footwork/hand placement techniques to note for this move to be successful…

  • The edge rush must maintain speed up field – this will get the defender leaning backwards
  • Start to bullrush, so the tackle has to place his back foot in the ground, and counter-act the leverage. This will put the tackle leaning forward
  • Once the edge rush feels the counter force from the tackle, pull his jersey/shoulder pads toward you and swim over the top

Notice the tackle’s weight changes from back to front at each point of contact.

Again with pressing and influencing the tackle to get up-field, when the tackle leans forward to absorb the bull rush, we want to use his leverage against him. It doesn’t matter how big the offensive lineman is, it’s all about hand fighting and leverage!



A quick spin is something that can be mastered if a tackle is over extending with their hands.

Above we’re seeing a great job using body leverage and foot placement to win against an off balanced tackle. Quickly rotating 360 degrees and using a move called an “ice pick” to swing the arm backwards and clear the tackle. This move is extremely tough to pull off and is used typically when the tackle is overextending.

This move is tough for younger athletes to pull off, but if there’s a tackle that is over committing to the speed rush up-field, planting the outside foot and coming back inside may make sense.

Fake Spin

Fake Spin

The fake spin is a move used to think the player is going one way and spin back the other. This is  used ONLY if the tackle is expecting a spin move.

Here Demarcus Ware has utilized the spin move previously in the game so he’s keeping the left tackle guessing. This is all set up because of the speed pass rush moves that Ware has been using all game.

2 Hand Shuck

2-Hand Shuck

The 2-hand shuck is when you use your two hands and shuck their outside and inside hand away. This technique is useful when the defensive end has up-field leverage on the tackle. It’s also a great pass rush move to utilize when the tackle has his hands extended ready to absorb contact.

In the clip above, the tackle stops kicking his feet which helps the edge rusher close the gap after attacking his hands. Shucking the outside hand and attacking the outside leg can help close the pocket.


pass rush moves

The stab works properly when the defensive end is able to get his outside foot in the ground and use one hand to power the offensive tackle back. This move is a subset of the bull rush with more leverage than power added to it.

The stab is often coupled with a swim or a rip move if the tackle is able to fight the power portion of the move. The stab helps set up numerous pass rush moves.

In the clip above we see the tackle continue with the power portion of the move, strictly because he’s winning with it and doesn’t need to adjust to the swim or rip.


Good pass rushers often set up the opposing offensive lineman throughout the game. As shown in the spin & fake spin clip, keeping the lineman on their toes and off balanced is the key to winning those match-ups.

What are your thoughts? What are your favorite pass rush moves? Do you teach one of the moves above differently? We’d love to hear! Comment below and let us know your thoughts!

Like Learning Football? Our football handbook is packed full of videos, diagrams and more!

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