Turning up the pressure

SUNSET - There is a reason that NFL teams shell out millions of dollars to the guys who make Sunday afternoons miserable for quarterbacks.

Because they can do just that -- make life miserable for quarterbacks.

According to spotrac.com, three of the top 10 highest base salaries in the NFL belong to defensive ends -- Jared Allen of the Vikings, Julius Peppers of the Bears and Michael Johnson of the Bengals.

Plus, Chiefs' outside linebacker Tamba Hali, who has 62.5 sacks during his eight-year career, has the league's sixth-highest base salary.

The other six in that group include three quarterbacks -- the Manning brothers and Phillip Rivers -- running back Adrian Peterson, cornerback Darrelle Revis and linebacker David Harris.

Brent Venables is just like the folks at the highest level of football. He places great value on pressuring the quarterback.

"My biggest thing is can we develop a consistent pass rush," Venables said last week, during the annual Clemson media golf outing.

This season, Venables wants the pass rush to perform like it did in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

"What you saw in the LSU game wasn't any act of trickery or all of a sudden guys just getting it. We won up front, first and foremost," Venables said. "I thought our guys played aggressively in the backend. We played smart and disciplined.

"Our guys up front, our four consistently beat their seven, and sometimes eight. When you can do that, you look like a bunch of world beaters up front."

He added, "In reality, when you've got guys that are whooping people, that's a formula for good defense, providing that kind of pressure up front."

Only one player from last year's defensive line rotation is gone. But Victor Beasley, the team sack leader in 2012, is back for another season. So are Corey Crawford, Tavaris Barnes and all five defensive tackles.

More sacks from that group would be nice, but that stat isn't the only way to measure a successful pass rush.

"It doesn't have to be where you're getting eight and nine sacks a game," Venables said. "But the consistent threat there, along with improvement in our secondary, along with our consistency at linebacker, I think, will be the real keys."

If all three of those facets are clicking along at the same time, it could be a much improved second season for Venables and the Tigers' defense.

For an example, look no further than college football's final game in 2012.

"If we can do that again, we'll have that kind of success. You'll see the same kind of success," Venables said.

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