The Chicago Bears this past off-season signed outside linebacker Pernell McPhee to a five-year, $38.75 million contract. McPhee was a part-time pass rusher in Baltimore's 3-4 defense coming off a 7.5-sack campaign in 2014.
Yet McPhee had never before played full-time snaps in his four-year career and was held without a sack in the first two regular-season contests. That prompted many to question the value of spending so much money on a relatively unproven player.
In Week 3 against the Seahawks, McPhee put a lot of those questions to bed with a seven-tackle, two-sack performance.
"Some of that dog started coming out," McPhee said this week.
We went to the film room to truly gauge McPhee's impact for the Bears as both a run defender and a pass rusher.
This snap is from Week 2. Cardinals RB David Johnson (purple) will run C gap right. Arizona will try to block McPhee (block) with RT Earl Watford.
McPhee absorbs contact at the point of attack but has already begun leveraging up-field.
After contact, McPhee bounes into the backfield and accelerates inside.
McPhee drives inside and is able to tackle the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage.
Analysis: Here we see him use his quickness to literally bounce of a block attempt. He then explodes into the gap and wraps up the ball carrier. Remember, McPhee is 6-3, 280, the size of a defensive tackle, but he has the feet and agility of a player much smaller.
The Cardinals will run RB Chris Johnson off-tackle right. The backside guard and tackle (yellow) will pull behind the line of scrimmage for kick-out blocks.
The handoff is made. As the two pulling linemen approach McPhee, notice him squatting and putting his weight into his legs to prepare for contact.
McPhee absolutely explodes into both blockers, forcing both offensive linemen to lock him up. Johnson has to bounce the play outside, where S Antrel Rolle (red) is waiting.
Rolle makes the tackle after a short gain.
Analysis: The ability to take on a lead block is a lost art in the NFL. It's a thank-less job but plugging holes is absolutely crucial to shutting down opposing rushing attacks. Even if you're not making the play, clogging a lane will tie up blockers and force runners to your help. That's what McPhee does on this play, hitting the blockers before they can hit him. When an outside linebacker can eat up both pulling linemen and force the play outside, you know you have something special.
Here we have McPhee lined up B gap left in the stand-up rover role.
McPhee stutter-steps inside and immediate beats the offensive guard.
He bursts into the backfield and can smell his first sack of the season, but he's out of control and never breaks down for the tackle, allowing Palmer to sidestep the attempt.
Palmer is able to avoid the sack attempt, leaving McPhee on his face.
Palmer completes the pass for a first down. Notice how much separation the receiver has put between himself and CB Alan Ball on a deep curl route.
Analysis: McPhee's ability to immediately swim past the interior blocker is very impressive. He's in the backfield in less than two seconds but he's so hungry for the sack, he forgets about his fundamentals. On the back end, Ball does a horrible job shadowing the receiver and allows far too much separation.
This is McPhee's first sack last week. He'll come off the right edge. The Seahawks will try to block him with TE Jimmy Graham.
At the point of contact, McPhee uses his inside arm to rip underneath Graham's outside arm.
McPhee uses his strength and leverage to drive his way into the backfield. Graham goes along for the ride.
McPhee sheds Graham and takes down Russell Wilson for his first as a Bear.
Analysis: Graham is not a strong blocker, so it was a curious decision for Seattle to match him one-on-one with McPhee, who uses a rip move and brute strength to power his way into the backfield. Here again we see how hard it can be to block a 280-pound linebacker with immense strength and a head of steam, particularly with a tight end.
This is the following play. Two tight ends are stacked on the right edge but they'll both clear out in patterns. That will leave RT Garry Gilliam (yellow) on his own to block McPhee.
Notice how McPhee sets up the block by initially charging Gilliam's inside shoulder, getting him to lean on his left side.
McPhee then shifts directions and uses a swim move to fly right past the blocker.
Gilliam can't recover and McPhee has a clear path to the quarterback.
Wilson tries to scramble out of the pocket but McPhee chases him down for his second sack in as many plays.
Analysis: McPhee's first sack came as the result of pure force, while his second sack utilizes his quickness and speed. In two plays we get a great look at his entire pass-rush arsenal, which should be an asset for the Bears for many years to come.