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Film Room: A Look At Shane Ray's Three-Sack Performance Against Cincinnati In Week 3

Shane Ray put himself on the NFL map, sacking Bengals QB Andy Dalton three times in Week 3. Chad Jensen turns to the film room to evaluate Ray's performance.

There is a misconception that pass rushing is all about power. It can be. It's often done within the phone booth dimensions of a one-on-one matchup. 

But there's much more to sacking the quarterback than power. Technique. Speed. Finesse. All these things play a role. 

The all-time greats will tell you that rushing the passer is an art. It's executed by freakish, athletic virtuosos. A pass rusher must possess at least some of the above mentioned attributes. But they must also be master psychologists. 

The conflict that takes place between an outside linebacker and an offensive tackle is a 60-minute war of attrition, fought by small battles that are measured in snaps. 

It's a chess match. The very best pass rushers, like Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, have mastered the art of setting up a tackle. Maybe they'll bull rush on five consecutive plays, and pepper in a speed move every six snaps. 

The tackle gets lulled into rhythm. Then, the pass rusher pulls a tool out of his belt the tackle hasn't seen. Maybe it's a spin move. And catches him sleeping. 

The opposite is true of the best offensive linemen. Former Denver Broncos All-Pro left tackle, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Gary Zimmerman, was a chess master in his own right. He took the psychological warfare to his opponent. 

Opposing rushers never knew how Zimmerman would defend a given pass drop. He had his own set of tools and strategies that kept his opponents guessing. And he had the power, technique, and athleticism to back it up. Fans see a young edge player selected in the first round and often assume he will immediately impact his team's pass rush. It takes time, however, to hone the skill-set that a guy like Miller possesses, let alone master the long-game that is the psychology of the pass rush. 

Some rookies prove to be the exception to the rule, like Miller, and are able to be productive in their first year by virtue of their talent alone. For most players, even the most naturally talented, it takes time to learn the ropes. 

Fortunately for the Broncos, they've had DeMarcus Ware around to not only produce on gameday, but also to serve as a mentor to the young guys coming up. Shane RayShaq Barrett — and even Von Miller — have benefited tremendously from Ware's tutelage. 

With Ware out with a fractured forearm in Week 3, the Broncos started Shane Ray at outside linebacker opposite of Miller. Ware plays on the weakside predominantly (defensive right), thus Ray would have to do the same.

Going against a three-time first-team All-Pro left tackle in Andrew Whitworth, Ray faced an immense challenge in his first pro start. Whitworth is a battle-tested veteran of the pass-rushing arena. He's been around the block a time or two. 

What unfolded was nothing short of spectacular, as Ray notched six total tackles (three solo), two tackles for a loss, three sacks and three QB hits. Let's take a look at the three times he was able to sack Andy Dalton.

Sack No. 1

Third Quarter: 12:53

Situation: 1st-&-10

The Broncos are in base defense. The Bengals are running one of their unbalanced line looks. At the snap, Ray's quick first step allows him to split the TE & OT and swim inside with a path to Dalton. 

Three seconds. If you hold the ball that long, the odds say that Ray, or Miller will get to you. Props to Ray for making this play, but I can't help but feel like the Bengals weren't sure what their respective assignments were here. This was the only sack that didn't come at Whitworth's expense. 

Sack No. 2

Third Quarter: 12:03

Situation: 2nd-&-18

Ray did a good job getting wide on this play, making Dalton feel like he had to climb the ladder. Whitworth seems to stymie Ray, but the former Missouri Tiger keeps his eye on the prize and pounces once Dalton pulls it down. 

Ray keeps his arm extended so that Whitworth can't get inside his shoulder pads and control him. This technique alone allows Ray the freedom to take Dalton down.

The Broncos got some good interior pressure here from Jared Crick, which really unsettles a quarterback. As for Ray, he had the motor to see this play through, but he also owes a tip 'o the cap to the No Fly Zone for giving Dalton nowhere to go with the ball. 

Sack No. 3

Fourth Quarter: 1:34

Situation: 1st-&-10 (Redzone)

Sometimes getting the sack is a matter of being in the right place at the right time and having the wherewithal to capitalize in those moments. Here we see Von Miller absolutely blow by Cedric Ogbuehi, triggering the "fight or flight" response from Dalton.

He flies, right into the waiting arms of Shane Ray, who's managed to keep himself disengaged from Whitworth's grasp. Dalton thought he had nothing but open grass. It was barely a loss of yards, and thus, barely a sack. But kudos to Ray for taking care of business. 


In his first career start, there's no question Shane Ray exceeded expectations. All three of these sacks showcase the instincts that made him the 2014 SEC Defensive Player of the Year. 

When a pass rusher starts putting it all together, it's fun to watch. It feels like Ray is turning the corner. If he's able to string together a couple of games like this, while DeMarcus Ware recovers, we'll know exactly what the Broncos have in Ray. 

Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.

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