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Film Room: Jabaal Sheard vs Lane Johnson

How did one of the league’s more underrated pass rushers do against one of the best right tackles in football?

Indianapolis Colts v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Next up on the Film Room match-ups series is Jabaal Sheard vs Lane Johnson. This match-up is a bit different from the other ones so far as this one doesn’t feature two All-Pro caliber players against each other. Johnson certainly fits the criteria as he is a two-time Pro Bowler and a one time All-Pro in his six year career. Sheard however has never made a Pro Bowl and has 47 sacks in his nine year career.

So why highlight this match-up? First off, Sheard is much better than his stats suggest. He is extremely disruptive and gets into the backfield consistently. Secondly, Sheard had an outstanding game against a top right tackle and gave Johnson all he could handle in this game. Let’s look at some film though to see just exactly what I’m talking about.

Film Room

First clip and you can see just how strong and quick Sheard is. He gets a great jump off the snap and goes for the bull rush on Johnson. He gets his hands inside on Johnson and is able to drive him back into the pocket. Sheard then angles his body inside and in a direct line to Carson Wentz in order to cause quick pressure. Wentz just releases the ball before Sheard gets there but he does get a good quick pressure on the play. Johnson does do a good job of keeping his body in between Sheard and Wentz despite giving up ground on the rush.

Sheard again gets a good rush on this second clip. He sets Johnson up to the outside before breaking inside after a quick move. Johnson gets just enough of Sheard to cause him to trip on the back of the guard but Sheard gets a good initial rush. As he is falling, he nearly gets a hand on the pass here as he has a knack for getting his hands up and deflecting passes. Johnson finishes the block nicely despite getting beat initially.

Sheard is an elite run defender and he shows that right here. On the sweep play to the right, Sheard is able to diagnose the play and burst up the middle to get the tackle for a loss. His speed and quickness is too much for Johnson to handle as he tries to grab Sheard as he runs by. Sheard making an elite right tackle look this helpless on a run play is so impressive. His motor, awareness, and quickness off the line are obvious strengths in his game.

One of the best rushes of the day for Sheard nearly results in a big play for the Colts. He starts with the bull rush as he is able to knock Johnson off balance. Once he gets a small amount of room inside, he rips past Johnson and nearly knocks the ball out of Wentz’s hands. He does end up forcing Wentz off his spot and causes the quick roll out and the inaccurate pass. Johnson does a good job of giving Sheard very little room to work and shielding him off so he can’t get the sack. Sheard has been close all game to a few sacks.

Johnson is finally able to adjust and get a win on Sheard. Johnson sets up inside to counter the inside move that Sheard has been using all game. This forces Sheard to run the arc which is simply not his game. He pushes outside and never really threatens Johnson from there. Good adjustment by Johnson to take away Sheard’s strength on this play and allow Sheard to take himself out of the play.

Sheard again shows off his strength on this rush. He hits a slight hesitation to get Johnson off-balance before surprising him with a bull rush. He is able to drive Johnson right into Wentz’s lap as Johnson is unable to regain his anchor and fend off the rush. As Wentz begins to throw, Sheard jumps into the passing lane and knocks the ball away. Savvy, veteran play by Sheard to notice Wentz beginning to throw and have the awareness to jump up and swat the ball away. (Side note: I do love how Johnson finishes blocks when his defender leaves his feet. Very nasty player who finishes blocks like this).

Final clip of the game is a good example of this battle. Sheard rushes up field and gets his shoulder inside on Johnson to drive him towards the pocket. Johnson does a good job of staying on his feet and directing Sheard outside the pocket. Sheard’s strength nearly overwhelms Johnson but yet again, Johnson is able to complete his core responsibility of keeping his quarterback clean. Still, Sheard really gave him a good fight in this game from start to finish.

Final Thoughts

Lane Johnson is one of the premier right tackles in the NFL but he did not look like one throughout this game. He was off-balance and thrown back multiple times and Sheard really got the best of him on multiple occasions. Johnson overall won the match-up because he was able to keep his quarterback clean throughout the game but Sheard gave him all he could handle.

This game is a bit of a testament to Sheard’s entire career. He has never been a statistical darling as his sack numbers and career stats don’t tell the whole story with him. His impact on the field is much more than the numbers and he is insanely hard to block. With Justin Houston lining up on the other side this year, I expect Sheard to have a solid season in 2019. The veteran duo should be one of the best pass rushing duos in the NFL if they can stay healthy.