Things I Noticed: Why this leaping pass-rush move has taken NFL by storm

Terez Paylor
·Senior NFL writer
·3 mins read

When Kansas City edge rusher Taco Charlton unleashed a leaping cross-chop in the third quarter of the Chiefs’ 26-10 win over New England on Monday night, at least three people were smiling: Charlton, Charlton’s agent and former Falcons star turned Atlanta-based pass-rush coach, Chuck Smith.

To be clear, Smith doesn’t work with Charlton. But he did help popularize the move Charlton used — the cross-chop — back around 2007. That’s when Smith worked with New York Giants edge rusher Osi Umenyiora to develop a version of the move, which included a Euro step-like deke and leap off his inside foot toward the lineman’s outside shoulder. It became known as the “Osi.”

“When Osi would head fake in, he always had a knack for coming off the inside foot,” Smith told Yahoo Sports. “The Euro step part of it was where the new generation has taken it from what he created.”

Indeed. In the years since, the move’s popularity has exploded across the league, as star pass rushers like Aaron Donald, Chandler Jones, Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, Robert Quinn and Yannick Ngakoue all use variations of the cross-chop.

Heck, remember Adrian Clayborn’s six-sack night against Dallas in 2017? Yeah. He used the Euro step cross-chop on four of those sacks.

I kid you not, literally every week this season — and I review every game, every week — I’ve noticed multiple edge rushers terrorizing some poor lineman using a variation of a cross-chop, whether it included a leap or a Euro step or some other variation of that.

So in this special extra edition of my weekly “Things I Noticed” feature, Smith joined me in the video above — which was expertly stitched together by my main man Ron Schiltz — to break down why Charlton’s cross-chop was so effective, and why other rushers are so adept at using it, too.

Taco Charlton and Ben Niemann converge from either side on Brian Hoyer, who loses the football.
New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer, center, fumbles as he is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Taco Charlton (94) and linebacker Ben Niemann (56) during the second half of their game on Monday in Kansas City. Niemann recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Again, please watch the video, but a little bonus info here: It’s very, very important for the health of pro football that defenders keep developing moves like this, and it goes far beyond how cool it looks.

This is an offensive game, sure, and the rules are slanted that way. But the game is only fun if defenses have a chance, and the best way — perhaps the only way — to stop the likes of Patrick Mahomes or Russell Wilson is to generate pressure with only four rushers, which allows defenses to drop more men in coverage.

There’s still money to be made in pass rushing. Smith, who trains pro, college and high school passers at his training center in Atlanta, says the race to developing new and more efficient ways to get to the quarterback is never-ending.

“Listen, just because in the last 100 years of football we’ve only used slap-rip and swipes, doesn’t mean new moves can’t be invented,” Smith said. “As the ball comes out quicker and RPOs become more important, at some point in the evolution of pass rush, there are going to be different moves.”

My hope is the next time you see a defender either leap at an offensive lineman’s outside shoulder, chop down at his outside arm and bend the corner toward the quarterback, you’ll not only know exactly why the move was so effective, but also have an appreciation for it.

Playing defense in today’s high-scoring NFL isn’t easy. More points are being scored than ever before, but with the right collection of pass rushers, it is possible.

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