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Nick Saban wants defense focused on ‘affecting quarterbacks,’ not sacks

Alabama football head coach Nick Saban speaks to the press during Crimson Tide's fan day: Alicia Devine - Touchdown Alabama Magazine

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.– He loves big plays and he gets excited after seeing guys accomplish marquee performances, but Alabama football head coach Nick Saban does not want his defense to be so consumed with making the “big play” that it forgets to concentrate on the assignment.  

Punishing quarterbacks was a big thing for the Crimson Tide in the last two seasons under defensive coordinators Kirby Smart and Jeremy Pruitt.

While ex-Tide defensive end Jonathan Allen totaled 22.5 of the team’s 106 sacks – 21.2 percent – Ryan Anderson, Tim Williams and Reuben Foster among others found ways to create havoc in the backfield for opposing teams. 

Despite the competitive edge shown by the secondary in fall practice, Alabama’s defensive front is having a tough time consistently affecting the quarterback.

During Wednesday’s presser, Saban said the pass rush isn’t where it needs to be due to “players being too worried about sacks.” 

“There is about eight or nine things that affect the outcome of a game, and sacks don’t really do that,” he said. “It does affect drives, but it does not affect the outcome of a game. But in affecting quarterbacks, I look at pushing the pocket, not letting the guy step up in the pocket and make throws downfield is really significant in playing good pass defense and being a pass rush team.” 

Before getting selected in this year’s NFL Draft to the New York Giants, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson embodied Saban’s technique in making signal callers uncomfortable.

His sacks count wasn’t high; however, Tomlinson ended his career with 13 quarterback hurries and 10 pass breakups.

He was strong in collapsing the pocket and affected passes lanes by batting balls down. 

“There are two things: The ability to rush, but also being a smart rusher in terms of how do we affect the quarterback which we need to improve on,” Saban said. 

In returning a talented group of linebackers, headlined by Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama will look to be instinctive and make the right play in the passing game. Saban and the Tide will return to Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday for its second scrimmage.

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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