Arden Key ran straight at Rams offensive tackle Bobby Evans, broke inside and then quickly popped back out. The Raiders edge rusher caught his man off balance, and then he looped right around him for an easy sack during Saturday’s exhibition opener against the Rams at the Coliseum.
Key’s pass-rush was expertly executed, from setup to sack, and celebrated appropriately by the second-year pass rusher.
Evans never stood a chance on that play, and it was Andrew Whitworth’s fault.
Key asked the three-time All-Pro for some advice after Rams-Raiders joint practices in Napa days before the game, and then used it against Whitworth’s teammate.
Whitworth helped Key specifically because, as we all know, Tiger blood runs deep.
“I sought him out,” Key said after the Raiders 14-3 win in the preseason opener. “That’s LSU family right there.”
Whitworth’s main point during these post-practice interactions: Key can tip his pitches.
“We talked the two days we were playing up in Napa and practicing with them,” Key said. “They were telling me something about my rush moves, about how I’m giving it up early. Run at him, and then last second, just do your move.”
That sure looks like what the LSU alumni are discussing here.
The @LSUfootball guys stick together. 👏
Big Whit working with Arden Key. #NFLSU pic.twitter.com/JVbt2iWdu2— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) August 8, 2019
Now take a look at Key’s sack. Doesn't it look like he’s following Whitworth’s instructions?
We see you, Arden. 👊 pic.twitter.com/fUkbjbqtLs— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) August 11, 2019
Key always has had the talent and athleticism to be a high-end pass rusher. He just needs proper instruction to get there. He got it in a small dose from Whitworth. Defensive line coach Brenston Buckner has provided steady servings of insight to develop this athletic freak.
Key had to do some physical work this offseason, gaining the strength and size required for opponents to respect power moves. That has helped him apply what others are teaching.
“I got a little stronger, which helps with the bull rush, and now that’s my [baseline] move,” Key said. “So much of the credit goes to ‘Buck.’ I’m really starting to use my hands now. Last year, I didn’t use hands at all. I was using my shoulder and a lot of forearm. If I can use my hands to keep guys off me, I can make moves and use my bend and length and things of that sort.”
Key essentially was on his own last year. He thought Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin would mentor him, but Mack got dealt and Irvin got cut around midseason. He was playing more than he should’ve and giving maximum effort, without many positive results.
“Being a rookie, everything was fast and I put pressure on … all the rookies put pressure on themselves because we were part of Gruden’s first draft class,” Key said. “Things just didn’t go as planned, and we put pressure on ourselves. Now, it’s not a lot of pressure.”
We know all about last year's missed sacks. Key has moved on from that, focused not only on making plays in front of him but creating them as well. He seeks out professional knowledge from all sources, coaches, teammates and opponents alike.
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Buckner has said Key at times got beat before the snap, with opponents aware of exactly what he was going to do. Now Key sees several routes to the same backfield, with several variations based on how an opponent reacts
“I have learned more about how to set people up this offseason, using the bull rush as a foundation,” Key said. “You do that enough times, and then you change it up at an important times. That’s when I can get around the edge or bust inside, because he’s thinking one thing and I’m doing another.”