Mind Games: How Ryan Ramczyk Dominated JJ Watt and the Houston Texans (1 Viewer)

TCUDan

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Every good pass rusher starts each snap with a plan. As they line up, lean into their stance, and size up the Offensive Lineman across from them, a week's worth of film and tendencies runs through their mind. "This is what he likes to do." "This is what he doesn't like to do." "This time, I'm gonna' set up with speed." "This time with power." "I got him with the rip last time, so now I'll set up the spin." And on and on. Planning. Strategizing. Building his path to the Quarterback.

The Saints came into the game vs. the Texans knowing that they were going to throw the ball. 43 pass attempts. That is 43 opportunities for one of the league's elite pass rushers--JJ Watt--to get his hits in on one of the league's elite QBs--Drew Brees. The only thing standing in his way was Saints' RT, Ryan Ramczyk.

0 Tackles. 0 Sacks. 0 Hits on the QB. Those were Watt's numbers for the night.

So how did Ramczyk keep one of the greatest NFL defenders in history off of his Quarterback for 4 quarters? There are a lot of details that go into how Ramczyk won those battles in the trenches--too many to cover all of them. So I will stick to what really stood out to me the most--the ways in which Ramczyk consistently won the mental battle. Snap after snap, down after down, Ramczyk played mind games with Watt. He got him out of his plan, kept their matchup on his terms, and left the perennial All Pro frustrated with nothing to show for his effort.

So how did he do it? Here are some examples of how Ryan Ramczyk played mind games with JJ Watt.

The False Punch
To win against JJ Watt, you have to be able to do a few things: make him one dimensional by forcing him to use only speed or only power; avoid/neutralize his counter moves; and be precise with your hands. Ramczyk did a great job in all of these aspects, and moreover, he forced Watt to show his hand early (literally). He accomplished this early in the game by using a false punch.

Example 1

By flashing his right hand early, Ramczyk tricks JJ Watt into thinking that he is attempting to engage him and triggers him into showing his move early--in this instance, a bull rush.
False Punch 1.png

By triggering Watt to show his move early, Ramczyk not only disrupts Watt's timing but he also allows himself additional time and space to anchor down his weight, preventing Watt from getting under his pads and winning the leverage battle with an effective bull rush.
Engage 1.png

Example 2

Here, you'll see Ramczyk utilize the false punch again. This time, Watt attempts to long arm Ramczyk with his inside hand. Because he shoots his hand early, Ramczyk is able to swat it away.
False Punch 2.png

Watt tries to beat Ramczyk with speed and use a rip move to shorten the edge. But because his timing is off, Ramczyk is able to engage him effectively and ride him upfield and out of the play.
Engage 2.png


The Head Fake
By the 2nd Quarter, Watt was beginning to catch on to Ramczyk's false punch, so the RT decided to switch up his body language.


By using a head fake instead of a false punch, Ramczyk presents Watt with a new trigger. Watt, using a speed rush, once again shoots his inside hand too early, attempting to long arm Ramczyk who is, in fact, still gaining depth in his pass set rather than engaging the DE (as the head fake would suggest). This leaves him just out of reach of Watt's long arm.
Lunge Fake 3.png

Ramczyk is able to displace Watt's long arm attempt and win the hand combat battle. With his right hand on Watt's inside number and his left hand on his rib cage (underneath his pads), Ramczyk lengthens the edge of the pocket and forces Watt up the field, safely out of range of Drew Brees.
Hand placement 3.png

Hand Combat
False jabs, head fakes, and other trickeration is not an effective down-to-down strategy. At the end of the day, the battle in the trenches will come down to technique and precision. And when it came to this, Ramczyk still won those battles consistently throughout the game. He did so through patience, taking away Watt's speed rush by attacking his hands rather than his body. In the next two clips, you will see Ramczyk quickly react to and neutralize the inside hand of JJ Watt, then effectively lock on and establish position with his upfield hand inside the frame of Watt's body.


Hand Combat 4.png

Hand Placement 4.png


Hand Combat 5.png

Ramczyk understands that JJ Watt wins his battles with violence. He is able to stay smart and patient in his pass sets, always keeping Watt at a distance and forcing him to make the first move. He is prepared for the hand battle and wins it, putting the brakes on the DE's pass rush strategy and keeping Drew Brees clean in the pocket.

Bonus Breakdown: The Run Game
Ramczyk's domination wasn't only about the matchup between himself and Watt. His presence in the run game was also huge for the Saints, and no play demonstrated this more clearly than Latavius Murray's 30-yard TD run


The call was Outside Zone to the left, away from Ramczyk. With a 3-technique backside, Ramczyk is tasked with the difficult job of reach blocking said 3-technique without the DT penetrating and disrupting the run in the backfield.
Reach 6 (Pre).png

While Larry Warford does help slightly by posting his hand backside, his job is to get to the 2nd level as quick as possible. Ramczyk is basically left on his own to execute one of the most difficult blocks in football. He runs his feet effectively and manages to get his near hand to the 3-tech's far shoulder.
Reach 6 (1).png

Ramczyk's strength and athleticism on are on full display here. He gets just enough placement with his left hand to displace the DT's pad level and slow him down in his attempt to shoot off Warford's hip and penetrate into the backfield.
Reach 6 (2).png

While Ramczyk is unable to establish the angle to keep his head across and seal the 3-tech backside, he does manage to prevent him from squaring his shoulders and either penetrating or fitting into the gap. This is enough to clear a seam for Murray.
Reach 6 (3).png

What I love about this play is that while Ramczyk is unable to truly cut off the 3-tech--a feat which is rare in the NFL--he finishes the play with tenacity, washing the DT down the line and putting him into the ground.
Reach 6 (4).png

By opening that backside B Gap crease on Outside Zone, Ramczyk prevents the 3-Tech from fitting into the gap and forcing Murray into a hard cutback, where an unblocked DE named JJ Watt could have stopped the play at the line of scrimmage. So even when Ramczyk wasn't assigned to JJ Watt, he still did a great job at keeping him out of the play.
 

efil4stnias

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we are truly spoiled. Thanks TCUDan.

Amazing just how many little working parts all have to come together naturally for a player to be truly successful. Great great stuff.

( i went to Falcons site...they have someone doing kinda same....not NEARLY with the knowledge and expertise shown here along with the narrative of what exactly is taking place. No wonder they hate this site so...lol)

im lucky enough to get to watch games w/ my good friend who played LB/DT at Florida in the mid 90s. Its really cool to listen to him comment during the games because what we see, aint what he sees. But we get educated at the same time.
 

RKNSaint

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So much occurred in this one game that these little things are easy to go unnoticed so many thanks for pointing this out. Just like it is easy for us spoiled with Drew to casually overlook the masterpiece he orchestrated in the final seconds. Good stuff...!!
 
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LoL Watt was literally pushed to the side like an irrelevant nobody the entire game. And to think of the way he dogged Strief out all game long 4 yrs ago. Nothing but karma back to bite dat arse!

Considering his availability n how quickly he's learned to be dominant in the pros, I'd dare to say Ramczyk is argueably our best OL. Or @least just as good as Armstead
 

los226

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LoL Watt was literally pushed to the side like an irrelevant nobody the entire game. And to think of the way he dogged Strief out all game long 4 yrs ago. Nothing but karma back to bite dat arse!

Considering his availability n how quickly he's learned to be dominant in the pros, I'd dare to say he's argueably our best OL. Or @least just as good as Armstead
I would say that he’s our best OL. Not only does he play at a high level, but he has availability going for him as well.
 

saint_drago

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This is an incredible post. I know a lot of work went into it so thanks. This really shows how good Ram is. To totally erase J.J. Watt, that's unheard of. It's so interesting to see how he did it.

Every night when I say my prayers I thank god for the 49ers taking Rueben Foster forcing us to settle for Ram.
 

ndcc

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Fully healthy J.J. Watt... and this was the WORST performance/game of his career. Ramczyk rocks!

It seemed like I was reading a narrative from Brian Baldinger... it was that good!

TCU Dan, you need to find a niche and get paid, bro! Mega props; mega thanks! :9:

:gosaints:
 
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TCUDan

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It's implied in the post, but I think it's worth mentioning explicitly the sheer hours of film and preparation Ramczyk had to have put in to perform that well against JJ Watt. He was so patient and precise with his hands, and that is not easy against a pass rusher like Watt who not only has quick hands but extremely violent strikes and a deep arsenal of pass rush moves. I don't think I saw a snap where Watt was easily able to get his hands on Ramczyk first, which is why he wasn't winning those 1-on-1 battles.
 

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