Breaking Down D.J. Wonnum’s First Quarter Sack

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Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker D.J. Wonnum (98) and linebacker Danielle Hunter. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

In Week 2, D.J. Wonnum picked up his 2nd sack of the season part way through the 1st quarter. It occurred with a bit more than 5 minutes on the clock on a 3rd and 12. D.J. Wonnum’s sack forced Philly to punt the ball away.

The Eagles had gotten off to a fast start, completing passes with ease as they created their 7-point lead. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s offense failed to get into a rhythm. The sense from the early part of the game was that Philly could gain a large advantage early (which is what ended up happening).

They began the drive with 7:34 on the clock. The Eagles were on their own 23. A.J. Brown began with a productive first-down play, but an ineligible man down the field pushed Philly back. Philadelphia had some more success moving the ball but a botched snap and an OPI resulted in a 3rd and 12.

It’s on the 3rd and 12 when D.J. Wonnum was able to get his 2nd sack of the year:

The first thing to note is the personnel. Minnesota only brings 4 rushers, but they’re trying to get good matchups by putting three edge rushers on the field at once. Wonnum is joined by Danielle Hunter, Za’Darius Smith, and Dalvin Tomlinson (who is an underrated pass rusher).

Smith and Tomlinson combine to demand the attention of Philadelphia’s three interior offensive linemen. That allows Hunter and Wonnum to get one-on-one matchups along the outside. Folks, that’s a major part of the plan. The goal here is to allow Smith to get a favorable matchup on a guard while the two edge rushers can beat their individual blockers. If the OL only leaves a single player on Tomlinson, then the DT is athletic and powerful enough to win.

As the play unfolds, we can see how it’s often a full defensive effort to get the sack. Hurts needs to hold onto the ball for a bit, suggesting no one is immediately open. Keep in mind that they need 12 yards for the 1st down, so the ball does need to get down the field.

As he tries to scramble toward his right, Hurts must contend with Hunter. #99 works up the field before spinning underneath the right tackle. In so doing, Hurts decides not to step up into the pocket, instead retreating so he can try to sneak behind his RT to find some green grass.

The issue, of course, is that D.J. Wonnum is coming from behind, and Minnesota’s young pass rusher gets the sack on Hurts.

Wonnum does a nice job with his hustle and effort. From what I can see, he begins his pass rush by getting his mitts onto the OT’s chest. From there, he tries to rip underneath so he can work toward the QB. It’s not a bad rep from Philadelphia’s LT; more often than not, Wonnum likely isn’t getting the sack on that play. The collective effort from the rest of the team allows Wonnum to make the play, though.

Against Detroit, keep an eye on the Hunter-Tomlinson-Smith-Wonnum pass rush grouping. Wonnum’s sack in Week 1 featured the same collection of players. Being able to generate pressure with just four players will help Ed Donatell’s group to shut down Detroit’s offense.

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