The term bend in American football refers to a pass rushers ability to lower themselves to the ground while still maintaining their speed and stability. Pass rushers will use their bend to try and lower their shoulders in order to slip underneath the tackles outside arm and get to the quarterback.
The better the bend the closer to the ground a pass rusher will be. This will make it noticeably more difficult for the tackle to block the pass rusher. In other words, defensive ends and outside linebackers bend their way around the tackle in order to reach the quarterback.
A great example of a player showing off his bend can be seen in the video below.
As you can see in the video Christian Miller is able to bend his way around the “blockers” by bending his ankles and dipping his hips and inside shoulder.
This maneuver makes it incredibly difficult for a pass rusher to get their hands on your upper body. As you can see in the video this maneuver also requires a great deal of flexibility in both the ankles and hips. It also requires great skill to maintain your balance and strength when moving this low to the ground.
How Does Bend Work In Football
This pass rush attribute is successful for getting to the quarterback for multiple reasons. First off it offers you the quickest way to get to the quarterback.
Now the fastest path to the quarterback is going straight at him. The only issue with this is that there is likely a 300-pound offensive tackle between your pass rusher and the quarterback. Taking the straight line would mean utilizing a bull rush which can be an effective maneuver.
But if we are being honest a bull rush is likely to end in a sack. So if you are going to go around the tackle utilizing bend is the best way to do it. Have you ever seen a motorcycle race where the riders are cutting the turn as close as possible.
These drivers lean so far into the turn their knees are barely off the ground. This is the same idea as pass-rushing bend. These players lean heavily into the turn around offensive lineman and reach the quarterback in the fastest way possible.
That is not to say this pass move will always work but a pass rusher with great bend is not something you want to face on the football field.
Sneaking Under The Lineman
The other portion of bend that defeats lineman is the difficulty of blocking a low player. On pass-rushing plays the tackle is going to be in pass protection which means he is fairly upright.
Tackles are pretty tall players already which means their hands are going to be fairly high up as they step backwards. By utilizing your bend and dipping your shoulder you may be able to keep your shoulder pads out of the tackles reach.
On these plays, the tackle is going to have to squat down lower or reach down in order to hit your shoulder pads.
It is for this reason that players with great bend are often able to get to the quarterback in an incredibly short amount of time.