Patriots coach Bill Belichick offered some fascinating insight into his old Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor that may be the best encapsulation of just how much L.T. affected opposing offenses.
In comments in a May interview on Paul Rabil’s podcast, Belichick said Taylor always knew who was blocking him by looking for one thing: Fear.
“A player like Lawrence was such a special athlete, but a really special player because of his awareness and instinctiveness,” Belichick said. “Taylor had the ability, when he stood on the end of the line of scrimmage, which is where he played as an outside linebacker/defensive end, he could just tell, it didn’t matter who the person was, or what the play was, or anything else, he could just tell by the look of the opponent on the other side of the line of scrimmage who was going to block him, and that was by how scared they were.”
Belichick said Taylor knew offensive linemen feared his ability to get past him and could read that as the lineman got into his stance.
“When that tackle was looking at him like, ‘If I’m one split-second late out of my stance, if I am a few inches off on my angle or step, this guy’s going to be behind me.’ They’d have that scared to death look. And Taylor could just tell by looking at the guy whether the guy was blocking him or not,” Belichick said.
Quarterbacks also had a tell: They’d look at Taylor with fear in their eyes before a pass play, and they’d look relieved that they didn’t have to worry about Taylor on a run play.
“The same thing with the quarterback,” Belichick said. “Taylor would anticipate it was a run because the quarterback didn’t care about him, it was somebody else’s problem. But if it was a pass play, and the quarterback looked at Taylor like, ‘Is he rushing? Is he not rushing? Do I have him picked up?’ Before the ball was snapped, he could just tell by the terror he felt from that individual, look in the guy’s eye or how nervous he was from play to play, you know run/pass, which guy’s blocking me, that kind of thing. He would often times come off and tell me that, after the first or second series, he said, ‘I can read this on every play. It’s easy.’ Because the tackle, if he had him in pass protection, was scared to death.”
Belichick called Taylor “the best defensive player I’ve ever coached, by a good margin.”