|The Skins have a good group of linebackers, a position of almost abnormal depth for Washington. Their line is stout, if slow. I'll show some of their blitz packages, and use them as an opportunity to explain each starter's strengths and weaknesses. These blitzes, conveniently enough, all took place in the same drive. I picked this series of blitzes because they work cohesively. It's the defensive equivalent of giving an opponent lots of different looks. Okay, let's rip these open.
On the first one the Skins have "8 in the box". Landry is walked up, Godfrey is shaded to the offensive left side (we'll describe everything from the offensive perspective from now on), Fletcher-Baker is just right of middle and Marcus Washington is aligned just outside the right tackle. At the snap, left defensive end Philip Daniels runs an outside move right, the other three linemen rush, more or less, forward, Godfrey runs an outside move left, and Landry rushes between Godfrey and the left defensive end. Godfrey is moving on fresh legs, or was in this game, and looked pretty quick for an old guy. Hell, he just looked pretty quick. Philip Daniels isn't much of a pass rusher, so his job is primarily to occupy the left tackle, and, moreover, move him inside. Fletcher-Baker deeks in, and then moves back out into a middle zone. Fletcher-Baker does this a ton on blitzes. Washington moves into zone coverage in the right flat. Washington used to be a good coverage linebacker, but looked a little stiff out there. T-Jack rushed rushed his pass and had it batted down, so, in effect this blitz worked. Here's your next play/blitz...
and the one right after that.
Yep, I just mirrored it, because that's how Gregg Williams called it. Only difference between the two, in the first the safety is walked up to the line before moving back into coverage. In the second, the safety is back pre-snap. Let's talk about the first one: Washington is pretty good at fighting off blockers, best among this set of linebackers, anyhow. He takes an outside angle but runs it pretty straight. Daniels uses an outside rush, but it's also kind of straight, which might be for the better, because if Daniels strays too far from the tackle-box he's likely taken himself out of the play. Godfrey works in man coverage, and Fletcher-Baker, once again deeks in and then drops into a middle zone. Godfrey handles his man, but the rush never really arrives, and Jackson dumps the ball to Adrian Peterson in the left flat. Pete charges for 14 yards and the first.
|The subsequent play is a little more effective, mostly, I think, because Andre Carter is a better pass rusher, and thus better compliments the blitzing linebacker on the opposite side. Carter is the Skins best pass rusher. He' a quick, instinctive player that runs around looking to contribute on every play. At the same time, he's sort of your typical, slightly built edge rusher, and can get pushed around by the more imposing right tackles of the league. That's not Sean Locklear, of course. This play ended in an incompletion.
4 blitzes in a row. Six man blitz this time. The pressure comes from the outside, Jackson steps up and completes a pass to Troy Williamson. Williamson loses Springs, but Springs recovers and is able to tackle Williamson behind the first down marker. That's Springs showing his superior know-how.
The next play is a run, sort of. Jackson throws the ball backwards to Taylor and Taylor runs around left end for the first. The Skins front four is not fast or terribly disruptive, but it's big and hard to move. Their best defensive tackle, and likely best overall linemen, is Cornelius Griffin. Griffin has lost that crucial step that allows him to turn penetrations into sacks, but he does still regularly get into the backfield and disrupt runs/provide pressure. Griffin is paired with Anthon Montgomery/Kedric Golston, who are both space eaters. They, like linemen in a 3-4, attempt to steer opposing offensive linemen, creating blitzing/run stuffing lanes for their linebackers.
Another 5 man rush. Fletcher-Baker and Washington both work in man coverage. Fletcher-Baker is the heart of this front 7. He's, even at 32, a fleet playmaker that works sideline to sideline. He's also a real plus in coverage, zone or man. Really, Fletcher-Baker, from skills to his attitude to his dedication is a lot like Lofa Tatupu. Tats is a meaner tackler, but Baker is a touch quicker. This blitz doesn't work very well. The Vikings have now long since kept blockers back anticipating a blitz, the two linebackers are occupied in man coverage and the center of the field opens up. Wihout much pressure, Bobby Wade gets a step on Springs (who's in man coverage), receives and after a brief RAC nets 19 yards. Two plays later the Vikings would score a touchdown.
Williams looks a bit like he's attempting to outsmart his opponent. Early in the season, the Skins had an awesome, truly awesome secondary. Williams used his front 7 to get pass rush, and trusted his secondary to contain/capitalize - with an emphasis on the former. The problem is the Skins' front 7 is not truly a force at generating pass rush, and with a degraded secondary, receivers do get open. It's a dangerous strategy, one that might swallow a green quarterback of questionable ability, but be picked apart by a better signal caller. If Beck has his head, stays poised like he has been able to pretty much all season, he will have time, and the Hawks receivers will get open.