Live by the Blitz, Die by the Blitz
One of the big exciting developments of the week two victory over the Jets was the use of some interesting and effective pressure packages. Karl Joseph in particular was wreaking havoc as he timed up Josh McCown and attacked thru the Jets’ offensive line.
Visions of multiple attacking packages that consistently threaten opposing QBs started dancing in our collective head and it certainly felt like it would be a great addition to this defense as it grew up.
Week 3 was Crash to Earth week and we found out that Coach Callahan really had their offensive line well prepared to pick up these blitzes. The blockers were well aware of what to do in each situation and they also had some excellent play calls to attack those blitzes.
Here’s a look at three blitz packages and how Washington attacked them.
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Blitz #1 Free Mack
Last week, Ken Norton schemed a 1-on-1 for Mack by bringing Karl Joseph from the outside. On this play, Norton again brings pressure and designs a play to get Mack free inside. But the Redskins’ OL is ready for it and reacts very well and it takes a little bit too long (like many looping plays like 3-man stunts). Part of the reason is that the coverage was playing so far off to allow a quick throw.
1. Rush Lines
Scheming to free Mack up to the inside.
TJ Carrie blitzing from the slot, Cory James blitzing at the RG. Mario Edwards taking a wide outside loop to draw the Guard and Tackle outside. Bruce Irvin dropping to cover.
2. Creating the Lane
Mario takes the LG and LT. The Center takes Treyvon Hester. There’s a nice lane opening up and Khalil Mack is racing to it.
3. Center and Left Guard React
The LG knows that when Bruce drops, there’s pressure from the other side and so quickly gets his head around and finds Mack. The Center also has eyes on him.
4. Throw is away anyway
As Mack comes under, blockers are coming to pick up Mack.
But with Oakland’s secondary playing 10 yard off coverage yet again, Kirk Cousins has an easy pitch-and-catch completion for the first down.
Blitz #2 Linebacker + Safety blitz
Ken Norton Jr called this blitz in Week 2 against the Jets and it brought Karl Joseph free and resulted in a beautifully schemed sack. On that play, Raiders’ Defense brought the linebacker and the safety from the same side and forced the RB to pick up one while the other came free. Clearly the Raiders expected similar, but the Redskins’ protection scheme was different and allowed the RB to release without picking up either blitzer. That resulted in a huge play.
1. Rush Lines
Mack dropping, down lineman rushing to create gaps and then blitzers coming in between. Having two blitzers coming from the right side should force the RB to pick up one of them.
It’s not clear on the still, but Mack tips off his drop by standing up straight and backing off the ball just one beat before the snap.
2. Appears like an Overload, but RB releases
Redskins know that blitzers mean Mack will drop and so they can protect with 5 and can release the RB.
Raiders don’t expect this and have no one to cover the back.
3. Guards get eyes on blitzers
Redskins get eyes on blitzers. In particular, the LG gets his eyes on Reggie Nelson in a hurry.
4. Picked up
It’s picked up. Interestingly, seems like Reggie Nelson had a better shot at Cousins if he had kept to his initial rush lane because Denico Autry had occupied the inside shoulder of the Center.
With the blitzers picked up, the coverage does not account for the running back and he’s in the clear for the easy short pass and huge run after.
With Denico Autry subbing in for Mack at the LEO position, Norton once again brings pressure. Same as many of the designs, he drops Autry while bringing pressure from the other side. Redskins’ OL picks it up. Key is how Autry tries to feign a rush, but the Redskins recognize that he’s not coming and so they are able to pick up all the rushers.
Notice that Autry sits trying to draw the LT and ends up with a potential beautiful free rush lane at Kirk Cousins, but since he has drop responsibilities, he’s not coming and gives Cousins enough time to scan the entire field, going from deep left all the way back to the deep right before he makes the long touchdown throw.
1. Rush Lines
Rush design is for Bruce Irvin to slant hard inside and draw blockers and leave Karl Joseph with a 1-on-1 with the RB.
Denico Autry tries to lure and distract the LT by hovering at the LOS before dropping into underneath coverage
The RB has the pickup and the LT picks up Treyvon Hester.
Denico is hovering and has this beautiful free rush at Kirk Cousins. But his job is to drop into underneath zone.
Painfully, there are no underneath receivers on this play and so Denico doesn’t actually cover anyone.
3. Rush Lane, if only…
That rush lane is enticing, though there’s a chance that the LG may come off Justin Ellis to pick up Autry if he had come.
4. Cousins scanning entire field
OL does great job of picking everyone up. There’s no pressure and Cousins has 4 seconds or so to scan right, switch to scanning to the left, and then going back to the right again. Then he makes that deep throw that Josh Doctson came down with for the TD.
The NFL is about adjustments. In game, week to week, year to year.
Just like we shouldn’t have gotten too excited about those fun new blitzes in week 2, we should also not get to frustrated about the failures of the pressure plays in this game. The work ahead is to self scout, prep, and determine how to make each play more effective.
Ken Norton and John Pagano have some very important intel now. They know some ways that theses packages can be attacked and that’s great to have this early in the season.
Keep an eye out and see if the defense shows a few different looks. One thing is that Norton will have to bring both outside rushers with the safety to keep the offense honest. They were definitely keying on the dropping LEO and realizing that it meant that likely a backside blitzer was coming.
Denver won’t get these exact same looks.