Skins DEFENSE vs Seattle


We were able to dictate which gaps we wanted Seattle to run into:

  • We slanted Hood and McClain in opposite directions, opening the offensive line.
  • Compton widened out and drew the center from the line.

The RB took the bait and hit the gap we designed for him, Brown took care of the rest:

End Zone View:

Compton made plays away from the ball like this one all game long.

That was the basic bones of our run defense: bait the running back and let Zach Brown clean up.  Most times it worked as planned and sometimes they got us with misdirection.

On this drive they ran back to back moving “Iso” runs.  Basically, Iso is when the fullback slams straight ahead into the linebacker and clears a path for the running back.  This was the third time they lined up to run Iso, so we answered with this:

  • McGee slants and takes the Left Guard with him.
  • This opens up a gap for Compton to smash into the fullback
  • Brown is free to clean up the running back.

But Seattle ran the “Counter” play instead and caught us in a bad defense.  The running back fakes like it’s Iso with the first step, but then they pull the left guard and fullback the other way and the running back follows:

Slanting guys around is a chess match that will go both ways, fortunately in this game we won these match ups more than we lost them.

Like the previous week, we ditched the exotic formations.  Deshazor Everett only got 1 snap even though Montae Nicholson was out for the game.  That left DHall and DJ Swearinger to man the safety corps for the entire game; we played with 2 high safeties way more than normal.

What Happened

Run defense was near perfect, but pass rush lane integrity and flat zone coverage were a problem.

Continue reading “Skins DEFENSE vs Seattle”

Skins DEFENSE vs Cowboys (I)


We stuck to our base formations and got penetration against their zone runs with slants:

That’s our 3-4 with a huge gap inside of Smith; we are baiting them to run it there.

McClain and Hood slant toward the top of the screen widening that gap and Compton fired right into it.  The scheme sets up Compton for a TFL or at the very least he should force the RB to cut it back, which is what ends up happening:

Notice McGee’s stunt (red), it looks like he’s getting punished off the line but he’s actually taking a defender with him and opening up a path for the guy outside of him to handle any cutbacks.

No defensive lineman playing middle linebacker like the last two weeks, just guys lining up where they normally do and stressing the offensive line with movement.

What Happened

Turnovers and special teams overrode a defensive effort that was good enough to win the game.

Drive 1:  Fumble.

Drive 2:  This was the drive where they got us.  They burned us with play action and set up on our 13:

Witten is coming across the formation and both our backers need to bump down a gap as an adjustment to that.  Spaight (yellow) does so, Brown (red) does not:

Between the play actions and run fits, we downloaded what Dallas showed us on this drive and adjusted.

Drive 3: missed FG attempt.

Drive 4:  Punt.

Drive 5:  Started at the 1 yard line thanks to the blocked FG.

Drive 6:  Punt.

Drive 7:  FG.

Drive 8:  started on our 26, gained -4 yards, ended in a FG.

Drive 9:  Had to insert Everett into the line up and they picked on him right away.  Still only gave up a FG.

Drive 10:  Brown got a dumb Unnecessary Roughness penalty, still only gave up a FG.

Drive 11:  Punt.

That’s one touchdown from a drive where we downloaded everything they did and four field goals, one of which came on a drive that lost four yards.

Against a playoff team without Breeland, Foster and Allen that is still a performance you can win with.  Dallas shut it down on the last two drives with 13 runs for 48 yards good enough for 3.7 ypc.  If Zach Brown doesn’t commit a boneheaded unnecessary roughness penalty both of those drives end in punts.


The Show

Defensive Line
Player + Total
Ioannidis 3.5 0 3.5
McGee 2 2 0
Hood 6 10.5 -4.5
McClain 3.5 4.5 -1
Lanier 3 0 3
Total     1
Pressure 8 7 1
+ plays are good. 
- plays are bad.

If it's a ho-hum play, like a 3 yard gain on first down, then usually nobody will do worse or better than -1 or +1. But give up a 64 yard touchdown (-4) or get a TFL/Sack (+2) and I go higher in either direction.

Pressure: Did the quarterback comfortably hold onto the ball for longer than 3 seconds: -1. Did the QB feel pressure in 3 seconds or less? +1

In the preview, one of the key match-ups was Ziggy Hood vs outside zone runs and the result in this game was that he struggled a lot.

The formula to open up a huge hole on our defense:

  • get Hood flowing sideways
  • then wham him with a second blocker:

On this next play Everett fails to come down in the box (and gets a scolding from DJ after the play) but also Hood gets taken out with the same formula as above:

we’ll see how he holds up next week, I’d imagine Seattle is going to run these stretch plays with a design to target him.  FWIW McGee was inserted at nose tackle on the last drive and had similar problems.

Ioannidis and Allen were two of the best against these types of runs, it will be up to the linebackers to shut these down until we get them back.

Anthony Lanier had a sneaky good game at 3 and 5 technique.  He’s not going to solve our issues at nose, but if McGee or McClain go down he looks more than able to pick up where they left off.

Players + Total
Galette 1 2.5 -1.5
Spaight 0.5 8 -7.5
Compton 4 7.5 -3.5
Anderson 1 3.5 -2.5
Brown 9.5 5.5 4
Kerrigan 7 4.5 2.5
Smith 6 0 6
Total     -2.5

Martrell Spaight struggled with zone reads, here he just reads it wrong and thinks it’s a QB keeper:

and here he’s late bumping down a gap, ends up peeking inside and eats a block:

Normally run reads are Spaight’s forte, it’s tackling in space and coverage that he’s struggled with.  Hopefully this game remains an outlier for the season.

While Spaight and the interior of the defensive line struggled, Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan continued to be matchup problems.  Here is Smith wasting Witten’s block and meeting Brown in the backfield:

If there is any way to upgrade our defensive interior, we could easily be a top 5 rushing defense with the pieces we have on the outside.

Defensive Backs
Player + Total
Norman 2 0 2
DJ 4.5 4.5 0
Fuller 1 2.5 -1.5: Minuses came in run D
Nicholson 1 3.5 -2.5
Dunbar 2 4 -2: got beat early, recovered late
Everett 0 3 -3: looked lost out there
Total     -7
Coverage 15 15 0

We got to see Nicholson play his first snap at something other than deep safety in a long time and while he was a little robotic with the technique, it was good enough bracket coverage for Dak to come off the read:

Everett was the only one with issues in coverage, everyone else was fine.  Dunbar struggled early with Dez but got it  together by the second half.

Predictions From Last Week

  1. Preston Smith gets PFF’s highest grade on the defense
    • Yes, and finished with the highest grade for the whole team
  2. Dez finishes with less than 50 yards receiving and under 10.0 ypc
    • 4 catches for 39 yards, good for 9.8 ypc.
  3. Dak pulls off one miracle downfield play
    • uh, no.  He had a couple of QB keepers but those were on Spaight and not really miracles.

What Does It Mean For Seattle?

  • Expect to see plenty of outside zone runs as they test out Hood in the middle.  Good news: they rank 28th in rushing DVOA.
  • Also expect at least a couple of zone reads when Spaight is in the game, just to see if he’s fixed whatever vision problems he had.
  • Outside of Doug Baldwin I’m not seeing any threats Norman, Fuller and co. can’t handle.  But if the first two bullet points end badly for us, then play action becomes a problem.

Your Moment of Zen:

Our Wednesday injury report:

Chad Ryan on Twitter

Redskins on Wednesday’s injury report: Z. Brown Crowder Ioannidis Lauvao Long Nsekhe Paul Reed Scherff Williams Breeland Kelley Nicholson Spaight Clemmings Compton Everett Kerrigan Moses Norman Pryor #Redskins on IR Allen Bowen Foster Hopkins Murphy Marshall Taylor 280 chars


Fight For Old DC Looks At Our Formations


How it looks on TV:

When Do We Use This Formation:  When teams put a fullback or 2+ tight ends on the field; the 3-4 is our “heavy” or “big boy football” formation:

  • DT:  McGee, Hood, McClain
    • Backups:  Ioannidis, Lanier, Allen (injured)
  • OLB:  Kerrigan, Smith
    • Backups:  Galette, Anderson
  • ILB:  Foster (injured), Brown
    • Backups:  Compton, Spaight, Harvey-Clemons
  • CB:  Norman, Breeland
    • Backups:  Dunbar, Moreau
  • SS:  DJ Swearinger
    • Backups:  McClure, Everett
  • FS:  Nicholson
    • Backups:  McClure, Everett

At the line:  McGee lines up over the tight ends and tackles (5-Tech), Hood lines up over the center and guards (Nose), and McClain lines up over guards and tackles (3-Tech.)  Teams can motion to make McGee and McClain switch positions.  Those guys are flanked by the outside linebackers to make this a 5-man line and tough to run against.

Linebackers:  In the picture above you can see two DTs and one OLB lined up on the line in front of Zack Brown.  Those four will usually line up away from the TE.  Putting those three guys over the center, guard and tackle in front of Brown does a couple of things:

  1. Keeps Brown clean from offensive line blocks and allows him to be a star.
  2. Makes it near impossible for teams to pull offensive lineman on that side since we can shoot into the backfield if that happens.  It limits the type of runs they can call.  Versus our 3-4 most teams ditch the gap/Power runs and stick to inside and outside zone.

To the strength of the formation (usually where the tight ends and fullback line up) you have McGee and one OLB lined up in front of the other inside linebacker.  That linebacker is usually  Mason Foster Will Compton and we ask him to shed or dodge offensive lineman en route to the football [EDIT:  Foster has been moved to IR.  Life.  Don’t talk to Mason Foster about life.]

Starting Safeties: DJ Swearinger is the only safety that plays in the box and mans up on tight ends, while Nicholson is the deep safety.  Usually those positions are interchangeable but for now the rookie Nicholson is only asked to play deep.  Backup Deshazor Everett has been asked to do all safety duties as well but is rarely asked to take the field.


How it looks on TV:

When Do We Use This Formation:  When teams put three or more wide receivers on the field.  We remove one DT from the line and add a cornerback in the slot.  The OLBs become defensive ends.

  • DT:  Ioannidis, Allen (injured)
    • Backups:  Hood, McClain, McGee, Lanier
  • DE:  Kerrigan, Smith
    • Backups:  Galette, Anderson
  • ILB:  Foster (injured), Brown
    • Backups:  Spaight, Compton, Harvey-Clemons
  • CB:  Norman, Breeland
    • Backups:  Dunbar, Moreau
  • Slot:  Fuller
    • Backup:  Holsey
  • SS:  DJ Swearinger
    • Backups:  McClure, Everett
  • FS:  Nicholson
    • Backups:  McClure, Everett

As with the 3-4, Swearinger is asked to make linebacker reads in the box and cornerback reads in man to man coverage while Nicholson is strictly the deep safety.  Depending on alignment, the Slot CB can also be asked to make linebacker reads.

Unlike the 3-4, Mason Foster is backed up by Martrell Spaight instead of Will Compton.  Last year Compton was burned on a lot of zone coverages, so it appears we have tried to minimize that by keeping him out of the Nickel package.


Do They Work?


Defensive DVOA Ranking:  14th, just above average.

3-4:  We spent our way to a beefier 3-4 line with free agent additions Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain.  The biggest hole remains at nose tackle with Ziggy Hood.  Whether we can rotate him out with a higher frequency remains a question mark.

The biggest improvement in this blog’s opinion was the benching of Will Compton.  Last year, most third down conversions and game winning drives were a result of him being on the field.  With Mason Foster placed on IR, Compton is back as the starter in our 3-4.  I don’t know what to tell you other than perhaps with limited snaps Compton will be able to play above an Arena League level.

He certainly knows the playbook and can diagnose a fair amount of formations pre-snap and is a “locker room leader”, he could excel as a position coach: #PromoteCompton.  C’mon you guys, let’s get that trending worldwide.

Nickel:  The Nickel package features our best talent with Fuller and Ioannidis joining 3-4 carryovers Kerrigan, Smith and Norman.  Injuries have tempered this package’s ceiling a bit; with Allen out teams have found success running on us especially through Ziggy Hood, but the secondary looks as good as it has in a long time.

Where To Improve

For next year, In order:

  1.  Nose Tackle.  Hood has done nothing to show he deserves to come back next year and with Allen out the last two weeks teams have been running it up the middle with impunity.
  2. Inside Linebacker.  We need at least three guys who can start given how physical the position is.  Zach Brown is the star, and next to him we could use one guy to backup Mason Foster.  The jury is still out on Spaight: missed tackles and coverage are his biggest issues to iron out.
  3. DT (one guy to play 3 and 5 Tech.)  We already spent money on Terrell McClain, Stacy McGee and drafted Jonathan Allen, so this probably won’t happen, but it would be nice to have a second guy who like Allen could slot inside in our 3-4 AND play in the Nickel as a rotational player.

It looks like we missed on Hood and McGee with the later at least being serviceable.  Teams that make a living off of attacking the A gaps can control the line of scrimmage and even with Josh Norman shutting down #1 receivers, that is not a formula for winning games.  Unlike last year the starting 11 is strong up the middle, but lose a guy or two (Foster and Allen) and Zeke goes off for 33 carries and 150 yards plus  offenses are not scared to go for it on 4th and 1.

When it comes to 300 pounders in the interior, we need as many bullets in the chamber we can afford.  Two more DT/NT types would cost a chunk of money and with contract talks looming on the other side of the ball I’m not sure how feasible it is, but getting two out of three on this list would be enough to help us soldier through if the injury bug strikes again.

Skins DEFENSE vs The Eagles (II)


Manusky acted like a mad scientist with some of our line ups, this was 3rd and 3:

  • Galette is playing inside linebacker.
  • McGee has outside contain; something he has struggled with all year
  • Zach Brown is lined up as a defensive back over Ertz–not good:

  • Galette covers the same gap as Ioannidis.
  • McGee gives up contain
  • Zach Brown is playing cornerback.

Does Galette know inside linebacker reads?  Can McGee keep up with Wentz on contain?  Why the hell is Zach Brown playing cornerback?

Later on a 3rd and 6 we come back with Galette at inside linebacker again:

As soon as that gap opened up between Kerrigan and Foster, a true inside linebacker would have fired through.  But instead you have a guy shuffling towards the sideline unsure of how to attack the running back and giving up a first down.  Rather than forcing a punt and getting the ball back down one touchdown, they go on to score to make it 31-17.

What Happened

Quarterback scrambles and deep shots.

On the first play of this drive Dunbar (circled) had trouble fighting through traffic and covering his crossing route:

So on the next play DJ makes a call for Dunbar to pass off his crosser to Nicholson.  Problem is, Dunbar doesn’t realize this means he has to now carry anything deep that Nicholson would’ve had:

That left Mason Foster one on one with Ertz which resulted in a 46 yard play.  There are a lot of ways to look at this play, but I’m seeing it as:

  1. A minus on Dunbar for not picking up the deep route that Nicholson left for him
  2. A bad adjustment.  I mean just let Dunbar fight through traffic and cover that route.  It was a 2 minute drill and that shallow crossing route wasn’t going to kill us.


The Show


Defensive Line
Player + Total
McGee 1.5 2 -0.5
McClain 1 0.5 0.5
Lanier 0.5 -2 -1.5: minus 2 for losing a pass rush lane
Hood 5 4 1
Ioannidis 7 1.5 5.5: Did almost everything right
Total     5
Pressure +10 -12 -2: losing pass rush lanes and RPOs slowed us down
+ plays are good.  
- plays are bad.  

If it's a ho-hum play, like a 3 yard gain on first down, then usually nobody will do worse or better than -1 or +1.  But give up a 64 yard touchdown (-4) or get a TFL/Sack (+2) and I go higher in either direction.

Pressure:  Did the quarterback comfortably hold onto the ball for longer than 3 seconds: -1.  Did the QB feel pressure in 3 seconds or less? +1


Those were a couple plays where Ziggy got blown off the line.  He would occasionally stalemate a block, but he never fought through doubles like Ioannidis:

Continue reading “Skins DEFENSE vs The Eagles (II)”

Skins DEFENSE vs the 49ers


We used a 3-3-5 (3DL, 3LBs, 5DBs) on 3rd and longs in an attempt to confuse and deceive:

The above formation had Jonathan Allen (R.I.P.) at linebacker depth.  He’s going to vacate his zone and rush the QB:

The RB runs to where Allen left and gets an easy catch.  Meanwhile, we tasked Kerrigan to play zone coverage; he takes off to cover a spot on the field without even checking to see where the RB is going.

So that’s a pass rusher playing zone coverage and a defensive lineman lined up as a linebacker, and for what?  If anything we just helped a rookie QB make an easy throw on 3rd and 8.

We have done this 3-3-5 look almost every week going back to the Joe Barry days.  Preston Smith is usually the deceiver–lined up at middle linebacker instead of being at defensive end–and it usually fails.  Please shelve this.

Continue reading “Skins DEFENSE vs the 49ers”

Skins DEFENSE vs Kansas City


They spread out our 3-4 defense a few times to where our OLB would line up over a slot WR with a safety behind him.  This left 3 big guys to rush the quarterback, affording Alex Smith plenty of time.  The only reason I can think of for this is we were trying to avoid crack blocks and also jam guys at the line so they couldn’t run their staple of “mesh” routes. Otherwise it was our regular 3-4 and Nickel the whole way except for one 3-3-5 we broke out on a 3rd down.

The Story:  The first 3 drives ended in punts before the mismatches came into play.  Fuller got stuck defending the run against tight ends and our 3-4 got spread out, shown above, which negated the pass rush.

Inside backer play was up and down.  Brown and Spaight played like Pro Bowlers in the box, but they struggled in space with Brown having two left feet in coverage and Spaight missing open field tackles.

With a bye week approaching guys were hitting hard and selling out their bodies; big hits were followed by injuries to the back seven.  Then the penalties came which cost us 7 points to open the second half.  The snap count hit 76 (20 snaps more than previous weeks) and mental errors crept in as fatigue set over the last two drives.  Uncharacteristic gaffes like Brown’s over-pursuit on outside zone and McClain tipping a stunt cost us two field goals.

Finally on the last drive Kerrigan blew contain which lead to a 37 yard play and Spaight voided underneath coverage for another 10 yard gimmie and that was enough to set up the field goal that put KC ahead 23-20.


The Show

Defensive Line
Player + Total
Kerrigan 3 6.5 -3.5
Smith 8 7.5 0.5
Allen 5.5 2 3.5
Hood 5 7.5 -2.5
McClain 2.5 7 -4.5
Ioannidis 6 1.5 4.5
McGee 7.5 5.5 2
Total     0

Kerrigan’s first negative finish is due in large part to a failed pass rush that did not keep contain.  He chose the right rush: Bull rush, but couldn’t disengage the RT before Alex Smith broke the pocket.  That’s giving valuable extra time with a back seven reeling from injuries and fatigue.

Preston Smith would have graded out in the positive if not for penalties.  The one at the goal line turned 3 points into 7 and earned him a -4.  So both star ends would have had decent to good days if not for the bonehead plays.

Ziggy Hood’s negative total was a product of him get worked by their center.  It’s one thing for a double team to get you, but when your nose can’t handle the center one on one that’s trouble since doubles can be doled out to guys on either side of him.

Matt Ioannidis diagnosed plays early and often.  Against Philly he was the lone lineman to diagnose the trap blocking and last week he was the quickest to read the Shovel pass option play that KC loves to run:

Continue reading “Skins DEFENSE vs Kansas City”

Skins DEFENSE vs the Raiders


We broke out the 3-4 for just four plays, otherwise it was Nickel the whole way, even when they lined up with no backs and 5 receivers:

That is Zach Brown lined up across from 2 WRs.  Oakland ran a route combination that got Amari Cooper one on one with Brown and open for the first–which he dropped.  Complaints from me in this game were few, but this would be one.  Perhaps a Dime defense would suffice in the future?

Substitution notes:  Mason Foster was replaced by two guys, in the 3-4 it was Compton and in the Nickel it was Spaight.  Defensive line snaps were fluid with Allen, McClain and Ioannidis getting the lion share inside.  Kerrigan and Smith took the most snaps at DE.

On the whole, the defense got off easy for the 2nd straight week with just over 50 snaps for the game.

The first 11 and 1/2 drives are charted (link at the bottom) with the last drive and a half left off because the Raiders had given up at that point.

The Show

Defensive Line
Player + Total
Allen 6 1.5 4.5
Kerrigan 9.5 2.5 7
Smith 10 0 10(!)
Ioannidis 3.5 1 2.5
McGee 0 1 -1
McClain 0 0.5 -0.5
Hood 0 2 -2
Total     20.5

Preston Smith had himself his best game of the season.  On a 3rd and 2 the Raiders dialed up a ‘Duo’ run.  Basically there is a linebacker they leave unblocked, in this case Spaight (circled.)  The running back will run to the hole the linebacker doesn’t.  Spaight chose the inside gap, so Lynch bounced it outside, right into Smith, who shed his blocker like a rag doll:

They didn’t (couldn’t) go back to that play since they realized a TE wouldn’t be enough to contain Smith.

[After the jump:  Grades for Linebackers and DBs, video breakdowns, Predictions]

Continue reading “Skins DEFENSE vs the Raiders”

Skins DEFENSE vs Rams

Play by Play Chart



Our Nickel line: Kerrigan-Ioannidis-Allen-Smith.  Ioannidis and Allen lined up directly over the guards to take away any Outside Zone and Power runs.

Last week McVay dialed up about a dozen Outside Zone runs, but against this formation he didn’t try it once.  When they did run outside it was away from Jonathan Allen who showed last week against Philly he could run that stuff down.

To the top of the screen you see the WRs in a stack formation, they rolled that out a ton.  We played it with Fuller underneath, since he’s the screen destroyer our DB coach Torrian Gray built.


The 3-4 had a starting line of McGee-Hood-McClain flanked by Anderson and Galette.  McGee lines up over Tackles and tight ends, McClain over the guard and Hood is at nose.

We rotated the defensive ends and OLBs somewhat, but for the most part Kerrigan and Smith had their hand in the dirt in our Nickel front, while Anderson and Galette were stand up OLBs in our 3-4.

Positions that seem set:

  • 3-4 Line: Anderson-McGee-Hood-McClain-Galette
  • Nickel Line: Kerrigan-Ioannidis-Allen-Smith
  • Inside Backers: Brown and Foster
  • Corners: Norman and Breeland backed up by Dunbar
  • Slot Corner: Fuller
  • Free Safety: DJ Swearinger

Strong Safety is the lone question mark.  It looks to be a two-way battle between Everett and Nicholson with rookie Fabian Moreau working his way in for a couple of snaps.  In week 1 it was Everett’s job to lose, as it stands now the winner of that battle might be whoever makes the fewest mistakes.

The Show

Defensive Line
Player + Total
Ioanndis 4.5 0.5 4
McGee 1.5 4.5 -3
Hood 0.5 1.5 -1
Allen 2 2 0
Smith 6 1.5 4.5
Kerrigan 6.5 0 6.5
McClain 1 3 -2
Totals     9

If it weren’t for Smith and Kerrigan getting pressure the line would’ve finished on the wrong side of zero.  The interior doesn’t have a QB terror like Jason Hatcher or Chris Baker just yet, the closest guy is Ioannidis who charted a couple of pressures.  He’s been holding up to doubles against zone runs and the QB pressures are a pleasant surprise, the only knock on his game is speed to the outside:

The guard doesn’t even check him on his way to sealing out Foster.  The center had the impossible task of cutting him which tells me the plan was to beat him with speed.  I contrasted that with a clip from last week where Allen was sliding down the line, fighting off blocks and making plays at the sideline.  That right there is why they didn’t poke at the beast.

[After the jump:  Coverages, linebackers, predictions]

Continue reading “Skins DEFENSE vs Rams”