Redskins vs. Rams: Sketching out a Game Plan for St. Louis
Against the Detroit Lions, the Rams only mustered up 250 yards of total offense on 55 plays. Even with the offseason additions, this offense looks eerily familiar to their 2011 group. I know it has only been one game, and the Lions front four is loaded with talent, but if the offensive line doesn't hold up, it's going to be a very long season for Sam Bradford.
Defensively, Jeff Fisher and his staff had this unit shining. Picking off one of the top passers in the league is no easy feat, especially when you do it three times in one half. St. Louis will need to rely on the defense again this week as Robert Griffin III proved he is indeed the real deal.
Washington is coming off a big win over the reeling New Orleans Saints, and it appears that Jim Haslett finally has this defense where he wants it.
With the help of All-22 film, let's take a look at what kind of game plan St. Louis will devise against the 1-0 Redskins.
When the Rams Are on Offense
Washington made it a point to turn up the heat on Drew Brees last week, and when the pressure hit home, Brees looked frantic. When under pressure, No. 9 only completed 6-of-17 passes for 127 yards and had a quarterback rating of 57.7.
By game's end, Haslett's defense had registered two sacks, four quarterback hits and 18 quarterback hurries. That means the Redskins recorded pressure on 40 percent of the Saints' pass plays.
With the Rams giving up pressure so easily to the Lions' four-man rush, St. Louis will need to establish the run game. As a team, they carried the ball 26 times for a measly three yards per carry average. Detroit was not afraid of getting beat deep as they constantly loaded the box with eight-man fronts.
Above, you can see that the Rams are in 21 personnel, two wide receivers, two running backs and one tight end. The Lions are in a Cover 1 defense, meaning there is one safety back who is manning the middle of the field. When the ball is snapped, Detroit is attacking the run game with eight players. In turn, St. Louis only has seven players blocking for Jackson on the left-side run.
I'm no mathematician, but trying to block eight with seven is rather hard. When the safety creeps up to the line of scrimmage, Bradford needs to audible to a quick-hitting pass play. One-on-one coverage with no safety help over the top is exactly what you're looking for as a quarterback. Give your wide receivers an opportunity to go up and make a play.
The Rams only offensive touchdown came during the fourth quarter, and it was a play that showed great smarts from Bradford. As I mentioned above, he kept allowing the offense to run into a loaded box, but during the second half, I noticed him making some audibles at the line. This kept Detroit's defense guessing a bit more.
On this play, No. 8 saw the Lions single high safety look once again. But instead of running into the teeth of the defense, he decided to give Gibson a shot against one-on-one coverage.
When the ball is snapped, Bradford quickly looks to the right to give off the impression that he's looking for Danny Amendola. Then, his vision goes back to the left and sees Gibson has beaten the cornerback for a touchdown.
Detroit's safety was too deep on the play, and Bradford read it.
The Redskins corners are a step up from the Lions, but that doesn't mean you can't move the ball on them. St. Louis needs to take advantage of a stacked box because there's no doubt Haslett will copy Detroit's game plan from Week 1. And make sure to run the ball more than 10 times; it's easy for a team to stop you when you've become one-dimensional.
It will be up to Bradford, Brian Schottenheimer and the offensive line to get the Rams over the hump.
When the Rams Are on Defense
As an onlooker, it was incredible to see the progress this defense has made from a year ago. Sure, they squandered 429 total yards to a Lions team that was banged up at running back, but that doesn't take away from the fact that this team actually has playmakers at the cornerback position. I can't remember the last time St. Louis had a shutdown corner.
Cortland Finnegan proved that he was worth the team's $50 million offseason investment. Finnegan spent most of the day in the slot as the Rams lived in their nickel package. Bradley Fletcher was on the outside taking care of Calvin Johnson, so it was No. 31's job to take care of Tony Scheffler and Nate Burleson.
And take care of them he did. By game's end, quarterback Matthew Stafford's quarterback rating, when throwing at Finnegan, was an embarrassing 49.0.
Pay close attention on this play as Finnegan is playing slot cornerback left in the Rams 4-2-5 Cover 3 look. As the play develops, watch as both of the outside corners drop straight back into their zones. No. 31 disguises his coverage really well by faking as if he's going to run with Burleson. But as soon as he sees Stafford wind up, he drops off into a flat zone in front of Johnson.
These same types of concepts will help them confuse the rookie quarterback.
Of the 31 pass plays the Redskins offense ran on Sunday, the Saints only blitzed them 12 times. Clearly, New Orleans' front four wasn't getting pressure, considering he only threw eight passes while under duress. That number proved to be the same as Stafford, as he was only pressured eight times as well.
So, it's clear the Rams need to get better effort from Chris Long and Robert Quinn coming off the edge. When given time, RG3 proved this both in college and last week against the Saints, he will burn you one way or another.
With St. Louis' secondary playing at a high level, the rest of the defense needs to join them if they want to stop themselves from starting 0-2.
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