Washington Redskins vs. Green Bay Packers: Breaking Down Washington's Game Plan

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2013

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 10: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers is brought down by DeAngelo Hall #23, Carlos Rogers #22, and Brian Orakpo #98 of the Washington Redskins in the fourth quarte at FedExField on October 10, 2010 in Landover, Maryland. The Redskins won the game in overtime 16-13.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins can take on the Green Bay Packers armed with some tips from the San Francisco 49ers on how to get their running game back on track.

They can also take a hint from a fierce NFC East rival about the best way to apply maximum pressure to quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his talented cast of receivers.

Use Heavy Sets and Unbalanced Lines to Aid the Running Game

The 49ers have had the Packers' number in recent seasons. Their jinx over Rodgers and company continued in Week 1, when the NFC West kings amassed over 500 yards of offense.

One of the keys for the 49ers has been their success on the ground. They have often achieved that success by outnumbering the Packers up front.

After a tepid rushing performance against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins should follow the 49ers' formula on the ground. One of the best ways to do that is stacking the offensive line with extra blockers.

In the play below, the 49ers loaded up the left side of their O-line. They put an extra tackle, Adam Snyder (68), on that side. They also added guard Dan Kilgore (67), as an extra lead blocker in the backfield.

With tight end Vernon Davis in line on the other side, San Francisco showed the Packers an eight-man blocking front, supplemented by fullback Bruce Miller.

As the Fox Sports graphic shows, the 49ers would pull two blockers, Kilgore and guard Mike Iupati (77), over to the right. They formed the convoy for running back Frank Gore to follow.

With Snyder sealing the back-side defender, Gore had an easy and short path to the end zone.

In another example of the effectiveness of these heavy looks, the 49ers put Snyder as an extra tackle on the right side. Davis was slightly detached from the line next to Snyder.

The 49ers had unbalanced their line by overloading one side. With quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the pistol look, the 49ers used deception and numbers to win their blocking matchups.

Notice how the threat of an option fake froze defensive lineman Jerel Worthy (99). That allowed Miller to move forward to attack the inside linebacker.

Meanwhile, Snyder, as an extra lineman, helped collapse the interior of Green Bay's defensive front. The result was a huge lane for Gore to attack.

The Redskins don't possess imposing size up front and have limited depth. Yet they can still incorporate some of these looks into their strategy.

For instance, 6'5", 308-pounder Tom Compton could act as a supplementary tackle. Reserve guard Adam Gettis has the mobility to be a useful lead blocker in certain sets.

It would be a good way to counter the ample size the Packers do boast along their defensive front. Mammoth tackles like B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett could easily overpower Washington's front five in standard zone-blocking looks.

The Packers have seen these type of of heavy fronts from the 49ers on numerous occasions in every area of the field. But they have yet to effectively counter them.

The Redskins should take advantage.

Use the Run to Control the Clock

Using overloaded lines can be part of the emphasis the Redskins must place on controlling the clock. They have to keep Rodgers on the outside looking in for much of this game, to stand a chance.

Naturally, the key to that plan is re-establishing a rushing attack that managed just 74 yards in Week 1. But another look at the Packers' struggles against San Francisco should give the Redskins confidence they can run the ball in Green Bay.

On this play, the 49ers showed a standard five-man line. They were setting up a run from the pistol for backup rusher Kendall Hunter.

Once the ball was snapped, notice how effectively the 49ers executed classic zone-based blocking.

Their line shifted to one side, similar to the way the Redskins block for their famed zone-stretch plays. You can see how defenders were passed down the line from blocker to blocker.

Iupati shifted forward to block the nose tackle. This freed center Jonathan Goodwin (59) to attack the linebacker level of the defense.

On the other side, guard Alex Boone (75) took on the defensive end. That freed right tackle Anthony Davis (76) to occupy the other inside linebacker.

Miller took out the outside linebacker on that side, while Davis moved up to handle the safety.

This was a perfect example of the kind of precision, mobile blocking the Redskins normally specialize in. As a result, Hunter gained 23 yards on this play.

Although Washington's ground attack was stifled in Week 1, there is enough on the Packers game tape to suggest Alfred Morris and company can get back on track this Sunday.

If the Redskins dominate the clock they can eliminate Green Bay's token efforts to establish a running game of their own. That will enable the defense to focus solely on getting to Rodgers.

Use Overload Pressures to Attack Green Bay's Offensive Tackles

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett should relish the prospect of scheming ways to blitz the edges of Green Bay's offensive line. His focus must be the tackles.

Rookie David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay are the starters, and the pair struggled in San Francisco. Haslett's pass-rushers and pressure designs can make Week 2 an equally nightmare experience for them.

On their own, outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan should find joy rushing these tackles. Orakpo in particular, was quiet against the Eagles, but should rebound in a favorable matchup against Bakhtiari.

On only the second play against San Francisco, the rookie surrendered a big sack to edge-rusher Aldon Smith.

Bakhtiari could not cope with Smith's initial quickness and more importantly, did not want to match his power. So he lamely attempted to cut Smith, who simply shrugged the effort aside.

Leverage and brute force are Orakpo's two best attributes as a pass-rusher. He ought to be able to rock Bakhtiari back on his heels enough to easily shed his blocks and close on Rodgers.

Orakpo and Kerrigan running riot is vital to the success of the defense this Sunday. Haslett can help their efforts by using overload blitzes to force Green Bay's blockers into a dilemma.

A simple, yet effective example from the game against the Eagles involved Kerrigan and inside 'backer Perry Riley Jr.

From a base nickel front, Haslett had Riley drift to the outside of Kerrigan just before the snap. This look presents a nightmare choice for one side of a protection scheme.

The tackle could either ignore Kerrigan and focus on Riley's outside pressure. But that would leave a slower guard to try and block Kerrigan. Or the tackle can focus on Kerrigan and leave Riley as a free rusher off the edge.

On this particular play, Kerrigan attacked the B-gap, between the guard and the tackle. He quickly powered his way through that gap.

This gave fleet-footed Eagles quarterback Michael Vick little chance to escape a sack. Because Riley did not overplay his rush and blitzed with discipline, whichever way Vick went he was going to be hit.

In the end, Vick ducked under Kerrigan's grasp, but only into the waiting arms of Riley. The fourth-year pro completed an easy sack.

Just by moving an additional blitzer alongside Orakpo or Kerrigan, Haslett can almost guarantee a free rusher to the quarterback.

Of course, Haslett can also get more sophisticated with his overload pressures to create chaos for Green Bay's inexperienced tackles.

A great example against the Eagles involved shifting Kerrigan inside and using two extra blitzers off that edge. This time Haslett put inside linebacker London Fletcher next to Kerrigan. 

At the snap, the blitz from Fletcher (59) occupied the right tackle. Meanwhile, Kerrigan rushed cleanly through the B-gap, with slot corner Josh Wilson (26) looping in behind him.

Haslett skilfully used three rushers to overwhelm two blockers, and Kerrigan notched the sack. The coverage scheme was supplemented by fellow rush end Orakpo (98) dropping into a zone on the other side.

This was a clever design that would work from either side of the formation and torment the Packers' young tackles.

Haslett can use a varied brand of overload pressures to confuse the Green Bay blocking schemes and harass Rodgers. However, these attack-minded concepts must be supplemented by equally aggressive coverage.

Take the Risk with Man Coverage to Contain the Packers Receivers

Playing man coverage against pass-catchers like Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finely might appear a risky way to travel. But the Packers receivers are so talented that sitting back in zone is simply an invitation to be picked apart.

The Redskins have to take the risk and attack Green Bay's receivers. They can take a tip from a recent high-profile Packers defeat.

Washington's division rival the New York Giants used aggressive man coverage and varied pressure fronts to stifle Rodgers and his passing game in the 2011 NFC Divisional playoffs.

The key to the Giants plan was a coverage concept known as Cover 2 Man. Simply put, it is tight man coverage underneath, protected by a pair of deep safeties.

The Giants used it to clamp on the Packers receivers and relied on their talented pass-rushers to attack Rodgers from various pressure fronts.

A great example of how well it worked can be seen in the play below.

The Giants were in a nickel look, but had one linebacker stacked on either side of their line. They also had defensive end Justin Tuck leave the line and act as a roving, standing blitzer in the middle.

The pattern for the coverage was set, with three defensive backs ready to press the receivers underneath. Behind them, the deep routes were taken away by the safeties.

The Giants supplemented this bracket with an overload pressure.

They had Tuck and defensive end Osi Umenyiora run a twist, with Umenyiora crashing inside, while Tuck wrapped around him and rushed the outside. Linebacker Michael Boley also blitzed off the edge.

The Giants used three rushers to defeat two blockers. At the snap, the pressure and coverage schemes combined perfectly.

Tuck occupied the offensive tackle, leaving the running back to handle Boley. The Giants successfully won that mismatch and Boley dropped Rodgers for a five-yard loss.

Notice how tight the coverage was behind the pressure. Every receiver was locked up, and their deep routes were cut off by the safeties.

The Redskins can use this exact formula to frustrate the Packers this Sunday. As he showed against the Eagles and during preseason, Haslett is not afraid to move Orakpo or Kerrigan inside.

He could position one of his premier outside linebackers there and have situational ace Darryl Tapp join the line. The pressure fronts will be boosted by a more stable coverage concept that might be aided by the return of Brandon Meriweather.

The veteran safety could make his season debut in Green Bay, according to Mike Jones of The Washington PostWith better safety play, the Redskins will be able to risk aggressive man coverage underneath.

If they can strike the right balance between steady running and consistent pressure, the Redskins can force the Packers into mistakes.

Those mistakes can lay the foundation for a vital upset.

All screen shots courtesy of ESPN, Fox Sports and NFL.com Gamepass


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