Retired NFL defensive finish Stephen White takes a closer look at why the league"s ideal defenses are struggling versus Washington"s old college running game.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
After Washington"s running backs rushed for 182 yards and also two touchdowns on the Rams this previous Sunday, I made a decision to take a look at the coaches tape to attempt to figure out what went wrong for the St. Louis defense. It didn"t take long for me to notice a acquainted plan bedeviling the Rams and also it all started to make sense.

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The Rams play an attacking 4-3 style defense. If there is one thing that stresses those forms of defenses, it"s as soon as groups use 2 tight ends and also one running ago to run the sphere. I know this because it provided to offer us fits in Tampa when I played for the Bucs ago in the 90s and also past. After watching the film it was obvious, as the saying goes, that some points never change.

Washington had success at an early stage in the initially quarter when they actually put 3 tight ends to the ideal side of the development and had actually Alfred Morris run a zone play to the left. They supplied three, however in this instance it didn"t issue a lot bereason all three of them were on the exact same side with the widest 2 being in a wing place off the line.

This development dictated that the Rams collection the side through 2, or in this instance three tight ends, as the toughness of their defense. That supposed their undertackle, Aaron Donald, would certainly need to line up to that side, too. That was the put up.


When they ran zone to the left, Donald was lined up on Washington"s best guard, rookie Brandon Scherff, that provided Donald a quick chuck then went as much as the linebacker while right tackle Moses Morgan invited Donald up the area on his reduced off block. Since Donald gained up the field instead of going laterally, Morris had the ability to reduced ago to wbelow Donald need to have been. To make things worse, the linebacker to Donald"s side additionally ran into the wrong gap and also got cut off, making the reduced seam also bigger.

The result was a Morris run of 35 yards, a harbinger of things to come.

Two plays later on, Washington put both tight ends to the left of the formation. This time rookie running earlier Matt Jones ran a sort of zone play to the left that had a couple of interesting wrinkles.

First off, left tackle Trent Williams and also left guard Shawn Lauvao executed a perfect down-and-around combo block on Donald who was as soon as aobtain lined approximately the 2 (or three) tight end side. Lauvao pulcaused the left and hidden the force player for the Rams.

The widest tight finish goes as much as the external linebacker on his side while the inside tight end blocks down on the protective finish. This all comes together to produce a really nice running lane for Jones, which he ends up hitting difficult then bouncing exterior prior to ultimately making a house contact.


You might notification in both situations the Rams tried to play defense via simply their regular four defensive linemales up front. That"s where the weakness of the attacking 4-3 system shows up versus 2 tight end/one running ago sets.

Sure you might walk a linebacker down to the line of scrimmage, as the Rams later on did, to act as a fifth down lineguy, however a lot of of the moment that man isn"t offered to actually taking on offensive linemales and tight ends prefer a defensive linemen. Instead, a lot of 4-3 groups just attempt to gain by with the normal four males up front lined up through simply a tiny different spacing against those sets. The defensive finish to the strong side moves from head up on the inside tight end to the external of that same tight end, taking an angle to acquire in between him and the tight finish who is lined up off the sphere as a wing.

When the tight ends are on either finish of the offensive line, the defense is stressed horizontally. For that reason, sometimes the defensive coordinator will certainly have actually the nose tackle relocate to what is called a "G" technique, wright here he is head up on the "weak" side guard. The finish to that side is told to line up wide 5 on the inside shade of the tight finish, so it isn"t as simple to get about his corner.

This all sounds excellent on a white board, but on a field it"s just difficult to repetitively sheight the run versus a team that commits to running the ball a lot, utilizing two tight ends and also one running back versus an attacking 4-3 scheme. If a team gets rolling early using that personnel, then the defense simply hregarding hope and also pray they are too stupid to save doing it all game.

The Rams would certainly have no such luck.

With 6:56 left to go in the first fifty percent, Washington lined up with a tight end on either end of the line, in addition to two receivers to the appropriate side of the formation. The Rams designated their ideal side, Washington"s left side, as the strong side of their defense for some factor. That left a nose tackle and a protective finish to ffinish for themselves against the center, right guard, ideal tackle and a tight finish on a zone running play to that side.

Guess which side Washington ran zone to.

No really, go ahead guess.

Yep, they ran an external zone play to the Ram"s weak side and made them look choose a scout team.


Essentially, the left defensive finish and the nose tackle acquired pinned inside. The tight end gained up on among the safeties in package. Next thing you know, Matt Jones is running for 25 yards right up the numbers virtually untouched.


Suffice it to say, the Rams had some adjustments to make before points acquired out of hand also.

So, what did they do? They began lining up more choose a 3-4 defense by kicking one defensive end inside to the B gap while lining up the nose tackle head up on the facility and walking a linebacker up exterior the tackle on the weak side.

Now they had both B gaps populated, a defensive end as the force man to the solid side, and a linebacker, who basically simply had actually to acquire up-area and rotate every little thing earlier on the weak side. This is occasionally called a "bear" front, and also simply around all 4-3 groups have to use it at some allude. It actually worked pretty well at times.


But, it absolutely didn"t job-related well all the moment.


With 3:35 left in the game, leading by seven points and also driving to seal the win, Washington said forget it and went back to the 3 tight ends on one side formation and ran an additional zone right behind them. Mind you, this was on third-and-8!

If you love old college, smash mouth football, then this play was nearly pornographic. Lauvao and Williams once again executed a great down-and-around block on Donald, this time with Lauvao leading Jones up the field to the exterior.

All 3 tight ends got on their blocks and also stuck, as well. To cap it off, the facility got off clean, also with the nose tackle lined up over him, and got up on the middle linebacker prior to that man can blink.

Jones, for his component, did a great task of simply complying with his blocking, picked up nine yards for the first down and aided Washington close out their initially victory of the seachild.

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So, there you have actually it folks, that"s what occurred to the Rams defense. Washington decided to commit to running the sphere through 2 tight ends and it was simply hell on St. Louis after that.