Film review: Why is the run defense failing?

Breaking Burgundy's Film Analyst Paul Conner takes a look at why the Redskins run defense has been giving up ground.

The Redskins have been trying to establish an identity. Run the ball and stop the run is a very simple recipe for success. Over recent weeks, both of those area have left a bad taste for all involved. Since I've previously touched on the run game a few times, this review focuses on the run defense. I will preface this by saying I still think the Redskins lack of run game is hurting the run defense. The less the Redskins run, the less clock they use and the more their defense is on the field. With that being said, the scheme and execution hasn't been doing the Redskins many favors. Let's look at the tape.

1. Checking back in my game notes, I started recognizing an issue three weeks ago. The Redskins were losing contain. I didn't understand why when typically Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy have been good at setting the edge. When I looked at the tape, I quickly realized it was a product of scheme not Kerrigan/Murphy losing battles. The Redskins were crashing their OLBs inside. I don't know whether to call it a "scrape-exchange" which is typically a defense for read-option where the outside defender always crashes and an ILB becomes the contain guy or to call it "wrong-gapping" where a defender lines up in one gap and jumps to another gap to try and mess up blocking assignments/flow. Either way, it hasn't really worked. On this play, Kerrigan is going to crash hard inside while Keenan Robinson jumps outside. The Falcons are running a counter so a lead blocker is coming over to kick out Robinson.

As you can see, Kerrigan is pinned way outside and the kick-out block has Robinson lined up. 

You could drive a truck through the hole left open for Devonta Freeman.

Freeman gets a huge gain. Now on this play, they actually had someone to set the edge but how widely he set the edge (because thats not typically his job), gave a giant lane to run through.

2. Same play, opposite side.

Redskins are lucky that Freeman takes what is in front of him instead of following his blocks. Robinson gets kicked out again and Jarrett gets blocked downfield.

Freeman would have had quite a lane. I don't understand the benefit of sending my edge-setter inside and making a guy run to the spot to set the edge. It takes him out of the middle of the field, out of read-and-react, and has him off-balance getting to a spot.

3. The last two plays were counters to the weak side. Kyle Shanahan's favorite run play is an outside zone so the idea of crashing any outside defender inside and giving up the outside just seems like a terrible scheme choice. Typically, you use your OLB to go inside when you have a safety or nickle CB blitzing off the same side because it gets the OT to turn his back and it frees the blitzer. On this play, they aren't doing that and look at the position of the ILBs. Keenan Robinson is fast but to get out there is a lot to ask. Falcons run weak side here.

Trent Murphy jumps inside and gets sealed off immediately. ILBs flowing with RB.

A blocker gets a body on Keenan Robinson and opens up the outside.

Freeman ends up with a big gain. I know it's the weak side but for an offense that wants to get outside, I wouldn't make their job easier. This continued into the next week.

4. It doesn't always happen on the weak side. Look at Kerrigan's alignment on the strong side. It doesn't matter what run they call, if the Jets want to go outside the TE only has to secure Kerrigan's outside shoulder. The alignment pretty much guarantees that. Jets are running a short power here with playside guard. Fitzpatrick's hard count exposes the ILBs trying to jump outside. The ILBs reset and the ball is hiked.

Ryan Kerrigan jumps way inside and the pulling guard takes out Perry Riley.

Chris Ivory gets outside for a nice chunk of yardage.

5. Another problem with giving an ILB the assignment to defend the edge is it conflicts with natural instinct to go down hill. Here, Trent Murphy is jumping inside. Only other defender is on 3rd level.

Riley steps up and before he realizes he needs to get outside, the OG already has a body on him leaving a giant lane outside.

Ivory with another huge gain.

6. This one I can understand. It looks like a read-option so Ryan Kerrigan crashes inside hard. He crashes so hard inside though that #85 is going to be able to get all the way across the formation and still pin him inside.

Kerrigan gets pinned inside, Riley gets picked up and Ivory bounces it outside. Only Keenan Robinson is coming outside clean.

Of course, Fitzpatrick puts a shoulder into Robinson and opens up the outside. Why Robinson didn't clean out Fitzpatrick for attempting this, I'll never know.

Ivory ends up with a big gain again.

7. This play starting to look familiar. This set-up worked for Falcons so the Jets are using it. Kerrigan lined up on the strong side inside the TE and crashing down with no one outside. 

Kerrigan is pinned inside immediately and both ILBs go downhill. The RT is going to release to Riley. Maybe Ivory doesn't bounce it outside if Kerrigan is setting the edge?

Riley picks a gap and is going to be pinned inside. Kerrigan already pinned. Ivory bounces it outside.

Redskins are lucky to knock him out of bounds as he rumbled down sideline for a huge gain. Noticing a pattern?

8. The Jets rolling with what is working. Jets running counter here with two pullers. The objective on such a play is to pin the outside guy inside. The Redskins are making it easy for them. No one is outside. The ILBs are going to flow to the ball but the Jets have two pullers to account for both. Kerrigan would need penetration to disrupt play. He does not.

Kerrigan is pinned inside, OG is pulling to block Riley, and Keenan Robinson is in pursuit.

Riley gets picked up by OG and the other puller picks up Keenan Robinson.

The RB gets a decent chunk of yardage to chew clock.

9. Right from the start of the Bucs game, Kerrigan is lined up way outside but is crashing inside. The ILBs are shading the opposite side of the field so there is no defender to account for the outside unless Goldston is just too far back.

Once Kerrigan goes inside and gets pinned, the outside is wide open.

Mike Evans comes from his WR spot to slant block on Goldston leaving Breeland free. The 3rd level should not be the first place the Redskins get an advantage.

Doug Martin ends up with a substantial gain. At this point, I have to start googling synonyms for big.

10. On this play, at least someone accounts for the outside. Kerrigan is on the strong side and is going to crash in while Riley jumps to the outside.

Riley jumps outside but is just easily washed out of the play and since Robinson is picked up, there's a huge hole. There is more to setting the edge than just heading upfield.

Martin ends up with a colossal gain.

11. Trent Murphy is on the weak side and that's where the Buccaneers are running.

Again, the problem with having an ILB account for the outside is if the RB makes any movement towards the line of scrimmage, his frist reaction is to go downhill. When the RB does that here, you end up with Murphy and Riley in the same gap and no one outside.

Another sizeable chunk gained by the Bucs.

        When I first noticed it against the Falcons, I thought it was a fundamental flaw against a team whose favorite play was the outside zone. Then I realized it was a fundamental flaw period. In these past three games, I've rarely seen it work. Trent Murphy and Ryan Kerrigan are both typically great at setting the edge in the run game. Why take that away? The idea of an ILB setting the edge vs. an edge setter seems like an example of getting "too cute." Half the time, the ILB isn't even making it there and when he does, he isn't setting an edge. Factor in that teams are starting to borrow concepts that are working against your defense and I don't see how you can stick with it. Hopefully during the bye week, the Redskins work out this kink and simplify the concept.

Paul Conner is the Film Analyst for Breaking Burgundy. You can follow Paul on Twitter @P_ConnerJr

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