Film review: Vanilla flavor of the day for Redskins defense against Patriots and Tom Brady?

Breaking Burgundy's Film Analyst Paul Conner examines the risks the Redskins will face if they go for broke defensively against Patriots QB Tom Brady.

It’s a great challenge. I think you just have to try and mix up the looks. Whether you play man-to-man, double somebody, you have to change up your intent, have good disguises. Ultimately it comes down to pass rush. You have to get after them. Whether it’s a four-man rush, three-man rush, five-man rush– whatever it is -- but if you’re vanilla against him, he will make it a long afternoon. -- Redskins coach Jay Gruden  Wednesday on facing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Based on the above quote, one could infer the Redskins will try and be diverse in disguising what they are trying to do against the Patriots. Last week, I mentioned that the Redskins used far more pre-snap movement against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers than they had all year long. It's easy to assume Joe Barry and the Redskins defense were trying to take advantage of an offense lead by a young, inexperienced rookie quarterback. Knowing that this could be the plan in attacking Tom Brady, I looked back at the Buccaneers game to see how efficient it was. The results are below.

1. The first play is a run to the left. Before the snap, Dashon Goldson and Trent Robinson do a late second switch as the single high safety.

Goldson actually gets into the backfield untouched but can't make the tackle. Martin cuts into the gap Robinson would have been in.

Result: Gain of 7 yards.

#2. Here is another run play. Trent Robinson starts deep and flies up to the line of scrimmage like he's blitzing.

Right before the ball is snapped, Robinson bails back deep. The run isn't designed to go to the left but Martin breaks a tackle and leaks out to the left.

Because of the pre-snap movement, Robinson is more concerned with getting back to his spot instead of reading the play. Therefore, when Martin leaks back out, Robinson has a terrible amount of angles he needs to cover.

Result: Gain of 7 yards.

#3. Here is our first pass play. The Redskins start with a Cover 0 look. That means no safeties deep. In reality, this is a Cover 3. Trenton Robinson, at the top of the screen, is going to bail as the deep, single high safety. Keenan Robinson jumps into a gap like he is going to blitz and Goldson also comes down closer to the box.

Trent Robinson is running back deep to get to his spot and Keenan Robinson is starting to bail out of that blitz look. The Buccaneers have a deep crosser going across the field.

Once again, one of the problems with trying disguise is players trying to get back to their spot instead of reading the play. Both players here are rushing to a spot and neither pick up the crosser that splits them.

Result: Gain of 29 yards.

#4. Here's another pass play. A lot of movement before the snap on this play. The Redskins come out two a two-deep safety look. One safety comes down into the box as a CB moves to one edge and Perry Riley moves to the other edge.

From this heavy pressure look, the CB and Perry Riley bail back while K.Robinson and T.Robinson come up closer to box.

This new alignment almost gives the Redskins basically a 4-4 look. The Buccaneers have Doug Martin heading out to the flat. This probably would have been the hot route against the heavy pressure look.

Two defenders take the interior route and leave the flat open.

Result: Gain of 10 yards.

#5. The Redskins show a Cover 4 look but really they are in a Cover 1 man. 

That means Dashon Goldson has man coverage on D.Martin who is running a speed out. Since Goldson is almost 15 yards away this is a nearly impossible task. 

Like I said, next to impossible.

Jameis Winston sees it and delivers the ball. Martin catches it in time to make a move in space. Martin makes Goldson miss.

Result: Gain of 11 yards.

I will now take this time to point out all of the above plays happened in the first half. After halftime, the Redskins played very vanilla, assignment based football and it assisted in the 24 point comeback. I only saw one truly disguised coverage in the second half and it was almost a bad one.

#6. With the Buccaneers backed up, the Redskins show a Cover 0 look. The safety drops late. Meanwhile, Mike Evans, the only receiver beating the Redskins, has a one on one match-up on the outside. He already burned Will Blackmon earlier in the game for a deep touchdown. If I'm the Redskins, I'm keeping my safety deep in the middle of the field but shading towards Evans.

Evans has Blackmon beat and the safety can't get over there. Luckily, Evans loses his footing and the throw is a little too deep. 

Needless to say, disguising coverages is great if you can exectute them. If you can't, they can be deadly.

When going up against a quarterback like Tom Brady..........nevermind, there isn't a quarterback like Tom Brady. The Redskins are going to have to pick their poison and decide which is the lesser of two great evils. Do the Redskins play vanilla and hope their fundamentals can beat their guys across the board? Or do the Redskins risk moving guys out of place to try and fool one of the most intelligent quarterbacks in NFL history? 

 It's hard to have a right answer. Brady is one of the greatest "chunk processors" I have ever seen. That means he processes large chunks of information as far as how the defense moves and where to go with the ball from there. Brady isn't invincible but sometimes it seems like it. Gruden said the Redskins don't want to go vanilla against Brady but if Jameis Winston can calmy slice through the Redskins disguises, what is Tom Brady going to do?


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