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Redskins Vs Steelers: Weakness of Redskins Nickel Rush Package

The Redskins have used the preseason to test out their new nickel rush package on defense. But the Steelers saw a weakness in that look and attacked it.

Last week the Redskins unveiled a new look for their nickel package on defense. This involved moving Ryan Kerrigan from his regular outside linebacker position inside to play effectively a 3-technique defensive tackle. That made room for an extra pass rush specialist, often rookie Brandon Jenkins, to occupy the vacant outside linebacker spot. The Redskins saw some success using this group against the Titans last week, so they for it against the Steelers on Monday night, but this time had mixed results.

The Steelers quickly realized that while Kerrigan has the quickness to beat guards in the passing game, the guards  have the advantage on running plays. Now this package usually only sees the field on third and long situations, but the Steelers were still willing to try and run the ball against it.

At first they went to a draw play.


It's third and 10, but that doesn't put off the Steelers. They use their center and tight end to advance to the second level on this draw play.


But the problem with the draw is that the offensive line have to sell a pass fake first. The left guard takes a drop step, which is enough for Kerrigan to burst up field and attack his outside shoulder. The Redskins are running a stunt involving Kerrigan crashing outside and opening a hole for Darryl Tapp to attack inside.


That allows Tapp to be in the perfect position to tackle the running back before the play even gets back to the line of scrimmage.

But that isn't enough to discourage the Steelers from running the ball against this look. Later on in the game, the Steelers faced a third and 18 situation. But they lined up under center and ran the ball.


They ran a counter trap play. Both inside players, Stephen Bowen and Kerrigan are initially double teamed. Right guard David DeCastro pulls from his position to trap block Tapp, with the tight end following in behind him.


With wide angles being taken by the front four of the defense, it makes for easy blocking from the Steelers offensive line. Kerrigan stands no real chance of beating a double team on the inside. Bowen has center Maurkice Pouncey cutting off his angle on the play. Tapp and Jenkins rush up field unblocked.


But both edge defenders get trapped unexpectedly. The guard comes across to take out Tapp, while the right tackle is able to peel off Bowen and cut off Jenkins' pursuit of the running back. As the back secures the ball, he sets up the cut back lane by rushing to the left of the offensive line. That draws linebackers London Fletcher and Perry Riley towards that side of the line. The left tackle peels off Kerrigan to take on Fletcher, while the pulling tight end comes through the gap to block Riley. You can see the huge cut back lane developing.


Safety DeJon Gomes comes charging up to the line of scrimmage to help support against the run, but he too gets drawn in by the original path of the running back instead of identifying the cut back lane.


Gomes takes the bad angle and is forced to stop and adjust, giving the back plenty of time to run past him. The runner picked up 14 of the 18 yards needed, so at least the defense didn't give up the first down. I also had plenty of people tell me on twitter last night that a better safety doesn't take a bad angle and makes the play.

However, it doesn't matter the down or distance, you never want to allow a running back to reach the secondary without being touched. Backs like Alfred Morris and Marshawn Lynch will run over defensive backs, while speedsters like Chris Johnson will use a juke move or simply run past defensive backs that aren't used to tackling running backs consistently. While the Redskins didn't give up the first down, the still gave up 14 yards. That makes the field goal attempt significantly easier and could have even been enough to convince the Steelers to go for it on fourth down.

I like the pressure the Redskins have gotten out of this package so far when teams have actually dropped back to pass. Bowen, Kerrigan, Jenkins and Orakpo caused a lot of pressure against the Titans, and Tapp filled in well for Orakpo against the Steelers. Getting good pressure from four rushers makes things a lot easier in the secondary, but they have to be ready for teams that are willing to run the ball against this package.