Washington's defense has been a hot topic after their 36-27 Week 2 loss to the Detroit Lions, as they should. Washington allowed 191 rush yards on eight yards per carry, and Lions quarterback Jared Goff posted a turnover-free day, passing for 256 yards and four touchdowns. However, for all of the attention on the defense( and special teams), Washington's offense has some of its own concerns.
Eliminating Carson Wentz's two scramble attempts, Washington's designed rushes accumulated 65 yards on 19 carries, amounting to 3.4 yards per carry. In two games against Jacksonville and Detroit, Washington averages 86.5 rush yards per game (24th) on 3.5 yards per attempt (27th). The lack of success is partially due to the defensive fronts they have played against; the Jaguars have a stout interior defensive line, which would present problems against most offensive lines. However, the Jaguars have the third-best rush defense. Similarly, while the Lions are the 26th-ranked defense against the run, Eagles QB Jalen Hurts created a lot of issues for Detroit with his legs. However, their front seven is fast and bounced back against Washington with discipline and intensity up front.
So where is Washington losing in the run game?
Logan Thomas vs. Aidan Hutchinson
Aidan Hutchinson created issues for Washington's rush game on several occasions. Trying to block a top-five draft pick in the 2022 draft is not supposed to be easy, but Washington sometimes tasked Logan Thomas (TE) with blocking Aidan Hutchinson during the game. With backside help in the run game, Thomas winning against Hutchinson in this instance could help Washington's running back with a cutback lane if the block is executed correctly. In turn, Hutchinson explodes off the ball and past Thomas, who could not fit this blocking assignment correctly mainly due to poor technique on what appears to be both a base block and reach block attempt on the backside of the run.
Lions' rush stunts create free paths to running backs
The Commanders struggled to pick up on pass protection and run game stunts. In this clip, the 1-tech defender for the Detroit Lions successfully crashed into Chase Roullier (C), and Trai Turner (RG) attempted to down block the defender and clear out the gaps inside the tackle. However, with Turner committing to helping Roullier, it leaves a clear path for Detroit's Michael Brockers to loop around and untouched linebackers on the second level.
Commanders IOL struggle with Zone run combo blocks
A big part of the offensive line concerns heading into the season with me, given it has been so much turnover was the chemistry among the new starting unit. Washington's very fortunate to have offensive line coach John Matsko. However, coaching is only part of the game. On-field communication and chemistry are just as important as the coaching, which is critical in how the line can pick up blitzes and work in unison to double a defensive lineman or use a combination block that allows one lineman to climb to the next level and block the linebackers—looking at Roullier (C) and Norwell (LG) on this rep, the two attempt to use a combination block on this Zone run. However, Norwell cannot hold off Alim McNeil, the playside 3-tech defender, long enough for Roullier to fit and take over the block. McNeil does an excellent job in his get-off to get upfield, but again, Washington loses on this run rep.
Washington struggled with second-level blocking
As mentioned previously, second-level blocking is critical in all run schemes. In this instance, Turner (RG) was the playside blocker which, if uncovered (which he is), is responsible for climbing to the second level and taking on the linebacker to clear the way for his running back. However, Turner has poor technique with the angle he takes and his footwork to put himself in a good position to win against Malcolm Rodriguez. As a result, Rodriguez defeated the block and limited Washington to a minimal gain.
IOL struggled with Reach Blocks throughout the game
The result was a positive eight-yard gain; however, that result was more on the back of Antonio Gibson than anything else. Norwell (LG) was responsible for a backside reach block to seal off McNeil. A late shift forces Norwell to react quicker off the ball to properly fit and defeat McNeil; however, poor technique and quickness contributed to McNeil penetrating the backfield and disallowing any cut that Gibson could make. This is another three to four-yard gain without Gibson's effort on the sideline.