From the Far Hash: Attacking the Redskins Blitz Packages
Tomorrow, the Packers face the Washington Redskins. Jim Haslett is their defensive coordinator, and he’s a quite good one. The Packers will have to bring their A-game to overcome his attack-style defense.
Haslett runs a base 3-4 defense that allows them to highlight the highly skilled Brian Orakpo, much like the Packers use Clay Matthews. However, when facing substitution packages (more than two wide receivers), which the Packers will deploy, the Redskins will switch to a 4-2-5 nickel alignment. They will do this when the Packers come out in a three wide receiver set. The picture below shows the 4-2-5 defensive alignment. Frequently, they play a Cover 1 deep shell in this alignment.
The Redskins are a very heavy blitzing team, especially when they smell blood in the water. Against the Packers, the blood in the water is their suspect offensive line. I expect the Redskins to blitz Aaron Rodgers a lot in an attempt to hit him often and force him into making mistakes.
Haslett is a little bit of a mad hatter himself, and will frequently blitz seven defenders. When blitzing seven, the secondary must play man-to-man defense. They will play a deep free safety in the Cover 1 shell when blitzing seven. The picture below shows them blitzing seven, and you can bet the farm that Brian Orakpo will be coming as an outside linebacker.
When deploying a seven-man blitz, the secondary must play man-to-man. The red shading below shows the coverage assignments against a three wide receiver set.
The seven-man blitz poses a big challenge for the Packers offense. The offensive line can only block five of them, so the running back will have to pick up one man. Rather than dedicating a seventh man in pass protection, the Packers will rely on Aaron Rodgers making a quick release to a receiver running a short route.
Let’s take a look at some route combinations I expect the Packers to run against the seven-man blitz. Since there is deep safety help, the defensive backs have to attempt to re-route the receivers. The left cornerback will try to push the left wide receiver to the left sideline. The strong safety will try to redirect the tight end to his safety help in the middle of the field. The slot cornerback will give an inside release to the slot receiver, also relying on his over-the-top safety help. The right cornerback will try to re-route the right receiver to his right sideline help.
Because the Packers know the desire of the secondary to re-route the receivers, they will have be quick to establish their routes. They have to be quick because the pass rush will be intense. But, more importantly, they have to find open spaces to complete the quick throws.
In the picture below, you’ll see blitz quick routes. The left wide receiver will run a quick slant away from the sideline shade. The tight end and slot receiver will run a post and go combo to pressure the free safety. The right wide receiver will run a quick out. The preferred throws for the quarterback will be the quick slant and the quick out. However, if the pass rush doesn’t get home. Aaron Rodgers can go deep to the slot receiver because the free safety’s first responsibility is to protect the middle of the field, which is being attacked by the tight end.
As I mentioned earlier, Haslett is a little bit of a mad hatter. He has no problems blitzing eight! That’s insane, but he does it. The picture below shows this intense eight-man blitz package. Since he brings eight, there is no free safety help. This makes it a Cover 0 scheme. This is very risky. If the blitz doesn’t get home, the Packers can have massage yardage gashes. The picture below shows the Cover 0 eight man blitz.
Since the eight-man blitz is extreme, the Packers will have to deploy maximum pass protection. This involves keeping the running back home and also activating the tight end as the sixth pass blocking offensive lineman. This was something Tom Crabtree was quite good at, so I expect to see some drop off tomorrow with Jermichael Finley.
The defensive backs have mostly the same re-routing responsibilities as the seven-man blitz. They need to re-route the outside receivers to the sidelines. However, the slot corner will try to give the slot receiver an outside release to protect the middle of the field.
To overcome the eight-man blitz, Rodgers will have to get rid of the ball very quickly. The routes will have to be short. The tight end will have to stay in to block the blitzing strong safety.
The most common routes are the triple quick slat combo. These allow the quarterback to quickly get rid of the ball. However, more importantly, they allow the receiver to attack the middle of the field that it is completely devoid of any safety help. If successfully executed, the quick slants can be taken to the house.
The Redskins will obviously run much more complex coverage and blitz packages than I have outlined here. However, I fully expect to see them deploy both seven- and eight-man blitzes against the Packers suspect offensive line. To overcome this severe pass rush, the quarterback, wide receivers, tight end, and running back will all have to be on the same page.
I expect the Packers will have several blitz-beaters in their game plan, including the plays I showed above as well as moving Rodgers out of the pocket.
I expect they will be ready. I expect Rodgers to be sharp tomorrow because he’s always been highly effective against the blitz.
Go Pack Go!