Going into this week's matchup against the Washington Redskins, one of the major storylines is going to be the Eagles' ability to protect against the blitz.
In three games over the last two seasons, the Redskins have sacked quarterback Carson Wentz 13 times. Former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski put out an interesting stat this week, which stated that Wentz is the most-blitzed quarterback in the league, with defenses sending extra rushers on 39.3 percent of his pass attempts this season.
Wentz has been successful against the blitz, throwing five touchdowns and no interceptions, per Jaworski. The Eagles should expect to see pressure on Monday night. With that in mind, let's look back at some of the ways the Redskins have tried to attack the Eagles over the past year and a half, and how the Eagles can protect against it.
Shot 1 - Looking back at last 3 #Eagles #Redskins matchups, Washington likes to use stunts and twists up front. Get pressure on Wentz here pic.twitter.com/CNBQadh30N — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 19, 2017
Seeing defenders loop around from gap to gap is commonplace when watching this Washington defense. The Redskins like to utilize stunts in their scheme, and using T/E stunts, in particular, is a big part of their attack plan. A "T/E" stunt is when the tackle and end rush together in a twist, with the tackle going first and the end looping around (hence the name T/E). The Redskins have used E/T stunts (where the end penetrates first) and T/T stunts (with both tackles playing off each other) on the inside as well. Communication up front for the Eagles will be key against this unit. In the shot above, the Redskins use a Double T/E stunt, as pass rusher Preston Smith loops inside with a pretty clean look at Wentz in the pocket.
The T/E is an example of a two-man "game" up front, but the Redskins really like to mix in three-man "games" as well.
Shot 2 - #Redskins love to loop rushers inside in 3-man games. Have known this as a 'Pirate' stunt. #Eagles block it up well 3 times here pic.twitter.com/NeRsViHDiF — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 19, 2017
The Redskins have used a lot of three-man games against the Eagles, namely this "Pirate" stunt. Two defensive linemen slant one way and the edge rusher is brought around that side from multiple gaps away. It's a very effective scheme as long as you can prevent the offensive linemen on the opposite side from helping. Washington often tries to do that by placing a linebacker right over the possible helper. In the first two shots above, both left guards for the Eagles (Allen Barbre last year and Isaac Seumalo this year) recognize the looper and are able to help pick him up. That kind of awareness will be needed again on Monday night.
Shot 3 - #Redskins like using LBs in their pressure schemes. These look just like the Pirate stunts in the last shot. Lots of twists/turns pic.twitter.com/zOcgxvyGwU — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 19, 2017
A common theme you'll see from Washington is the insertion of linebackers into the pressure scheme. Whether it's a pass rusher standing up inside or one of their off-the-ball linebackers lining up stacked in the formation, those players are able to be a part of the attack as loopers and as pinners. The shots above all look very similar to the Pirate stunts in the previous clip, but the defenders who start the play standing up are all a part of the pressure as well. Blitzers come in all shapes and sizes with this Washington defense, and they come from all three levels of the field.
Shot 4 - This concept has been very effective for #Redskins vs #Eagles. Use LB/DL in a 2-man game. Force RB/OL to pass off. One example... pic.twitter.com/K2clxUBiBm — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 19, 2017
This is actually one of my favorite things that Washington does, so I made sure we included it in this week's episode of Eagles Game Plan (where Greg Cosell does a great job of breaking the concept down).
They sacked Wentz with this blitz last year, by isolating Jason Peters and Darren Sproles. On a whiteboard, Sproles is responsible for linebacker Mason Foster, and Peters should pick up Smith. The play starts with left guard Stefen Wisniewski being occupied. This is basically a stunt with the linebacker, Foster, hitting Peters' inside shoulder and Smith looping inside. With the twist, Sproles now falls off of Foster and blocks Smith, anticipating that he will run free to Wentz if he doesn't pick him up. It's impossible for Peters to block Foster from this angle, however, and he knifes into the backfield to help bring Wentz to the ground.
Shot 5 - This is from Week 1. Same concept with a different target and same result. Occupy the C & RT. Force RG & RB to execute a pass-off pic.twitter.com/IdVwHfhwP8 — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 19, 2017
In Week 1 this year, the Redskins went back to the same concept, just against a different duo. This time, they isolate guard Brandon Brooks and running back Wendell Smallwood. With Lane Johnson focusing on Ryan Kerrigan and Jason Kelce dealing with a nose tackle right in his face, it's two-on-two on the inside. Smallwood would be responsible for blocking the linebacker, Zach Brown, and Brooks has defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis. Brown attacks Brooks' inside shoulder, and this time Smallwood stays with him to keep him from getting to the quarterback. However, Brooks is unable to get through the traffic to pick up the looping defender in Ioannidis, and he breaks free for a sack. This twist will be something the Eagles have got to be ready for in this game because it's resulted in a pair of sacks for the Redskins in the last two meetings.
Shot 6 - Very disciplined rush from #Redskins here. Still utilizes a lot of movement post-snap, but LB helps contain Wentz in pocket. Sack. pic.twitter.com/L2M0tyhOr3 — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 19, 2017
The linebackers aren't just used as straight pass rushers because Washington also uses them as contain players in their pressure scheme. Will Compton loops to the outside, not necessarily to get home against Wentz, but to prevent the quarterback from breaking the pocket and rolling to his left. His presence helps keep Wentz contained, and with all of the other movement after the snap, the Redskins get home for a sack.
Shot 7 - Two really well-executed overload blitzes from the #Redskins. Cut the protection in half and bring more than the O can block pic.twitter.com/aQRI07RuPO — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 19, 2017
The Redskins also like to use "overload" pressures, where a majority of the rushers come from one side of the formation. The idea of these blitzes is ultimately a numbers game - the defense wants to bring more than the offense can block. Defenses often accomplish this by forcing the protection to look a certain way with the front alignment.
On the first play above, the Redskins place a nose tackle right on top of Kelce, meaning he has to block him. With the running back on the other side of the formation, the Redskins bring three rushers from the left. Only Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai are on that side, so there's a free rusher and Wentz has to get rid of the ball.
On the second play, the Redskins stack two edge rushers on top of each other. This is an immediate red flag for center Jason Kelce, who expects a stunt to come from that side. That's exactly how Washington thinks Kelce will react, but instead, the Redskins bring an extra defender from the opposite side of the field with a corner blitz. The free runner gets home and delivers a big hit on Wentz. Overload pressures will certainly be a part of the Washington repertoire on Monday night.
Shot 8 - #Eagles have allowed 13 sacks in last 3 Gs vs #Redskins. Zone exchanges a big part of their toolbox. Have to be ready for it all! pic.twitter.com/1QMAKgJZpj — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 19, 2017
Lastly, one of the more popular methods of pressure for the Redskins is the use of zone-exchange blitzes, where a defender on the line of scrimmage drops out and a second- or third-level defender inserts into the blitz in his place. These zone blitzes typically only use four rushers, but with the deception of who comes and who doesn't, it can be tough to set the protection correctly for the offensive line. Remember, once the protection is set and the ball is snapped, there's no going back! The offensive line must be ready for everything that Washington will throw at them because my guess is there will be a healthy dose of pressure.
Fran Duffy is the producer of "Eagles Game Plan" which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices and opponents.