CHARLOTTE – This week’s film review session with defensive coordinator Eric Washington starts with the issue that’s been plaguing the Panthers’ run defense: gap control.
Head coach Ron Rivera said Redskins running back Adrian Peterson was running “like he was 25” on Sunday, but Carolina’s lack of discipline contributed to his productive day (17 carries for 97 yards).
Washington pointed to a 10-yard rush on second-and-4 in the fourth quarter where defensive tackle Dontari Poe overplayed a handoff to Peterson which created a cutback lane. Linebacker Thomas Davis was no longer in the area, as it’s his responsibility to match the path of the pulling guard.
“Here, Washington traps the three-technique (Kawann Short), but you see the one-technique (Poe) just start to put his hat in the adjacent gap,” Washington explains. “If he keeps his hat in the gap that he’s aligned in, when Peterson cuts back we’re in position to contain this run for a minimal gain.
“We just have to make sure we understand the gap responsibility relative to the run concept. It’s all right to help out, but you do it late when there is no longer an opportunity for the runner to attack your gap.
“We’ll do a much better job of in the Philadelphia game with our gap control.”
Washington wants to see an improved effort against the run against the reigning champs, but he’d love for Carolina to replicate its pass-rushing performance against the Redskins.
The Panthers finished with three sacks and six quarterback hits. They were “getting to the spot” as consistently as they have all season.
Here’s a look at some examples:
First-and-10 (00:56 of 2nd QTR)
The Redskins have the ball on the Carolina 33-yard line and are looking to extend the lead before halftime.
“We’re trying to keep Washington out of field goal position, which means right now we need a negative play,” Washington says.
Defensive tackle Kyle Love provides it by beating left guard Chase Roullier and tossing left tackle Trent Williams aside to force quarterback Alex Smith to panic and chuck the ball for an intentional grounding penalty.
“The rush is outstanding. We want to make the quarterback a one-look guy, and by the time he comes back to his second read we’re on the scene,” Washington says. “The corners do a nice job of forcing the receivers to take a wide release, and as soon as Smith comes back to his second read, Kyle Love is right there in his face.
“We get the penalty yards and a ten-second runoff, so it’s a double bonus in that situation.”
Third-and-7 (13:43 of 4th QTR)
Julius Peppers had been waiting for his first sack of the 2018 season, and he made it count. Defensive tackle Vernon Butler’s strong vertical rush opened up space for Peppers to take a direct line to Smith for a gigantic hit that forces a fumble.
“Rush and coverage working together to force the quarterback to hold the football,” Washington says. “Excellent job by Vernon and Julius working together to get the hit on the quarterback.”
It was exactly what the Panthers wanted in a situation where the Redskins were knocking on the door of field goal range at the 40-yard line. But the loose ball went right to the left tackle Williams, who advanced the ball eight yards for what netted a 2-yard gain. Kicker Dustin Hopkins converted a 56-yard field goal on the next play.
“The only unfortunate situation right here is the ball is advanced after the fumble. Didn’t bounce our way in that situation. This very easily could have been a turnover going all the way back the other way.”
Third-and-10 (1:44 of 2nd QTR)
One more example of the rush and coverage working in concert to win on defense.
The rush lanes are balanced, keeping Smith in the pocket, and there’s no one open downfield, which keeps the ball in his hands.
Defensive end Mario Addison’s persistent rush pays off as works his way to Smith for the sack, which pushes Washington out of field goal range.