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Los Angeles Rams Vs. Washington Film Preview: Redskins Aggressive Front Seven

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Todd Gurley’s struggles will resume this week as Washington’s front seven will shut him down.

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NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

If you have Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley on your fantasy team, do not start him this week. From here on out, if you have any running backs playing Washington, it would be wise to sit them.

Washington’s run defense came to play this season. Considered to be one of their weakest aspects of their team for the last two seasons, the Washington run-defense is stocked with a front-seven that is athletic, quick to the ball, and unrelenting.

While they lost to the division rival Philadelphia Eagles 30-17, Washington’s efforts against the run were impressive and a foreshadowing to what the Rams will see in their Week 2 matchup in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Shifting, swarming wall of defenders

One of the most, if not the most, impressive layer of the run defense was the entire wall of defenders would shift with the ball carrier and swarm him for the tackle.

Here the front seven is lined up with a 3-4 formation, their base. The Eagles will call for RB LeGarrette Blount to run to his right and shoot through the lane in the B-gap. But once the ball is snapped, the entire line shifts regardless of who is blocking them.

Now, 6-of-the-7 men in the box are on the left side of the hash marks and forming a wall against Blount, who has nowhere to go on this play. He is eventually wrapped up and brought to the ground for no gain. This was a reoccurring theme throughout the game.

Even when the Eagles offensive line assigned double-teams on DE Terrell McClain and NT Ziggy Hood, the Washington defensive linemen still plugged up or cut off running lanes.

Aggression is the name of the game

New defensive coordinator Greg Manusky (formerly Washington’s linebackers coach) expressed his desire to make the defense more aggressive. On Sunday, Washington was just that, stacking the box and and blitzing 48 percent of the time, making QB Carson Wentz very uncomfortable early in the game.

On this passing play, Washington sends six rushers, leaving the right-side corner and the left-side safety to cover the middle. The man Wentz passes to runs a flat across the middle, leaving the safety to play catch up. Thanks to the pass-rush, Wentz doesn’t step into the throw and the pass is off-target.

What makes the defensive aggression work is the athletic and equally-aggressive linebackers, specifically LB Zach Brown, who was signed in the off-season. Brown is very fast and can cover the width of the field very well, taking good angles to meet the ball-carrier before he breaks away.

On this play, Brown reads the play-action as a run first, then adjusts to rush Wentz when he sees the fake hand-off. Brown’s speed doesn’t change. He goes from targeting the running back to targeting Wentz and cuts on a dime to his left to grab Wentz and bring him down on what might have been a sack.

Again, Brown is impressive. If the Rams offensive line gives him a little, he will take a lot.

Beating Washington’s defense

QB Jared Goff needs to be better than last week and he needs to be mobile.

Let’s be real: there will be little-to-no improvement from last week’s performance against a rundown Indianapolis Colts defense. Not only from the Rams offensive line, but from Gurley himself.

You cannot fix lack-of-vision in a week. Take a look at @_BMule’s Twitter feed for a more in-depth look at Gurley’s struggles against the Colts.

Washington’s defense was tough against the run, but they allowed themselves to be beat by Philadelphia’s passing game. Last Sunday, the Eagles had 19 first downs, 17 of which came through the air. Wentz completed 66 percent of his passes and an average passing play was nearly 8 yards-per-pass.

But Wentz was also extremely elusive. There were a handful of times when the Washington defense had a sure-sack on Wentz, only to have the quarterback slip from their grasp and throw on the run to make a play.

Can Goff do that? Unlikely.

Wentz and the offense struggled early, but once they figured out the Washington defense, they took everything Washington gave them, which included big openings in the middle and near the line-of-scrimmage.

The Rams will need to utilize play-action passes to bait the defense in so there can be openings in front of the line for the solid gain or first down, similar to what the Eagles were able to do when they weren’t throwing deep.

Rams head coach Sean McVay said Tavon Austin would be a bigger role on this offense pretty much since the day Mc(Bae) was hired. Sunday would be a great time to expand that role, and have Austin’s role hit the ground running (or walking) on Sunday.

Fun Fact: According to ProFootballFocus, Washigton SS Deshazor Everett allowed a perfect passer rating against Wentz. Here’s to the deep ball.