The Rams' Defensive Primer Pt. 2
MQ goes into the nuts & bolts of LA's defensive philosophy.
The overall concept of LA’s defense is built on matchups and leverage. With two EDGE defenders that serve as athletic hybrids, the Rams can use them in many ways. Coverages dictate what the front will do. If the Rams want to use both EDGEs in the run fit and leverage plays such as outside zone or rush the passer, LA generally will play a weak rotation Cover 3 (shown below). The rotation by the Safety is slow, and the BS is required to play top-down. The sinking technique allows him to leverage crossing routes while mudding the read for the QB. Depending on the coverage, the Safety may even play flat-footed.
The BS drops into the box and is a “fit support” player, meaning he doesn’t have a primary gap and fits where needed. Though the Mike looks like he is in conflict because he has two gaps, the reality is that if the RB were to work towards the TE (outside zone), the Mike will scrape to the C-gap, and the BS will replace him in the A-gap. The A-to-C concept is similar to how Tite Front defenses teach their ILBs, in which the base five-man front of the Rams is a derivative.
In reality, the BS is “gapped out,” meaning he has no primary gap in the front. The D-line is playing a gap-and-a-half technique meaning they step to their primary gap, but not aggressively enough to get leveraged (react-attack). As the anchor point (DL) steps to his gap or man, he will react to the block of the O-lineman before then attacking the ball carrier. Playing this knock-back and “slower” technique allows the Rams to play their “fit” Safety from depth, leveraging the potential of a pass.
With five defenders on the line, the defense aims to create one-on-one matchups and allow the anchor points to control their primary blockers. The overarching goal is to slow down the runner, create hesitation, and funnel the RB to the two “free” defenders. If the Rams are playing a split-field concept the goal of the defense is to spill everything out to the edges.
The philosophy is a counter to single-gap Even Front run fits that require players to align and defend gaps in an organized manner. (attack-react). Defenses that follow similar philosophies to the Rams are more react-attack than attack-react to steal a concept from the legendary D-line guru Pete Jenkins. Shooting gaps, or the Rod Marinelli style of “stopping the run on our way to the QB,” is counter to what the Rams are attempting to do, which also requires run-stuffing interior D-linemen (one reason why Greg Gaines is a coveted piece for LA).
When the Rams want to play Quarters and keep the Safety high, they need to manipulate the front to “steal” gaps inside; this is where the Read-Pop stunt comes in. In this particular stunt, the EDGE reads the OT’s intentions. If the Tackle base blocks or turns to the defender, he can fold back inside (shown below). If the Tackle down blocks, the EDGE works down the heel-line looking for a pull and generally boxes the block, forcing everything back inside; he can also climb for the Boot-action. The addition of a Read-Pop stunt replaces the Safety in the fit allowing the EDGE to fold in and assume the role required to fit the box with six defenders. As stated above, when playing split-field coverage, the goal of the defense is to spill the run outside to help.
The goal of the POP stunt is to assist the Safety who is playing as a conflict player. Though the Safety has to defend the pass first, he is still required to help out versus the run game as “fit” (Quarters), secondary (Cover 2), or late support, and usually in the outside gap (force). The EDGE has to replace him in the fit because the Rams are not sinking the Safety post-snap (Cover 3). The POP stunt closes the interior gap left open by the looping D-lineman, though it doesn’t always go according to plan (below).
The Shade Nose forces the Center to honor him, even with action away. Seattle runs a simple man-Zone scheme, doubling the Nose and the 3 tech. (Donald). Hollins (#58) sees the LT work out and begins to fold in (Read-Pop). There is a clearly defined gap for the EDGE to fill. The movement allows the Safety to stay high, but the Seahawks’ O-line does an excellent job of picking the stunt up. Instead of fitting outside, the Safety now has a primary gap created inside.