2. Establish the Run
The Los Angelas Chargers are expecting to change their defensive scheme. After hiring former Rams defensive coordinator, Brandon Staley, the Chargers let go of their former defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley.
Bradley is one of the defensive minds in the NFL that still religiously runs the Seattle Cover 3 defense that the Legion of Boom popularized. This means there is one over-the-top safety on most plays and another safety in the box.
According to the Football Outsider’s Almanac, Bradley’s Chargers defense ran from a one-high shell 68.7% of the time, good enough for second in the NFL.
In 2020, the Rams ran from a two-high shell 78.6% of the time, which was second highest in the NFL. That directly juxtaposes Bradley’s scheme, which is what makes this key for Washington so important.
Against two-high safety looks it is generally more advantageous to run the ball. From a simple numbers perspecitive, with two safeties back in the secondary, that creates a numbers advantage in the box. Less people to block, bigger gaps are usually created.
Players can get out of their gap easier due to this sheer number disadvantage, as some will try to overcompensate.
Given it is likely that Staley will adhere to his defense that relies heavily on Cover 4 and Cover 6 looks according to The Almanac, Washington should attempt to establish the run.
With an Antonio Gibson that is ready to take a significant step up in his second full year as a running back, Washington would be wise to give him the ball early and often. Keep an eye out for Jaret Patterson too.
As is evidenced by the scheme the Chargers are expected to run, the numbers are there for Washington to attack Los Angeles on the ground. And it also can help set up the passing game later as the Chargers will hopefully be forced to adjust their scheme.
Scott Turner will be tempted to show off the shiny new receiving weapons the coaching staff and front office acquired this offseason. As fun as that sounds, it may be prudent of Turner to have a steady dose of Antonio Gibson in Game 1.
The league may be becoming pass-reliant but Washington needs to create balance to beat the Chargers. And establishing the run early can go a long way towards achieving that.