Each week, Mark Schofield watches a lot of tape. This makes him a force to be reckoned with in fantasy football, as he always knows who to sit and who to start. This week he looks at the Washington defense ‒ and how Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton is an IDP superstar.
Here is a secret you might have missed, given all the offseason turmoil in Washington surrounding the quarterback position: Their defense is pretty good. They have quietly assembling a stout defense that is very tough to run against. Through three games Washington is one of the top rush defenses in the NFL, allowing just 75 yards per game. Only the Buffalo Bills (74.0) and the New York Giants (74.7) have been tougher against the ground game. Making this defense click are two players on the inside, nose tackle Terrance Knighton and inside linebacker Keenan Robinson.
Here is one example of how these two players work in concert to stop the run. On this play from last Thursday night, the Giants line up with 11 offensive personnel on the field, with tight end Larry Donnell (#84) in the backfield as an upback. Washington has their 4-2-5 nickel defense on the field, with Knighton lined up in the A Gap between the center and the left guard:
The Giants try a power running play to the left side:
Center Weston Richburg (#70) and left guard John Jerry (#77) double-team Knighton at the point of attack, while the TE flows through the A Gap to take on Robinson. But watch how the big nose tackle stands his ground at the snap, refusing to give an inch. This allows the ILB to attack the hole, shed the attempted block, and make the tackle:
Knighton pushes the two blockers into the backfield, forcing running back Rashad Jennings (#23) to make a cut behind the line. His cutback takes him right into the waiting arms of Robinson, who has fought through the block of Donnell and into the backfield.
On this next play, the Giants have Eli Manning under center with 12 offensive personnel on the field, with pro alignment to each side of the formation. Washington has their 4-2-5 nickel in the game, with Knighton again aligned in the A Gap between Richburg and right guard Geoff Schwartz (#74). Robinson is lined up over the center, a few yards off the line of scrimmage:
New York tries an inside zone run on this play, with the blockers flowing in unison to the right at the snap of the football. Because Knighton is lined up in the gap, Richburg and Schwartz attempt to double team him. The guard has a second assignment, working off the combination block and scraping to the second level, blocking the ILB:
But again watch how Knighton occupies both blockers, long enough for Robinson to diagnose, flow and lock up the ball carrier:
The NT holds up both blockers, and by the time Schwartz tries to peel off to engage Robinson, the ILB has cut inside and knifed down Andre Williams (#44) for a minimal gain. In addition, Knighton’s strength once again forces the RB to cut back inside ‒ right into the waiting arms of Robinson.
New York faces a 3rd and 1 late in the game. The offense comes out with 11 offensive personnel, again using the TE in the backfield. Washington has their 4-2-5 defense in the game, with “Pot Roast” Knighton again lined up in the A Gap ‒ this time between the center and the left guard ‒ and Robinson lined up over the football:
The Giants try a power scheme here:
The blocking scheme calls for Jerry, the LG, to block down on Knighton. Schwartz and Donnell pull to the left side of the formation to take on the defenders at the second level.
But Robinson has other ideas:
Jerry attempts to block the nose tackle on the interior, but Knighton holds his ground. Trent Murphy (#93), lined up as a defensive end, cuts inside on this play, and the left tackle rides him down the line in the direction of Knighton. As Schwartz and Donnell pull, they both block linebacker William Compton (#51). Lost in the flow of traffic is Robinson, who stops this play for no gain, forcing the Giants to punt.
These two players are becoming a dominant force against the run on the inside for Washington. With Knighton occupying two blockers on most plays, and clogging traffic in the interior, Robinson is free to scrape to the hole and make plays against the run.
Finally, a quick word of advice for fantasy players: If you play in an IDP league, and you are not one of the 14.1% of owners who have Robinson on your roster, you might want to change that. Today.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.