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Player Spotlight: Goal Line Stand

The Washington Redskins had the ball with a 1st-and-Goal from the 3 yard line. The Cleveland Browns defense stepped up, held them on four plays, and forced a turnover on downs. (For a video replay, see this link.) Here are my thoughts on the individual performances on this stand and the players who made it happen.

Ishmaa'ily Kitchen
Ishmaa'ily Kitchen
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

DL Phil Taylor: Does not get low and drive. Stands up and has a shoving match. Offensive linemen with good knee bend could exploit his poor leverage on short yardage running plays or any time he's in a 1-gap assignment by getting lower than he can and washing him out of the play. Taylor looks best-suited to playing 2-gap roles at 3-4 defensive end and occasionally nose tackle, where he can hold off his blocker and then fall off him and meet the running back in the hole.

  • In on all four plays at DT (but 4th was a run away)
  • Played high & with poor leverage -- leaned on opponents
  • Did not get low & into the pile
  • Stood up pushing & hand fighting with offensive linemen
  • Able to occupy and control his blocker
  • Ended plays outside the pile and still on his feet on all three runs up the middle -- would like to see him redirect back into the pile, but his center of gravity is just too high for that

DL Ahtyba Rubin: Not a natural bender or flexible enough to get consistent leg drive, but able to plant back foot and drive off it to hold position when pushed back. Also, his good balance/recovery enables him to exploit poor blocks by dropping his center of gravity, sliding off the block, and turning back into the pile. Rubin is not an explosive penetrator, however. He's suited to play both 1- and 2-gap nose tackle in 3- or 4-man fronts, as he can occupy blockers, combat double-teams, and occasionally slip through cracks in the protection to make a play.

  • Similar to Taylor, in 4 plays but involved in just 3
  • Decent leverage: moderate knee bend, tries to maintain a flat back, gets some leg drive
  • Stood up and pushed offensive linemen at point of attack but sinks hips enough to apply his leg strength to the push
  • Good balance, which helps him regain his footing when pushed back and redirect toward the ballcarrier: was driven back on each play but able to keep himself alive and get back into the fray
  • 2/3 times ended play on the pile

DL John Hughes: Very powerful in run defense, using good leverage and excellent leg drive to get a push into the backfield. Very aggressive, which is mostly a positive, but could potentially give up contain while trying to annihilate blocker rather than just control him. Hughes is best suited for a 1-gap role at 3-4 DE or 4-3 NT. Could see some 2-gap assignments at DE, but I only recommend doing this sparingly to keep the offense off-balance as it is asking him to play away from his strengths.

  • In on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th down
  • Got low and with good leverage: flat back, drove with hips and legs
  • Very strong push into backfield on 2nd & 3rd down
  • Got under blocker and drove him into path of the play
  • Ended all three plays on the ground in pile with RB

DL Ishmaa'ily Kitchen: A classic bear-hugger, he bends at the waist and lunges with his upper body. For many DTs this would be completely ineffective, but it works for him because of his short, squatty build and massive legs. Being built so low to the ground gives him a natural leverage advantage over most interior OL, despite his very poor flexibility. As a result, he can often absorb the push of offensive linemen until they start to turn him or knock him off balance. Kitchen is limited to the nose tackle position, but could be effective stopping the run and eating up double teams there in a variety of fronts.

  • On field for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th down
  • Powerful stacking up the middle of the line
  • Very stout, stopping blocker in his tracks
  • Nice balance and hustle to get up and pursue outside run and assist on the tackle on the perimeter
  • Very inflexible and bends at the waist, leans into offensive linemen

DL Armonty Bryant: Looked suitable for base defense or passing downs but not a short yardage DT.

  • Played on 1st down only, lined up at left end in 46 front
  • Good leverage but not stout enough to hold ground
  • Driven back but able to slip off block and assist in making tackle
  • Subbed out after first down for a defensive tackle

OLB Paul Kruger: On two plays, showed good strength to beat tight end blocks on the edge. Was too undisciplined and took himself out of the play on another. Got flat out beaten by a tight end block on the fourth. Kruger is sometimes too aggressive, as many edge rushers are, but he is capable of setting the edge consistently.

  • Was standing up at right end in 46 alignment on 1st down, got a little too far upfield, and could have lost backside contain but runner stayed on path to hole at right guard. Not sure if he read the pulling left guard and knew the play was going right or not, but I'll assume so and give him a pass on this one.
  • While lined up at DE on 2nd and 3rd down, he beat TE blocks and crashed down to push the pile back
  • On 4th down, also from DE position, he got sealed out of the play upfield by TE

OLB Jabaal Sheard: Showed enough strength and agility to hold his own battling on the edge with tight ends and fullbacks to maintain contain and force running back inside.

  • Was at the 46 "Jack" position lined up on the end of the line on 1st down and crashed down on the edge and took out the fullback to force the back inside
  • From defensive end postion, fought with tight ends to penetrate inside their blocks on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th down

OLB Barkevious Mingo: Showed good discipline to not give up the edge until runner committed himself.

  • Lined up at OLB on end of line 2nd, 3rd, 4th downs
  • Patient while reading play and maintained his contain duties until certain runner wouldn't bounce play outside, then looked to add himself to the pile

ILB Chris Kirksey: Did not show any ability to fight through blocks. May have to rely completely on avoiding blockers. Was Kirksey a liability on the edge? Yes, to an extent, and a lapse in discipline on 4th down could have resulted in a touchdown, but he might make up for this with his coverage ability and speed to contain scrambling quarterbacks.
  • At LB on second level on 1st down, got blocked out of play by pulling left guard
  • At OLB on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th downs, got taken out on by fullback on all three plays
  • Got too far upfield and lost contain on the edge on 4th down

ILB Craig Robertson: Didn't look good on the line in 46 front. Nowhere near stout enough at the point of attack: was batted away like a balloon and pushed out of the play. Looked much better in space at linebacker, but showed lack of ability to disengage from blocks. Best off when he has room to avoid blockers, slip through open lanes, and locate the ballcarrier. Making a very athletic offensive lineman miss in space was a good sign.

  • Lined up on the defensive line at the "Charlie" position on 1st down in 46 front
  • Completely driven out of play when lined up on LOS
  • At LB on second line of defense 2nd, 3rd, 4th down
  • Tried to avoid blockers and flow to the ball
  • On 4th-and-Goal LT Trent Williams had him dead-to-rights but Robertson made him miss and made the stop at the goal line
ILB Karlos Dansby: He was quick to correctly read where the run was headed on each down. He attacked and defeated tight end blocks rather than avoiding them. Dansby looks ready to lead this young LB corps.
  • Lined up at LB on the second level all four downs
  • Read the play, fought through TE block, and met RB in the hole on first down
  • Located the ball and added his strength to the pile on 2nd & 3rd down
  • Diagnosed the run and made the first contact with back on 4th down outside run

Goal Line MVP: This award goes to two players: DE John Hughes and DT Ishmaa'ily Kitchen. Both players got a strong push and the only penetration into the backfield on the 2nd and 3rd down runs up the middle. They also both got out to the perimeter to prevent the running back from turning the corner, with Kitchen assisting Craig Robertson on the touchdown-saving tackle.