06 Sep Richardson to Seattle: The Rich Get Richer
Sheldon Richardson Takes the Seattle Defense From Dominant, to Downright Unstoppable.
Football is the most esoteric sport on the planet. It’s far more complex than filling roster-vacancy-X with player-Y. Acquisitions and moves that send a fan-base into a frenzy can often be placated with simple explanation.
Pete Carroll and John Schneider arrived in the Pacific Northwest in 2010. Since then, the Seattle brain trust has put very little stock into appeasing the fan-base. Surprise draft picks like Bruce Irvin and Justin Britt shocked the pundits and, by extension, the 12’s. Rather than taking the best player available according to Mel Kiper, the Seahawks take the players that they believe best fit in with their program.
That’s the standard operating procedure of every other team in the league (for the most part.)
The Sheldon Richardson trade was celebrated because the Seahawks added a highly skilled defensive lineman to an already loaded group. While the talent is certainly part of the formula, the expanded freedom it gives the defense, from a schematic stand-point, is what makes the trade a home run.
The modern era of football is all about creating mis-matches. Sub-packages are no longer used sparingly and rotations exist at almost every position. Filling out specific roles and playing complimentary football is the way of the future.
Seattle’s defensive front is the unsung hero of the team. While Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom are showered with the lion’s share of praise, the front-seven consistently whips the offensive line across from them.
A pair of pro-bowl ends (Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril) and an emerging havoc-wreaking presence on the inside (Frank Clark) makes this group nearly impossible to game-plan against. Their understanding of the scheme and ability to execute their assignments, maintain gap integrity and play for each other makes that feat even more difficult.
Add Sheldon Richardson, and the already difficult task becomes virtually untenable.
Varying the alignments of the defensive lines forces the opposing quarterback and defensive line to make pre-snap adjustments every down. It’s no coincidence that defensive coordinator, Kris Richard, dials up this complex scheme. Opposing quarterbacks have to scramble to get the audible to every player along the line when the deafening roar of Century Link Field pours down.
This is the base defensive package the Seahawks operate under. It’s called the 4-3 Under alignment. The technique a player utilizes simply refers to his position. A 1-technique will line up on the outside shoulder of the center and the 5-technique lines up on the outside shoulder of the tackle.
The three technique and the leo (pictured below) have one responsibility – get up field and attack their gape. The responsibility of the two gap players (1-technique and 4-technique) require sight adjustments post snap. The same goes for the SAM linebacker (strong-side) as he will set the edge on a running play or carry the back on a flat or wheel route.
This look allows the Seahawks to get a favorable match-up on the weak-side edge (the LEO.) If the 1-technique inside can eat up a double team, it forces the left guard and left tackle into one-on-one match-ups.
Ahtyba Rubin isn’t a bad player by any means, but Sheldon Richardson is what the league considers a “blue-chip” player. These players consistently win one-on-one match-ups – they are players that the opposing offense has to devise a plan to take him out of the game.
Featuring two pass-rushers with exceptional get-offs allows the Seahawks to make line-adjustment just before the snap. Ever wonder why you see a defensive line slide in unison just before the snap? They are creating match-ups based on the strong-side and weak-side of the formation.
Most teams will likely forego any empty formations (no running back) against the Seahawks. Employing this system forces a running back to help either the tackle with Avril or Bennett, or the guard with Sheldon Richardson – neither is favorable for a back.
Richardson, as seen below, has no issues dominating a guard in a one-on-one situation. He plays with a low pad-level, strong hands, and has terrific lateral mobility down the line of scrimmage.
Pushing the guard into the backfield:
The Seahawks defense requires a certain level of athlete. Kris Richard loves to mix in wide-alignments (the wide-9) and run twists and stunts with his ends. (A stunt is when the defensive end comes over the top of the defensive tackle and rushes inside with the tackle pushing outside leverage.) A lot of younger offensive linemen have trouble, A.) Recognizing these stunts and, B.) Creating a base sturdy enough to withstand a rush coming from an awkward angle.
And here is Richardson executing a stunt with the Jets.
Sheldon Richardson provides the strength to play inside and the athleticism to kick outside – just like Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark. Ahtyba Rubin was restricted to playing inside and, therefore, the Seahawks could only vary their looks to a certain extent.
This trade signifies two things:
1.) The Seahawks now have the personnel to completely disguise their alignments and stunt packages.
2.) They believe this is a team ready to win a Super Bowl.
With this defensive front, an MVP candidate at quarterback, and a secondary predicated on excellent communication and athleticism, they’re right.