Analysis Notebook: TNF, Week 10
I wrote in the preseason that the Vikings really haven’t had a legitimate nose tackle since Pat Williams retired, and that oddly enough, the player on the roster perhaps best suited to the role now was one of the best 3-techniques of the last decade, Kevin Williams.
Last night the Vikings, forced by injuries, gave it a try. Williams started at NT while other DTs manned his old 3-tech spot. This only changed in obvious pass-rushing situations where the Vikings essentially vacated the A-gaps and played with two 3-technique tackles, shaded outside of each guard, and also when NT Chase Baker came in. Baker was a guy I also thought flashed a little in preseason as a potential NT of the future, and when he played with Kevin Williams in the rotation, it was Baker that manned the nose and Williams slid back to his normal spot.
So how did this plan work? Pretty damn well. Kevin Williams recorded three sacks, all coming when he was aligned at NT, and had his best grade of the season (+4.1). In fact, that is his best grade since early in 2012.
As I pointed out in the article on Williams, the NT in this defense will usually be the player to draw double teams by alignment. Interestingly, though, in this game Kevin Williams was often left just one-on-one while the Redskins sent the second man straight through to the linebackers or even to double team the three technique – something that is quite unusual.
Kevin Williams from NT one-on-one is in a far better position to use his quickness to immediately shut down anything coming up the middle. Aligned at 3-tech, teams can often use his quickness and momentum against him, pushing him past the intended point of attack and taking him out of the play. Lined up at NT he needs to be taken far further to not clog up the middle. Take his first sack as an example.
The Redskins chose not to double-team Williams, leaving him instead one-on-one with center Will Montgomery. Williams is too quick to handle, and would have been in position to destroy the run had it not been a play-action fake.
Instead, he simply carries straight on and takes RGIII down in the backfield with Montgomery hopelessly trying to get anything he can on him and push him past the play. This is essentially what Williams was able to do for years aligned at the other DT spot, but lining him up at NT just puts him even closer to plays that run up the middle or pass plays with any kind of drop to the pocket.
But what happens when he gets double-teamed from that spot? The crux of my argument for Williams at NT was not his pass-rushing ability, but the fact that he has learned over the years how to play the run and has the size and strength to combat the double team in a way the other Vikings DTs don’t.
Late in the game the Redskins were facing 3rd-and-1 on a key drive before the two-minute warning. They tried to run the ball up the middle with a FB dive from a pistol set. This time Williams forces the O-line to double team him. His quickness off the snap overwhelms the center and forces the right guard, Chris Chester, to keep an eye on the block and maintain contact, making it impossible for him to get in position to pick up the linebacker and generate any leverage to take on that contact. Williams stood up his block, worked across him to squeeze the running lane, and kept Chester occupied long enough that a running start from middle linebacker Erin Henderson is enough to jack him into the backfield and blow up the play.
This is the reason that Kevin Williams should be the Vikings’ nose tackle at this point in his career. It may slow his pass rush (if teams elect to double team him, unlike Washington did), but he will ably transition into a run-stuffing tackle and open things up for the other players on that line.
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