Washington presents unique pass rush from its left

Ryan Wood
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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) celebrates a touchdown with T.J. Lang (70) against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Green Bay Packers offensive line faces a unique challenge preparing for Washington’s pass rush this week, even if starting left tackle David Bakhtiari is on the field.

Most NFL teams place their top edge rusher on the right side, allowing him to pressure the quarterback’s blindside. It’s why left tackles are considered the premier players on their offensive line. With more pressure, they have a greater responsibility.

Not so in Washington.

Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, the team’s top pass rusher with 9.5 sacks, rushes into the quarterback’s face more than any elite edge rusher in the league. He came from the defense’s left on 83.4 percent of his pass-rush snaps this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Eight of his 9.5 sacks came from the defense’s left.

Among the league’s top edge rushers, Kerrigan is the only player whose rush snaps are heavily slanted on the left instead of right side of a defense. Which presents a unique challenge for offensive lines accustomed to protecting against an opponent’s top rusher coming from the other side of the field.

“They do a good job of really mixing up where they’re supposed to be,” right guard T.J. Lang said. “There’s a defensive end in a linebacker’s spot, a linebacker in a defensive end’s spot. So I think the big key for us is to make sure we communicate and make sure we’re clear and concise with our rules and who we’re blocking. That’s something that can always present a challenge, especially on the road when your center has got his head between his legs (snapping the football).

Washington doubles down on its left-sided pass rush.

Chris Baker, the team’s second-most productive pass rusher with six sacks, lines up at left defensive end. Together, Kerrigan and Baker provide the same quarterback pressure defenses usually present from their right side.

The pass-rush tendency will put additional strain on Lang and right tackle Bryan Bulaga, both of whom were on the Packers injury report Friday. Lang (neck) and Bulaga (ankle) were listed as probable for Sunday’s game.

“They’re good players,” Lang said. “Ryan’s a guy who’s gotten better every year. Baker, I didn’t know a whole lot about him before I started watching film this week, but, yeah, he’s an all-around player. He’s a big guy, he can stop the run pretty well, and he’s pretty shifty for being big. He can get after the passer.

“So you always have to be aware of where those two guys are on the field. When they’re in the same side, you’d like to try to slide your protection to them and try to get an extra guy over there to help.” and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood

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