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Tale of the Tape: Woods and Hankins make a big difference on the ground against Seattle Week 4

Indianapolis Colts v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts defense has undergone a great deal of change over the course of the off-season. The front seven is entirely new except for the return of a healthy Henry Andersonand second-year inside linebacker Antonio Morrison. The early results from this group have been promising against the run.

The biggest keys to this new success is the addition of defensive tackles Al Woods and Johnathan Hankins. Their counterparts at outside linebacker in Jabaal Sheard and John Simon have also played an important role in making it much more difficult for opponents to run the ball.

Despite this fact, defensive coordinator Ted Monachino has dialed up some pretty interesting schematic and personnel changes in the middle of games that are allowing opponents to rack up big plays and score touchdowns on the ground. This feature will take a look at Indy’s run defense with better personnel or a more traditional 3-4 scheme.

Unlike the film that we discussed yesterday, this takes a look at the two down linemen defensive scheme with Al Woods and Johnathan Hankins on the field. As may come as no surprise, the outcome here is different. The Seattle offensive line is unable to man-handle Woods or Hankins in the way the did against Stewart and Ridgeway.

Jabaal Sheard is on the edge instead of Barkevious Mingo and he is able to gain leverage on the tackle and force the run back inside. Al Woods slams Carson to the ground.

This is a look with Woods and Hankins in the middle of the line with Anderson shading the outside should of the left tackle. Woods controls the engagement and holds the line of scrimmage as the play moves to the right and Sheard cuts off any lane to the outside.

The two down linemen look is presented here with Woods lining up as a one-technique in the A-gap and Hankins as a 3-technique in the B gap opposite him. Woods controls the center throughout the play and while he doesn’t make this tackle, his role in the play allows Bostic to do so.

This is the same hybrid look. Woods again wins the one-on-one battle and Bostic is there to assist with the tackle when Carson has to turn the run inside.

Just so there isn’t some confusion that the hybrid two down linemen look is just fine so long as Woods and Hankins are in the game (it is MUCH better), there is still more stress placed on the outside linebackers and players at the second level to contain. When there are three down lineman, especially when Anderson is in that group, the linebackers don’t have to face as many offensive linemen at the second level and almost never get double-teamed.

When a weak offensive line is gifted only two true defensive linemen across from them, they can get more bodies on the second level and gain legitimate yards. I still believe that this Colts group, particularly in this game, does not and did not need to expose their linebackers to double-teams. They could have played straight up and rotated out players if they needed a breather and found more success against a bad Seahawks offensive line.

If you are unsure just how different it looks to add a third down lineman, particularly Anderson to the mix, you can see how the offensive line struggles much more here.

Woods and Hankins are double-teamed off of the snap and cannot be moved off of the line. Sheard has only the left tackle to deal with one-on-one and Bostic is clean throughout the whole play as the guard is off balance when he releases Hankins. Similarly, Morrison gets a blocker in his face but after releasing Woods the right guard is not in a great position to get solid contact.

This is domination. Seattle had no chance to run the ball on the Colts in a look like this. They’re not known as passing juggernauts either so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to abandon a look like this unless the game situation clearly calls for it.

Once again, the offensive line is forced to account for Woods and Hankins here. There is no one left to help on Sheard with the right tackle on the edge. He is able to win one-on-one and makes the tackle before Carson is able to turn up the field.

Here you have a chance to see Mingo at outside linebacker but with Anderson in the game on the defensive line as well. The result is that Mingo goes ublocked on the backside of the play and can use his speed to chase the run down. Anderson is able to mirror the play after his initial punch, shove the lead blocker out of the way, and get in on the tackle.

If Anderson isn’t in here, Mingo has to try to win a hand fight with the right tackle. He probably doesn’t win and Carson gets to the second level for Morrison to make the tackle. The lead blocker may have taken him out too though.

This is another look with our traditional 3-4 front. Tarrell Basham replaces Jabaal Sheard in this look — maybe because the coaching staff thinks he is a better pass rush option if Wilson tries to throw the ball. Either way, this run is played very well by Hankins and Bostic but Basham flies past the play and over pursues allowing Carson to give the Seahawks some breathing room.

While Seattle was still able to gain some yards on the ground against the starting defensive line, it was much more difficult. The two down lineman look was more effective with Woods and Hankins in the game and I would argue that unless they’re in the game, they should probably stick with a traditional look. Anderson plays an important role in the traditional 3-4 scheme and allows linebackers to flow to the play much better — keeping them clean of double-team and free offensive linemen.