Despite his late entry into minicamp due to a strained pectoral muscle, P.J. Hall’s first sack came quickly against the Detroit Lions in his first NFL game. It was a welcome sight for Raiders’ fans who have been starved for sacks from the interior over the last two years. While the sack was undoubtedly a good individual play by Hall, it is important to note that much of it can be attributed to team defense.
In the play above, the Detroit Lions offense lined up in what looks like a Trips Right, Shotgun formation with a lone receiver on the weak side. Guenther responded with his patented Double A Gap formation which is a variation of a 4-2-5 package that has linebackers crowding the A gaps on either side of the center.
The beauty of the Double A Gap formation is that it allows you to disguise your coverage while threatening the QB/Guards with an inside blitz. This threat of an inside blitz limits the ability of guards to help outside and therefore gives the edge rushers one on one match ups.
In the play below, Leon Hall (#29) quickly recognizes the Lions formation and shifts over to Golden Tate (#15) settling the defense into what looks like a press man coverage (except for Dexter McDonald who looks like he is playing off man) with a single high safety.
Moments before the snap, the Raiders defense bailed from the blitz and began playing zone (with the exception of Melvin who continued to play press man on the weak side). Timing the snap perfectly, Hall exploded off the ball and bull rushed the opposing offensive lineman getting him off balance. Despite the excellent interior disruption, Hall would have likely not gotten to the QB because of the inherent QB depth of the Shotgun formation.
However, since the Raiders had disguised their coverage and were now playing zone, the QB was suddenly floundering as his pre-snap coverage read was ruined.
With Fadol Brown and Bruce Irvin screaming around the edges, the QB stepped up into the pocket and sealed his fate as PJ Hall disengaged from the offensive lineman and enveloped him for the sack.
This play was a tremendous team defensive success with a combination of excellent play calling, great communication, impeccable timing, and winning individual matchups. The communication, timing, and discipline of Guenther’s defense evident within this play are defensive traits that were rarely demonstrated throughout the 2017 season. If the Raiders can continue this success through the regular season, then the NFL will be rocked by the return of the Raiders in 2018.