The New England Patriots have gotten back into the playoff mix with four wins over their past 5 games, showing admirable effort clawing back to a .500 winning percentage. Over those five games, the biggest improvement on the team has been the run defense.
When they were stumbling to a 2-5 record to start the season, New England’s run defense was consistently getting gashed.
The run defense allowed 983 rushing yards on 216 carries (4.55 yards per rush) and 8 touchdowns over the opening 7 games. However over the past five games that has resulted in a 4-1 record, the run defense has only allowed 443 yards on 114 carries (3.88 yards per rush) and 3 touchdowns. Those improved numbers come despite the fact that New England has faced athletic quarterbacks such as Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Kyler Murray, who make defending the run more difficult.
The biggest reason for the improvement has been the steady play of defensive tackle Lawrence Guy. While he was named to New England’s 2010’s All-Decade team, Guy is perennially underappreciated by both fans and the national audience. The impact that he’s made this season can be difficult to quantify without film, which can be typical for defensive lineman in his position.
Since arriving in Foxboro, Guy’s production has been consistent over four seasons. Guy has averaged roughly 60 tackles and 2.0 sacks per season, numbers that have continued this year. The most impressive aspect of Larry Guy’s game isn’t the tackle numbers, however, it’s how well he controls blocks on the line of scrimmage.
Guy has a great feel for the leverage battle against offensive lineman, either initially having better pad-level or adjusting it throughout the play while he extends his arms to keep the blocker at bay.
The key to New England’s win against Arizona was the Patriots ability to slow down the Cardinals running backs. Guy was the catalyst of this, as he refused to give ground against double teams and combination blocks, which allowed the Patriots linebackers to remain unblocked.
New England was able to dominate the line of scrimmage against the Los Angeles Chargers, only allowing 70 rushing yards on 15 carries. Once again, it was Lawrence Guy controlling blocks that caused disruption and closed gaps.
On multiple occasions, Guy was able to reset the line of scrimmage in favor of the defense, consistently getting his hands inside of the block in order to penetrate. Once the running back declared the gap that he was going to run through, Guy used his positioning to shed the block and either make the tackle or force the running back to bounce the run.
Guy has produced 5.0 sacks since the start of the 2019 season, becoming a weapon on pass rush stunts. His technique is sound on these stunts, and were the result of a sack and pressure on Sunday.
On this rep, Guy shoots the “B” Gap using a chop and rip pass rush move. Once he cleared the offensive guard, Guy turned his pads towards quarterback Justin Herbert and closed the distance.
Later on in the game, New England used a similar pass rush stunt to cause a pressure.
Technique-wise, Guy does a great job of angling through the offensive guard towards the inside shoulder of the offensive tackle. This is important for two reasons as he forces the offensive guard to commit in his direction, widening the “A” Gap for the looping John Simon (#55). On top of that, angling inside of the offensive tackle assures that Guy will have a path to the quarterback when the guard attempts to pick up Simon.
If New England is going to finish with a winning record this season after a 2-5 start, they’ll need to continue the improvements defending the run. While that adds pressure on Lawrence Guy, the veteran has continually been up to the task throughout his underrated career. Guy’s play in the trenches has made him one of the unsung heroes of the season to this point.