How he beats you: Without middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, suspended for his role in Bountygate, more pressure falls on the defensive line to stop the run and pressure the quarterback.
The 6-foot-1, 307-pound Ellis isn’t the biggest or most overpowering defensive tackle, but uses his quickness off the line to cause problems for opponents. This season he is looking to return to his 2010 form, when he racked up 44 tackles and six sacks. The Saints like to flip-flop him to take advantage of mismatches, so at times, left guard Kory Lichtensteiger will be matched up with Ellis, and at other times, center Will Montgomery will draw the assignment. So will right guard Chris Chester.
“He’s usually the three-technique, so they flip-flop the sides, and he’ll shade,” Montgomery said. “Those guys are active up front.”
How to stop him: Redskins linemen say the way to best thwart the efforts of Ellis and his fellow defensive linemen is to be aggressive and fundamentally sound. The linemen can’t get lazy with their technique and have to be sure of their blocking assignments.
“He’s an explosive guy. Not super long or super heavy. But he’s got quick-twitch muscle kind of guy,” Lichtensteiger said. “[I’ll do] same thing I’m trying to do every time, trying to get my technique down and hoping you’re able to recover.”
Controlling the line of scrimmage and establishing the run game will help the Redskins neutralize Ellis and the rest of the line. The Saints struggle against the pass (they ranked 24th last season), but are better against the run (12th in 2011), so the Redskins will be faced with an early test. They feel confident, however, after going against their own defense in practices.
“We just want to run our game, run our inside and outside zone game, and I’m sure when Robert drops back, we want to keep him clean and his jersey nice and tidy,” Montgomery said. “Those guys are active, but every day in practice we go against active guys in [Barry] Cofield and [Stephen] Bowen and [Adam] Carriker. So there’s no letup anywhere you go.”