Washington Redskins Weeks 16 & 17 Defensive Game Tape Review

Due to the obscene number of injuries sustained, the defensive review of the final eighth of the 2010 NFL season for the Redskins is, in my opinion, far more interesting.  The Redskins played their best two weeks on defense in the final two weeks.  There was no Ma’ake Kemoeatu, no Albert Haynesworth, no Kedric Golston, and no Brian Orakpo during the Jacksonville game, and the subtractions of that group of players made the Redskins a better defensive unit.  Carlos Rogers sustained an injury in the Jacksonville game that ended his season, and probably his career as a Redskin.  Not every one ofthe replacement players were effective.  A guy named Joe Joseph came in at nose tackle and contributed by allowing David Garrard to go right up the middle on a quarterback draw to tie the game.  Macho Harris chipped in with dreadful play at safety in relief of Reed Doughty.  Jeremy Jarmon didn’t have a very significant playing time increase, and his impact was minimal.

But some of the subs did play excellently.  Rob Jackson was a force off the edge in relief of Orakpo.  Chris Wilson was great, if underutilized.  Vonnie Holliday was so, so good, and proved to me that he should have been the starting RDE out there.  Adam Carriker raised his level of play from “more than adequate” to that of a pro bowler.  Darrion Scott was particularly flashy: he showed the ability to come off the bench and make plays against the run and the pass.  And Anthony Bryant had his best game of the season against the New York Giants.

Jim Haslett did not need to “solve” a generic Jaguars offense on what David Garrard would freely admit was an off day with Maurice Jones-Drew inactive, but after being thouroughly beaten by the Giants coaching staff in the early December, it was nice to see a quick adjustment to Eli Manning’s early success that was sustained thoroughout the game and, presumably, can be worked into the gameplan to slow down Eli Manning when the teams play in 2011.  Most of Manning’s early game success came from being free to slide to his right in order to buy time.  The Giants were able to account for Orakpo by holding him, and by moving the quarterback away from him.

The Redskins did two things to adjust to this: they started bringing the blitz off of Manning’s throwing side to force him to his left, and they drafted Ryan Kerrigan in the first round.  Manning was able to beat a big blitz for a 92 yard TD pass to Mario Manningham over DeAngelo Hall who was playing through injury.  Hall’s position on the play was awful, given his compromised physical state and the play call, and the second half of this game showed the absolute absurdity of sending DeAngelo Hall and Antrel Rolle to the pro bowl, as those players were entirely responsible for 14 of the 31 points scored in this game.  Neither was quite as poor a selection as Patriots S Brandon Meriweather, who lost his job in the middle of the season, but still, there are good defensive backs in this league, and neither Hall nor Rolle qualify.

The Redskins featured their depth at corner in these two games, showing Kevin Barnes playing at least adequately at safety, and Byron Westbrook and Phillip Buchanon making all sorts of plays out there.  Barnes and Reed Doughty were the biggest differences in the improved Redskins run defense from the first meeting where they were destroyed on the ground, in a game where Reed Doughty wasn’t very good and Kareem Moore played in.  The Redskins also were the beneficiaries of an early injury to Rich Seubert, but the defensive line won the war in the trenches against the Giants.

The Giants were still able to easily attack Rocky McIntosh in this game, and frequently did, but there is such a difference between having one weak player in the front seven, and three weak players as the Skins did most of the season.  The Giants own personnel limitations also hindered their ability to attack the Redskins’ known weaknesses in this game.  The Redskins also decided early on to get DeAngelo Hall and Phillip Buchanon involved in run defense, and were able to force the Giants into throwing a majority of the time.  This entire game was good evidence of that DeAngelo Hall can up his effort level, and still get worse against the pass.  He doesn’t read recievers very well, and rarely positions himself to make a play on the ball, which is odd considering his reputation as a playmaker.  A majority of Hall’s playmaking starts once the ball is in his hands.  His failures often get confused for a lack of effort, but you can’t critize Hall’s effort when he’s throwing his body around in the running game against bigger backs for a 6-9 team.

Almost all of the Giants meaningful offensive plays in this game came against McIntosh and Hall, which might be a foreshadowing for the games against the Giants in 2011.  McIntosh will not be back.  Hall will be, and he has been unable to make a play against the Giants.

The pass pressure wasn’t great in this game, but the Redskins were able to tighten up and start bringing the blitz and started knocking Manning around to the tune of this:

Hits and Hurries vs. NY Giants

  • 3 – London Fletcher
  • 1 – Brian Orakpo
  • 1 – Rob Jackson
  • 1 – Darrion Scott
  • 1 – Vonnie Holliday
  • 1 – Byron Westbrook
  • 1 – Lorenzo Alexander
  • 1 – Adam Carriker

So basically, the Redskins came from a lot of angles.

All season, when the Redskins got actual pressure on quarterbacks, the defense made big plays that decided games in the fourth quarter or overtime.  But actual pressure came few and far between.  Even if we set aside the overall decline of the run defense from 2009 to 2010, the reason for upgrades in the front seven during the draft is to get pressure on quarterbacks next year.  The Redskins need to throw off the timing of plays, or their zone coverage is going to be picked apart.  Timing.  That’s the key word for the defense going into next year.

I examined earlier tonight how the problem for the offense is when you have too many players dependant on the system, you don’t really “have” a system to begin with.  The Redskins defense showed, by the end of the year, that their system is in place and their formula works: come from all angles and hit the quarterback while winning our individual battles.  The problem was that the Redskins quickly found out that behind their smoke and mirrors in the defensive front was a secondary that wouldn’t or couldn’t come up and make plays on the football, and that a quarterback that could set their feet and throw in rhythm was one that was going to beat the Washington Redskins in 2010.  There are still unanswered questions.  We don’t yet know if Jim Haslett can playcall for a successful 3-4 defense.  We know he can scheme against his opponent, but the strength of the 3-4 lies in it’s ability to get untouched rushers on opposing quarterbacks.  The Redskins didn’t get very many of those this year.

But this was also a year where the defense had to suffer through a number of injuries for the first time since 2007.  And it’s losses from last year we’re overstated.  I think they’re closer to building something cool on this side of the ball.  The defense wasn’t productive this year, and there are no metric which shows it’s effectiveness.  But the step it needs to take next year is to put up top five production against a preposterously weak schedule of passing attack.  Then, in 2012, the Redskins must sustain their gains against a super bowl schedule.  If Haslett’s scheme and hand picked players work, we’ll know for sure by then.