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A Review of the Defensive "Effort" vs. Detroit

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Old 10-03-2009, 05:04 PM   #1
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A Review of the Defensive "Effort" vs. Detroit

While no unit played particularly well against the Lions on Saturday, the only mistake by a member of the secondary that actually hurt the team was the Chris Horton pass interference play, the biggest play of the game.

But, wait, I thought the two constants that contributed to the present underachievement of the defense were poor secondary play and questionable coaching? To a point, that's remained true. But the secondary all of a sudden completely outplayed the rest of the of the team in this game. And given the continuation of big plays by the opposing offense, that's not a good thing.

Let's start with the positives. DeAngelo Hall played a great game from start to finish. LaRon Landry wasn't quite as much of a factor as Hall, but he had his best game of the season. Fred Smoot mixed two more completely inexcusable plays with two well covered drive-stoppers, which for him, makes a good day.

Carlos Rogers had a tough day, but, once I went to the tape, it wasn't as bad as it seemed. On the touchdown pass to Bryant Johnson, Rogers was on complete island (thanks to Landry favoring Calvin Johnson's side) with Johnson from the start of the play to the end of it, and everyone in the building knew it. It's a match-up that Rogers can win, but it was so perfectly executed by Matt Stafford and Bryant Johnson that Rogers never had a chance. Making matters worse, Rogers came down on Johnson's foot, and sprained his ankle, which more or less contributed to his inability to close on a receiver the rest of the game. Rogers was able to limit the damage by keeping good positioning most of the game.

The bigger issue was that Stafford didn't need to pick apart the Redskins secondary to win this game. Using the intermediate linebackers zone while an effective running game chewed up the clock worked just fine. When Stafford went to the air, he usually found a mismatch in Brian Orakpo vs. whoever Brian Orakpo was (supposed to be) covering, usually a back or TE Will Heller. London Fletcher couldn't really cover anyone either, and on top of that, the man coverage battle between rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew and LB Rocky McIntosh was a decisive win for the offense. If that sounds like a team defense which didn't get a single play in the passing game from it's linebackers, well, that's exactly what happened. Chris Horton was beaten a bunch of times, but the ball was pretty much never caught. Reed Doughty at least kept everything in front of him, but allowed easy completions as well.

The Failures of the Run Defense

The run defense has been the strongest and most consistent unit on the team since the start of the Greg Blache era, so I didn't think I would find anything to suggest Blache was outschemed in the running game. And, well, I didn't. The Lions were able to run the ball down the Redskins throat thanks to a dominant performance by their interior offensive line, by RB Kevin Smith, and some really good playcalling by Scott Linehan. And oh yeah, just completely undisciplined mental mistakes by everyone in the front seven, most notably, Andre Carter, who hardly if ever commits a mental error. The Lions got him to bite on that dive-toss play twice, two of their biggest runs of the game.

And the Lions backs and offensive line did a great job, a phenomenal job, of making the Redskins pay every time they made an error in gap coverage. This running game is completely for real, ladies and gents. And here's the kicker: if Kevin Smith hadn't gotten hurt, that fourth quarter would not have been close. There were about 3 or 4 ankle tackles made by Fletcher or one of the Redskins defensive lineman on Maurice Morris that Smith almost certainly would have taken for 20+ yards.

Rocky McIntosh often looks incredibly hesitant for a weak side linebacker, but he was a big-time force in the second half. With Landry playing a conservative free safety, the role of playmaker falls to McIntosh when Haynesworth is on the sideline. And speaking of Mr. Haynesworth, it's not like any of our defensive line woes can be blamed on him. His health may have been a questionable investment given the price tag, but his effort on the DL has in no way been lacking, and he's very clearly the best player on either line whenever he's out there. I don't know if I'd call Haynesworth the best pass rusher in the division, but he's certainly the most complete defensive lineman in my opinion, by a hair over Justin Tuck.

Fletcher Struggles

Eventually, London Fletcher was going to have a bad game. We all knew that. You just never expect it to happen in any given week. And even after watching the tape, and seeing Fletcher struggle mightily in pass coverage, and take a bad angle or two, you look at the stat sheet and you see him leading the NFL in tackles and you see the big hits he's putting on people, and you wonder what exactly a London Fletcher "bad game" is supposed to look like.

Fletcher himself will tell you that high tackle numbers don't have any meaning. Because of his position in the 4-3 defense, and the way that the Redskins protect him with their scheme, he's always going to have the big-time tackle numbers. Fletcher had consecutive great years in coverage, after all, you could have protected Lemar Marshall in the defense the same way and had him lead the league in tackles. But Fletcher is here because the Redskins felt he was a complete player, who could defend both the run and the pass, and who could be a coach on the field, and stay healthy deep into his thirties. To continue at a pro bowl level, the zone coverage ability needs to be there, and Fletcher has looked a bit lost at times this season, no more obviously than on Sunday.

Blacheian Philosophy Class

"Quite candidly, in 2009, things got bad, somebody's got to go under the bus. Being the leader of this defense, I should be under the bus, and I'll dive under. If somebody won't throw me, I'll dive under. Because going under the bus, you hurt your feelings a little bit. And at worst you might end up with skid marks on both sides of your shorts."

This is what Greg Blache had to say on Thursday. And yeah, he has to take responsibility for his unit's poor play. And it's hardly all his fault. But he's certainly not helping.

Greg Blache still seems to struggle with understanding why some things work and why others do not. Against the Rams, I diagrammed a successful zone blitz from Blache that got pressure on Marc Bulger and forced a failed third down pass. It was a particularly well designed play. And, we saw two more of those zone blitzes against the Lions, but both resulted in third down conversions.

To properly use deception, Blache needs to understand that he has to have the right personnel on the field to make it work. In the diagrammed play, a hard slant to the inside by Albert Haynesworth opened up the weak side for a free rush from Rocky McIntosh on Bulger. In both instances against the Lions, McIntosh never got anywhere near Matthew Stafford. The play never worked because of anything that McIntosh did against the Rams, it worked because Albert Haynesworth drew the attention of multiple offensive lineman when cutting across their faces (he'll do that), and Richie Incognito had no one to block on the play. A zone blitz is only effective if you can get the offense to waste linemen.

Of course, on both of the zone blitzes Blache called against the Lions, Haynesworth was sidelined with his hip injury. On the first one, Brian Orakpo made a rookie mistake and played the wrong gap, but it probably wouldn't have mattered anyway as Detroit was in max protection. But on the second one, Blache aggressively dropped both pass rushing ends, Carter and Orakpo, into short zone coverage. So who were the 4 rushers on the play then if your two best pass rushing ends drop? If you guessed Cornelius Griffin, Kedric Golston, London Fletcher, and Rocky McIntosh, you would be correct. Can any of those players beat a man and get to a quarterback? Haven't seen it.

The failed zone blitzes were only a small part of the third down woes for the Redskins defense, but they were a complete schematic disaster. The Redskins enjoyed much more success with a standard 5 man rush with either Brian Orakpo or Reed Doughty coming off the edge. Haynesworth and Orakpo are a great rushing tandem, and throw in Andre Carter and this team can get to a lot of quarterbacks with just a 4 or 5 man rush. But that's completely meaningless if a team can get wide open receivers by putting just 3 or 4 into the route. Blache must disguise his coverages better.

The Redskins showed a lot of man-cover two coverage in this game, and by showed, I mean had two deep safeties stand 20 yards from the ball, and lined up each man right over the player they were defending. If Detroit had been unable to run the ball, this probably would have been adequate, but it's a complete junior college scheme to basically say "This is what we're running, rook. Show us what you've got." The Redskins complete inability to force a negative play on first or second down put the third down defense in bad situations all game. Not of course that it matters if Fred Smoot is on the field.

The Big Picture

So where do you go from here? Well, if you think Chris Wilson and HB Blades can combine to handle an OLB position, I would end the Orakpo at SLB experiment. It hasn't been a colossal failure or anything, but Blache seems a bit in over his head trying to properly utilize a pass rushing phenom at OLB, and the resources that the Redskins are putting in to teach Orakpo how to cover aren't going to mean anything once he inevitably moves to DE. It was fun while it lasted, and Orakpo got some good pressure from the position, but let's not delay the inevitable anymore.

If Orakpo goes to RE, you can either move Andre Carter to LE or make him a utility lineman. Given the way that Lorenzo Alexander has played in limited time, I would bring Carter in off the bench, and have Alexander split time 50-50 with Daniels at LE (and Jarmon on pass rushing downs). Carter is very overqualified for a utility lineman spot, but he would still play a lot of RE for Orakpo in the scheme, and it makes more sense than trying to square peg him at LE, which is what has been happening on those pass rushing downs. I thought the DTs on the whole have been a great unit this year, but Kedric Golston probably shouldn't be in the rotation anymore. Now, Golston is a "Blache guy", so it will be interesting to see if excuses continue to be made to trot him out there, or if Blache does the right thing, and get Lorenzo Alexander and (when healthy) Anthony Montgomery in ahead of him.

Anyway, these are only a few suggestions on what the Redskins can do to fix their defense in the short term, and like I suggested two weeks ago, more Tryon and Barnes and less Smoot can only help. I refuse to admit there are no in-house solutions to what is ailing the defense, but I'm not sure the Redskins will find them before everything falls apart on them.
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Old 10-03-2009, 06:07 PM   #2
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Re: A Review of the Defensive "Effort" vs. Detroit

Great analysis man...while GB deserves some benefit of the doubt considering his unit's overall performance this year, it just sees as if a lot of the offenses have figured out his simplistic schemes and are just shredding the pass D. I hope that Blache ends the 'Orakpo the Linebacker' experiment, puts him on the line full time and somehow convinces the cornerbacks to not play 10 yards off the receiver every play.
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Old 10-03-2009, 06:43 PM   #3
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Re: A Review of the Defensive "Effort" vs. Detroit

Good post......only 1 thing I disagree with and thats Barnes isnt ready. No way do I wanna see him in the game ahead of Smoot and/or Tryon IMO. I do think the Orakpo SLB experiment should be over, let the guy play his natural position IF we have the people to take over at LB.

Great info though....well done!
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Old 10-03-2009, 07:30 PM   #4
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Re: A Review of the Defensive "Effort" vs. Detroit

Wow this review covered a lot. I'm sort of glad to hear you say the Orakpo gig as SLB isn't working, not because i didn't want it to work or for him to have success but because he's mostly been a non-factor out there and i've wondered what can be done. Well, move him back to DE and let him do what he does best. I think the end rotation between Daniels, Zoe and Jarmon on the left and Rak and Carter on the right would be pretty sick. I also think if there's concern about SLB then one of the dlineman needs to go and bring back Marcus at least for rotation...let's face it unless something bizarre happens Wynn doesn't play this year so he's expendable. That said I think Blades would do fine at SLB, or at least he's an instant improvement over Rak at the position.
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Old 10-03-2009, 07:33 PM   #5
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Re: A Review of the Defensive "Effort" vs. Detroit

oh and great to hear Al is dominating, Hall is rebounding from a poor start and Rocky is impressing you Tripp. I think Rocky has added some swagger on defense this season and hope he doesn't tail off like year.
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Old 10-03-2009, 07:50 PM   #6
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Re: A Review of the Defensive "Effort" vs. Detroit

great post man, we should put Orakpo back on the line and start Chris Wilson (from Flint, Mi) at linebacker. Blache's schemes have been very painful to watch.
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Old 10-03-2009, 08:04 PM   #7
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Re: A Review of the Defensive "Effort" vs. Detroit

Good stuff, as always!
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Old 10-03-2009, 08:11 PM   #8
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Re: A Review of the Defensive "Effort" vs. Detroit

I should point out that it's really not all that uncommon for Hall to look good against great receivers when the quarterback is bad. The knock on him his whole career is if a QB can throw a timing route, Hall can easily be neutalized by mediocre receivers. In fact, it would not be a stretch to suggest that Josh Johnson's NFL prospects will be inversely related to how well Hall plays in this game.

Rogers' performance seems to be much more neutral to who the quarterback is, and is more related to how big and/or physical the player he is defending is.
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Old 10-04-2009, 10:06 AM   #9
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Re: A Review of the Defensive "Effort" vs. Detroit

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTripp0012 View Post
I refuse to admit there are no in-house solutions to what is ailing the defense, but I'm not sure the Redskins will find them before everything falls apart on them.
That summation says it all.
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Old 10-04-2009, 10:37 AM   #10
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Re: A Review of the Defensive "Effort" vs. Detroit

Tripp that analysis sucked!!! You couldn't be more wrong!!!! J/K Excellent points my fellow veteran.
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Old 10-04-2009, 11:25 AM   #11
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Re: A Review of the Defensive "Effort" vs. Detroit

Great post Tripp. Nail on the head as always
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