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Redskins-Panthers Defensive Review

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Old 10-15-2009, 09:32 PM   #1
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Redskins-Panthers Defensive Review

The Redskins defense has underperformed to the standards of some this season, but the last two weeks, they've largely gotten their act together. It's remarkable really. As the offense starts to slide into oblivion, the Redskins defense has picked now to come together and start playing better.

They are not without flaw, though. The run defense has been largely excellent this year, but as the tackling has improved, the gap discipline has declined. The Redskins still allow huge holes in zone coverage for veteran receivers to work on them. The pass coverage numbers are still very bad. But all in all, the Redskins are getting off the field on third down the last two weeks, and that improvement has cured a lot of the ills.

Greg Blache is doing a much better job using the personnel he has. Sure, the Redskins still can't defend second string TEs running down the seam, and the chucks of yards given up with consistency are troubling, but the improvement of the secondary in the last few weeks his having a trickle down effect into the front seven, which is really starting to put some pressure on the quarterback.

And, oh yeah, the Redskins are forcing turnovers at a greater than one-per-game rate. The difference is an increase in forced fumbles, which is a credit to the improved defensive line play over last year. Those turnovers are leading directly to Redskins points, which are badly needed.

Blache's biggest change in the last two weeks has been a liberal use of the Dime package. It's a way to put 6 DBs on the field, and still not have Fred Smoot out there. The play of Justin Tryon and Reed Doughty have really helped to turn around the direction the secondary was heading in, but DeAngelo Hall has been improved against the pass in the last three weeks, and Carlos Rogers completely took Steve Smith out of the game when he had a chance. For Rogers, he plays in a division where there is no big, physical receiver, so before he talks his way off the team, he may want to consider that going elsewhere might not be a great career move. The Redskins were not flipping their corners in this game, but Rogers ended up on Smith more often than not, which is good because Hall's INT came against Muhammad.

Hall, of course, manages to turn any coverage scheme into a soft zone, while Rogers manages to turn anything into man-lock. I have to imagine that this dynamic makes calling coverages a no-win situation.

The contract situation in the secondary suggests the Redskins are in transition from a primarily man coverage team to a zone coverage team. Tryon and Hall are both zone coverage corners, whereas Rogers plays both about equally well. If the team opts not to re-up with Rogers at the end of the year, you've essentially turned the defense into a zone defense. But the Redskins have too many holes in the zone between the numbers. This is because the linebackers are horrendous in zone coverage. It's 2006-esque, but with competant secondary play behind them.

London Fletcher seems uncomfortable with the new zone schemes, at least in the fact that he's often expecting different things from the players around him. Rocky McIntosh just can't find wherever he's supposed to go in zone coverage, seemingly ever. In man coverage, he can go step for step with any RB or No. 2 TE. Brian Orakpo can't really play either man or zone coverage, and in the future, probably won't have to. H.B. Blades is alright in zone, and my sample size on him in man is limited, even going back to last year.

It's unfortunate that the Redskins have about half personnel suited for man coverage, and half personnel suited for zone, but it's nice that they are mixing things up as not to give the offense obvious mismatches.

Blitzing, or lack thereof

It's pretty important then, that the Redskins are blitzing less, because they are not giving away their coverages pre-snap (Matthew Stafford sends his regards). I, and others, have noted since the Rams game that the Redskins have been bringing zone blitzes, but I like their ratio of zone blitzes to man blitzes right now. It's one thing to stymie Josh Johnson on third downs, a completely different thing to do it to Jake Delhomme, who as badly as he's playing right now, has been there and seen that before.

The only time the Redskins brought more than 5 guys on a play in this game was on a run. Against the pass, I charted two 5 man blitzes, one with Orakpo, and one with Rogers. The corner fire was fun because Rogers disguised it well, and Delhomme nor the OL read it pre-snap. It turned out to be a big play for the Panthers when Steve Smith beat Landry, but I like the call anyway. Of course, the flip side of this is that there were a lot of plays where Orakpo dropped into coverage.

More 4-3 Woes

The base defense in this game was just torched by the Panthers passing game, even though the Panthers didn't really spread the Redskins out at all. It was all I-Formation, a lot of play action, and a lot of passing to receivers in between the numbers against the Redskins zone coverages. It's not being done on the outside against the corners really, as Delhomme did not often challenge either Hall or Rogers. It's just that the deeper the Redskins LBs drop, the bigger the holes in the defense seem to become.

One of the things that the nickel, dime, and cobra packages have done is that they replace those linebackers who cannot control an area on the field with safeties and corners who can. Truth is, the strength of the Redskins run defense is on the DL, and with Fletcher's tackling ability, so the dime package costs the Redskins nothing at all in run defense. It just helps in the pass defense. Secondly, when Brian Orakpo, Albert Haynesworth, and Andre Carter are all rushing the passer, it's tough to block just 4 or 5 Redskins.

Final Word

Since fixing the major issues after the Detroit game, the Redskins have an above average quality defense. I wasn't expecting the turnaround this quickly, but the Redskins will probably be in every game they play this year. Now, if Jim Zorn keeps mismanaging the game, and things get worse for the offense before they get better, it's not going to yield an improvement in the W-L column. But this game was lost predominantly by two special teams gaffes, as the defense pitched a pretty darn good effort. They were a little better against Tampa a week ago, but I'll generally take an effort of this quality week in and week out.

We don't have an elite defense, but when the talent on the DL gets healthy, if the Redskins use it properly, they can still build a top ten defense, which will give them a shot to win some games in the second half of the year. However, if it turns out that the defense is only going to be as good as it is now, and it won't be good later in the season, then we're looking at 5 wins.
according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
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Old 10-15-2009, 11:03 PM   #2
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Re: Redskins-Panthers Defensive Review

Originally Posted by GTripp0012 View Post
They are not without flaw, though. The run defense has been largely excellent this year, but as the tackling has improved, the gap discipline has declined. The Redskins still allow huge holes in zone coverage for veteran receivers to work on them. The pass coverage numbers are still very bad. But all in all, the Redskins are getting off the field on third down the last two weeks, and that improvement has cured a lot of the ills.
I wonder if that has to do with Haynesworth? He freelances sometimes?
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Old 10-15-2009, 11:49 PM   #3
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Re: Redskins-Panthers Defensive Review

Nice GTripp.
Defense wins championships. Bring it!
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Old 10-16-2009, 09:02 AM   #4
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Re: Redskins-Panthers Defensive Review

Great job. I just had a feeling our defense was most likely to bounce back after a slugish start as opposed to the Offense. I think Blache is really not a bad D coach and think if he had more of a voice to get "his" guys, it would be even better. I havent been worried bout the D all year. Much much concerned about Offense and the very very lack luster special teams (even though our kickers have preformed pretty well). Blache is a no non-sense guy and you have to be with the personalities we have on that defensive team, I just wish Zorn/Sherm were more like that on the offensive side as well.
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Old 10-16-2009, 05:34 PM   #5
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Re: Redskins-Panthers Defensive Review

Nice overall look at the unit, thanks.
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