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Getting Defensive About the Redskins Defense

Posted By Jack Gorman On November 11, 2009 @ 10:06 pm In Featured,NFL | No Comments

Much has been made of the impotence of the Washington Redskins offense this season. Frankly, we’re tired of writing about it. So we’re going to rant about the defense for a while.

Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache gets a lot of credit for a job well done on defense due to his high rankings (see below) on defense.

But should he?

The Redskins rank sixth overall in yards allowed per game, sandwiched between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots. Pretty good company. Washington also tops the NFL in passing yards allowed per game. They’re also near the top in most red-zone categories.

The flip side here is the team ranks 25th overall in rushing, only a few yards ahead of juggernauts like Cleveland, Buffalo and Kansas City, allowing an eye-popping average of 126.4 yards per game.

Why the differential?

The fact of the matter is these stats exist because Blache is scared to death of allowing the big play. At the same time, the team loaded up on pass rushers in the front seven specifically so the team could produce more sacks.

If you watch the team closely on television, notice that by the time the ball is snapped, you will see 11 offensive players on screen going against seven in the burgundy and gold. That’s because the four defensive backs have backed way off the ball, with safety LaRon Landry dropping as far as 30 yards off the line of scrimmage.

With the Redskins determined to stay behind their receivers, they're entirely susceptible to stops, hitches and inside slants; all the hallmarks of a short passing game that can be run by virtually any quarterback in the league (including Denver’s Kyle Orton). This is one school of thought; keep them in front of you and allow linebackers in space to make plays.

The theory doesn’t hold water for this team, who drafted a defensive end to play linebacker in the first round.

Brian Orakpo rushes the passer; that’s what he does best. Sure, he’ll cover someone here and there, just enough to prove he can do it. But he’s at home chasing down quarterbacks in the backfield.

London Fletcher, the team’s middle backer, is stout despite his size in the middle. Playing behind a beast of a pass rusher like Albert Haynesworth, he often is asked to step up towards the line of scrimmage to assist with covering gaps and rushers coming straight up the gut.

If the team blitzes Orakpo and pushes Fletcher towards the line of scrimmage while sending four defensive backs 15-20 yards back in coverage, that leaves a whole wide open expanse of space in the second level, five-10 yards off the line of scrimmage, and only linebacker Rocky MacIntosh to cover it all, from sideline to sideline...if he’s not covering the tight end.

Thus the short passing plays. Any team can dink and dunk their way down the field against the Redskins.

But why the poor rushing stats?

Again, the team is built for the pass rush. If you’re going to be aggressive and blitz a lot, your penetrating defensive linemen are going to over-pursue and wind up behind the ball carrier. We saw this a lot against Atlanta, they even called a variety of draws and shovel passes designed to allow the pass rush in and outlet the running back.

Opposing rushers get past the line of scrimmage and into that wide expanse of space behind it; throw a spin move on Fletcher and it’s off to the races. While the team’s defensive backs are speedy, it takes anyone a second or two to change direction and sprint towards the ball.

Why is the team so successful in the red-zone?

Simple: Blache can’t back his secondary that far off the ball. He’s forced to play everyone near the line of scrimmage. When the defensive backs are allowed to cover near where the play is actually going on, the team does quite well—more often than not forcing field goals.

Blache also seems to be ignoring the fundamentals when it comes to his defensive backs, since most of them seem to be poor tacklers. Man-to-man corners such as DeAngelo Hall are generally notoriously poor tacklers (all-world CB Deion Sanders was one of the worst). But when you see big hitters like LaRon Landry attempt to roll-tackle, you know the defensive backs aren’t doing a lot of take-on drills in practice.

It’s easy to pin this on defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, and he certainly deserves some of the blame. But as the defensive coordinator, Blache should be putting all of his defensive players through take-on and tackling drills regularly.

The frustrating part of the defense when compared to the offensive struggles is (a) the defense is significantly more talented than the offense, (b) it has received more of the team’s attention and (c) it has been relatively injury free.

Like the offense, however, it suffers from poor play-calling and, it seems, an unfortunate and complete lack of attention to detail.

Read more NFL news [1] on BleacherReport.com


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