Washington Redskins: A Closer Look at Lapses in the Secondary vs. Chicago

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistAugust 23, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 18: Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears is hit by Brandon Meriweather #31 of the Washington Redskins during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 18, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins pass defense was once again the team's Achilles' heel Saturday against the Chicago Bears.

Before moving forward to think about what the 'Skins have to do in Week 3 of the preseason, let's take one final look back at the problems the first-team secondary experienced on the opening drive in Chicago.


Chicago's first play from scrimmage: Brandon Marshall beats Cedric Griffin with ease

Griffin's lined up to jam Marshall. You can't see it in the picture, but DeAngelo Hall is over the top at safety.

There's the half-hearted initial contact from Griffin within the allotted five yards...

And there's Marshall tossing him aside like a child, throwing him off-balance and giving himself enough momentum to immediately pull away on a go route...

A second later, Marshall's streaking wide open, as Hall is slow to get over. 

You'll notice in that initial freeze frame that the 'Skins had eight in the box. Only one linebacker blitzed, but Hall was forced to pick which island to help out. A veteran safety might have read the play faster, but Hall's not even a regular safety.

When the ball is sailing into Marshall's hands, Hall (circled in yellow) is in no-man's land and Griffin has been beat badly. It's just poor coverage all around. 

The ball was actually underthrown; otherwise, it would've been a touchdown. Still, 41 yards for the Bears out of the gate.


Again on Chicago's opening drive: Cutler and Marshall hook up again for 20 yards

Empty backfield for Cutler, but the Redskins look like they're in a good defense. Marshall's split out wide in yellow, Josh Wilson's in red and Brandon Meriweather's in green.

Marshall departs Wilson's zone, but Meriweather is a little slow getting over...

And that momentary delay from Meriweather gives Marshall just enough time and space to make a first-down catch.

But because he's late getting over, Meriweather over-commits and loses traction. Marshall shows good agility, stays in bounds and picks up nine more yards down the sideline, moving the Bears into the red zone.


And on the very next play: Griffin is beat by Alshon Jeffrey

Eight men in the box again with Wilson and Griffin on islands and only Hall (circled in yellow) over the top. 

Possibly anticipating another go route, this time, it appears Griffin gives Jeffrey a little too much pad. Cutler's play-action fake gets the two linebackers to bite, meaning Jeffrey just has to run a post and stay inside of Griffin and Hall.

Griffin's actually positioned quite well with his hips, but he's simply leaving too much space in the red zone. Cutler throws a perfect strike, hitting his rookie receiver before Griffin (red) can close and before Lorenzo Alexander (green) can get back to help. (Alexander had been pulled in by the play fake.) 

You might have noticed that Hall (yellow) was once again far too deep. In his defense, we don't know how far off he's supposed to be on these plays, especially considering this is the first time we've seen him at safety. Additionally, the initial shot here indicates he was shading to Marshall's side.


The shame is that the pressure up front was decent on all three of these completions. This secondary has to give the pass-rush more time, yet I get the feeling the onus this year will be on the front seven to again attempt to compensate for breakdowns in coverage.

The 29-year-old Griffin looks a few years older than he actually is. He was beat twice more in the first half of this game. Not trying to overreact too much, but that has to be disappointing for 'Skins fans who thought he'd help boost a secondary that made these exact types of mistakes too often in 2011.

But the guy has torn the ACL in both of his knees, and he's always benefited from being versatile enough to help out in run defense. As a pure cover corner on the outside, he's liable to get beat a lot this year. 

And that's what brings us to Hall, who could be a lethal playmaker at safety but might still be needed as a cover guy. He's not very good in coverage, but at least he's comfortable there. It'll take time for him to adjust to safety, and the 'Skins need the help on the outside and in the slot. He's physical enough to handle that, but he's not a strong enough tackler to line up at safety.

Meriweather was slow coming over on the next series too, giving up a first-down play to Devin Hester. He was terrible against the pass in Chicago last year and isn't off to a good start in D.C. He was injured later in the game, which could slow him down some more.

The entire secondary is having issues early in the Raheem Morris era, and even the stout Josh Wilson has struggled a bit this summer. I only highlight the three players above because they're the three starters who are supposed to help improve this defense's weakest link in 2012. Griffin and Meriweather are new arrivals and Hall is taking on a new role. 

None are off to a very good start. The key for the Redskins might be to stay flexible. Richard Crawford, Tanard Jackson, DeJon Gomes and Reed Doughty have to be viewed as more than just insurance.


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