Soon it will be easy to run out of superlatives to apply to the Washington Redskins' pass rush. The defense applied intense pressure against the Indianapolis Colts and notched four sacks, taking their preseason tally to 12.
As much as stellar personnel are playing their parts, better scheming and mixture is also helping create more sacks. Nowhere is this more evident than on third downs.
Coordinator Jim Haslett has expanded his repertoire and added more than a few new twists to the playbook for what some refer to as the "money down." In 2011, a lack of variety in third down packages was a source of major frustration.
Haslett was often content to rely on way too risky house blitz calls that left his cornerbacks exposed. Anyone who hurled the remote towards the television during a Week 3, Monday night visit to the Dallas Cowboys knows exactly what this author is referring to.
Thankfully, Haslett appears willing to delve much deeper into his bag of tricks this time around. He showed a full range of pressure looks to the Colts and first-overall draft pick Andrew Luck.
These included some one defensive lineman, psycho-style, amoeba fronts, three- and four-man lines and multiple stunts and twists up front. Haslett also played games behind the front.
He regularly had defensive backs, including DeAngelo Hall, cheating up into the inside gaps and showing blitz—sometimes faking, sometimes rushing. He would also occasionally drop an interior defensive lineman into an underneath zone after the snap and either rush just three or send an inside linebacker on a delayed blitz.
The point is that Haslett kept Luck and the Colts guessing, but also kept the schemes simple and safe enough to allow his athletes up front to cause havoc. Perhaps most impressive was that all of this was done without top pass-rusher Brian Orakpo.
Of course, with Chris Wilson—who collected a second half safety—and Jarvis Jenkins added to last year's mix, Haslett now has more weapons at his disposal. What's encouraging is his apparent willingness to use them in a variety of ways.
Make no mistake, this pass rush can be deadly this season. 45 quarterback takedowns has to be a realistic target this term.
Continuing to mix looks and personnel on third downs will play a vital part in the pass rush matching this success when it counts.