After seeing this past weekend’s Hall of Fame game, it appears the offense is doing what it needs to do. They looked quick and efficient and when you break down the stats, the Redskins QB’s went a combined 19 of 21 passing and were able to establish a solid running game using only their back-up runners through the whole game.
While many applauded the Redskins as “looking sharp on both sides of the ball,” I have to disagree.
The defense did not look that sharp to me.
If anything, the defense resembled the realization of my biggest concerns for this team. It looked like they were playing a Gregg Williams’ style of zone-coverage with the added inability of stopping the run.
Many have criticized the Redskins’ front-four for not getting enough pressure on the QB, but I have always believed that was by design; not lack of ability. I believe the front four were ordered not to rush the passer so they could stay at home and stop the rush.
This lulled QB’s into waiting a little longer and trying to throw the ball into the heart of the zone-coverage versus trying to hurry up and dump the ball off to the open short route.
The defense rarely got beat deep, and kept the plays in front of them, but the downside was that teams were able to string together drives on short passing plays and drive into the red-zone.
This also caused their defense to stay on the field for long periods of time. Williams’ compensated for this by rotating out players so they could get a breather, but by the end of most games, the defense was exhausted. This shows itself clearly when you realize that their opponents scored more points in the fourth quarter than in the first and second quarters combined.
My biggest concern for the Redskins this year was at corner. With Rogers coming off a particularly nasty injury (and having not played in a year) and Smoot not playing anywhere near what he was back when he was paired up with Bailey, I just don’t see much to be thrilled about at that position.
Blache has said he believes that the defense starts with the corner position, and I couldn’t agree more. Here are the things I think the defense will need to do to be competitive this year.
The defense needs to get away from this “bend; don’t break” philosophy and focus on forcing the other teams to punt.
The best defense is a good offense, so in this case I would mean that the defense needs to be more aggressive. Play tighter to the line of scrimmage and trust your safeties and defensive backs to handle the deep pass threat when it happens.
The corners need to get closer to the line of scrimmage, especially on third-and-short. If the Redskins are going to blitz the QB, they have to take away the short routes first; otherwise the opponents will simply dump off to the wideout coming in on the short slant.
If it’s 3rd-and-5, the corners should not be lined up 10-yards away from their receiver…ever. They should be lined up where they can make a play on the ball, no further back than the first down marker.
Keep the Red-Zone defense as-is
The heart of the Redskins’ defense is it’s ability to keep teams out of the end-zone while in the red-zone. They should make changes to prevent the teams from getting as far as the red-zone, but should continue to do what they’ve been doing once the opponent gets there; it works.
Support the blitz
If the Redskins are going to send in Carter, or Taylor, or both, they need to be prepared to have someone step up for run support. The Achilles heel of any blitz is that it is weak against the run, so they may need a linebacker to come up and fill the gap left by the blitzing defensive lineman.
All in all, Blache has his work cut out for him. Part of Williams’ genius was that he could make something out of nothing when it came to defensive players. He relied more on his scheme than the talent of the players on the field.
The zone-defense takes some of the pressure off the corners, and is safer against the deep pass, as long as your defensive line stays at home to defend against the run.
If the Redskins are going to start generating more pressure with their front four than the linebackers will need to move up, and the corners have to play tighter single-man coverage leaving the safeties to help on the deep routes.
If the corners can’t cover, or tackle without assistance, then the only real option is to stick with the zone scheme that Williams’ had implemented last year.
As long as the Redskins get more offensive production, and their defense doesn’t get any worse this year than last, they may prove to be a tough team to beat.