Why Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett Should Abandon Washington Redskins' 3-4 D

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Why Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett Should Abandon Washington Redskins' 3-4 D
Larry French/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins’ defense has allowed the most yards in the NFL through three games.  We’ve seen enough.  It’s time for a change.

The Redskins have gone from an above-average defense last year in Greg Blache’s 4-3 (before players quit at the end of the year) to a bottom five defense under Jim Haslett’s 3-4.

It’s like saying you’ve traded in a working SUV for Fred Flintstone’s car and telling me it runs better (zero emissions!).

The Redskins are using the “ready, fire, aim” approach of building a defense.  Their approach to implementing a system is backwards.

Shanahan and Haslett studied this scheme, they made all their plans, and it’s essentially all been built on failure. 

The scheme is failing because the players don’t fit.

 

The Wrong Personnel

To fail like the Redskins, it requires breakdowns in more than one area.  It’s not like we can say Albert Haynesworth is a bum, wipe our hands clean, and think we’ve fixed the defense. 

Problems are occurring at all three levels in the defense.

The Redskins' defensive line in the 3-4 is largely overwhelmed and losing the battle at the point of attack.  Defensive tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu gets routinely double-teamed and pushed back three or four yards against the run.

It allows opposing offensive linemen to chew into the second level and take inside linebackers Rocky McIntosh and London Fletcher out of the play.

The Redskins have also had trouble getting pressure.  In the 4-3, the Redskins could let Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo rush the quarterback as defensive ends. The Redskins could rush four and create pressure.

Now, Carter has failed to transition to outside linebacker for the second time.  He’s no better than Lorenzo Alexander at this point (who might be making a case to start).   

The 3-4 has put the burden of tackling on the secondary.  Kareem Moore said he was upset he missed the crucial tackle on Steven Jackson’s 42-yard touchdown run.   Wouldn’t the coaching staff rather have linebackers in positions to make tackles instead of safeties?

Over the first three weeks, the Redskins defense only succeeded when LaRon Landry blitzed.  Instead of being an attacking, exotic defense as promised, it has largely been passive—playing lots of nickel and dime (and getting burned). 

It’s a basic flaw of not having your best 11 defenders on the field and making sure they complement each other.

It should be the goal of any employer to maximize its employee’s strengths and use them to make the organization better.

Albert Haynesworth can be successful as a defensive tackle in the 4-3.  Get him back in the starting lineup. 

Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo were dominant in it.  Why not turn them back into defensive ends?

London Fletcher was the tackle machine in the old system. Let's free him up to make more plays.

The 4-3 seems to play to the strengths of the Redskins’ best players. 

 

Things Don’t Get Easier

The Redskins’ defense is last in the NFL.  It has allowed 1,271 yards in three games.  It is 22nd in points, allowing 22.3 per game.  It’s not going to get any easier.

The Redskins next three opponents are the Eagles, Packers, and Colts.  Those are three of the top four scoring teams in the NFL, all averaging 26 points a game or more. 

Sure, it was embarrassing to give both the Lions and Rams wins in the last two years. But losing to the Rams hurts more than just losing to a struggling franchise. It is a missed opportunity against a terrible opponent.

Mike Shanahan and the Washington Redskins must realize that 1-5 is a very likely scenario.  To save their season, the Redskins have to make a change now, even though they won’t.

The last time the Redskins defense was this bad was during Joe Gibbs’ second year in 2006.  That defense finished 27th in points and 31st in yards allowed. Their record was 5-11.

If the defense doesn’t make radical changes now this week, the Redskins will be well on their way to a similar kind of losing record.

If you don’t recognize a problem, you can’t fix it.  The Redskins need to recognize the flaws, address the problem, and attempt to be competitive over the next three weeks.

But, they won’t. To save this season, any change would be welcome at this point. 

Just don’t call the swinging gate play

We already tried that.

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