DeAngelo Hall called out defensive coordinator Jim Haslett last week, telling him that the Redskins' defense is his defense. He highlighted his desire to cover the best receiver each opposing team can offer in order to give Washington the best chance to win. He will have his work cut out for him this week against the Philadelphia Eagles with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
The Redskins secondary will have to come up big on Sunday if they intend to stand a chance at winning.
Jackson is easily the biggest threat Philadelphia has on the outside, made more dangerous by Maclin's presence on the other side and newly anointed Michal Vick at quarterback. Jackson has just 13 catches on the year, nine fewer than Washington's Santana Moss, but has 318 yards off of those 13 catches. He only has two touchdowns but is touting a 24.5 yards per catch average through the first three weeks.
So he'll gouge the Redskins for some yards, what else is new? He isn't scoring at a rate to match his numbers. That's because Maclin is getting to the endzone with regularity, with four touchdowns to his credit already this season.
Hall demanded to cover the best receiver the opposition has to offer, but in the case of the Eagles it could be either Maclin or Jackson.
Jackson is the real homerun threat, but Maclin has the ability to stretch the field himself. He has and will benefit greatly from teams paying too much attention to Jackson. If Jackson goes deep, expect Maclin to work the outside or underneath. If Jackson is working outside or underneath, expect Maclin deep or deep over the middle.
The Redskins secondary has been spotty so far this season, allowing Rams rookie Sam Bradford too many open passing lanes, and giving Texans quarterback Matt Schaub free reign to Andre Johnson and Jacoby Jones down the field.
If the Texans are considered explosive through the air, what does that make the trio of Jackson, Maclin and Vick this season?
Vick has shown himself to be more comfortable and willing to throw from the pocket, and has managed to utilize his speed to evade pressure and still make throws when it matters. If the Redskins spend too much time trying to contain Vick on the ground, he will exploit the defense down the field. If they try to contain him through the air, he will exploit them on the ground.
Hall may have dug his own grave with his comments about his role on defense. No matter who he defends, he has the potential to look bad.
If Hall expects his teammates and his coaches to truly buy into his claim that this defense is his defense, he will need to neutralize Jackson down the field with airtight coverage, and keep him from breaking short routes for big gains by tackling him when he makes the catch. If he lines up on Maclin, he'll have to keep him from turning sideline routes into extra yardage.
Hall won't get away with jumping routes this week, as Jackson made the Redskins look bad on a pair of double move routes last season.
Even if Hall holds up on his end of the bargain, it is up to the other members of the secondary to make sure his efforts are not in vain, and vice versa. Perhaps it is in Haslett's gameplan to harass Vick while his in the pocket so he cannot develop a rhythm with his receivers. Maybe he intends to force Vick to lean on tight end Brent Celek underneath and on medium routes where the linebackers can work on freeing the ball from his hands.
It wouldn't shock me to see Haslett stressing hands in passing lanes and in Vick's face for his linemen. The Eagles offensive line is spotty, and linebacker Brian Orakpo is a few steps away from having a handful of sacks already. Philadelphia may be the perfect opportunity to truly unleash the beast.
It doesn't matter how they do it, but the Redskins defense and Hall in particular will have to lockdown on the Eagles' young and explosive receivers.
Falling to 1-3 and 1-1 in the division is hardly a death sentence this early in the season, but if they can't beat a division rival when it matters most how can they expect to compete in the playoffs everyone on the team has them headed for?