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The 3-4 is experiencing some growing pains

It figured the Redskins would experience growing pains as they switched from their successful 4-3 scheme to the 3-4 philosophy Coach Mike Shanahan prefers.

The transition, however, has been very difficult. Through the first three weeks of the season, Washington is statistically the NFL's worst defense. And the Redskins also have been particularly vulnerable against the pass, ranking 31st in the 32-team league.

Shanahan hired coordinator Jim Haslett and gave him authority over the defense, and players respect Haslett and are excited about his aggressive approach. Regardless of the good vibes and the inevitable bumps in a new process, though, the Redskins must find a way to shore up things on defense.

When Haslett reviews game film, he's "obviously not" pleased, he said after practice the other day at Redskins Park. "We gave up too many pass yards. There are different reasons; technique, responsibility, missed tackles. There are a lot of things.

"We actually did self-scouting and it's kind of all over the place. It's a new defense and there are a lot of different things to it. We're going to have to learn all the little things as we go along here."

And it's not as simple and just making lineup changes, Haslett said.

"That's not everything, because first of all, if it wasn't for the defense, we wouldn't have won that first game because they played well enough to win," Haslett said of the opening 13-7 victory over Dallas. "We are playing some pretty good offenses. We had an overtime game, you [allow extra] yardage. The Houston game was a bad game.

"We gave up too many big plays in the passing game and it's hard to come out of the hole when you get in that. I think we're doing a good job in the running game (Washington ranks 11th in the league) but there are a lot of areas we'd like to improve on. We need to get more opportunity to get turnovers, too. There are a lot of issues we're dealing with and we've got to correct them as we go here."

Although Haslett, a onetime Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator, is well versed in the principles of the Steelers' effective 3-4, on which the Redskins' new scheme is based in large part, he's not tied to doing things that way. In fact, the New Orleans Saints ran a 4-3 when Haslett was their head coach because that's what their personnel was best equipped to do at the time.

During his year out of coaching, Shanahan studied the league in a way he could not while he was consumed with coaching and directing the Denver Broncos' football operation. Shanahan decided that when he returned to lead the Redskins, he would install a 3-4 because of the success of team's such as Pittsburgh and the Baltimore Ravens had in producing turnovers as part of a Super Bowl-championship formula.

Since the 2000 season, the Redskins have had top-10 defenses eight times. The team ranked lower than 10th only in 2003 and 2006 (25th and 31st, respectively). But during that span, the Redskins never were higher than 10th in turnover differential. Through the first three games, the Redskins' defense has three takeaways (two interceptions and one fumble recovery). The Steelers lead the league in turnovers (five interceptions, four fumble recoveries).

"Turnovers are number one," Haslett said. "We've got to get more turnovers. I think we have [three] right now, and in this day and age, you have to have more to win games. We need to have more opportunities for our offense to score points. We've had some chances and we just haven't come up with them. When those chances come up, you have to take advantage of them."

Even before Shanahan was officially introduced as the Redskins' new football boss in early January, there was already buzz around the league about his plans to scrap the previous defense Gregg Williams and Greg Blache brought to Washington. Privately, some players expressed concern that the Redskins did not have the personnel to play the way the Steelers and Ravens play.

Before the season, an NFL assistant coach familiar with Washington's defensive personnel said he would not be surprised if the group suffered a major drop-off this season. To function at a high level in the 3-4, the coach explained, teams need top-notch nose tackles capable of occupying blockers and linebackers who are strong in coverage.
Albert Haynesworth could fill the nose role well, he said, but the coach doubted Haynesworth would want the job (as it turned out, he was correct). The Redskins have talented, hard-working linebackers, but coverage is not what they do best.

Washington had major problems in coverage in consecutive losses to Houston and St. Louis, and "it's a little bit of everything," Haslett said. "The technique; we had some missed tackles that turned into big plays.

"Last week [against St. Louis], we had two or three missed tackles that turned into 30-yard gains. That stuff can't happen. You're at third and 30 and miss a tackle and they get a first down, those things can't happen. That's just man-on-man. Someone's got to make a tackle."

With a multiyear contract and player-personnel control, Shanahan is in this for the long haul. If the offensive line hadn't been in such a state of disrepair for so long, perhaps Shanahan would have drafted another bookend outside linebacker to complement Brian Orakpo, who possesses the pass-rushing skills to be a star in the 3-4.But Shanahan had to select athletic left tackle Trent Williams with the fourth overall pick. It was a no-brainer.

In future drafts, Shanahan likely will provide Haslett with more pieces to run the 3-4 effectively. It's just that these things take time.

By Jason Reid  | October 2, 2010; 12:37 PM ET
Categories:  3-4 defense, Albert Haynesworth, Brian Orakpo, Free agency, Jim Haslett, Mike Shanahan  
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Next: Haslett: Vick means 'everything changes'

Comments

Haslett is pooty

Posted by: bigfishn | October 2, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

The problems are obvious. PUT YOUR BEST PLAYERS ON THE FEILD AND LEAVE THEM IN UNTIL THEY NEED A BREATHER! When the hell is Haynesworth going to start at right D End. When is Jarmon going going to be active over the over the hill P. Danials. Carter looks so out of place in the 3-4. Put your best players on the feild.

Posted by: Michael_ASU | October 2, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I think that while it is frustrating to watch sometimes as fans we have to realize that we didnt have a whole lot of picks also the team is pretty old and we dont have very many good skill position players. Also this was not the best offseason for finding impact players due to the uncapped season. Based on Shanahans past I trust that he will get the offensive line together and the receiving corps together and with the draft and free agency and trades or whatever they have to do they will build the defense for the 3-4. I just think we have to be patient

Posted by: wattsicon | October 2, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

These things do take time. Give this defense a draft and a shot at free agency. Then let's make a judgement. It's very hard right now to determine whether or not the defensive deficiencies are a result of poor scheme and coaching, or personnel. My guess is that it's a combination of both. The good news is, I see the possibility of a quick turnaround with the addition of a few key pieces (OLB, NT), and some adjustments in play calling (pressing the brakes on the blitz once in a while). Carriker and 92 are good ends, 98 is obviously a stud, 52 can work at ILB with 59 (for a season or two more), which leaves our biggest holes at NT and OLB, which we can fill with smart drafting/free agency. If we can do that, our front seven will be formidable, and LL can continue to do his thing and fly to the ball like a guy up in Pit.

Posted by: John_Keats | October 2, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Gohlston sucks. Cut him. Galloway sucks, put in Thomas. Banks needs to be returning punts, and I would bet my savings he is a better receiver than Galloway. Sellers can no longer block. Portis needs way more touches than he is getting. Shanny needs to quit with his mind games and power struggles and play the best 11 on both sides of the ball. Oh yea and shannys son, needs to learn how to play call a game. RUN THE BALL!

Posted by: Michael_ASU | October 2, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

It's easy to be ranked 11 against the rush when everyone just throws the ball on you.

Posted by: scampbell1975 | October 2, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Of note, Collingwood topped St Kilda in the Aussie Rules Championship game rematch, the first match having ended in a draw. Collingswood is an area in Melbourne, adjacent to the Fitzroy Garden Park, which features among other things, a uniquely carved tree.

St. Kilda is on Prince Philip (Phillip?) Bay, just a few km south and east of Melbourne. It features Luna Park with its grotesque entrance and has a good crafts market along the main street on weekends. Be careful where you park however, they do give out tickets and will track you down, even if you live 5,000 miles away.

Kost's Geelong team failed to make it to the finals this year.

Posted by: zcezcest1 | October 2, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

It's easy to be ranked 11 against the rush when everyone just throws the ball on you.

Posted by: scampbell1975

Exactly what I was thinking. If Dallas's O-coord wasn't awful he would have kept running the ball all over us and we would have been down 2 scores. I'm actually shocked to look at the team stats and see our D is 8th in the league with only 3.5 yards per carry allowed, so that stat doesn't quite live up to what I was thinking.

Still, even the rook QB was picking us apart.

Posted by: Keiser | October 2, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Washington had major problems in coverage in consecutive losses to Houston and St. Louis, and "it's a little bit of everything," Haslett said. "The technique; we had some missed tackles that turned into big plays.

"Last week [against St. Louis], we had two or three missed tackles that turned into 30-yard gains. That stuff can't happen. You're at third and 30 and miss a tackle and they get a first down, those things can't happen. That's just man-on-man. Someone's got to make a tackle."

*************

Haslett is delusional.

StL had 2 (count 'em, Haslett) plays that went for more than 20 yards. They never converted anything remotely close to 3rd and 30. I don't what game he was watching, but if that's what he 'think' happened last week, it means he doesn't get what is happening.

Posted by: zcezcest1 | October 2, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

The defense will struggle a little longer, until the HT play improves and players like Carter, LoAlex gnd even Los (playing the slot) get more comfortable in their new positions.

Posted by: TWISI | October 2, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Haslett is delusional.

StL had 2 (count 'em, Haslett) plays that went for more than 20 yards. They never converted anything remotely close to 3rd and 30. I don't what game he was watching, but if that's what he 'think' happened last week, it means he doesn't get what is happening.


Posted by: zcezcest1 | October 2, 2010 1:56 PM |

That is frightening.

Posted by: scampbell1975 | October 2, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

From what I have seen, the breakdowns in the passing game have not been the fault of the linebackers. Granted, guys like Andre Carter aren't great in pass defense, but he's not been back in pass coverage that much. Now, one oculd argue that not dropping back Carter into coverage limits the defense, and I would agree. The bottom line is, Carter has no business playing linebacker.

As for nose tackle, there are many types of nose tackles in the league and the Redskins could tweak the defense to use a guy who was a little smaller but more agile like Carriker or Daniels. You give up something on the "standing up lineman side", but you pick up something on the Being able to penetrate" side. I am just saying it can't be overcome.

The bottom line is simple: teams adjust. So, maybe Haslett can't run a clone of the Steelers' defense this year, but smart coaches find a way to use the personnel they have in the most creative ways. That's Haslett's true challenge, wheterh he's running the 3-4 or the 4-3...

Posted by: RedSkinHead | October 2, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm down with the 3-4, the Redskins just don't have the players yet.

You can only blame the coaches so much.

"RUN THE BALL!"

With who?

Again, good ole Vinny Cerrato said "the cubbert was not bare." Yeah right dude.

1st pick in April will be an RB, I have no doubt about that. It's going to be a couple years.

- Ray

Posted by: rmcazz | October 2, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

sacks count as ground yards lost, that's why teams are averaging 3.5 ypr on us. I agree with wattsicon on all points except one we did have a chance at impact skill players on both sides of the ball during free agency. we either chose poorly (Larry Johnson) or ignored all together (Julius Peppers, LaDanian Thomlinson). still we do have some good pieces thaqt will get better as the season progresses.

TOMORROW Donovan McNabb releases 11 years worth of biting his toungue and turning the other cheek (don't poopy) as Joey Galloway catches not one bot two sixty plus tarders from McEatwithafork.
HAIL!!!!!!!

Posted by: nflorida1 | October 2, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

HAHA!!!!
tarders=yarders

Posted by: nflorida1 | October 2, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Not sure why there was a move to switch to 3-4 to begin with.

According to NFL.com, in 2007, 2008, and 2009 the Redskins were ranked 8th, 4th, and 10th in total defense.

This teams problems over the last several years have primarliy been on offense, not defense.

Posted by: MrRedskin21 | October 2, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

sacks count as ground yards lost, that's why teams are averaging 3.5 ypr on us. I agree with wattsicon on all points except one we did have a chance at impact skill players on both sides of the ball during free agency. we either chose poorly (Larry Johnson) or ignored all together (Julius Peppers, LaDanian Thomlinson). still we do have some good pieces thaqt will get better as the season progresses.

TOMORROW Donovan McNabb releases 11 years worth of biting his toungue and turning the other cheek (don't poopy) as Joey Galloway catches not one bot two sixty plus tarders from McEatwithafork.
HAIL!!!!!!!

Posted by: nflorida1 | October 2, 2010 2:24 PM |

You could tell we were expecting the return of the salary cap. We are spending more money this year than any other team out there. We desperately need to get some of these contracts off the books so we can actually field a team in the coming years. If we went after guys like LT and Dansby or Peppers we would be screwed in the coming years. Thats why I really think this is stopgap and rebuilding stuff going on until we can get some monetary wiggle room regardless of what the coaching staff says. What are they gonna say, "Yep, we'll suck for a few years until we deal with the money situation and get some real players?" Of course not, instead they say things like "The future is now." Might as well get the new schemes in while trying to add some players at different positions.

Posted by: scampbell1975 | October 2, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

if Shanny stayed with a 4-3 and made the playoffs, everyone would say it was someone elses defense, not his. if that's not his motivating factor I'm sure it's a contributing factor. as I am one of the few who believe he got this job long before it was announced (08).

Posted by: nflorida1 | October 2, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

if Shanny stayed with a 4-3 and made the playoffs, everyone would say it was someone elses defense, not his. if that's not his motivating factor I'm sure it's a contributing factor. as I am one of the few who believe he got this job long before it was announced (08).

Posted by: nflorida1 | October 2, 2010 2:36 PM |

You kiddin' me? He had this job as soon as he was fired from Denver.

Posted by: scampbell1975 | October 2, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

el beepo

Posted by: scampbell1975 | October 2, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

@Scampbell,
I see your point.. as long as there is a cap next year. that might not happen until there are 18 games on scehdule. however if we are spending more than other teams it's old money i.e.#92, #26 and a few unproducing rookies. I do believe there will be a rookie cap ne4xt year and if Mark Ingram (is he a senior?) comes out i pray he falls to us

Posted by: nflorida1 | October 2, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

he was hired when (que the angels) Gibbs retired. six or half dozen your pick. had he come right behind Joe (don't do it poopy!!) and switched that D this whole town would've freaked. enter the Zorn..

Posted by: nflorida1 | October 2, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

What seems to be lost on all of you is the reason Shanahan is doin this in the first place.

He ran a 4-3 all those years in Denver and his defenses almost always placed near the bottom of the league.

Give the man a little credit for looking at models of success like the Steelers & Patriots etc. & trying to fix something that has indeed been broken.

That being said, our D still sucks!!

Posted by: skins91r | October 2, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I hate the 3-4. I'd rather have four talented linemen on the field as opposed to four talented linebackers. Backers are a dime a dozen-- Fletcher excluded, who is a diamond.

Turnovers are not a goal but rather a byproduct of a very good defense.

Posted by: hz9604 | October 2, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

How about starting HBlades at inside linebacker and shifting Rocky back to outside linebacker. Rocky was a strong OLB in the 4-3 and that is where he belongs. Rotate the DE's we have, currently playing linebacker, back to the D line; where they belong. Also, start Thomas; 3 catches for the season by Galloway is not a starting WR contribution IMO. DThomas is 6-2 210+ fast and young. The skins need to develop their young talent....or continue to struggle in the red zone.....

Posted by: adjustments_Redskins | October 2, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Turnovers are not a goal but rather a byproduct of a very good defense.

Posted by: hz9604 | October 2, 2010 3:17 PM
-------------------------------
excellent!...because we could get turnovers in the 4-3..and all the players are saying that they practice stripping the ball and creating turnovers...so just do that using the 4-3....they also talk about the blitzing and the confusion the 3-4 brings but they aren't getting to the QB...RAK and Carter were better at that in the 4-3....

Posted by: jcnjcnj | October 2, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Coach Shannaman and son, stop fooling around and put your young and best players on the field. The fans want to see:

Devin Thomas on the field playing wide receiver.

Brandon Banks returning punts, at least one a game. No current player on the active roster has his game changing speed and ability. (he's fumble prone, but it's a gamble worth the chance)

Haynesworth on the field. You look silly having him on the bench most of the time while playes inferior to him in talent are
out there over him. Not smart, not conducive to WINNING games. (you want to prove a point, or win?)

Run Clinton Portis 20-22 times tommorow and lets see what he's got.

Let's not pass the ball consecutive times inside the 5.

Posted by: 72Redskins | October 2, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

The Redskins trashed a fairly reliable defense to move to a 3-4. Now, it's clear it will take three drafts to find the right pieces. Sadly, the Redskins will need to burn early draft picks on (in order of serious need:) RB, WR and OL.

Posted by: clandestinetomcat | October 2, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Tomorrow, we'll see two teams, the Redskins and Eagles, built using opposing methods.

The Eagles build through the draft, develop young players, and actually put them on the field making them one of the youngest teams.

The Redskins trade draft picks for free agents, always make a huge marketing splash every off-season, and field the oldest NFL team in the hopes veterans make the difference.

The Eagles will make their share of young mistakes, but don't get tired in the second half, are stronger and faster, and don't change their system every season.

I cheer for the Redskins, but logic says the Eagles build their team far more effectively and it will likely show on the scoreboard tomorrow - but there's always hope any given Sunday.

Posted by: clandestinetomcat | October 2, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

turnovers are great, but not typical. what we NEED are more stops and forced punts. as far as i'm concerned zero turnovers is a good stat if your opponent can't score touchdowns. who cares. let's STOP THE BALL! point two: how can shanahan decide this defense is better than that on without factoring in the CURRENT personnel? especially outside linebackers?

Posted by: dcjazzman | October 2, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

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