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Jessica's Guest Blog

This woman knows her stuff. She emails me a lot and is a very astute and savvy fan. Read her words, people. You will be better for it.

Here's her post:

REDSKINS D, THE GANG THAT COULDN'T SHOOT STRAIGHT.

We are all asking, "What went wrong?" We won a playoff game last year and had swagger. Yes, it was bad to hand the play calling to Saunders, really dumb, but the blame lies with the defense, as it ranked dead last, and no team can win with a 32-ranked D. The D also broke NFL and club records for fewest interceptions and turnovers. Like by a lot. It was a train wreck.

A humiliating comparison is that of Walt Harris, a cornerback who played poorly for the Skins and was let go to free agency. He this season was named the NFC defensive player of the month in November as a 49er and had 8 interceptions this season, which eclipsed the Skins team total. How come as a Skin, last year, Harris only had one interception? Gregg Williams can blame the players till he is in blue in the face but at we fans might ask why a player played so poorly for Washington and then excelled on another team.

As an added bonus, the 49ers paid Harris only $875K, which is the veteran minimum plus $100K.

Aside from poor personnel decisions there are several reasons for the Skins D collapse this season.

1. They cannot execute the cover-2 yet call it all the time. In the cover-2 safeties play deep, which leaves uncovered ground in the middle. For the scheme to be successful, the middle linebacker needs to be able to read the play quickly and if it is a pass then run downfield to cover the open area. Lemar Marshall has not been able to do that this season. He had four interceptions last year, but zero this year as he has been playing injured. Also, a season lowlight occurred last week at St. Louis when Isaac Bruce managed to get behind the safeties on the cover-2 to score a touchdown. Getting behind the safeties should never, ever happen in a cover-2 formation.


2. They cannot defend the run. There are many angles to this. First, Gregg Williams calls a lot of cover-2 plays, even on obvious running plays, and that puts the safeties too far back to cover short and mid yardage runs. Second, the weak-side linebacker needs to be able to tackle, and Warrick Holdman cannot do that. Third, the D-line gets manhandled by opposing O-lines and has not been able to consistently penetrate the line of scrimmage and disrupt plays.

3. Not enough pressure on the quarterback. While Andre Carter had a great last three games, his five season sacks rank the team in the sack dungeon. In contrast, Shawne Merriman, whom the Skins passed over in the 2004 draft to pick Carlos Rogers, has 16 sacks in the 11 games that he has played this season.

4. The secondary cannot cover the pass. Even worse, they don't even seem to try, as the corners and safeties are coached to turn their back on the QB and face the receivers. An ESPN article noted,

[Safeties coach] Jackson began teaching Taylor and Co. not to read the quarterback, but to read the receivers' breaks and releases and react accordingly. He wanted them to be aggressive out of Cover 2, to help on the run, even though Cover 2 is not known to be a run-stopping defense. Williams wants to call it a lot because, ideally, if you can stop the run with a Cover 2, you have the best of both worlds, because it's specifically designed to prevent the deep ball. But Jackson kept exhorting Taylor and his early-season safety mate, Adam Archuleta, to be aggressive playing the run out of the Cover 2, and they began to get beat on the play-action pass repeatedly.

By Jason La Canfora  |  January 16, 2007; 7:00 AM ET
 
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