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Defensive Musings (AKA Mulling the Nickel)

One of the things I'll be watching in Week 1, particularly if the Redskins don't have end Jason Taylor, and, at least on paper, are back to their original pass rush woes, will be how much nickel defense they play. To me, you've got to play to your strengths, which should be coverage, given how many assets have been directed to the secondary. And with two starting linebackers coming off injuries, I wonder if they find a way to get the best 11 guys on the field right away.

The linebacker situation is not ideal. Marcus Washington's hip injury is by all accounts not a big deal, but he did miss a few games because of it. The bigger concern is weak-side backer Rocky McIntosh's knee. He did not look like someone who was ready for 70 reps from what I saw in his last preseason game at Carolina, and he's going to need time to come along and must be spelled coming off major surgery. Also, the reserve LB situation is in transition. H.B. Blades missed most of the preseason after knee surgery and is in just his second year. Veteran Khary Campbell is nursing a thigh problem; Albert Fincher was beaten in the final few preseason games, but was just re-signed not long ago and is here really because Matt Sinclair's back injury turned out to be more severe that hoped.

So if you go in with no Taylor (with Demetric Evans starting) and have Erasmus James (who is still working back from his own season-ending knee surgery) as a top reserve at end, what would you do?

I know last year, even in a traditional 4-3-4, the Skins would go with three corners and one safety quite a bit after losing Sean Taylor (with young safety Reed Doughty often the odd-guy out). It makes sense to do some more of that as well. If you are what you are in terms of pass rush - at least while Jason Taylor is out, and maybe even with him - and you're going to play that lock-down, press man coverage in the secondary, then get your best coverage guys out there. Especially if Greg Blache sticks to what he's said about continuing to curtail some of the exotic blitz schemes that Gregg Williams utilized to try to overcome his lack of individual pass-rushing talent on the line.

With Carlos Rogers looking to have made a stunning recovery from his reconstructive knee surgery, I'd try to get the trio of him, Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot on the field as much as possible. And with LaRon Landry having missed so much time with his hamstring injury, maybe I work him back at strong safety in Week 1, where he can assault the QB, give offenses something serious to worry about and be in essence another LB for the Redskins in an eight-man run front. (The corners have enough to worry about in the pass game, so they lock up in press-man, which against the Giants we have seen work a lot, with Springs or Carlos on Plaxico Burress and the other on Amani Toomer).

Coming off what we saw at times this preseason, tightening up that run front seems imperative.

So then what do you do at free safety?

I like what Doughty can bring on the strong side, and I like what rookie safety Kareem Moore and Chris Horton will be able to do as they develop, but I would at least think about having Springs at the free spot in some packages, and, again, trying to be get my best 11 guys out there at once, particularly with some of the health issues up front on the line.

Springs took a fair amount of work at free safety this preseason and I just get the sense that having Landry closer to the ball in a disruptive role might be imperative in a game like this. With Landry needing to be spelled at times after being off the field for 4-5 weeks, you get reps for Doughty on the strong side as well, and if issues arise in coverage you can always shift back to your standard alignment of safeties and corners. Anyway, just something I've been chewing on, for what it's worth.

By Jason La Canfora  |  August 31, 2008; 12:13 PM ET
 
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Comments

F the pre-season!

Posted by: The F Guy | August 31, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, yeah.

Posted by: TDawg | August 31, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse


It's time to start panicking, =). 4-12 season or worse.

Posted by: Baller4Life | August 31, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Um, didn't the Skins play a lot of nicel D against the Panthers? I think I'd rather have the extra linebacker in there.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2008 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm playing Thursday so none of this matters.

Posted by: Jason Taylor | August 31, 2008 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure Blache & Co. know they have to make some adjustments, especially with the recent injuries they've experienced. I wouldn't be surprised to see Springs/Moore/Hamilton at FS at different points of the game to spell Landry and to also allow Landry/Doughty/Horton to cause "havoc in the house" at SS. Only problem with having Springs at FS should the Skins go to a dime package, Tryon The Liability, could be on the field and get exposed... We'll see though... this is why they play games.

Posted by: JinxMan | August 31, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

beeps galore!!!

Beep

Beep

Beep

Beep

Posted by: The Beep Guy | August 31, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Okay, so I tried JLC's theory on Madden. Changed the roster for the injuries. Also took out Osi for the Giants and altered their WR depth chart. Set the game for autoplay and guess what happened? The Redskins won 54-17. Devin Thomas took a kickoff back for a TD and scored on a 42 yd reverse. Justin Tryon intercepted a pass and returned it for a TD. Portis had 154 yds rushing and 2 TD's. The Giants only had 35 yds rushing. Man, I guess JLC really knows what he's talking about.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

If only Madden were the final word.

Posted by: Bryan | August 31, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Okay, so I tried JLC's theory on Madden. Changed the roster for the injuries. Also took out Osi for the Giants and altered their WR depth chart. Set the game for autoplay and guess what happened? The Redskins won 54-17. Devin Thomas took a kickoff back for a TD and scored on a 42 yd reverse. Justin Tryon intercepted a pass and returned it for a TD. Portis had 154 yds rushing and 2 TD's. The Giants only had 35 yds rushing. Man, I guess JLC really knows what he's talking about.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2008 12:41 PM

-------------

So, JLC posted this long thread at 12:13, you posted this response at 12:41, it would have taken you 15 minutes to read and digest his post load Madden and set up the defensive packages and rosters (including the Giants, according to you), so that means you must have played 4 minute quarters AND scored 54 points? Wow, you must be the greatest Madden player ever!! You should go pro [insert sarcasm and eye rolls here]!!!

Posted by: What? Who? | August 31, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

hope they play fincher at weak side l.b. and ease rocky in slowy.fincher started in the league but got injured and lost his job.he's a beast and a playmaker.

Posted by: D.C. | August 31, 2008 10:02 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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