Redskins vs. Steelers: Studs and Duds (defense)

Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim


*No one. The Redskins’ defense didn’t make any big plays and allowed the Steelers to control the game offensively, therefore nobody qualifies. Not that everyone played poorly, but nobody really jumped out and made plays.


CB DeAngelo Hall. My first thought on the ejection play was that, man, Hall went at Emmanuel Sanders awfully violent. Maybe that was some frustration on his end, leading to the eventual outcome. But that’s just how Hall played him throughout the game; there was a block in the second quarter in which Hall jammed him with the same violence. So Sanders, most likely, was the one who was frustrated and took it out on Hall, who then made matters bad for himself with his tirade vs. the official. But that part was inexcusable and, while it did not factor in the game, what if it had? What if it had been a one-score game? But he didn’t exactly have a stellar game to begin with, though he did a nice job on one smoke route, fighting off his block to tackle Antonio Brown for two yards. However, early in the second he took an angle that was too far inside and prevented him from possibly getting to Brown to stop a 14-yard gain off another screen. Hall looked back at the QB twice on this play, causing him to get off line. Hall, lined up in press coverage, was screened on a 27-yard catch off an underneath cross to Brown. But it’s still his man. Early in the fourth quarter Hall was lucky that Sanders dropped a ball or else it would have been another 20-plus play. On the third and six, Hall anticipated another underneath pick so when Sanders started inside, Hall shot over. But he was caught looking at QB Ben Roethlisberger instead of Sanders and the receiver started in then cut back out and was wide open for an easy catch. He dropped the ball. Hall did have a good tackle of Jonathan Dwyer inside the 5-yard line and helped stop Miller from scoring on a pass inside the 5 on that same series.

DE Jarvis Jenkins. I’ve seen Jenkins have better games and make plays, mostly against the run. His pass rush, though, remains in development – at least it was Sunday. There are still times when Jenkins gets a bit too high on his rushes, especially by his second step; makes it hard to get leverage, especially if the guards aren’t aggressive taking him on. Also saw on some rushes that he was the highest defensive lineman before the snap; Stephen Bowen’s butt is low to the ground while Barry Cofield’s upper body is lower. Jenkins was more even. Does that matter? I don’t know, but when someone has a reputation for staying too upright you look at everything. Anyway, in approximately 10 rushes where he was  one-on-one with the guard, Jenkins didn’t generate much pressure or even do enough to collapse the pocket. In fairness, the Steelers throw quick passes and there was one time in which Jenkins was two yards from Roethlisberger when he threw the ball but because the QB is 6-foot-5, a raised hand does little. Like I said, Jenkins has had moments in every game he’s played, but in this one he was too quiet. Bowen was often doubled and Cofield was facing an excellent center and he, too, saw some double teams. The Redskins aren’t winning enough one-on-ones and that’s what Jenkins had Sunday.


Ryan Kerrigan said Wednesday that he’s been playing coverage a little more lately, but that wasn’t the case vs. the Steelers. He dropped into coverage only three or four times (he stayed in contain once, waiting for the tight end to release), making plays twice – batting a pass and then making a good tackle for a three-yard gain. Kerrigan still needs to apply more pressure, but he had a better game in that regard than in recent weeks. However, his success often comes against tight ends as was the case Sunday. Unofficially, he was in one-on-one situations 14 times and only generated real pressure perhaps two or three times. Once came when he dipped under tight end Heath Miller to the outside, but was then blocked inside by the back. Again, it didn’t help that Pittsburgh threw a lot of quick passes. Kerrigan at least contributed several good plays. He did allow a touchdown in which he failed to keep his eyes on tight end Leonard Pope, aligned in a four-point stance who sold the run block inside. A little hesitation because the eyes are in the wrong spot is all it takes to get beat at the goal line. Kerrigan did rush one time from the right side, trying an unsuccessful spin move against the tackle. Kerrigan is an effort guy and needs help from others to either extend the play or push the QB into a spot where he can get off his block and dart inside. On his sack, it was effort as he did a good job playing contain on his side on a receiver end around. Linebacker Perry Riley applied pressure and that allowed Kerrigan to come up for the tackle (and sack). Not the greatest of sacks but it was still a loss.

…On the touchdown pass to Miller in the back of the end zone, the Redskins opted for coverage and rushed only three. But that gave Roethlisberger 4.2 seconds to find someone and he found Miller, who slipped behind Lorenzo Alexander (and others). Tough to cover that long, even for eight guys.

London Fletcher did not have his best game by any means. He missed three tackles, continuing a season-long trend and allowed a touchdown when he was picked. Fletcher came in too high vs. Jonathan Dwyer and bounced off his shoulder pads, but he did diagnose a screen and blew it up. Keep in mind that early last season he missed tackles too, but rebounded with an excellent final dozen games or so. However, it’s hard for me to call a guy a Dud who probably shouldn’t have played. I know that once you’re on the field injuries are no excuse, but there is a reality, too. Had he not been dealing with other issues during the week then, yeah, it’s just a tough game.

…Fletcher did allow a touchdown catch, but it came off (yet another) pick play by Pittsburgh. So in this case it wasn’t a matter of selling out too hard to stop the run. Fletcher actually read the play right, but Miller came in motion to the right slot and ran right at linebacker Keenan Robinson, knocking him back a yard or so – right into Fletcher’s path. That’s all Will Johnson needed to get free in the flat for an easy score.

… So there were only two Duds, but it was close to more. But the real problem was the inability to make plays as much as it was giving them up. Again, the Steelers’ offense did a good job of catching the Redskins with the right play at the right time.

…The best series for the defense (and the first three-and-out) came after the Steelers took over on the Redskins’ 40-yard line late in the first half. They ended up punting.

…It’s hard to tell who’s all to blame for Dwyer’s 34-yard run, but you can add it to the list of plays in which the Steelers had the right play against the right defense. Yes, Doughty missed the tackle, giving him 17 extra yards, but nobody touched Dwyer for the first 12 yards. Kerrigan shot inside at the snap and end Jarvis Jenkins slanted inside, then was pushed even more that way. Safety Madieu Williams raced in from the edge, though he appeared to be playing for the boot action. Instead, Dwyer got the handoff and ran left, then cut back to a large opening. In the end, it seemed like yet another time where the Steelers had the right call against the right defense.

…By the way, all the talk about the Steelers doing extra things as plays end, well, so did Hall. On one play, Miller has him blocked and, knowing Hall isn’t about to go past him, looks back over his left to see where the play is going. After the ball carrier is tackled for a one-yard gain, and with Miller still having his right arm on him – as he’s turned to his left, Hall flings his arm off then gives him a shove towards the pile. I’m not calling this a dirty play, but it’s not just other teams who do this.

…Little plays add up. On third and 15 in the first quarter the Redskins allowed a 13-yard completion. Safety Madieu Williams arrived as the ball did to Mike Wallace, but it still put the Steelers in position for a 48-yard Shaun Suisham field goal.

…Loved the 25-yard pass play to Miller. On those smokes and bubble screens, a defensive back wants to come up hard. The Redskins were in a zone with Hall racing up quickly on the outside and Doughty from the inside; the former needs to make the tackle while the latter wants to avoid Miller’s block. The inside linebacker to that side, Fletcher drops into coverage near the hashmarks. But the aggressiveness leaves a soft spot and Miller’s wheel route leads to an easy completion. Hall and Doughty were left to deal with three targets, thinking Miller was coming over to block and with two receivers already flanked outside. Another well-designed play.

…The Steelers ran four horizontal routes, smokes or receiver screens, in the first half and gained 29 yards. They ran one in the second half for four yards.

…Again, many examples of pick plays and here’s another: On the eight-yard swing pass to running back Baron Batch, linebacker Perry Riley reads the play right, but a tight end on that side runs right at him and causes him to get caught in traffic. An easy completion.


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