Redskins vs. Eagles film review: Defense

Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim


…First of all, no Studs and Duds this week (nor will there be an offensive review)– not enough time with the quick turnaround. It’s too bad because the defense was deserving of a number of Studs. In fact, I’d say that was the best effort by the linebacking crew in some time and I’m including backups Lorenzo Alexander and Keenan Robinson as part of the solid play. Perry Riley was instinctive in the run game, though he struggled in coverage on a couple plays (had one jam where he missed; his man was open, but not thrown to).  Robinson nearly made a terrific interception when he had opened his hips to the outside as he dropped to an intermediate curl area. But as he was running the ball was thrown and he turned back to the inside and nearly made an interception with his outstretched hands. Just an athletic play.

Ryan Kerrigan was active for a second consecutive week. He now has 5.5 sacks on the season; for what it’s worth only one has come against a right tackle. What does that mean? He’s best used when moved around and that’s what the Redskins have mostly done the past two weeks. You can’t keep him on the same side vs. the same rusher and expect him to succeed. He’s more active when he can run stunts, or rush from either side or to the middle.

…Nose tackle Barry Cofield had a number of good plays and it’s a lock that he would have been a Stud. On one rush in which he applied pressure – a stunt with end Jarvis Jenkins –the right guard went to double him and Cofield somehow slipped outside the guard’s shoulder. Wasn’t able to add up all his pressures, but there were a few. The rest of the front was solid, too, including backup Kedric Golston. One of Stephen Bowen’s most impressive plays came on a second-and-20 screen pass when he caught LeSean McCoy by taking a good angle. McCoy still gained 20 yards.

…Riley’s instincts vs. screens are strong. Here’s one example: On a second quarter screen, Riley stayed home and read his key (LeSean McCoy). As soon as McCoy started to leak to the left, Riley sprinted at him and tackled him for a seven-yard loss. Golston deserves credit, too, for reading the play and assisting on the tackle.

…The secondary did a nice job and made some plays. The coverage was excellent and, yes, Brandon Meriweather made a difference (see below). Thought Cedric Griffin did a nice job in coverage, too. It’s not as if the Redskins were always double teaming DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, either. They just played good coverage and the rush often didn’t allow deep routes to develop. Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall deserve a lot of credit.

…Here’s how well-coordinated a blitz sometimes can be and it’s interesting to see when it works. On Meriweather’s interception, Kerrigan was lined up at right outside linebacker. Typically, when he lines up there he rushes against the tackle. That’s clearly what the Eagles expected to as McCoy was to that side. He took a shuffle step or two to his left, anticipating Kerrigan’s rush. But Kerrigan stunted to the inside as Riley and Robinson ran a stunt through the A gaps. McCoy tried to pick up Robinson, coming between the right guard and center, but he could not get square in the hole to meet him in time and Robinson ran through him. The pressure led to the pick. It started with Kerrigan going against a tendency.

…I’m interrupting this praise to point something out: The Eagles’ offensive line was terrible and Foles has a ways to go. The Redskins did a good job of capitalizing on a line that was reshuffled by running quite a few stunts (did not have time add them up; there were plenty). But the Eagles were a mess offensively, partly because of the Redskins and partly because of themselves.  Now, back to the compliments.

…The Redskins did a great job of corralling McCoy (on the ground) and limiting his yards after contact. Of his 15 carries, McCoy gained only 13 yards after contact. On six of his runs McCoy dodged defenders in the backfield. Also, 16 of his 45 rushing yards came on two runs late in the game when the Redskins led by 25 and were playing for the pass.

…A good example of how they stopped McCoy: On a two-yard gain in the first he wanted to rush between the left guard and tackle, but Riley filled the hole. So McCoy bounced wide, but Jackson forced him to run wider. And Madieu Williams finished it off with a good tackle at his legs.

…Fletcher might have gotten away with a facemask penalty vs. tight end Clay Harbor on a second-quarter incompletion. As Harbor crossed his face to the inside, Fletcher, anticipating a cut outside, reached out with his left hand and appeared to touch the facemask, causing Harbor’s head  to slightly bow down. Harbor kept running but Fletcher stumbled. But as the ball was thrown Harbor started to stumble. After the play he looked for a flag and the announcers (Brian Billick/Thom Brennaman) both said they didn’t see pass interference. Well, they didn’t because there wasn’t any. But a facemask penalty? That’s another matter.

…The Redskins sent an extra rusher 19 times, but it’s not as if that always made a difference. In fact, they rushed seven defenders on two occasions – the Eagles countered with screens both times and gained 15 and 20 yards, respectively. Riley Cooper caught a receiver screen on the first one (DeAngelo Hall missed a tackle; he had two or three in this game). On the second screen, McCoy, it seems, read the defense as he went up to block. If they sent everyone, he could slip out of the backfield.

…They sent six rushers on four plays – three of which resulted in incompletions. The first time they did it? A one-yard loss.

…Three of the Redskins’ four sacks came when they rushed only four.  One came when Kerrigan beat McCoy to the outside – McCoy faked as if he were going to cut Kerrigan, but the linebacker ignored that and kept sprinting past him to strip Foles of the ball. Had Kerrigan hesitated because he thought he was getting cut, he would not have made this play. Riley recorded a sack when he rushed to the outside after lining up just inside the tackle. What made that play work: Kerrigan held the tackle, preventing him from going at Riley. The other sack via a four-man rush occurred in the third quarter when Rob Jackson beat left tackle King Dunlap, who was too outstretched and kept too much space between he and Jackson. Then he failed to move his feet. Other than that Dunlap played it perfectly. But Jackson used his hands well and sped around.

…On Riley’s late hit, forget the penalty for a moment. It was another example of a good rush. Kerrigan rushed inside, with the tackle pushing him down, as Cofield rushed vs. the right guard. That left Riley, who started over the right guard and just before the snap bounced wide, to come free. He took one step too many, but it was a good rush.

…By the way, Riley’s deflection of a screen to McCoy was huge. Had McCoy caught the ball he had three blockers to that side with only three defenders. There was lots of room to run.

…They also won more one-on-one battles, as on the second drive of the first quarter when the Redskins rushed five and the Eagles countered with five blockers. Kerrigan and Jenkins pinched and collapsed the pocket, respectively. Foles took 4.1 seconds before he threw the ball under duress after extending the play briefly, but Kerrigan drew a holding penalty. They have failed to win enough one-on-one battles this season.

…Foles felt the pressure at times. On a second and 8 in the first quarter Foles took a shotgun snap and, despite no pressure took a quick drop and unloaded in a hurry. The pass was wide.

…There’s little doubt Brandon Meriweather’s speed made a difference in the defensive game plan. Actually, it was the combination of his speed and the fact that he played corner in college. But there were a handful of plays in which the Redskins could take advantage of his skills, even if it was only for one game. I’m not going to make Meriweather out to be a superstar because he was unwanted by his previous two teams. But in this one game he played well and he looked good in the preseason, too. So it’s fair for the Redskins to say that he would have helped.

The Redskins were a little more basic after he exited, sticking mostly with a cover-3. Gomes was fine; made a good play after a flat read in which he sat on a route and jarred the ball free.

Anyway, here are several plays in which Meriweather’s traits made an impact:

  1. The Josh Wilson blitz. Wilson was aligned over receiver DeSean Jackson outside the numbers, with the rest of the secondary in a somewhat odd alignment. Madieu Williams was deep middle, but Meriweather and corner DeAngelo were on either side of him, between the numbers and the hash about 10 yards deep. Meriweather was on Wilson’s side and that’s the key. The Redskins felt comfortable with Wilson blitzing because Meriweather rotated over to cover Jackson. Actually, the Redskins dropped from that look into a cover-2, with Meriweather handling the corner’s role. Nick Foles hesitated because of the look and Wilson got home. Meriweather did nothing special, but his skills enabled them to use this look.
  2. On a second and 6 in the first quarter, Meriweather and Williams start off around 10-11 yards off the line, with the corners alignment it looks like a potential cover-2. But both safeties walk up to around 7 yards just before the snap. The Redskins blitz and Meriweather sprints to make the tackle on a quick pass to the tight end for a one-yard loss.
  3. Two plays later Meriweather was aligned in a similar look. This time he was on the right side, the same as Jackson. At the snap it turned into a matchup zone and Meriweather was able to run with Jackson. The Redskins could not do that with their other safeties. Jackson was not open (there was a holding penalty on the play, wiping out a 13-yard pass play).
  4. On the pass in which Meriweather knocked the ball free from the tight end, it’s not necessarily an example of a new alignment. But it did show the difference his speed makes. He was eight yards behind Clay Harbor when Foles started to throw the ball. He was less three yards behind him as the ball arrived and that allowed him to drive through just before he could secure the ball. The other safeties have not finished that well, lacking some of that same burst.
  5. In the second quarter, Meriweather lined up about three yards over the left guard with the ball in the middle of the field. At the snap, with the Redskins in a cover-3, he sprinted to his right about 10 yards deep to cover the curl/flat area outside the numbers. (On the play, the Eagles hit receiver – Johnson down the middle on a third and 17; Williams did not come up with the same burst, not to mention he took an angle a bit too wide to prevent the catch).


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