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Redskins vs. Rams: Studs and Duds (defense)

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Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim

Studs

CB Josh Wilson. His most notable play came in part because he missed a tackle on Danny Amendola. But it’s a good thing that he did. A few yards later, Amendola was hit and fumbled and the ball squirted over to Wilson, who scooped it up and ran 30 yards for a touchdown.

That was huge. But his last play of the game also was big because it saved points. Rams running back Daryl Richardson sprinted 53 yards down the right sideline and appeared headed for a touchdown. Like a blur, Wilson raced from across the field at a great angle and knocked him out of bounds at the 6-yard line.

One play later London Fletcher intercepted Bradford and a chance for more Rams points was lost. Wilson suffered a concussion on the play.

And for all the passing yards picked up by the Rams, it rarely came in Wilson’s area or to the man he was covering. He did nearly give up a touchdown pass, but Brandon Gibson came down with the ball out of bounds so it turned out to be just like a long foul ball.

Wilson also made a good open-field tackle on a third-and-2 pass to Richardson, forcing a punt. But Wilson had a hand in two plays that gave the Redskins seven and set them up to prevent another seven.

LB Brian Orakpo. Yeah, he did not play a full game but his impact in the time he did play was big and the fact that he twice tried to return with a torn pectoral muscle is rather impressive. Or dumb. Take your pick. But I admire what he tried to do.

And for anyone who thinks there’s not a big drop-off to his replacements, that’s not close to true. There are plays Orakpo made because he’s just more athletic than his backups and he’s a better all-around player. He’s not DeMarcus Ware; but Rob Jackson and Chris Wilson aren’t Orakpo.

On the third play of St. Louis’ second series, that ability was highlighted when he was forced to cover Danny Amendola in the slot. The Rams tested Orakpo with a quick pass, hoping Amendola could shake him for a long gain. But Orakpo read the play and smothered Amendola for a loss. If you want to maintain a level of deception with your defense, your linebackers must cover in these situations. This play was outstanding.

Orakpo and Stephen Bowen made a tackle backside of Steven Jackson for a one-yard gain later in the quarter. And one play later Orakpo sped past the left tackle, staying low and turned the corner for a sack/fumble. That also appears to be when he re-injured his arm.

He came back in on the third play of the following series and applied more pressure. Orakpo attempted a return in the second half but lasted only a couple plays. But in his time during the game he made an impact and showed a lot of what he could do. He made some noise. Orakpo has his flaws and needs to develop more as a rusher, but he is good.

LB London Fletcher. I debated long and hard on this one. Fletcher made some mistakes, missed a tackle or two and did not seem to get over as fast as he needed on some plays. Another time in coverage it didn’t seem like he got deep enough (the deep cross to Amendola). But: this is a league where guys are paid to make plays and that’s what he did on two occasions, making huge ones. Fletcher read QB Sam Bradford well in the end zone for an interception and then late in the game he caused a fumble on Richardson. If Fletcher doesn’t make those plays perhaps he’s on the other list. But he did. So he’s here.

Duds

ILB Perry Riley. Here’s the tough part with Riley; he forced a fumble on the opening play of the game that Wilson returned for a touchdown. So his play contributed to seven points.

But Riley also contributed to the special teams woes with a major gaffe. He released his man, Matthew Mulligan, too early at the line and created a huge space for him to race in and block Sav Rocca’s punt. The Rams recovered the ball at the Redskins’ 24-yard line and scored the go-ahead touchdown four plays later.

On Richardson’s 53-yard run, Riley slid over but was cut by the fullback. A good block, but it opened a big hole for a speedy runner.

Riley also missed a tackle on receiver Steve Smith after covering him in the slot. Yes, that’s a tough job. But that’s why it’s so important to have linebackers who can cover when you play a 3-4. And the only way to sometimes avoid this is to not play your base defense as much. That’s not an attractive option. Anyway, on the play Smith cuts outside and Riley misses the tackle, leading to 18 more yards on the play for a total of 25.

CB Cedric Griffin. He made a good tackle on Richardson to save a touchdown (though the Rams scored on this series), but he bit hard on Steve Smith’s slant and go that resulted in a 34-yard touchdown catch.

Griffin has been inconsistent in press coverage; that was true in the preseason and it’s true after two games. He did play relatively well vs. New Orleans. And it’s tough to cover Danny Amendola in the slot. But it’s real tough when you open your hips at the line as he did on a third-and-3 in the first quarter. Griffin opened his right leg, then leaned to the outside as Amendola sprinted across the middle. Griffin tried to get his hands on him and failed. He wasn’t the only one who struggled with this, but it led to an easy catch and eight-yard gain.

Griffin did make a nice play on Richardson’s four-yard loss and he had a good run force another time. But the secondary struggled overall and Griffin and the following guy had a lot to do with that.

CB DeAngelo Hall. He struggled in the slot and in coverage most of the game and while he didn’t give up one huge play he surrendered a number of little ones that added up to a lot of damage. I’m still not sold on him in the slot, but this is what they’re doing and the season will reveal whether it was a good move or not.

Amendola consistently got Hall by starting inside, then cutting outside. There’s no shame in that, but it happened too often and Hall is getting paid to play at a different level. When he played off Amendola, he still allowed him to get open with quick cuts. Hall rounded his a bit much, especially on a 17-yard gain in which Gomes played him to the outside. Hall also was flagged for holding against Amendola when he started inside then cut back outside. But, again, …

On Amendola’s one-yard catch, the Redskins had Hall on the outside and Fletcher inside. But Hall got juked a bit wider and that enabled Amendola to turn and sit in front of Fletcher for the score.

On the 53-yard run by Richardson, Hall could not get off the block of the receiver to make a play.

Hall did have one tackle behind the line of scrimmage when he came on a blitz. The play was helped when Ryan Kerrigan occupied two defenders, allowing Hall to come through clean. Overall I’m not sold on him as a blitzer yet. There’s a knack to blitzing, which includes a mindset. Hall is a smart player

DT Barry Cofield. Cofield was not responsible for a lot of the big plays. Maybe none. However, I anticipated this being a favorable matchup for him, going against a backup center, and he had too quiet a game for someone of his caliber. Again: bar is raised higher for him this year. It’s not as if he were getting blown off the ball. But he wasn’t able to generate any pressure, whether in nickel or base. There were a few plays in which he was controlled to a side. It wasn’t egregious, but he just didn’t make a play of any consequence or have the impact I thought he would. Cofield did have good penetration near the goal-line. The Redskins say he could be one of the best nose tackles in the league, if not the best. I see the reasons why: he’s smart, athletic and tough. But if that’s the case then we should have seen more Sunday.

Notes

…One thing Jarvis Jenkins needs to get better at is occupying two blockers, keeping the linebackers clean. The last play of the first quarter is an example. On the play the right tackle turns Jenkins inside. The tight end to that side starts to block down, sees that Jenkins was controlled off the snap and immediately heads to Fletcher.  Both Riley and Fletcher were blocked, leading to a 12-yard gain.

…The Redskins did not sit back in a zone all game and let Sam Bradford have his way. OK, Bradford did an excellent job but the Redskins did mix in a lot of man, especially early. The Redskins were in man coverage often in the first quarter. The second quarter? Appeared to be more zone and there were times when there was zone with man-under and zone on one side and man on the other. They tried press coverage. Yes there was soft zone coverage at times and there appeared to be blown assignments, leading to big gains. But they played man and the real issue is they didn’t play it well enough and they didn’t get enough pressure.

…End Stephen Bowen was facing a guy who had been cut this summer and re-signed during the week. He should play well. He had his moments where he was very good with a batted pass, a sack and a pressure. He also had times where he was controlled up front. There also was one play in which he crashed into Barry Cofield after the snap. Cofield, left end Kedric Golston and left outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, all slanted to the right off the snap, setting up blitz pressure to the gaps they vacated. Bowen slanted to his left and collided with Cofield. Guard Quinn Ojinnaka then pancaked Bowen – and pushed him hard after the play. Ah, but the next play Bowen got his revenge on the next snap by steamrolling Ojinnaka en route to a pressure.

…Ojinnaka also delivered one cheap shot against Bowen. It came after Ojinnaka had driven Bowen inside at the 4-yard line, leading to a three-yard Jackson run. After the play, with both players no longer involved, Ojinnaka cut Bowen. No reason for that. It’s hard to imagine real officials letting so much stuff go after the play. The problem was on this one, the whistle hadn’t yet blown, but the play was clearly over.

…Of Bradford’s 36 passes, 14 were delivered in less than two seconds. Another seven were thrown were in 2.2 seconds or less. Only eight of his passes traveled more than 10 yards in the air.

…There was one play in which Ryan Kerrigan lined up on the right side, but he did so in a four-point stance – and then dropped into coverage. Initially I was not impressed with Kerrigan’s day; he was too quiet in a game in which he needed to be more active with Orakpo sidelined. But after watching it again (and again), Kerrigan did have an impact in the second half with some pressure against an offense that used a lot of quick passes. But Kerrigan will need to do more. Kerrigan works well with other rushers. It’s not as if he doesn’t apply his own pressure, but his strength is being relentless so when someone else flushed the QB, Kerrigan could clean up. He’ll still be effective simply because he’s a good player.

…Kerrigan reacted a bit too slow on Richardson’s 53-yard run after covering in the slot. Safety DeJon Gomes took a bad angle, trying to avoid Kerrigan against the receiver, but rounding off his angle too much. Gomes had some issues in coverage as well.

Rob Jackson did draw one hold vs. left tackle Wayne Hunter, the Jets castoff who couldn’t play right tackle. But overall Jackson was quiet in place of Orakpo. Chris Wilson struggles against the run and indeed was driven out on a play inside the 5-yard line on a three-yard Richardson run.

…This is the play I don’t understand, but it highlights what analysts talk about: sometimes you just have the numbers. Man did the Rams have it on this play. On third and 5 from the 19-yard line the Rams were in shotgun formation with Richardson aligned to Bradford’s right, about five yards behind the right tackle. They had a receiver split out on that side as well. But the Redskins had eight defenders either over the ball or to the right. That left three defenders on that side: Griffin, who was covering the receiver; Kerrigan, aligned in a four-point stance inside the tackle and safety Madieu Williams. At the snap Williams raced to the middle to cover the tight end as the middle linebacker on the play, Riley, raced over to help cover Amendola as Hall blitzed from the slot. Fletcher was aligned up on the right side. Nobody went with Richardson. Nobody was within eight yards of him when he caught the ball. If not for a good play by Griffin, who shed the block, he would have scored. Don’t know where the breakdown occurred, but it would be unusual to say the least to have a guy who had been hurting them all second half go uncovered.

…Don’t think you’d want to stick Richard Crawford on a guy like Amendola all day just yet, but when he did match against him he fared well.  One of the times he covered him in the slot it was textbook coverage. He stayed even off the ball and when Amendola juked inside, Crawford was in synch with him. Because Crawford stayed balanced, when Amendola cut outside so, too, did Crawford and he tackled him as soon as he caught the ball. Crawford later tackled him after eight yards on a third-and-10 in which Amendola got inside him despite Crawford trying to take that away. But Crawford’s balance enabled him to quickly close and prevent a first down.

 

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