The Washington Redskins achieved a feat last year that is almost unheard of in modern sports history. Their defense managed to finish fourth in the league in total yards given up despite having one of the lowest sack totals of any team.
Anyone watching film on the Redskins last year came away with two definite conclusions.
1. The secondary is very good. Week after week opposing quarterbacks were given all day to throw a pass and still had trouble making plays.
2. The defensive line must be upgraded. Aside from Andre Carter (and disregarding Jason Taylor, who played injured the entire season and was not a factor) the Redskins had no other player on their d-line who would start for any other team in the NFC East.
The only way that Defensive Coordinator Greg Blache could generate any pressure on the quarter back was by blitzing. Blitzing can be very successful, but it is not a permanent solution.
Bringing linebackers, safeties, and the occasional cornerback off of their primary cover duties on passing situations is risky. It puts those still in coverage on an island and leaves zero room for error.
Given the Redskins’ recent history regarding the production of free agents I know that success is in no way guaranteed. But barring injury or a catastrophic regression in play by Haynesworth I would have to think that the Redskins will have a much better line this year.
If the new line plays up to their potential it will open up new possibilities for Greg Blache and allow him to change defensive strategies.
A front four of Andre Carter, Cornelius Griffin, Albert Haynesworth, and Brian Orakpo has a chance to be really special.
Try to imagine how much more effective this defense (which was very good last year) could be if they could generate an effective pass rush without blitzing. Rushing only the four down linemen and dropping seven players back into coverage will clog up passing lanes and will almost assuredly lead to more turnovers.
Turnovers have been hard to come by in recent years for the Redskins. I feel that one of the main reasons for this was the poor pass rush. Pressure from the front four not only makes the quarterback have to throw before he is ready, it allows linebackers to drop back into areas where a quarterback does not expect a defender to be.
The combination is a recipe for creating turnovers!
Carlos Rogers and DeAngelo Hall are well suited to playing single man coverage, and I think they will still be asked to do this from time to time. But I feel that Blache will have more flexibility this year and will install more zone coverage schemes. This will give help to Fred Smoot in nickel and dime coverage’s.
Following the Redskins my entire life has taught me two very important things.
The first thing is that Dallas is evil.
The second and probably most important thing is that anything can happen from one season to the next.
While I don’t enter the season assuming that the recent off season acquisitions will definitely pan out and return the Redskins to glory I am intrigued by the potential of this defensive unit. If everything falls into place and the injury gods are kind to us this year we could be looking at a very special defense.
I can’t wait to find out. There is only nine more weeks until show time. Start your countdown now!