The Redskins’ defense through three games has surrendered 8.8 yards per pass, the worst average in the NFL. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett discussed the secondary during his weekly media session Thursday.
Q: The secondary is getting a lot of focus after the last couple weeks. What are you seeing from that group, and what can you guys do to play better?
JH: “Well, we’ve got to play better technique, No. 1. It would be good to get guys healthy, get some guys back. But the big thing is just to play with technique. We’ve given up – like I said, I mentioned this last week and it kind of holds true again this week – we gave up the three big plays against Cincinnati. One on a wildcat; we didn’t get lined up right. The zero coverage, we missed a tackle. And then the young guy (Richard Crawford) got beat down the middle of the field in Cover 2, which is something we talked about. We played, like, two snaps in Cover 2 all day. We talked about if 16 (Andrew Hawkins) is in the slot, you’ve to be careful. You’ve got to stay high shoulder. He’s a young guy and just got beat down the middle of the field.
“They’ll get better. These guys, they worked hard yesterday. They’ll have a good practice today. They’re in tune. We covered our butts off in the first game against maybe the best offense that ever played in the National Football League, so I know they can do it. We’ve just kind of got to keep working.”
Q: When you’re talking about that wildcat play and not getting lined up right, are you talking about DeAngelo Hall coming inside to cover A.J. Green?
JH: “I’ll take the blame for that one because we didn’t practice it all week. London checked to it when they came out in it. The rule was the safety (DeJon Gomes) has got the quarterback. He keeps an eye on him. He doesn’t even cover him. He just keeps an eye on him, and the corner (Hall) has got the wideout (Green). So we just got misaligned.”
Q: I don’t know if you saw this, but Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said that he was expecting you guy to go to that Cover-0 against the wildcat. He said you guys always do that. Is that true? And if he knows that is that problematic?
JH: “You know we worked together, too (in the United Football League with the Florida franchise). He looked at all of last year’s tapes. We actually knew that the receiver could throw. We just didn’t know he could throw 50 yards on a rope. We knew he threw, but we never saw him. We just didn’t know he could launch one up 50 right on the money. But even if we get lined up right, that’s OK. They were just taking a shot. If DeAngelo gets on him and you’re off at 10 yards, then you’re still fine.”
Q: A lot of talk the last couple weeks has been about these big plays, and when it comes to stopping big plays usually the answer is execution. Is it ever really that simple?
JH: “That said, you’re in a Zero coverage and miss a tackle. Obviously, if you’re in a One coverage and miss a tackle, it’s a 30-yard gain. If you’re in 2-deep coverage and you miss at tackle, it’s a 15-yard gain. You miss a tackle in Zero-coverage, it’s a little different. So know that. On the Cover-2 look, Richard got beat down the middle of the field. Is it about executing, and we’ve got to do a better job at that.”
Q: If you guys do get strong safety Brandon Meriweather back this week, how much would that help you, and what would that enable you to do that you couldn’t do?
JH: “He can do a lot of things because he’s an ex-corner coming out of college. He’s got football intelligence. He can take something from the classroom to the field. He brings energy to the back end. He does a lot of things. Obviously, we’ve missed him. We’ll get him back at some point, whether it’s this week, next week. He’ll be back.”
Q: When you run that Cover-0, obviously you know that sometimes it may hurt you, but it may not. Is it hard sometimes to stay that committed when you know there’s a chance, and you saw what happened?
JH: “Well, I think they’ve got to have an understanding. You know we had a free run (free safety Madieu Williams) to the quarterback, a free hit on the quarterback. You run a 5-yard speed out on second-and-20, you’re talking about tackling a guy and making it third-and-14. So I think your guys got to feel comfortable that the ball is coming out, that you’re properly executed up front – which we had been because we worked hard at it – and we knew we were going to get somebody to the quarterback. Obviously you’ve got to do the back end. The back end has got to do their part of it.”