Jason Taylor’s knee and calf injuries haven’t allowed the front four to get in that desired rhythm. Teams are using five blockers to contain the Redskins’ four rushers.
But early blitzes that put early hits on the quarterback can pay immediate dividends. According to the Redskins’ coaches, the defense has 39 quarterback hurries this year.
“Marty Schottenheimer used to say they wanted to get 12 solid hits a game,” Blache said. “It’s hard to get that in this day and age. They get rid of the ball faster, and they’re so much more adept at knowing protections and how to keep people off the quarterback. In certain ways, the passing game has replaced the running game with the short passes.”
If an opponent runs that game plan, Blache plays LaRon Landry in the deep middle and trusts Horton enough to run- and pass-blitz.
“I’m very comfortable at blitzing,” he said. “It’s easy - just line up and go get the quarterback.”
On the two key plays against Cleveland, Horton and Fletcher blitzed both times and were joined by McIntosh on second down.
“Some guys are just great blitzers from the beginning,” Fletcher said of Horton. “LaRon was great as a rookie last year, and Chris is a good blitzer. It depends on the player - some guys take a little more time to learn, but our coaches do a great job of explaining why we’re doing the things we’re doing.”
The Redskins hope the effectiveness of the linebackers and safeties in blitz situations will free up their regular four rushers. The line has seven of the team’s sacks.
“We’ve been hitting the quarterback more lately because they’re still trying to get guys out [in pass routes],” Alexander said. “When London’s doing a great job, teams have to watch him, and that might help one of us up front come free because they’re more worried about picking him up.”
Of course, Blache’s plan may change drastically this week against the woeful Lions, opting to play coverage and make Orlovsky figure out a variety of looks. But if Blache’s plan is pressure-oriented, expect new looks.
“You definitely have to mix things up,” McIntosh said. “You can’t settle on doing just one thing because teams will pick up on it fast. But our coaches are creative.”
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