Barry Cofield: Redskins’ defense needs to make Tom Brady feel the pressure

Recipe to contain QB centers on making him uncomfortable in the pocket

Barry Cofield once helped deny Tom Brady one of football’s greatest accomplishments. His New York Giants stifled the New England Patriots‘ jet-powered offense and ruined their perfect season in Super Bowl XLII.

The stakes are incalculably lower on Sunday when the Washington Redskins host New England, but to Cofield, the formula for slowing Brady remains the same.

“You’ve got to harass him,” he said. “You’ve got to hit him. You’ve got to move him off his mark. You’ve got to have him at least considering the fact that there’s a rush coming. If you let him go out there and play seven-on-seven, he’s going to set records.”

That’s the Redskins‘ challenge coming off their first game this season in which they did not record a sack.

New England has surrendered a sack on only 4.58 percent of its passes this season — the fourth-best rate in the NFL. Washington’s defense, however, ranks third in that category at 8.8 percent.

“You’ve got to get him from everywhere, but it’s definitely good to come up the middle because he’s a guy that doesn’t want to scramble outside the pocket,” Cofield said. “He’s not trying to run around defensive ends. You think about that combine tape when he’s running that 40, it didn’t look too smooth.”

Brady has been his typical self this season. His 105.9 passer rating and 30 touchdowns passes are second only to Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (125.3 and 37).

“I think it’s the work that he puts in,” said Redskins receiver Donté Stallworth, who played on the 2007 Patriots team that almost went undefeated. “He’s always the first one there early, early in the mornings; usually one of the last guys to leave. Whatever it is, he’s very smart back there, very calm in the pocket. He makes a lot of plays and you always know that he’s going to be calm and resilient whenever things are going bad.”

Brady is playing at such a high level, in fact, that Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall believes pressuring him doesn’t guarantee anything.

“He doesn’t really feel the pressure,” Hall said. “There can be pressure around him; he’s not going to lay down. He’s going to stand in that pocket tall and deliver the pass. He’s real good about sliding left and right, not really getting too nervous or focused in on the pressure around him. We’re going to try to get as many people around him as possible.”

Perhaps that means blitzing often. Then again, that means risking one-on-one matchups in the secondary.

“I think it’s risky to line up and play him,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett quipped. “The guy’s seen everything — man-to-man, zone, blitz, zone-blitz-dog. He’s seen everything. Nothing really fazes him.”

Shanahan mum on LT starter; Smith is ready

Coach Mike Shanahan would not say who will replace suspended left tackle Trent Williams in the starting lineup. Undrafted rookie Willie Smith is eager to prove himself if he gets the call.

“I had a really good week practicing working on the fundamentals,” Smith said. “Going over the plays, I feel real comfortable with it.”

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