- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A review of the best and worst performances by the Washington Redskins‘ defense and some observations after rewatching the TV broadcast of their 20-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

GAME BALLS

SS LARON LANDRY: Landry was the most consistent player in what is best described as an inconsistent game by the defense. He was credited with a game-high eight solo tackles. That’s not a surprise, considering how valuable his speed is against a Philadelphia corps of ultraquick playmakers. 

He made the biggest defensive play of the game by hitting backup QB Vince Young as Young threw on third-and-11 from the Philadelphia 8-yard line in the fourth quarter. Landry blitzed off the left edge of the defense and was slowed when he ran into ILB Rocky McIntosh, but he chased Young down with exceptional closing speed. He launched himself in time to affect Young’s throw, and CB DeAngelo Hall was there to intercept it and give Washington a glorious chance to get back in the game.

Landry’s closing speed also was impressive on the previous play. He chased down scrambling QB Michael Vick and delivered a hit that knocked Vick out of the game long enough for Young to enter and make a critical mistake. Too many Redskins missed tackles, especially early in the game, but Landry was as reliable as it got.

Landry’s role on one negative play stood out, but to me it appeared as though he was just carrying out his responsibility. On TE Brent Celek’s screen for a touchdown on third-and-goal from the 7 in the first quarter, Landry vacated the area in which Celek caught the ball. At the snap, he turned his back to the ball and ran out wide to help CB Josh Wilson on WR DeSean Jackson. Without knowing for sure, I assume his responsibility was to help Wilson defend any underneath routes. It was an excellent play call by the Eagles, as McIntosh was easily blocked, and Celek scored without being touched.

GASSERS

LOLB RYAN KERRIGAN:Kerrigan was too quiet against backup RT Winston Justice, who played on offense for the first time this season. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles‘ defensive line got the better of Washington’s backups. Kerrigan, however, did not match that. Justice did a good job of forcing Kerrigan to rush wide. Philadelphia’s quick throws and QB Michael Vick’s sprint-outs hindered the Redskins‘ pass rush as a whole.

Kerrigan’s jam didn’t slow TE Brent Celek on Celek’s 9-yard reception inside the red zone in the second quarter. Celek still released fairly easily to the inside. Kerrigan did deflect a pass and force an incompletion by rushing unblocked on two red-zone plays. Still, his impact on the game was as small as it’s been this season. How quickly the expectations for him have increased.

ILB ROCKY MCINTOSH: It’s difficult to single anyone out for this game, really. As detrimental as the Eagles‘ two long touchdown drives were in the first half, the defense ultimately gave the Redskins a chance to win by forcing second-half turnovers and holding Philadelphia to 20 points

McIntosh, however, stood out because of how badly RB LeSean McCoy juked him on a couple of runs. McCoy beat McIntosh at the point of attack on a few plays because of his quick feet and ability to change to change directions. McCoy is, uh, pretty good.

McIntosh also took too narrow an angle on QB Michael Vick’s 31-yard scramble in the third quarter. McIntosh dropped in coverage and drifted to his left when WR Jason Avant ran a crossing route in that direction. That made it more difficult for him to close on Vick. McIntosh certainly isn’t the first defender Vick has beaten to the edge, but it was a big play on third-and-10.

ROLB BRIAN ORAKPO: Orakpo is on this list because of one play. His helmet-to-helmet hit on QB Michael Vick in the first quarter turned what would have been third-and-12 from the Eagles‘ 16 into first-and-10 from the 31. That jump-started Philly’s first touchdown drive.

It was bad luck, really. Vick crouched to scoop up the loose ball that resulted from an errant shotgun snap. Had Vick been standing as tall as he does on a normal drop-back, perhaps Orakpo would have hit him in the chest. But helmet-to-helmet contact was evident on the replay. It gave the Eagles a spark that propelled them to a 20-0 lead.

It turns out that Orakpo has only 1.0 sack in 15 career games against NFC East opponents. Shocking. Third-string LT Todd Herremans held him without a sack, but Orakpo did draw a holding penalty and force Vick to step up into NT Barry Cofield’s sack. He also batted down a pass coming off the edge in the first quarter.

OBSERVATIONS

Several players didn’t land on either of the above lists because they were too inconsistent.

NT Barry Cofield was exceptional against the run in the first half. He anchored effectively against C Jason Kelce and even penetrated on a few plays by getting off the ball quickly and slanting. Also, his push up the middle on a third-quarter pass resulted in FS Oshiomogho Atogwe’s interception. The ball ricocheted high into the air after hitting him in the helmet.

Neither Cofield nor RDE Stephen Bowen, however, kept the inside linebackers clean on back-to-back runs with which Philadelphia sealed the victory in the final three minutes. Philadelphia ran, basically, the same play twice in a row. Cofield immediately moved laterally to his left on both plays, and Kelce sealed him to that side while RB LeSean McCoy cut back behind him. The Redskins knew the Eagles were going to run there and still couldn’t stop them.

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FS Oshiomogho Atogwe missed at least three tackles. He also cheated up to the line of scrimmage on a play-action fake on the first play of the third quarter, which left CB DeAngelo Hall one-on-one with WR Jeremy Maclin. The result was a 59-yard completion.

But in addition to Atogwe’s first turnover as a Redskin, he also sacked QB Michael Vick. Body control is one of Atogwe’s best assets, and it’s extremely valuable when chasing an elusive player such as Vick. Atogwe broke down his stride after blitzing and finished the play.

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CB DeAngelo Hall’s third-quarter interception gave the Redskins a chance to get back in the game. He kept his eyes on backup QB Vince Young — and probably couldn’t believe what he was seeing when Eagles coach Andy Reid called for Young to pass on third-and-11 from Philadelphia’s 8 while leading by 14 points. The pass was a wounded duck after SS LaRon Landryhit Young, and it was an easy pick for Hall.

On the downside, Hall was a step too late on WR Jeremy Maclin’s 59-yard catch on the first play of the third quarter. He was isolated after FS Oshiomogho Atogwe cheated up on play-action, but Hall went for the interception instead of trying to bat the ball down, and that might have cost him. Early in the second quarter, Maclin had a 26-yard reception after he turned Hall around and got significant separation. Hall was playing outside leverage and appeared eager to drive on an in cut, but Maclin faked it and broke to the sideline instead. That turned Hall in a circle and took him out of the play.

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The Eagles did a fantastic job in the first half of taking the short passes the Redskins‘ defense gave them and driving the field. Washington’s cornerbacks frequently backed off the line of scrimmage to prevent the big play. The Eagles countered by being patient and piling up 5- to 10-yard gains. The quick throws also limited Washington’s pressure and frustrated its pass rushers. An Eagles offense known for its quick-strike ability had touchdown drives of 10 and 11 plays and a 10-play field goal drive. They ate up clock and helped prevent the Redskins‘ offense from finding any rhythm.

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Philadelphia QB Michael Vick dropped back to pass 35 times. When the Redskins

Rushed 4 defenders, he was 9 of 15 for 110 yards, an interception and a sack; passer rating of 54.9.

Rushed 5, he was 8 of 10 for 109 yards, a touchdown and a sack; passer rating of 145.4. He also scrambled twice for 56 yards.

Rushed 6 or more defenders, he was 1 of 6 for 18 yards; a passer rating of 39.6.

So perhaps we’ll see the Redskins adopt a more aggressive approach in January’s rematch. Then again, defensive coordinatorJim Haslett likely will be OK with giving up only 20 points.

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Washington showed an 8-man front on eight plays, six of which were passes. Philadelphia was 2-of-6 for 6 yards and a touchdown on those plays. The Redskins blitzed all eight defenders only once, though. They rushed four once, five twice, six once and seven once.

Still, the alignment forced Philadelphia to burn a time out in the first half, and QB Michael Vick hurried multiple throws against it, resulting in some inaccurate passes.

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WR Jason Avant beat CB Kevin Barnes’ jam attempt on fourth-and-2 on Philadelphia’s first touchdown drive. He released quite easily on a slant and converted with an 18-yard reception. Barnes ran forward to press Avant just before the snap, and his forward momentum probably worked against him. Meanwhile, ILB Rocky McIntosh eyed QB Michael Vick and blitzed when Vick set to pass in the pocket. That left the middle open for an easy throw to Avant.