A review of the best and worst performances by the Washington Redskins' defense and some observations after re-watching the TV broadcast of their 22-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
ILB London Fletcher: The captain made plays all over the field. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett must have seen something on film that persuaded him to unleash Fletcher on Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb. Fletcher blitzed on 10 of 33 dropbacks, and he came from all angles – both edges, up the middle and twisting on separate plays with ILB Rocky McIntosh and OLB Brian Orakpo. He forced an intentional grounding penalty in the third quarter by running through RB Beanie Wells' outside shoulder from the left edge of the defense. Wells didn't square up to block him, and that's an easy win for a player as talented as Fletcher.
Fletcher made a tumbling interception in the third quarter that stopped an Arizona drive that had entered field goal range. He dove to haul in a pass that OLB Ryan Kerrigan tipped up in the air. Fletcher also saved a touchdown — well, he delayed it one snap — in the third quarter by shedding C Lyle Sendlein's block on a draw play and bringing Wells down. He is back to his explosive self, showing no signs of the groin/hamstring injury that sidelined him in the preseason.
OLB Brian Orakpo: We're approaching the point where it's more surprising if Orakpo doesn't impact the game as significantly as he did on Sunday. It's a bit shocking that Arizona believed it was a good idea to block him one-on-one with a tight end on a second quarter pass. Orakpo stayed low off the ball out of his two-point stance and exploded into TE Jeff King. From there he easily broke King down with his hands and got around the edge to destroy QB Kevin Kolb. Kolb is lucky his head is still attached to his body, and the Cardinals are lucky the Redskins didn't recover the fumble on the play.
Orakpo helped ILB London Fletcher's second-half interception by flushing Kolb from the pocket and disrupting the play. He beat RB Beanie Wells one-on-one to the inside. Again, Orakpo is too strong and fast to lose that matchup.
Orakpo batted down a screen pass after he diagnosed it off the snap. He set the edge in the run game on several plays, something he has done much better this season. Jim Haslett got creative with him on one play, lining him up behind the nose tackle and stunting him with Fletcher.
I know Orakpo won't directly play against Dallas' OLB DeMarcus Ware on Monday, but it'll be fun to watch them share the stage. Ware is the standard right now, and he'll serve as a measuring stick.
OLB Ryan Kerrigan: Kerrigan was explosive in ways we haven't seen before, and that's the most important thing with him — he continues to improve.
He bulled RT Brandon Keith back into QB Kevin Kolb to record a sack in the first half. Keith set too high, and Kerrigan stayed low out of the two-point stance. Kerrigan got his hands inside Keith's and into his chest. He drove Keith back, arriving at Kolb 3.2 seconds after the snap. Kerrigan set up ILB Rocky McIntosh's sack with an outside rip past Keith. To that point, his sacks and pressures were more the result of effort than power or speed.
Kerrigan also got the Redskins off the field on third-down late in the game by batting down a pass on a seven-man blitz. He read the pass and reacted accordingly, similar to his interception in Week 1. And he was close enough in coverage to deflect Kolb's third-quarter pass that ILB London Fletcher intercepted. The throw was behind the intended receiver, but Kerrigan was in the right place to make a play. You have to ask: If he's making this big of an impact in his first two regular season games at outside linebacker, what will he be doing by Week 5, by Week 10 and by Week 1 of next season?
CB Byron Westbrook: For a role player such as Westbrook to force the victory-clinching fumble is an indication of the Redskins' improving depth and a testament to Westbrook's work ethic. (His career began with two seasons on the practice squad.) He jarred the ball loose from WR Chansi Stuckey with a perfect form tackle. He wrapped up and got his hand on the ball. Westbrook also had a key block on Brandon Banks' 35-yard punt return.
NT Barry Cofield: Cofield didn't have a terrible game — no Redskins did — and I seriously debated whether he truly deserves to be here. After all, he did some good things. He got outside the pocket and pressured QB Kevin Kolb into throwing the pass ILB London Fletcher intercepted. He also batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage.
But Cofield again this week was blocked too easily one-on-one, and that led to Fletcher and ILB Rocky McIntosh having to contend with offensive linemen. He was in on two of the three draw plays that gashed the Redskins in the second half.
On one, C Lyle Sendlein passed Cofield to the guard as Cofield rushed upfield and took himself out of the play. Sendlein, meanwhile, released to he second level. On the other, Cofield couldn't get off Sendlein's block in time to make the tackle.
On a 9-yard run on the first play of the second half, Cofield tried to penetrate by swimming past Sendlein. Sendlein used Cofield's move against him by staying low and driving into his body when Cofield rose up to bring his arm over. LG Daryn Colledge picked the block up there and drove him out of the middle, creating the running lane for RB Beanie Wells.
As I mentioned, though, it wasn't all bad from Cofield. Perhaps I'm holding him to a higher standard because he played well in the preseason and is the highest-profile free agent addition to the defense.
CB DeAngelo Hall defended Cardinals All-Pro WR Larry Fitzgerald well except for the 73-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. That's a pretty big exception, obviously. The mixed results are why he ends up listed here instead of one of the above categories.
Hall flipped sides of the field to cover Fitzgerald, which is unusual. He normally plays exclusively on the left, but defensive coordinator Jim Haslett afforded him more freedom in that regard. He often gave Fitzgerald a cushion of approximately seven yards and played outside leverage with safety help inside and underneath. The strategy worked for the most part, limiting Fitzgerald to short catches on quick passes. Hall tackled well, which is essential when allowing those cushions, and he drove on a couple routes to get his hands on passes.
On the touchdown, Hall was exposed by the Redskins' 5-man blitz against a five-receiver formation. The Redskins overloaded the left side of the offense, perhaps hoping QB Kevin Kolb would throw hot in that direction instead of to Fitzgerald on the right. But Kolb bought time by rolling right, and Hall was beaten without any safety help. I still haven't seen a quality replay of exactly how Hall was beaten, but knowing he had no help, jumping anything short would be a mistake.
Overall, Hall is off to a great start this year.
ILB Rocky McIntosh was too inconsistent for either of the above categories. As the Cardinals spread the Redskins' defense with four receivers and gashed them with the draw out of the shotgun three times in the second half, McIntosh appeared to take poor angles – though we can't be sure of his assignments on those plays. His angles were problematic at times last season, as well. He got caught too far inside several times on Sunday.
McIntosh also failed to set the edge on RB Beanie Wells' 1-yard touchdown in the second half. FB Anthony Sherman got to his outside shoulder and sealed him down, allowing Wells to trot across the goal line.
But on the positive side, McIntosh recorded a sack off a quality read. On first-and-10 from Washington's 16-yard line, he was shadowing RB Beanie Wells off the snap. When Wells stayed in to protect, McIntosh walked up to the line. He then sprinted forward when Wells stepped up to block OLB Brian Orakpo, and he came free for the sack.
Rocky also made a critical tackle on the first play of Arizona's three-and-out late in the game. LB Daryn Colledge got to the second level on a running play, but he wasn't aggressive in trying to block McIntosh. McIntosh slid inside him and made the tackle for a gain of 3. That set up second- and third-and long situations in which the Redskins were able to blitz seven and ultimately get off the field.
LOLB Ryan Kerrigan rushed from a four-point stance on one play. (He didn't get to the quarterback.) That's the first time he's done it in the regular season.
The Redskins blitzed five or more rushers on 14 of Arizona's 33 dropbacks.
Against a four-man rush, QB Kevin Kolb was 9-of-16 for 114 yards, a touchdown, interception and sack. His passer rating was 73.4.
Against the blitz, Kolb was 8-of-14 for 137 yards, a touchdown and two sacks. His passer rating was 114.3.
On TE Jeff King's 21-yard touchdown in the first quarter, ILB Rocky McIntosh appeared to be in zone coverage, and he passed King off to the outside when King ran a quick out to the left sideline. CB Josh Wilson was in the vicinity, but he stayed with the outside receiver down the field.
By the time Wilson realized he had to get back over to King, it was too late. It didn't help that Wilson slipped on his cut. For King to be that wide open, it seems someone either didn't know recognize their assignment or was late getting over.
Arizona had 10 penalties for 97 yards. By contrast, the Redskins were penalized only three times for 15. Entering Week 3, the Redskins are the least-penalized team in the NFL with only six.
That's it for the defense. Let me know what I missed. Leave a comment, email me at email@example.com, or hit me on Twitter @Rich_Campbell.
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