A review of the best and worst performances by the Washington Redskins‘ defense and some observations after rewatching the TV broadcast of their 18-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
CB Josh Wilson:Wilson finally showed why the Redskins were compelled to sign him to a three-year, $13.5 million free-agent contract. He was exceptional in coverage and was credited with four pass breakups. He attributed the breakout game to his expanded knowledge of the defense. He said this was the first game in which he was capable of making some of the defensive calls. Wilson also was more confident challenging routes in front of the safety tandem of LaRon Landry and Oshiomogho Atogwe, he said.
He broke up two passes intended for TE Jason Witten. On the first, he read that Dallas QB Tony Romo was throwing short to his side, so he came off his receiver, who was running deep, and drove on the route in the flat. Wilson in the second half also broke up a low fade intended for TE Martellus Bennett in the end zone. The next step for Wilson is turning some of those pass breakups into interceptions, but this was a big step forward.
DE Stephen Bowen: Against his former team, Bowen stood out on a defensive line that played well as a whole. When the starting inside linebackers are Washington’s two leading tacklers, as they were Monday night, it’s an indication the entire line did its job of keeping offensive linemen off them.
Bowen consistently anchored at the line of scrimmage and even penetrated the backfield on a few runs. He ignited the Redskins‘ goal-line stand in the fourth quarter by getting off the ball lower than LG Bill Nagy on first down from the 2-yard line. He pushed Nagy into the backfield and stopped a draw for a 3-yard loss. On Dallas’ next series, he got to LT Doug Free’s play-side shoulder on a run to the right, chased the play from behind and limited RB Tashard Choice to 1 yard. On the down side, Bowen didn’t consistently generate significant pressure when he rushed the passer during nickel situations.
SS LaRon Landry: Landry positively impacted several plays, which is typical for him. But considering he hadn’t fully participated in a practice since November, his game was extremely impressive. His wipeout hit of WR Laurent Robinson in the first half will be on his retirement highlight reel. Landry has elite closing speed, and his read of the play’s direction was spot on. He also deserves credit for making a legal hit. He led with his shoulder, driving it into Robinson’s chest. There was no chance for a personal foul.
Landry gave the Redskins‘ offense a golden scoring opportunity by forcing a fumble in the first quarter. His speed and power made the play. He rallied to the ball out of his blitz and, after CB Kevin Barnes missed tackling WR Kevin Ogletree, jarred the ball loose with a strong form tackle.
Landry did OK helping to cover TE Jason Witten, although he did surrender an 18-yard gain to Witten on an intermediate in route. Landry’s conditioning was a negative in the second half, and he had to receive intravenous fluids at one point, but that will improve as he returns to football shape.
NT Chris Neild: More props here to the defensive line. Neild didn’t dramtically change the game, but he played his role very well. His tireless effort is undeniable. One first-quarter play stood out. Dallas ran a screen pass to TE Martellus Bennett on the left. Cowboys C Phil Costa blocked Neild to the ground 4 yards in the backfield, but Neild got up and sprinted 10 yards back into the play and made the tackle. Later, on first-and-10 early in the third quarter, Neild stood up LG Bill Nagy at the line of scrimmage, and RB DeMarco Murray ran directly into Nagy’s back. The result: no gain. Neild continues to improve his technique and leverage, and that is allowing NT Barry Cofield to sit out some first- and second-down snaps and stay fresh for nickel situations.
CB DeAngelo Hall: For the second straight week, one gigantic negative play taints what otherwise was a good game by Hall. Redskins coaches put him in a challenging position by isolating him on WR Dez Bryant on third-and-21 late in the game, and the Pro Bowler did not make the necessary play. Hall on Wednesday admitted that he misplayed the improvised route that Bryant ran after Dallas picked up the Redskins‘ eight-man blitz and QB Tony Romo waived Bryant downfield. Hall turned the wrong way to the sideline, and Bryant worked to the open middle of the field. If the Redskins had gotten off the field there, they would have won the game.
Speaking of the eight-man front/Cover Zero defense, I wrote about that for Wednesday’s paper. Click here for that breakdown.