While preparing to face the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett knew he would have to get creative.
The Cowboys entered the game with one of the league’s best records and most potent offenses. They had a sneaky scrambling quarterback in Tony Romo, a league-leading running back in DeMarco Murray, a reliable tight end in Jason Witten and one of the most explosive wide receivers in the league in Dez Bryant.
“I’m not sure we matched up with them all the way around the board,” Haslett admitted Thursday afternoon.
So Haslett dialed up a game plan he later called “over the top a little bit,” a combination of exoctic and well-disguised blitzes to rattle Romo and give Washington’s offense a chance.
In an eventual 20-17 victory over Dallas, Haslett’s plan worked. But that doesn’t mean the same plan will work against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, or any other week for that matter.
“We’ll switch,” Haslett said, “based on who we’re playing, protections, what type of guy you’re playing, the team we’re playing.”
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The Redskins gave up 395 yards in Dallas but kept the Cowboys out of the red zone and, for the most part, off the board. They forced two turnovers and sacked Romo five times, including a hit in the third quarter that temporarily knocked him out of the game.
But gameplans do not translate from week to week, Haslett and coach Jay Gruden said. With each passing week, opponents collect more film and are able to better identify blitzes and coverages. And each quarterback reacts differently to different defensive schemes.
“Every week is different game plan, for every quarterback, every team,” Gruden said. “Some teams you might want to blitz more. Some teams you might want to drop eight and play more coverage. And that will be game-dependent, play-dependent, series-dependent, score-dependent. You know, it all changes based on the situation of the game and the play and the series. So, we’ve got them all in there. We’ve got the blitz packages in there, we got the coverage packages in there and Coach Haslett does a good job of mixing them up and trying to keep quarterbacks confused and break their rhythm.”
Minnesota’s offense is not nearly as dangerous as the group Washington faced last week, but it does present its own series of challenges.
Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson are reliable targets for rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has thrown only two touchdowns and five interceptions in five games but remains a dangerous playmaker both in and out of the pocket.
“He’s a guy that’s very talented, has a big arm, he’s athletic, he can run around,” Haslett said. “He’s just kind of coming into his own right now, but I think he’s going to be a heck of a football player for that team.”