Friday, September 27, 2013

The Redskins' defensive breakdowns against Detroit

In this post I am going to point out what I think are a plethora of mental errors by Redskins defensive players. It seems appropriate to point out the following:

- When players and coaches say "if you aren't in the meeting room you have no idea what the play was," they are right.

- Without knowledge of the play call, it can be pretty dicey to assign blame to an individual player. Quintessential team sport and all that.

However, a number of things went on that violated the basic principles of defensive football. So on most of these plays I can say with some confidence that that is not how the play was drawn up. It is certainly true that inferences were being drawn, but in most cases it is pretty clear that someone screwed up.

Keeping in mind those disclaimers, it certainly appears to me that the problems with this defense run deeper than bad tackling and some inexperienced defensive backs.

And now for the examples, with play by play descriptions taken from the NFL Game Book and screenshots from NFL Game Rewind's Telestrator function:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Redskins opening snap sack against Detroit

I have often been critical of Jim Haslett's blitzes in the past, but the blitz that got the Redskins a sack on the opening snap last Sunday was nicely designed to draw the Lions into a protection adjustment and then exploit it so I wanted to walk through it.

The Lions come out three wide with an empty backfield (the RB is flexed to the left), and Ryan Kerrigan starts out lined up over the slot receiver. He then creeps in to threaten the right side of the offensive line while Josh Wilson takes over responsibility for the receiver:

The Lions adjust their protection such that the RT is responsible for Kerrigan, so that the TE can still release into a route. Fletcher crouches low behind Cofield, initially shaded slightly to the Redskins' left side of him. He is hoping the left side of the Lions' line doesn't realize he is still a rush threat. Before the snap you can see him tap Cofield's left hip - it appears that he is telling Cofield to attack the gap to his left to open up Fletcher's blitz lane. It works:

Note that even if the Lions hadn't gone with the empty backfield the Redskins likely still would have broken down the protection. Perry Riley was responsible for Joique Bell on this play (both on the far left of the picture) and presumably if Bell has stayed in to block Riley's assignment would have been to blitz, so either he or Fletcher would still get a free shot at the quarterback. As it happens he released into a route anyway (after a brief chip on Orakpo) so both he and Riley were removed from the play entirely.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jordan Reed's unexpectedly busy day

By now you have heard the buzz about how rookie Jordan Reed stole the bulk of Fred Davis' playing time against the Packers.

After the jump I have play breakdowns of every one of the snaps he played (or at least all of them where I could identify him during a quick skim through NFL Game Rewinds "Condensed" feature; I'm sure I missed one or two). But if you're not one to go into all the details here are my takeaways:

- I did not get to see much run blocking out of him, because falling behind 31-0 just doesn't create a whole lot of run blocking opportunities. Unfortunately that is what I am most curious to see about him, because if he can block competently then he is even better positioned to take Fred Davis' job next year if not earlier.

- He was expected to be the tight end who mostly motioned and split out wide while Fred Davis lined up at the more traditional TE spot, like a less murdery Aaron Hernandez (allegedly!). But on Sunday he spent much of his time in a three point stance on the line of scrimmage, and I never saw both he and Davis on the field at the same time. The conclusion: he and Davis are not fulfilling different roles, he was absolutely replacing Davis.

- He seems to be a very aggressive route runner, really selling an outside route before cutting inside and so forth.

- He was always near the bottom of Griffin's route progressions, so there were a number of occasions he got open but Griffin had already thrown to one of his first reads. So while he showed potential don't go picking him up in your fantasy league just yet, it's not like the Redskins are going out of their way to force the ball to him.

- Check out his blitz pickup at 11:41 in the third quarter.

And now on to the play breakdowns:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Just how bad is the Redskins 0-2 start?

OK, it's pretty bad. But given that many people are already reaching for the panic button I feel somewhat obligated to live up to my blog title.

Let's start with the defense, which was expected to be weak. However the beating they have taken in the first two losses has led many to believe we are looking at a total defensive collapse (I believe I saw the words "historically bad" somewhere on Twitter). But it's important to remember the nature of these two losses:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

So what was up with that crazy-ass three linemen formation from the Eagles?

So you have the two offensive tackles aligned way the hell wide, creating what looks like two trips bunches - but of course one man in each "bunch" is actually not an eligible receiver:

The Redskins defense notes the obvious - the Eagles are set up to run a screen to either side if the defenders remain bunched up in the middle of the field. After some shouting and gesturing by London Fletcher and DeAngelo Hall, Perry Riley and Josh Wilson each quickly move to cut off the screen options to either side so the Redskins won't be stuck with a cornerback trying to take on an offensive tackle:

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Eagles are inferior to the Redskins, yet well positioned to pull off an upset

The Philadelphia Eagles are quite likely to end up with the worst record in the NFC East this year. They also, in my opinion, have a better than even chance of starting 1-0 after beating the Redskins tonight.

The basis for my pessimism caution is the matchup between new Eagles coach Chip Kelly and Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. All offensive coaches focus on creating situations in which they can array more blockers against fewer defenders and get the ball to one of their (so-called) skill position players with room to run. But there are a few factors that make tonight's situation not quite routine.