Redskins Midseason Report Cards: Defense & Special Teams

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Updated: November 7, 2013
Report Card

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The Redskins have played eight games, half the regular season. While the first three games were a complete disaster, the team seems to have righted the ship a bit in the last five weeks. Let’s take a look at how each position — and the major players at each position — have done so far this season. Yesterday we covered the offense and coaches and today we cover the defense and special teams.

POSITION ANALYSIS GRADE
DL NT Barry Cofield is having a terrific season and is arguably the best pass-rusher on the team, considering his position. Cofield has 3 sacks, 6 QB hits and 15 QB hurries, terrific numbers for a nose tackle halfway through the season. His run defense is weaker than anyone else on the starting DL, but that’s perhaps to be expected since he’s undersized at his position. DE Stephen Bowen is doing decently against the run, but he provides almost no pass rush and DE Kedric Golston has done much of anything well this year. DE Jarvis Jenkins missed the first four games and has provided no pass rush since returning, but he has been the team’s best D-lineman against the run.        C
ILB This is a disaster area. You could very easily argue — and, in fact, I would — that the two worst players on the defense this year, at least among the consistent starters, have been Perry Riley and London Fletcher. If you think Fletcher is bad in pass defense, let me introduce you to Riley, who can’t seem to cover his own shadow. The difference between the two is that while Riley has been mediocre to poor against the run, Fletcher has been a catastrophe. Fletcher can no longer tackle from sideline to sideline and when he gets out of position he can’t fix it. He can’t run with tight ends or running backs anymore and without his trademark speed, his lack of size has become a real problem. It will surprise no one to learn Fletcher is tied for the team lead with 10 missed tackles. That number would be higher, but he’s frequently not in a position to miss a tackle because he can’t fight through blockers anymore. If it wasn’t for the consecutive games streak I can’t believe Fletcher would still be a starter. Nick Barnett, though still learning the defense, has vastly outplayed both starters, particularly in run defense where he’s been quite good. The team needs to get Keenan Robinson healthy & keep him that way in 2014.      F
OLB Things improve a lot here. Both Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo are having good years, though Orakpo’s pass rush has been strangely absent the last two weeks. Kerrigan leads the team with 7 sacks and 28 QB hurries. He’s also improved radically against the run and is now a good run defending outside ‘backer. Speaking of improving against the run, nobody has done that like Brian Orakpo, who has easily been the best run defender among the linebackers this season. The coaches must have said something to Orakpo about improving against the run [or maybe they did not have to] because he’s taken to it like a fish to water. Orakpo is tied for second on the team with 3 sacks and 21 QB hurries, but he leads the team with 8 QB hits. Until the Denver game he was rushing the passer well and he needs to get back to it. Orakpo draws a lot of attention from offenses, allowing Kerrigan and others to make plays.      A
CB This was not expected to be a strong suit of the defense and it has not been. In fact, it’s been weaker than expected largely because Josh Wilson‘s play has declined. He’s tied for first on the team with Fletcher with 10 missed tackles and for a corner to have that many missed tackles at midseason is fairly scandalous. Wilson is a good slot pass rusher [1 sack, 3 QB hits, 3 QB hurries], but that and drawing penalties is about all he’s doing well this year. It’s been a major disappointment and unless he completely turns things around in the second half, it’d be hard for the Redskins to contemplate bringing him back. DeAngelo Hall, on the other hand, needs to be re-signed based on the first half of this season. That’s Darrell Green‘s opinion and mine, as well. Hall also has too many missed tackles, but he’s scored three touchdowns this season and has done a terrific job covering some big-time opponents, like Dez Bryant. Hall is also in a contract season and he’s playing like it. Rookie David Amerson has been up and down. More down than up, truthfully, though that’s not unexpected for a gambling rookie cornerback. The interception he had against San Diego is a classic example. He seems fellow rookie Keenan Allen slanting inside all game so he gambles it is going to happen again and picks off the pass. Very aggressive and smart. However, this also allows the Chargers to set him up and when they come back to that pattern, Allen cuts back outside. Amerson has gambled inside again and this leaves Allen wide open for a 16-yard TD reception. Amerson has actually been quite solid in run support, but he needs to improve against the pass. If we see that happen over the second half of the season it is likely the Redskins have a keeper. EJ Biggers stinks right now. I thought he was a solid acquisition because he was pretty good last year with the Buccaneers, but he hasn’t been good this year. Some of that is having to shuffle back and forth between safety and cornerback, but he’s simply not playing well enough.       C-
S It gets worse. Safety was considered a major weakness coming into the season and it sure is. Brandon Meriweather, when he isn’t hurt or suspended for illegal hits, has been a bad player. He finally played well last week against the Chargers, but it is the first good game of the year for him. His run defense has been mediocre, his pass defense horrendous. He’s just not a good player and has not been for years. The fact that the Redskins regard him as their best option at safety tells you a lot about the rest of the position. Reed Doughty is a capable player as long as he’s near the line of scrimmage. Put him up against wideouts or move tight ends and it is a TD pass waiting to happen. Bacarri Rambo started out horribly — as bad as you can be the first two weeks of the season — but seems to have pulled himself off the mat after his prolonged benching. He’s still not a good safety, but last week was not too bad.       F
ST It’s the weekly debacle. If it isn’t a blocked punt it is a fake punt against him. Or two blocked field goals in one half of play. Or a punt return for a TD. Or a kick return to the 10-yard line. Special teams has cost the Redskins at least one win [Dallas] and has been terrible otherwise. Punter Sav Rocca is the only one who has distinguished himself this season. He had a bad shank against Denver, but otherwise has been solid, with good hang time and excellent directional punting. In 38 punts so far this year, Rocca does not have a single touchback. That’s good work. He has almost as many fair catches [11] as returns [12] and that’s good, too. Less than one-third of Rocca’s punts are returned and he’s put 11 of them out of bounds. PK Kai Forbath got hurt, missed a bunch of games and hasn’t looked great since coming back. His kickoffs have improved over last year, but he’s had some recent trouble getting height on his kicks and while he still looks like a quality kicker to me, he’s certainly not as accurate and consistent as he was during his record-breaking first season in the NFL in 2012. The coverage units have mostly been disappointing and it is S Reed Doughty, supposedly the leader of that group, who has had the most trouble. He looks lost trying to take the place of the departed Lorenzo Alexander. TE Niles Paul has done a great job on kickoffs, but has been terrible covering punts. ILB Perry Riley missed the block that allowed Oakland to block a punt. WR Joshua Morgan is terrible returning kicks and apart from one superb 34-yard punt return, he hasn’t done much with those either. To be fair, the blocking is consistently sub-standard. Special Teams coach Keith Burns should be renting, not buying.       F