Redskins Quarterly Report Cards: Defense
DEFENSIVE LINE: NT Barry Cofield is one of only three defensive players performing well so far this year. Cofield did have one down game — against the Packers — but he has been better than rock solid in the three other contests. While Cofield’s run defense has been up-and-down [very good against Detroit, very poor against the Raiders], his pass rush has been fantastic, better than anyone else on the team, in fact. Cofield has two sacks, four QB hits and nine QB hurries. He also has three good stops in the run game and has missed only one tackle through the first four games. Unfortunately, that’s about all the good that can be said about the defensive line.
Ends Stephen Bowen and Kedric Golston have both done fairly well against the run, but have failed utterly to provide a pass rush. Bowen and Golston have no sacks and only two QB hits between them despite being on the field for a combined 200 passing plays [121 for Bowen, 79 for Golston].
The backups provide little relief. NT Chris Neild hardly played and is now injured. Chris Baker did nothing against the run or the pass and Phillip Merling was worse. That may explain why Merling has been released to make room for DE Jarvis Jenkins, who the Redskins must hope can provide more help than Golston has so far.
The defensive line has failed the Redskins through four games. Barry Cofield has been superb, but everyone else is driving down the position grade.
DEFENSIVE LINE POSITION GRADE: D+
INSIDE LINEBACKER: This position is plagued by one player who is not quite playing up to par and another who is doing much worse. The good news is that they seem to be getting better. A bit. In London Fletcher‘s case, things had to improve over the disastrous opening week against Philadelphia, when he he was slow and out of position on one Eagles running play after another. The result: The Eagles ran for over 250 yards and Fletcher missed three tackles all by his lonesome. And that doesn’t even account for the many times he was simply too far out of the play to even be in position to miss a tackle. Fletcher improved somewhat in week two against the Packers, but it wasn’t too good and he was perhaps being overworked, playing every defensive snap the first two weeks. Since then the Redskins have rested Fletcher in games, giving him 14 plays off the past two weeks. Fletcher’s performance has improved in the last two weeks, but it is still not good and his 18 tackles to 7 missed tackles ratio is dreadful.
Perry Riley played reasonably well against the Eagles — almost the only defender who did — but he fell off badly against the Packers and Lions the next two weeks. I was especially bothered by the two missed tackles Riley had in week three, but he bounced back nicely against the Raiders, having his best game of the season. Riley’s 25 tackles to three missed tackles is a far better ratio than Fletcher’s indicating once again that last year was no fluke — Riley is clearly the better player.
Backup Bryan Kehl has done well on some special teams, but he’s hardly played from scrimmage. Newcomer Nick Barnett, has played only 14 snaps the past two weeks after not seeing the field at all the first two weeks.
INSIDE LINEBACKER POSITION GRADE: D
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: Finally, some good news for the defense. Apart from Barry Cofield [see above], the only Redskins defenders playing well consistently are Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. Kerrigan’s pass and run defense are average, at best, but his pass rush has been solid. He leads the team with five sacks and is second with 10 QB hurries. Kerrigan didn’t start out well, playing below standard in the first two weeks. Although he got two sacks against the Packers — and thus many people assumed he played well — he didn’t give the team much pass rush after those two early first quarter sacks. The rest of the Packers game Kerrigan was very quiet as Aaron Rodgers carved up Washington’s defense. Kerrigan came back the next week and stuffed the run, coming up with four good stops against the Lions. In week four, against the Raiders, Kerrigan notched two sacks and five QB hurries, his best pass-rushing game of the season.
Orakpo played the run pretty well against the Eagles — better than anyone else on the team — but was relatively quiet the first three weeks of the season. He didn’t make many big plays, but didn’t yield many either. However, against the Raiders Orakpo exploded for two sacks, three QB hurries and a batted pass. It was easily the best game of his season and gives Redskins fans he is rounding into shape after missing 14.5 games with a torn pectoral muscle last season.
Backups Darryl Tapp and rookie Brandon Jenkins have done little despite having very good preseason performances. In 16 plays Jenkins has done nothing but commit a penalty, while Tapp has played 35 snaps and given the team one sack and not much else.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER POSITION GRADE: B+
CORNERBACK: I once thought Josh Wilson the best cornerback on the team. I thought that because it was true. No longer. Wilson has struggled mightily in coverage this season, particularly in the first three games. The Packers and Lions both torched Wilson and he made it worse by missing a lot of tackles. In fact, his eight missed tackles are tops on the team. The only area where Wilson has done well this year is as a pass rusher; he has one sack and a couple of QB hurries. Wilson played much better against the Raiders, but that may have something to do with the poor quality of the opposing passer.
DeAngelo Hall isn’t doing much better. He’s playing the run well — an often-overlooked strength of his game is run support — but his coverage has been just about as bad as Wilson’s. Fortunately, Hall has missed only three tackles, far fewer than Wilson.
Rookie David Amerson has come in for a ton of criticism, but the truth is he’s been about as good as Hall and better than Wilson. Amerson has only had one bad game — against the Packers — but it was a doozy. Apart from committing a pass interference penalty, Amerson also missed two tackles because he took bad angles and was consistently fooled on double moves and pump fakes. It was a big fall for Amerson, who actually outplayed everyone in the secondary in the opening week against the Eagles. Amerson was decent against the Lions and against the Raiders he had zero penalties and missed tackles, but did intercept one pass and return it for a touchdown to give the Redskins a boost after they fell behind 14-0 in the first half.
CORNERBACK POSITION GRADE: D-
SAFETY: Rookie Bacarri Rambo was thought to be unprepared for the big time and he demonstrated that with two truly horrific performances to start the season before being sent to the bench. Rambo hasn’t played a down from scrimmage the last two weeks. Rambo’s NFL career got off to a bad start against Philly, when he missed two tackles and was consistently out of position on other plays. It wasn’t Rambo’s pass defense that hurt the team in week one, it was his dreadful run support, where he seemed entirely unaware of what he was supposed to be doing. [To be fair, London Fletcher was even worse and he, presumably, did know what he was doing.] Against Green Bay, Rambo’s run defense improved, but still wasn’t very good. However, his pass defense fell off terribly. Nobody defended the pass well against the Packers, but Rambo actually allowed Rodgers to have a perfect 158.3 passer rating when throwing to his direction. All five passes thrown against Rambo were completed and one went for a touchdown. Rambo also missed two more tackles and Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett had seen enough. Rambo has been benched ever since and we don’t know when we’ll see him next.
Brandon Meriweather missed the Eagles game due to injury [what a shock!] and then missed a big chunk of the Packers game after knocking himself silly with a heads-first tackle. [Meriweather was fined for his tackles in this game.] Against the Lions, nobody but Cofield, Bowen and Kerrigan played well, but Meriweather was the worst of the worst. He gave up a TD pass, allowed Lions QB Matt Stafford to have a perfect passer rating against him and, as if that wasn’t enough, missed three tackles. It was a miserable performance. Things didn’t improve much against the Raiders, where Meriweather missed two more tackles.
EJ Biggers was dreadful against the Eagles, giving up a near-perfect 147.2 passer rating to Michael Vick when Vick threw his way. Biggers also missed four tackles and appeared completely overmatched, particularly against Desean Jackson. The performance was so bad that Biggers was basically benched the next two weeks, playing only six snaps from scrimmage in both games combined. Biggers got back on to the field some against the Raiders and did reasonably well, but that might have been because of the poor opposition.
The rest have not inspired much confidence, though veteran Reed Doughty has plugged a few leaks. He’s not strong in coverage and, like everyone, was exposed badly by the Packers passing attack in week two. Doughty also missed an incredible five tackles against Green Bay, making it one of the worst performances of his career. He didn’t play in week three, but came back and played decently against a weak Raiders offense.
SAFETY POSITION GRADE: F
OVERALL DEFENSE GRADE: D-