Recently I broke down the Redskins offence, and analysed their draft needs.
Which can be found here... http://www.hogshaven.com/2011/10/19/2500404/redskins-roster-analysis-and-draft-needs
Now it’s the Defences turn.
The Defence has been great so far! I drink way to much Kool-Aid and expected improvement, but even I wasn't expecting this much! Even with our defence stepping up and balling, there is still room for improvement.
I'm going to start in the trenches. I will say that we have made a lot of progress from last year, but still aren't an elite group.
Last year’s injury reclamation project for Ma'ake Kemoeatu, fell through. I like the guy on a personal level, but he was too banged up and out of shape to make an impact at NT and a major reason why our defence struggled.
Anthony Bryant stepped up and played commendably. If I was Haslett, I would have started him this year, just look at the two Giants game, without him Jacobs and Bradshaw absolutely crucified us. With Bryant starting he held them to 2.5YPC on 28 carries. Just to emphasise that The Giants had the 6th ranked Rushing offence, he also shut down the Jaguars (albeit without MJD)
He is a pure 3-4 NT, something that we have been missing this season. Barry Cofield has played well and is getting better as he becomes more familiar with the position and the scheme, he is solid at the NT spot, but I think he is more of a penetrator then a plugger and would be better suited at 5-tech. He is good, and gives the versatility to run a 40 front, but we are still missing that power pig who can consistantly wreak havoc on running plays.
Chris Nield has looked very good in his limited playing time and could develop into that role, it is still early days but so far he looks like a late round gem.
Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker have been VERY good this season and are an under-rated component of our defence, both have looked strong against the run and got after the Quarter Back. It really is a shame that Jarvis Jenkins was injured, because he showed in the pre-season that he could of been better then both and still has the potential and opportunity to do so.
Kedric Golston provides good depth, but I'm not sure how he'd fare as a long term injury replacement? He seems to lack the length and athleticism required from a 5-tech. considering he is next up if Bowen or Carriker goes down, he could be worth upgrading. Darrion Scott has been a non-factor and I don't know enough about him to make an honest opinion. A player who impressed me this pre-season was Doug Worthington, and I thought he would be kept as on our active roster. For now he remains on the practice squad and could be one to watch for the future.
The Linebacking core has been very good this year. I don't know what can be said about Kerrackpo, which hasn't already been said they have flat out balled this season. If I have a criticism it’s that Orakpo tends to disappear against opposing NFC East teams, 0.5 sacks in how many games!? He can also look one dimensional (but hey, it’s a pretty kick ass dimension)
The ILB position was a weakness for us last year, London Fletcher is a BEAST and should go down as one of the most under-rated players to ever wear pads. How he's been to only 2 Pro-Bowls is a farce! Unfortunately he can't play forever (although he sort of has) and we will need a long term replacement.
Rocky McIntosh was a good to great 4-3 OLB and was ascending until our scheme change. He is simply not a good fit in a 3-4 system, especially not inside. I will give him some credit because he has played better this year and is our leading tackler. He is also a fairly effective Blitzer. The area that he struggles in is Run Defence and his ability to key the offensive line and react to plays. He lacks the strength and mind-set to tangle with Guards on a consistent basis, he doesn't stack and shed well which is crucial for a 3-4 ILB. He is not a bad player, he's just a bad fit and I hope he can find a home somewhere, because he is a starting calibre player.
Rob Jackson is a straight up beast and is a well-kept secret on our roster, he has a nasty demeanour, is great coming off the edge (and he smashed Tony Homo, bonus points for that) and strong against the run, I haven't seen much of him in pass coverage and it seems that his aggression could leave him vulnerable to Play Action. He provides solid depth should Kerrigan or Orakpo go down with injury, and somebody could rotate in to keep them fresh. I would also like to see Haslett, get all three guys on the field to wreak some havoc.
Lorenzo Alexander a.k.a the One Man Gang is one of my favourite players on the roster. He is a Special Teams demon and the ultimate team player, he epitomises a blue collar mentality. He did struggle as a 3-4 OLB due to his lack of athleticism, but he did transition there from DT which is a Night and Day difference. He has also dropped a load of weight which would only make him better in that aspect. However, I think he presents more upside as an ILB. He has the strength, great athleticism (for someone of his frame) and a lunch pail mentality which could translate to a big nasty run stopping LB who meets blockers at the point of attack and allows other players time to swarm to the ball. (Maybe the Kool-Aid got to my head on that one)
Perry Riley is young, hungry and athletic but continues to see little playing time outside of being a core Special Teamer, where he has played well (yeah he gets flagged occasionally, but its only because he wants to make a play) I like what I've seen from him and he flies around the field like a headless chicken and definitely has a seek and destroy mentality, he looks to be pencilled in as Fletcher's long term replacement for now. Although many thought he would replace Rocky McIntosh this season as a starting ILB. This could be a potential red flag, as the coaching staff may have seen something that they didn't like, maybe they just felt he needed more time. He has good upside, and I think he has earned a shot at some playing time.
Keyaron Fox was brought in to provide a presence on Special Teams and add depth to our LB core. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I don't think he has made much if any impact on ST. I don't know enough about him to say if he could be a starter. He is athletic, but might be lacking some size and strength to play on the inside?
Rounding up the wrecking crew is a 7th round pick from FSU, Markus White has made the transition from DE to 3-4 OLB quite efficiently and is a good developmental piece for our defence. His college game translated well to the pre-season where he played solid football, just like in college, he held the edge, was solid against the run, his pass rush wasn't exceptional, but he didn't sell out and take a wide arc leaving the QB time to step up or scramble and just kept grinding until he got pressure on the QB. He seems well rounded, but never flashy. I think he could be a solid back-up player and figures to be another late round role-playing Rookie with some upside.
We have some quality in our Defensive Backfield, we feature a fire and ice combo at safety, and two play making corners. On paper, we have a top 10 group.
Laron Landry is an absolute machine! The way he played last year was some of the best and most dominant individual football I've seen. He was sensational against the run, destroyed receivers in the passing game and lived in the backfield as a Blitzer. Imagine if he could have stayed healthy for the whole season, wow! The gripe with Landry has always been his pass coverage, he has improved this area but he does still make mistakes, but is not an area can be exploited (like when he was miscast at FS)
Oshiomogho Atogwe, is a very consistent player. He lurks, in the secondary ready to poach on any mistakes made by the offence. He rarely makes flashy plays or highlight reel hits, but he just does his job and does it well. He is smart and can force turnovers, takes clever angles and is a wrap up tackler, he is also an effective Blitzer. He isn't getting any younger though, and has been dinged up multiple times this season.
Josh Wilson was a great FA addition for us, low key, low cost, high production. He has quietly been our best corner.
DeAngelo Hall, is an Enigma, he'll shut someone down and make game breaking plays, only get burned for big plays. If he could cut out his mistakes, he would be in the discussion for being one of the best CBs in the league. He has fluid hips and elite agility, and can stick with anyone (until he jumps the route at the wrong time) He is a willing tackler, shows commitment to the team and has a passion for the game. He is outspoken, but I think other players and coaches see it as his fire and competitiveness, which in my eyes is never a bad thing
The depth in our Secondary, is a weakness for us. Phillip Buchanon is like a poor man’s DHall, he makes plays, but gets burnt. He's old and doesn't offer much upside for our future, he does however offer a good option as a 4th/5th corner and could be a good mentor to younger players.
Kevin Barnes hasn't impressed me at all. As a Corner Back. I think he lacks fluidity in his hips and plays too high in his back-pedal, which results in him getting routinely beaten in man coverage. An area where he is impressive, is his ability to knock the taste out of someone's mouth. This kid can hit! If you haven't seen his hit on Jhavid Best, you should YouTube it! He also showed it in the pros last year when he was asked to play Safety. A position that I believe he would be better suited to, and potentially groomed as a replacement for OJ Atogwe (who is starting to get old, and suffers from niggling injuries)
Byron Westbrook figures to be a core Special Teamer who hasn't seen much playing time, could we rely on him if we had a rash of injuries?
Dejon Gomes looks like a good back up safety, he was a hybrid safety-backer so there could be a transitional period as he adjusts to a pro-style 3-4. He was impressive in the pre-season and looked like a capable run defender, who routinely made tackles around the line of scrimmage, read the opponents blocking schemes and played well in the box. He was a ball hawk in college, but I didn't get a good enough look at his pass coverage to analyse it fairly. Hopefully this will translate into the pros and he can be a decent Safety. Due to his age, upside and athleticism I would prefer him as LaRon Landry’s replacement to...
Reed Doughty. Reed is a great guy, a core special teamer and an above average run defender. He has a team first mentality and works his nuts off, he just doesn't have the athletic ability to drop back in a deep zone or in man to man coverage with a RB, or WR. He also lacks the size and savvy to be effective when covering TEs (See our week one game against the Giants)
Our defence has been playing great, and they are a top 10 unit, we still have a number of areas to upgrade and some areas lacking depth.
One thing which surprises me is the fact that we don't rotate our personnel much, for example we are stacked at the LB position, why not rotate a young guy in to keep our starters fresh. It also seasons our inexperienced players and gives our backups some reps decreasing any drop off in performance if a starter goes down. It also gives the coaching staff a better perspective of the talent we have on our roster and who can be relied on when the chips are down. I'd also like to see Jackson, Kerrigan and Orakpo on the field on passing downs (Kerjackpo?)
ILB:- The sooner we get one the better, we can give Fletch a prodigy to mentor who will take over the reins from him when he calls it a day. We could also do with adding depth as, if Fletch retires this season we are left with Perry Riley and Keyaron Fox.
CB:- I spoke highly of DHall, but his inconsistency can hurt us and at crucial times (see Arizona and the infamous 3rd and 21) when he turns it on he is elite though, so maybe a promising youngster will be the foot up his ass that he needs?
We are a top 10 unit so I guess you could argue we are doing fine, but imagine how good we could be if we had a legit shut down corner. It would isolate one half of the field and give Kerrackpo and Barricker more opportunity to pressure the QB.
NT:- Again, we can get by with what we've got but we don't have a guy who can routinely dominate against the run. Cofield has been good and makes us versatile if we run a 40 front. Chris Nield is one to watch for the future and good be one of many late round gems we have unearthed.
CB:- The depth of the position needs addressing as an injury to Wilson or DHall would become an exploitable weakness for us.
FS:- Atogwe has played well, but is on the wrong side of 30. Gomes has played well, but I think he is a better fit as a SS. As mentioned earlier Kevin Barnes could be a potential option. But we need someone to groom and develop.
Our coaching staff/front office has done a great job in restoring our defence to a top 10 unit, via the draft and key FA signings. We now have the personnel to run either a 30 or a 40 front. The sky is the limit for our defence and with a few more pieces to the puzzle, we could be looking at something very special.