London Fletcher - Fallen Star?

Patrick Smith

London Fletcher showed Monday night that he is human after all.

London Fletcher is the NFL's "Iron Man". He hasn't missed a game since being signed as an undrafted free agent with the Rams in 1998.  But with last nights performance, many Redskins fans should wonder exactly HOW long they hope to see this streak continue.

The up-tempo Philadelphia Eagles offense made the Redskins defense look like A Pop Warner team in the first half of Monday nights opener for both teams. Rookie head coach Chip Kelly kept the Redskins defense off balance for most of the first three quarters of the game, and ended up getting his first victory in the NFL with a 33-27 defeat of the defending NFC East champs.

How does this defeat tie into Fletcher?

Jim Haslett's 3-4 defense is designed to have his front three occupy blockers, so his middle linebackers can roam free and make tackles. Making tackles fits right into London Fletcher's wheelhouse.................right?  Not on Monday night. Fletcher played one of the worst games I've seen him play in a Redskins uniform.

After re-watching the entire first half last night after the game ended, and pausing and rewinding many of the plays as they happened last evening, I saw a part of Fletcher's game that I soon hope to forget. First, the 38 year old middle linebacker was slow getting to the football.  This is not good for any linebacker, but when your facing a running back like McCoy, it is imperative to fill gaps, take away the cutback lanes, and make solid tackles. Fletcher did none of this. He was allowing offensive linemen to block him at the second level, providing the seal for McCoy's cutbacks. He did not show the sideline-to-sideline burst he once had, often allowing the corner on sweeps and tosses. He also looked slow recognizing, and getting outside on the Black and Bubble screens(a one-time strength of his).

Aside from the poor play in the running game, Fletcher's pass coverage may have been even worse.  He was a victim of Michael Vicks read option fakes, and showed slow feet and reaction time dropping into his zone, and attempting to cover tight ends in the seam. He failed twice in the first half to get underneath "pop" routes, resulting in easy completions for Vick.

On a positive note, Fletcher's counterpart Perry Riley played very well against the Eagles. He showed well against the run, displaying a disruptive presence all over the field.  He was effective on blitzes, recording one sack, and multiple pressures, and led the team with 15 tackles(8 solo).  He also recovered a fumble.

Other game notes:

- Rookie David Amerson played the best of all the defensive backs, showing solid coverage, great tackling ability, and his length and athleticism with a near interception of a Michael Vick pass in the first half against the Eagles.  He had four tackles and one pass defended on the evening.

- EJ Biggers played one of the safety spots last night, and although he struggled with his assignment on a few plays, he showed a nose for the football and good closing speed. He needs to keep his head up when going for the tackle, but the effort was there. With a little more work, he could become a nice fit next to Rambo.

- Roy Helu showed some burst, and some hands when given the opportunity. He not going to take over first team reps from Alfred Morris, but he certainly provides a very capable backup, and third down back. His pass protection and blitz pickup were very good last night.

- Will Montgomery struggled yet again against a 3-4 front. Monty is at his weakest when he is tasked with stopping a one-gapper, and this weakness showed Monday night. I noticed on a few occasions that he failed to make or sustain his block on second level defenders, and he gave up way too much pressure inside on both pass and run plays.

- Jordan Reed showed very well last night in his debut. He caught five passes for 38 yards, and provided a nice security blanket for Griffin. His athleticism is very apparent, and should pay dividends as the season progresses.

- For the most part, I thought Josh Wilson played pretty well in the slot. I like him much better in this role than on the outside. He showed good reaction and quickness, and his hustle and tackling ability caused a fumble that the Redskins recovered.

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