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Warrick Holdman vs. Rocky McIntosh

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Thanks to The Times for reminding me, Warrick Holdman and Rocky McIntosh actually played on the same defense at the same time twice last year, in weeks 16 and 17 against the Rams and Giants respectively. This provides an interesting comparison between the two players to see whether the Redskins were justified or insane to keep Holdman on the starting lineup in front of McIntosh all year.

We didn't do that hot in either game, though I'm going to start with the Giants, who closed the season beating us 34-28, a fitting end to such a disappointing season (for us at least): 355 total yards, 261 of them on the ground. Tiki Barber had a huge game gaining 234 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. Rocky McIntosh finished with 7 tackles, 5 of them solo. Holdman: 2 tackles, one solo. Only three linebackers on the Redskins accumulated tackles, so we have no reason to think that either Holdman nor McIntosh was out of the game for significant stretches at their respective positions. Warrick played as the left outside linebacker -- referred to as either the Strong Side or Sam Linebacker -- in replacement of an injured Marcus Washington. Rocky McIntosh was the right outside lienbacker -- weak side or Will Linebacker. Remember that on defense the left side/strong side linebacker faces the Right Guard, Right Tackle, etc. Runs to the right go against the strong side, runs to the left go against the weak side. And now to the play by play...

What first jumps out at me is that Warrick Holdman doesn't get a single tackle on a rushing down. This seems to support conventional wisdom that Holdman was essentially taken out of running plays completely by an opposing blocker. McIntosh, on the other hand, made six of seven tackles on rushing plays, and his one passing down tackle came against Tiki Barber. This included a huge tackle for a loss:
2-10-NYG46 (2:39) T.Barber up the middle to NYG 44 for -2 yards (R.McIntosh).
That ultimately killed the drive, as well as another tackle later for no gain:
1-10-NYG28 (3:18) T.Barber left guard to NYG 28 for no gain (R.McIntosh, L.Marshall).
Again, this drive went three and out. The impact of a zero gain or negative gain play on an opposing offense -- which limits their play calling on the following downs, if any remain -- should not be understated.

And now to the St. Louis game. We lost 37-31 giving up 579 yards of total offense, 197 of them on the ground. St. Louis RB Steven Jackson had a huge game, with 150 yards rushing and a touchdown. McIntosh finished with 10 tackles (all solo, two of them on Special Teams Punt Coverage) and Holdman finished with 7 tackles (all solo). Again, no LB picked up tackles besides the big three -- Marshall, Holdman, and McIntosh -- and Khary Campbell, who had one tackle on punt coverage. And now to the Play by play...

Four of Holdman's 7 tackles were on passing downs, including this:
1-10-STL19 (6:07) M.Bulger pass deep right to I.Bruce pushed ob at SL 43 for 24 yards (W.Holdman).
I doubt Holdman was on Bruce alone in coverage, though he shares partial responsibility for the play. He also made tackles on two 9 yard short passes, though I don't know if he was also in coverage at the time. To his credit, he was in on a no-gain rushing tackle (with Phillip Daniels) as well as recorded a solo tackle for no gain later.

McIntosh's first tackle of the game came on a pass to Steven Jackson:
2-14-STL26 (5:56) M.Bulger pass short left to S.Jackson pushed ob at SL 25 for -1 yards (R.McIntosh).
Emerging trend: the drive died after 3 and out.
Though he started off weak against the run, giving up two long runs to St. Louis:
1-10-WAS17 (13:36) S.Jackson left guard to WAS 10 for 7 yards (R.McIntosh).
2-1-STL19 (15:00) S.Jackson left guard to SL 29 for 10 yards (R.McIntosh).
He finished strong with short yard tackles (and Defensive wins):
1-10-WAS29 (11:37) S.Jackson left tackle to WAS 26 for 3 yards (R.McIntosh).
1-10-STL33 (6:12) S.Jackson right end to SL 34 for 1 yard (R.McIntosh).
2-9-STL34 (5:30) S.Jackson up the middle to SL 35 for 1 yard (R.McIntosh).
1-10-STL49 (13:35) S.Jackson up the middle to 50 for 1 yard (R.McIntosh).

I don't think there's much of a question that McIntosh outplayed Holdman in both games, given his tackle production and, more specifically, what he was doing on those tackles (to the extent that a play by play can tell us). At the very least, McIntosh proved in both games that he's capable of playing on the weak side reliably, and did so without any real NFL experience prior to those games. I have no doubt that we can enter 2007 confident with him at that position, and I hope the Defensive Staff decides to place as much trust in him on the field as we indicated willing given that he cost us 3 draft picks.