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Snap Judgments: Week 16- Eagles @ Redskins- DEFENSE

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Looking beyond the box score to see how the Redskins utilized their defensive players in Week 16

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Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Redskins' defense forced two crucial turnovers against the Eagles and held them to field goal attempts on three other drives, so they certainly made several significant contributions to help the team beat their longtime NFC East rivals from Philadelphia.

In the last five games, the defense has also forced turnovers at double the rate that they were in their first ten games (1.8 per game up from .9 per game).  I would like to be able to tell you that they have improved in other categories and that their showing against the Eagles was a good one, but unfortunately I cannot.  They hovered around their season averages in nearly every major defensive category against Philadelphia and allowed a season-most 495 total yards. They have certainly produced more takeaways as of late, but in the aforementioned past five weeks they have regressed in total yards allowed, points allowed, yards per play allowed and passing yards allowed.

The Redskins winning games does not mean that they have a good defense, or even an average one.  Let's not forget that the quarterbacks that the defense faced in those wins were Chad Henne, Charlie Whitehurst, Tony Romo, Brandon Weeden and Mark Sanchez.  So with all of that being said I want to spend this penultimate edition of the defensive Snap Judgments series focusing on two areas in which the Redskins' defense struggles, but where not enough attention is yet paid.  Areas where this team will need to upgrade if they hope to contend in the future: tight end and slot receiver defense.

Tight End Defense

This is not the first or even the second time that I've talked about this, and it won't be the last if the team continues to struggle in this area like they did on Sunday, when Eagles tight end Zach Ertz caught 15 balls against Washington defenders (Eagles franchise record).  That is tied for the 11th most receptions by any player and the second most receptions by a tight end since 1960.  This is not a new problem either; it has been an issue since Jim Haslett arrived in Washington.  Just take a look at the table below to see how the Washington defense has ranked against opposing tight ends since the 2010 season.

Redskins Allowed vs. TE Rec Rank Yards Rank TD Rank DVOA Rank
2010 19th 21st 14th 5th
2011 15th 28th 28th 28th
2012 32nd 32nd 30th 28th
2013 10th 11th 29th 21st
2014 27th 27th 29th 30th

The Redskins have ranked in the bottom third of the league in most of these categories in four of the five years that Haslett has run the defense.  Haslett isn't on the field though, so let's see which Washington defenders are actually responsible for allowing all of this TE production against the team in 2014.

Player Defense vs. TE
Receptions Allowed
Yards Allowed
TD Allowed
Perry Riley 18 177 2
Keenan Robinson 13 113 0
David Amerson 6 104 2
Will Compton 9 98 1
Bashaud Breeland 8 96 2
Everette Brown 2 81 1
Ryan Clark 9 69 1
Bacarri Rambo 1 63 1
Brandon Merriweather 4 47 1
Ryan Kerrigan 4 22 0
Philip Thomas 3 15 0
Brian Orakpo 1 6 0
Trenton Robinson 1 1 0

Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson and David Amerson top the list.  I think it's fair, however, to give Robinson a bit of pass considering that he has not allowed a single receiving touchdown all year and ranks third in passer rating allowed among all linebackers that have been in on at least 25% of their team's snaps.  Riley, on the other hand, has struggled in coverage for years now and ranks 58th out of 60th in QB rating allowed by an inside linebacker.

Jim Haslett just doesn't seem to mind getting taken to school by opposing tight ends week in and week out.  Hopefully, Haslett will be fired in the very near future and the Redskins begin looking for Riley's replacement.  They'll need to if they want to survive in this pass heavy league that features a new breed of dynamic receiving tight ends.

Slot Receiver Defense

There is a somewhat common misconception that teams automatically put their third best or just a lesser receiver in general in to man the slot position.  That couldn't be any further from the truth.  Take a look at the primary slot receiver for each NFL team in the table below.  The percentage of their routes run while in the slot is also listed.

Team Player Slot % Team Player Slot %
ARZ Larry Fitzgerald 62% MIA Jarvis Landry 77%
ATL Harry Douglas 62% MIN Greg Jennings 67%
BLT Marlon Brown 71% NE Danny Amendola 81%
BUF Chris Hogan 71% NO Marques Colston 76%
CAR Jerricho Cotchery 70% NYG Victor Cruz 89%
CHI Brandon Marshall 49% NYJ Jeremy Kerley 80%
CIN Mohamed Sanu 58% OAK James Jones 59%
CLE Andrew Hawkins 56% PHI Jordan Matthews 92%
DAL Cole Beasley 93% PIT Lance Moore 79%
DEN Wes Welker 89% SL Tavon Austin 57%
DET Golden Tate 58% SD Eddie Royal 87%
GB Randall Cobb 87% SF Anquan Boldin 64%
HOU Demaris Johnson 85% SEA Doug Baldwin 56%
IND Reggie Wayne 62% TB Louis Murphy 58%
JAX Allen Hurns 64% TEN Kendal Wright 76%
KC Junior Hemingway 73% WAS Andre Roberts 72%

The Redskins primary slot defender is E.J. Biggers.  I don't know about you, but I would have a hard time trusting Biggers to cover more than five of the players listed in the preceding table.  Let's give him a break though and see how he stacks up against the other 31 primary slot cover men in the league before we make anymore judgments.

E.J. Biggers Slot Ranks Receptions Yards TD INT QB Rating Yards/Tar Yards/Rec PFF Cov Grade
Value 20 274 4 0 138.5 9.45 13.7 -9.9
Rank out of 32
6th 11th t-Last t-Last Last 30th 30th 30th

Well, that's probably not going to cut it.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that Biggers' 140.4 QB rating allowed to quarterbacks ranks dead last among all NFL corners that have participated in at least 25% of their team's snaps.

I'm afraid that the answer to this problem is not going to be found on the current roster.  DeAngelo Hall will be 32 next year and will likely be sapped of much of his quickness by the Achilles injury.  Tracy Porter will be 29 and he averages over six games missed per season.  David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland are better suited to remain in their current roles as the team's boundary corners, because slot defenders are typically smaller and quicker than they are.  The front office and the coaching staff need to put more emphasis on this area, and if they do they will likely come to the realization that they need to acquire new talent to fix the problem.

90 Snaps were run against the Defense

57 Passing Snaps (63%)

33 Rushing Snaps (37%)

  • The 90 snaps are by far the most snaps taken against the Washington defense this year.  No other team has taken more than 81 snaps against them this year (Giants in Week 4).  In fact, Pro Football Focus does not have a game on file (data dating back to 2007) in which more snaps were run against the Redskins' defense. 
  • We can however look back and see the last time that a team logged more official plays (does not include snaps negated by penalties) against the Redskins.  The defense was officially on the field for 84 plays in this game (5th most against any team in 2014).  The last time that more plays were run against them was in 1999, when the Bears had an insane 92 plays against the Redskins.  This is no unusual feat for Philadelphia though, as they have totaled over 80 offensive plays four times in this season alone.
  • The Eagles offense possessed the ball for 11 drives against the Redskin defense in this game.  Washington allowed Philadelphia to score on four drives (36%) and they forced turnovers on their first and tenth (final meaningful possession) drives.  Two drives each ended with Eagles punts and missed field goals.  The 11th and final possession of the game consisted of just one Mark Sanchez hail mary pass to the end zone.
  • The defense was only called for one accepted penalty (5 yards), when Bashaud Breeland was flagged for an illegal use of hands infraction in the first quarter.  Jarvis Jenkins and Perry Riley were called for illegal use of hands and illegal contact respectively, but both penalties were offset by flags on Philadelphia players.

Downs

Down # of Plays Short (1-3 yards) Med (4-6 yards) Long (7+ yards)
1st 38 0 0 38
2nd 30 6 9 15
3rd 16 5 3 8
4th 0 0 0 0
  • The Redskins pushed the Eagles to a third down on only 42% of their offensive sets, the second lowest mark forced by the defense in this area in the last five weeks.
  • What's even worse is that the defense was not able to consistently force the Philly offense into second and third-and-long situations.  Only 50% of the Eagles' second and third down plays were with seven or more yards to go for a first down.
  • When the Redskins were lucky enough to get the Eagles into these ideal situations, they found ways to blow the opportunity more often than not.  The defense amazingly allowed the Eagle offense to convert on five of their eight 3rd-and-long attempts.  They allowed Philadelphia to convert on 9 of their 16 overall third-down attempts.
  • Washington's defense ranks 26th in overall third down conversion percentage allowed (43.6%) and 31st in third-and-long conversion percentage allowed (38.2%).  That's not as bad as the offense, but it's closer than you'd think considering how little people talk about this.

Defensive Snaps

Name (*-denotes starter) Position Snaps Snap %
David Amerson * CB 90 100%
Ryan Kerrigan * OLB 90 100%
Ryan Clark * FS 89 99%
Perry Riley * ILB 88 98%
Bashaud Breeland * CB 87 97%
Will Compton * ILB 86 96%
Phillip Thomas * SS 70 78%
Jackson Jeffcoat OLB 69 77%
Stephen Bowen * DE 54 60%
E.J. Biggers CB 51 57%
Barry Cofield NT 48 53%
Chris Baker * DE 46 51%
Jarvis Jenkins * DE 41 46%
Kedric Golston DE 30 33%
Frank Kearse DE 14 16%
Trent Murphy * OLB 14 16%
Trevardo Williams OLB 10 11%
Trenton Robinson FS 6 7%
Justin Rogers CB 5 6%
Steve Beauharnais ILB 2 2%
Ja'Gared Davis ILB 0 0%
Akeem Davis S 0 0%
Kenny Okoro CB Inactive N/A
Jason Hatcher DE Inactive N/A
Keenan Robinson ILB Inactive N/A
Gabe Miller OLB Inactive N/A
  • With so many snaps being run against the defense it should be no surprise that a vast majority of the team's defenders set season-highs in snaps recorded.  The starters to do so were: David Amerson, Ryan Kerrigan, Ryan Clark, Perry Riley, Bashaud Breeland, Will Compton, Philip Thomas and Stephen Bowen.
  • The high snap total and injuries to several key players allowed several reserves to also post season-high snaps totals in this game.  Those players were: Barry Cofield, Kedric Golston, Jackson Jeffcoat and Justin Rogers.
  • Newcomers Trevardo Williams and Steve Beauharnais tallied their first defensive snaps of the year.  Jackson Jeffcoat, who had just been re-signed by the team, took a whopping 70 snaps in relief of the injured Trent Murpy.  Jeffcoat and Travardo Williams both recorded their first career sacks in the game.
  • The snap totals of Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen and E.J. Biggers have now risen for three consecutive weeks.  All three of these previously injured players now appear to be fully healthy, or at least as healthy as one can expect to be going into Week 17 of an NFL season.

Special Teams Snaps

Name Position Snaps Snap %
Trevardo Williams OLB 19 70%
Frank Kearse DE 17 63%
Trenton Robinson FS 16 59%
Ja'Gared Davis ILB 16 59%
Niles Paul TE 16 59%
Darrel Young FB 14 52%
Logan Paulsen TE 14 52%
Akeem Davis S 13 48%
Bashaud Breeland CB 12 44%
Steve Beauharnais ILB 11 41%
Kai Forbath K 11 41%
Will Compton ILB 10 37%
Silas Redd RB 10 37%
Ryan Kerrigan OLB 9 33%
David Amerson CB 8 30%
Justin Rogers CB 8 30%
Nick Sunberg LF 8 30%
Tress Way P 8 30%
Andre Roberts WR 7 26%
E.J. Biggers CB 6 22%
Stephen Bowen DE 6 22%
Kedric Golston DE 6 22%
Perry Riley ILB 6 22%
Barry Cofield NT 6 22%
Jackson Jeffcoat OLB 6 22%
Philip Thomas SS 6 22%
Chris Chester RG 5 19%
Shawn Lauvao LG 5 19%
Spencer Long RG 5 19%
Tyler Polumbus RT 5 19%
Tom Compton LT 4 15%
Jarvis Jenkins DE 1 4%
Trent Murphy OLB 1 4%
Jordan Reed TE 1 4%
Ryan Grant WR 1 4%
  • Trevardo Williams led the Redskins with 19 special teams snaps.
  • Trent Williams' injury struggles and need for rest are not completely lost on the coaches.  The team has allowed Williams to sit out on special teams plays since the Week 10 bye.  Since then, Morgan Moses (injured reserve list), Tyler Polumbus and Spencer Long have come in to relieve Williams in these situations.
  • A mistake-prone Washington special teams did not commit a single penalty in this game.

Records and Rankings

Players

  • With 13 passes defended on the season, Bashaud Breeland trails only Sean Taylor (15 PD) for the most by a Redskins rookie since 2000 (stat not recorded prior to this).  He ranks second in this category among all 2014 rookies, behind only E.J. Gaines who too has 15 PDs.  Breeland is also on pace to finish with the sixth most solo tackles by a Redskins' rookie defensive back since 1983 (50 currently and on pace for 53).  This may be a franchise mark, but tackle data is extremely sparse prior to the 1980s.
  • Ryan Kerrigan's incredible sack streak continued this week.  He has now recorded at least one sack in the last five games.  He is the first Redskins player to do so since Fred Stokes in 1991.  Kerrigan's new total of 13.5 sacks ties him for the single season franchise sack record by a linebacker with Ken Harvey (1994).  Unfortunately, Kerrigan will not be able to tie or set the all-time franchise sack record (18.5 by Dexter Manley in 1986) unless he puts forth a dominant five sack performance against an elite Cowboys' offensive line in Week 17.  However, with just 1.5 or more sacks he could tie or surpass the second best single season mark by a Redskin of 15 sacks. 
  • When it comes to forcing fumbles in a single season, he is already tied for second most in franchise history with a 2014 league-high of five.  If he can force one more fumble this coming Sunday, then he will tie Lavar Arrington's franchise record of six in a season.  Kerrigan is already just two forced fumbles away from Charles Mann's franchise-best 17 career fumbles forced.  At his current career pace (.24 FF per game) he should reach that mark by mid-season next year.
  • Kerrigan is also currently sitting at seventh in franchise history with 38 career sacks as a Redskin.  At his current career pace of .6 sacks per game, he will surpass Brian Orakpo (40 sacks) and Ken Harvey (41.5 sacks) by the fifth game of the 2015 season.  That would place him fifth in franchise history in sacks.  It does not show up on PFR because sacks were not officially tracked by the NFL until 1982, but Monte Coleman and Dave Butz would still be ahead of him at that point.  He might also be just behind the great, but unheralded Coy Bacon; unfortunately the data is just not readily available enough for us enough to prove that one way or the other.
  • David Amerson allowed yet another receiving touchdown to be scored.  According to PFF, Amerson's eight allowed receiving touchdowns on the year are tied for the second most by any player in the NFL this year.  Only the Eagles' Bradley Fletcher (nine) has allowed more.  When quarterbacks have targeted Amerson this year they have combined to post a 132.8 QB rating.  That is the third highest rating allowed by any defensive back that has logged at least 50% of their team's defensive snaps.  Amerson only trails Stevie Brown (151.0) and Brandon Merriweather (137.8) for worst in this department.

Team Pace Projections

In the past several weeks we've discussed several team records that the Redskins were on pace to beat or nearly meet by season's end.  We'll finish things up with some quick updates on the team's new projections.

Redskins Pass Defense Completions Comp % Pass Yards Y/A TD INT
Value 323 66.6% 3,691 7.6 33 6
Current NFL Rank 14th 29th 22nd 30th 32nd 29th
Pace Projection 345 66.6% 3,937 7.6 35 6
Projected Franchise Rank 4th Worst Worst 4th Worst 10th Worst 2nd Worst Worst
  • The defense actually regressed and worsened their projected all-time franchise rankings in most of these categories.  However, they are now only on pace to tie the lowest interception total with six, instead of setting a new mark with five.
Redskins Points Points Scored Points Allowed Point Differential
Value 284 394 -110
Current NFL Rank 27th 28th 26th
Pace Projection 303 420 -117
Projected Franchise Rank 32nd 4th Worst 7th Worst
  • This is actually the first time that we've looked at the team's points rankings in the Snap Judgment series.  As you can see the Redskins' standings in these categories aren't much different from the rest.
Redskins Team Penalties Penalties Penalty Yards
Value 111 1,029
Current NFL Rank 26th 31st
Pace Projection 118 1,098
Projected Franchise Rank 3rd Worst 2nd Worst
  • Thanks to their performance on Sunday, the Redskins are now projected to finish third and second worst in team history in penalties and penalty yards.  Last week they were on pace to finish as the second worst and the worst in these categories.
Redskins Opponent's Penalties Opp Penalties Opp Penalty Yards
Value 137 1,116
Current NFL Rank 1st 1st
Pace Projection 146 1,190
Projected Franchise Rank 1st 1st
Projected All-Time NFL Rank 2nd 6th

**Statistics derived from ESPN, NFL GSIS, Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, Rotoworld and Team Rankings**

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