Snaps- The Redskins utilized 18 of the 26 defenders on the roster over the course of 78 defensive snaps on Sunday, the third most snaps by the defense this season.
Of the 8 defenders who didn’t play 4 were inactive (Ziggy Hood, Zach Brown, Ryan Anderson and DeAngelo Hall) and another 4 worked solely on special teams (Otha Peters, Joshua Holsey, Fabian Moreau and Fish Smithson).
Opening Drive Points- The Giants’ scored on their second offensive play of the day. This was only the fourth contest all season in which the defense allowed an opening-drive score; Washington lost all four of those games (0-4). On the flip side, the Redskins were 7-5 when they didn’t allow their opponent to score points on the first drive.
Points- The Redskins allowed 18 points on Sunday, which marks the third consecutive game in which they’ve allowed under 20 points. That wasn’t good enough to help their overall 2017 ranking, though.
Washington allowed 388 total points this season, which ranked 27th in the league. Not many people would’ve expected the team to drop 8 spots from their 19th-place finish last season (383).
QB Pressure- The Redskins’ pass rush was only able to apply pressure on 7 of Eli Manning’s 30 dropbacks (23%). They only actually hit Manning twice in the entire game. However, they did record two sacks. Those numbers are not indicative of how strong the defense was in this area in 2017.
The Redskins finished the season ranked 7th in sacks (42), 7th in sack percentage (7.3%), 4th in adjusted sack rate (8.0%) and 1st in pressure rate (37.7%).
Those are some truly impressive numbers for a highly underrated pass-rushing unit.
Passing Yards- The Giants gained 121 yards through the air on Sunday. It was the third consecutive game the Skins held an enemy passing attack to under 200 yards. The last time they accomplished this feat was in 2009.
This was the second fewest passing yards allowed by the Redskins in a loss in the last 10 years. The lowest? Well, that came just over a month ago when the Cowboys beat the Redskins by 24 despite only passing for 94 yards.
The Washington defense ranked 9th in passing yardage allowed (3,420), 10th in passer rating against (81.0) and 16th in yards per attempt (7.0).
Tight End Defense- Giants’ tight ends Rhett Ellison and Jerell Adams combined to catch 5-of-9 targets for 63 yards and 4 first downs; although, Ellison was the one who was responsible for all of the production.
Ellison was responsible for 50% of the Giants’ catches, 48% of their receiving yards and 57% of the team’s passing first downs. When a guy named Rhett Ellison does that to your defense you know you have a problem defending against tight ends.
The Washington defense allowed tight ends to catch 79 receptions for 970 yards and 8 touchdowns this season. Those are numbers ranked 7th, 4th and 7th worst in the NFL this season, respectively.
I wish I could say I was surprised, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are the team’s yardage rankings against the position from 2011 to 2016: 6th worst, worst, 11th worst, 4th worst, 7th worst and worst.
Dear Jay, Greg, Bruce, Doug, Scott and Eric: Please do something to address this problem.
3rd Down- Eli and the G-Men moved the chains on just 4 of their 16 plays on third down (25%). They only needed to gain 3 yards on three of the four third downs they converted.
The Burgundy and Gold have only given up first downs on 13 of the last 52 third downs they’ve faced (also 25%). If you look all the way back to Week 11, opponents have only picked up conversions on 32 of their 107 third downs (30%).
The Redskins’ third-down conversion rate allowed of 36.7% on the season ranked 9th in the NFL. The team ranked dead last on the money down in 2016 with a historically awful 46.6% against.
This was one of the front office and coaching staff’s biggest priorities last offseason. You may not be able to in any other regard, but you have to give the Redskins’ brass major props for this.
Red Zone- The defense only gave up 1 touchdown on New York’s 4 trips to the red zone.
They only allowed their opponents to convert on more than half of their red zone appearances five times this season. Their record in those games was 1-4.
Overall, the Burgundy and Gold’s 50.9% red-zone success rate ranked 13th in the NFL, which constitutes a massive improvement over the 59.3% clip and 26th-place ranking from last season.
The Redskins focus on improving on third down and in the red zone (on both defense and offense) paid off in a major way this season. That’s great and all, but I really wish they would have taken the same care to address their rushing defense woes. The fact that they didn’t really shows.
Rushing Defense- Wow. I mean what else can you say when the 29th ranked rushing offense in the league blows your doors off to the tune of 260 rushing yards, 8 first downs and a touchdown on 44 attempts (5.9)? The yardage and attempt totals were both season worsts for the Skins’ D. The 5.9 YPC average against the team was only bested by the Saints and their historic 2017 RB duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.
New York gained 10-plus yards on three rushes and ran for 5 or more yards a whopping 16 times. One of those big runs was a 75-yard Orleans Darkwa touchdown on the second play from scrimmage in the game. That was the longest run of the year allowed by the Redskins.
It was the first time anyone in the league scored on a play from scrimmage that gained 75-plus yards in the first 17 seconds of a game since Jamaal Charles did it 2012.
This was just the second 100-yard game for Darkwa in his four years as a pro. His 154 rushing yards in the game bested his old career high by 37 yards (117). Rookie Wayne Gallman also set a new personal record with 89 rushing yards. This was the Giants’ best day on the ground in terms of yardage since 2008 (361 yards) and their best performance in this regard since at least 1940 and probably of all time.
The Redskins gave up 11 100-yard games to opponents this season (tied for 3rd most in the NFL), with 10 of those games taking place in the last 11 weeks. Jonathan Allen was placed on injured reserve the week before that stretch began (MESSAGE!). They allowed 183 rushing yards per game in their final five games and a 158 yards-per-game clip in the last 10 weeks of the year.
The 2,146 yards and 4.55 YPC average they gave up on the ground this season represents their 4th worst showings in both departments in the last 20 years.
I’ll wrap this sad story up by giving you their rankings in rushing defense one more time: last in rushing yards (2,146), 29th in YPC average (4.5), 18th in rushing touchdowns (18), 28th in rushing first downs (105), 22nd in first down percentage (22.2%), 29th in rushing DVOA, last in adjusted line yards allowed (4.91) and last in success rate allowed (53%). Like I said, wow.
Matt Ioannidis- Matt Ioannidis started his 10th game this season and led the DL corps in snaps for the 9th time. No defensive line played more snaps in 2017 for the Redskins than Ioannidis did.
Matty I recorded 3 solo and 4 total tackles in the game. He hurried Manning on 3 of his 16 pass rushes. All of Washington’s other linemen combined to generate just 1 pressure. His 46 pressures this season rank 2nd on team and 11th among all interior defenders.
This 2016 5th rounder is another Scot McCloughan gem. He should remain as a fixture on the Washington defensive line for at least the next two seasons (2020 UFA).
Anthony Lanier- Anthony Lanier started for the second time in the last three weeks and in his career, but negative game script limited him to just a 49% snap share.
The lengthy UDFA defensive end made 1 tackle in the game and failed to record a pressure for the first time since Week 7. This was only the second game all year he has been used as a pass rusher and he didn’t generate at least 1 pressure.
Lanier was active in other ways, though. He blocked an extra point following the Giants’ first touchdown. That was the first blocked XP by a Redskin since Kedric Golston blocked a Cardinals point-after attempt in Week 7 of the 2007 season.
He deflected a Manning pass on a 3rd-and-4 play. That was his sixth pass defense of the year. Lanier finished the year by recording at least one PD in each of his last four contests. He led all Redskins’ non-DBs in pass defenses and ranked 6th among NFL D-linemen in this regard.
Lanier’s 5 sacks this season ranked 3rd on the team, only Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan had more.
This was truly a breakout year for the 24-year-old out of Alabama A&M. He set new career highs in almost every single statistic and was one of the team’s most productive linemen against the pass. Amazingly, he accomplished all of that despite not playing a single snap until Week 8.
He is under contract for just $630K next season and is slated to be a restricted free agent in the 2019 offseason.
A.J. Francis- Francis was signed to a futures deal almost a year ago to the day and he actually played a significant amount this season, including the career-high 44 defensive snaps that he was in on against the Giants in Week 17 (56% snap share). In fact, his snap total was 16 higher than his 2015 and 2016 season-long totals combined (44 to 28). Francis doubled his games played total this season as well (6 to 3).
The former Maryland Terrapin also set new career marks in solo (2), assisted (4) and total tackles (6) recorded in a game. He had only made 12 tackles in the pros coming into the game. Francis hurried Manning once, which gave him his fourth pressure of the year (3 hurries and 1 hit).
The journeyman DL may be worth using as the final player off the bench in 2018. He will certainly face fierce competition for that role if he even gets a chance at it in the first place.
Stacy McGee- Stacy McGee inexplicably only played on 22% of the defensive snaps in New York, which was easily his lowest snap rate of his 16-game 2017 campaign. McGee still set a new career high in snaps (431) despite his reduced playing time this week. His 10 starts on the year were tied for the most by a Redskins DL.
He recorded 1 solo tackle on a Giants’ rush that gained 2 yards on first down. His 24 solo, 20 assisted and 44 total tackles were all career highs for the fifth-year lineman out of Oklahoma. He actually made more tackles in 2017 than he did in his last three seasons combined (44 to 43).
If only McGee was as good at rushing the passer as he is at making tackle; alas, he just isn’t a great player in this regard. He didn’t pressure Manning on any of his 8 rushes in the game. He failed to record a single sack all year and generated pressure on just 13 dropbacks by opposing passers.
McGee is not cheap, but the soon-to-be 28-year-old interior defender is definitely worth keeping around for another year or two.
Terrell McClain- McClain played 34 snaps against the Giants, his third highest total of the season. The Redskins’ most expensive defensive lineman missed four games, only started twice and was on the field for just 327 defensive snaps this year. Those figures rank 4th, 4th and 5th among all Redskins D-linemen, respectively.
McClain only made 1 solo tackle on Sunday and didn’t generate any pressures on his 12 pass-rushing snaps. His tackle in the game was his first since Week 9 (5 at Seattle) and was just his 20th takedown of the year.
Week 9 was also the last time McClain registered a QB pressure (1 sack). Before that, you have to go all the way back to Week 4 (at Kansas City) to find the last time he hit or pressured a quarterback. He recorded a minuscule 6 total pressures on the team, which ranks 6th among the team’s linemen.
Washington would save $3.5M by cutting McClain (post June 1st designation) before his upcoming age-30 season. There are only five players on the team who they could save more money by moving on from. This is a move the front office should seriously consider making.
Ziggy Hood- Evander Hood sat out the season finale against the Giants with a broken elbow. The 30-year-old former 1st-round pick led all Skins D-lineman in games played (15) and starts (13) this season. Only Matt Ioannidis saw more snaps on defense (584 to 537), and Ioannidis needed this game to finally pass Hood.
Yet, despite all of that playing time he only recorded a half sack, 14 total pressures, 25 tackles 0 PDs and 0 turnover-forcing plays.
I stated a different version of this next point last week, but it bears repeating: Hood’s Pro Football Focus grade of 38.5 ranks dead last among the site’s 124 qualifying interior defenders. He is the lowest graded player on the entire defense.
The Redskins can save $1.25M in cap space by moving on from Ziggy Hood. They should replace him, take the money and run.
Ryan Kerrigan (Iron Man)- The seventh-year OLB started in his 112th consecutive game on Sunday. The only players in the league with longer active streaks are Jason Witten (222), Philip Rivers (192), Brandon Carr (160), Matt Ryan (158) and Glover Quinn (132). Matthew Stafford and Patrick Peterson have also started in 112 consecutive contests.
Peterson, Kerrigan, Carr, Deon Grant, James Laurinaitis and Tony Parrish are the only players in NFL history who have started all 16 games in each of their first seven seasons in the league. The 16-game schedule was first used in the 1978 season.
No player has played in or started more games for the Redskins in the last decade than Kerrigan has.
Ryan Kerrigan (Pass Rushing)- The Heartbreak Kid scored 2 sacks on Eli Manning in Sunday’s game. This was Kerrigan’s second consecutive outing with 2.0 or more sacks. That is a career first for the veteran pass rusher, and it’s the first time a Redskin has accomplished this feat since Andre Carter did it in 2009.
The 2 sacks brought his total on the year to 13, which gives him two seasons with 13 or more sacks in his career (13.5 in 2014). Dexter Manley is the only other player in franchise history who has posted multiple 13-plus sack seasons in his career (3). This was the fifth season Kerrigan has led the team in sacks, which ties Manley for the most such seasons in team history.
He also led the team in total QB pressures this season (64), a number that ranked 16th best in the NFL.
Kerrigan officially finished tied for 4th in the NFL in sacks (his best ranking ever), but Pro Football Focus has him with 18 sacks, which ranks 1st in the entire league. PFF does not count half sacks as 0.5, and instead gives full credit for them, which is the main reason why he takes such a major jump in their rankings. A recent study on 2017 sack quality found that the Skins’ top defender led the entire NFL with 12 “quality” sacks.
Oh wait, we’re not even done with his accomplishments from Sunday’s game. He forced 2 holding penalties, earned the second best PFF grade on the team (84.1) and forced a fumble. That was Ryan Kerrigan’s 22nd career forced fumble, a figure which ranks 1st (tied with Cliff Avril and Von Miller) in the NFL since 2011 when he entered the league and 1st in the history of the Redskins’ franchise.
The veteran LB sits at 71.5 sacks going into his age-30 season. He trails Dexter Manley by 26 sacks for the unofficial franchise record (97.5). Kerrigan is under contract with the team through the 2020 season, so there’s a good chance he will have three years to hit that number.
Preston Smith- Smith made his 16th start of the year on Sunday. He recorded 2 solo and 3 total tackles in the game, but was shutout as a pass rusher over the course of his 19 rushes. Smith only failed to register at least 1 QB pressure in one other 2017 contest (Week 7 at Philadelphia).
Smith made up for it by intercepting an Eli Manning pass and returning the pick 8 yards to the New York 20-yard line. The Redskins scored their only touchdown of the game two plays later. It was Smith’s second interception of the year, which is a new career high for him.
He is the first Washington linebacker with multiple picks in a season since Perry Riley recorded 2 picks in 2015. Outside linebacker Rob Jackson had 4 interceptions in 2012. Smith is the only player in team history to have notched 8 or more sacks in the same season he recorded multiple interceptions in.
Preston Smith officially bounced back from his 2016 sophomore slump. His 39 total pressures, 10 TFLs and 8 sacks ranked 3rd, 3rd and 2nd on the team this season, respectively.
If he is not extended he will hit the open market next Spring in the prime of his career (26-years-old). You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think he is going to cost a ton of money to retain.
Junior Galette- The walk-year edge rusher finished his 2017 season and possibly his 3-year stint in Washington on a down note.
Galette played on his fifth highest snap total and percentage of the year, but only managed to record 1 tackle in the game, a TFL for a loss of 2 yards. He didn’t generate any pressure on his 12 pass rushes. This was the first time Galette failed to record a QB pressure since Week 13.
His 37 total pressures on the year ranked fourth on the team. He only trailed Preston Smith by 2, despite getting a chance to rush the quarterback 102 fewer times.
Galette has speed around the edge and an ability to bend that Preston Smith, and few others other possess, but this doesn’t mean he should’ve expected to step in after coming off of two major injures and out-snap an inconsistent, yet productive player who is four-and-a-half years younger than he is. Everything I’ve heard Galette has said indicates that he seems to think otherwise.
Perhaps, if more of Galette’s pressures resulted in a higher sack total than 3, he would have received more PT, but that is not what happened. I really like Galette and it’d be great if the Skins could find a way to bring him back on a reasonably priced deal, but I just don’t see it happening.
The nearly 30-year-old edge rusher will likely look to earn a big payday this offseason on what will probably be his last NFL contract. Look for the Redskins to try to re-sign the injured Trent Murphy to a 1-year prove-it deal the same way they did with Galette 3 seasons ago.
Pete Robertson- This was Pete Robertson’s fourth NFL game and the third contest in which he played on the defensive side of the ball.
Robertson didn’t play much (5 snaps), but he was around the ball when he was out there. He missed a tackle and assisted on the Giants’ final non-kneel-down play of the game, a 21-yard rush to the 1-yard line. Robertson wasn’t used as a pass rusher or in coverage.
His season ended with 2 total tackles and 1 pressure (a hit). He also recorded 2 special teams tackles (1 solo and 1 assist).
The Redskins have the ability to hold on to the 2016 UDFA for two more seasons at the low price of $600K APY if they want to.
Ryan Anderson- Ryan Anderson’s season did in fact end two weeks ago against the Cardinals. He was inactive for each of the last two contests of the year.
In his rookie season, the Alabama product only made 11 solo, 14 total tackles and 1 TFL on the year. He failed to record a single sack and pressured opposing signal callers a total of just 4 times. He didn’t even record a sack or a hit in his lone preseason performance.
Anderson was also unable to record any forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, interceptions or pass defenses. He allowed both the targets thrown his way to be caught for a loss of 1 yard.
I know he was only a rookie, but you expect a lot more from a 23-year-old 2nd rounder who played at Alabama for four seasons.
Zach Vigil- Zach Vigil is an absolute tackling machine. He recorded a game-high 14 total tackles (6 solo and a career-high 8 assists). This was the second straight 14-tackle game for the third-year UDFA. And he could’ve had 2 more tackles if he didn’t whiff on them.
Vigil ranked 2nd in both solo tackles (31) and total tackles (45) between Weeks 14 and 17; he was only bested by Kwon Alexander (34 solo tackles) and Sean Lee (49 total tackles) in those departments during the final four weeks of the season.
In typical Zach fashion (it doesn’t matter if it’s Vigil or Brown), he fared much worse in coverage. Vigil was tied for a team-high in targets against (6), receptions allowed (2) and first downs allowed (2). He defended a pass on a red-zone third down that he had a chance to record an interception on; that play would’ve prevented a Giants’ field goal.
Another big play could’ve occurred when Wayne Gallman beat Vigil deep down the sideline, but dropped the pass on what would’ve been a 20-yard-plus reception.
Zach Vigil nearly started in more games (6) and played on more defensive snaps (392) than Mason Foster and Will Compton did combined (7 starts and 437 snaps). Why sign either Foster or Compton, who are both turning 29 this year, to multi-million dollar deals when you can get relatively the same production from the 27-year-old Vigil next season for a cap hit of just $705K.
The Redskins should re-sign Zach Brown, add a linebacker in the draft and pair those two with the trio of Zach Vigil, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Martrell Spaight.
Martrell Spaight- Spaight got in on the tackling action with a game-high tying 9 solo and 13 total tackles of his own, both of which tied the career highs he set last year against the Panthers (Week 15). He finished the year with a career-best 69 combined tackles, the third highest total on the team.
Unfortunately, Spaight also missed a team-worst 4 tackles against the Giants, one of which came on Orleans Darkwa’s 75-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage. No player on the team has missed more tackles than Spaight has this year (13).
He allowed 1 of the 2 targets thrown his way to be completed for a 12-yard first down. He was okay in coverage on Sunday, but he was quite inefficient in that regard this season. The third-year inside backer out of Arkansas gave up 28 receptions and 295 yards on just 196 snaps in coverage.
In 2017, Martrell Spaight at least doubled his previous career totals in games played, starts, snaps, pass defenses, fumble recoveries, solo tackles, assisted tackles and total tackles. He is about to enter the final year of his rookie deal.
Josh Harvey-Clemons- Josh Harvey-Clemons was on the field for just 11 defensive snaps against the Giants this past Sunday, but certainly made the most of the opportunities he had.
JHC made two solo tackles for the third consecutive week, with one of those resulting in a loss of yardage for New York’s offense. He recorded 11 tackles and a half sack this season.
Harvey-Clemons allowed 1 reception on the 2 targets thrown in his coverage, an 11-yard first down to Paul Perkins. The Redskins used their second-to-last pick of the 2017 draft the same way they used their second pick of the 2016 draft (Su’a Cravens): as a coverage linebacker. Of JHC’s 94 rookie-year snaps, 56 of them came in coverage.
The former safety registered a PD and only gave up 6 receptions for 42 yards and 3 first downs on his 55 coverage snaps this season (11 targets).
Otha Peters- Otha Peters was with the team for three games, but never played on defense in his rookie season. However, his special teams playing time did increase each week (15 > 18 > 25). He made 1 solo teams tackle in each of the last two weeks.
Peters only recorded 63 tackles, 2 PDs, a half sack, a half TFL and 0 turnovers between his freshman and sophomore years at Arkansas. He was unsurprisingly much better at Louisiana-Lafayette as a Junior and Senior (161 tackles, 17 TFLs, 2 sacks, 4 PDs, 2 FRs and 1 FF).
So he produced as an upperclassman, but he did it at a small school. Peters is also a poor athlete (13.4% pSPARQ percentile) and is old for a rookie; he turns 24 next month. I don’t see him sticking despite the fact that he is under contract for the next two seasons.
Zach Brown- Brown did not play for the third straight game, but he still ended up with the fifth most starts and the fourth most snaps on the Redskins’ defense.
ZB somehow still finished the year ranked 9th in total tackles (127). He was tied for an NFL best eight games with double-digit tackles (Joe Schobert and Blake Martinez) and led the entire league in total tackles per game (9.8). Sean Lee was second in tackles per game, but he averaged more than 0.5 fewer takedowns per contest than Brown did (9.2).
Brown was fantastic as a tackler, but he did have his share of lapses in this department. He tied Martell Spaight for the team lead in missed tackles (13). This wasn’t his biggest issue, though.
Coverage is the only area that Brown truly needs to focus on improving. He allowed team high totals in receptions (47), receiving yards (482) and receiving TDs (5). The aforementioned 5 TDs allowed is tied for dead last at the position. Don’t forget it only took him 13 games to hit these numbers, too. Not only did Brown not intercept a single pass in 2017, he only defended 2 passes all year.
Zach Brown earned PFF’s 10th best run defense grade among all inside backers (87.7) and the site’s 2nd worst coverage grade at the position (33.4). I know the way the Redskins use their linebackers in coverage makes it easier for opposing offenses to cover them, but these numbers are just too terrible to ignore.
Nevertheless, re-signing the uber-athletic 2018 free agent should be the front office’s top priority on the defensive side of the ball.
Josh Norman- Josh Norman made his 14th start of the year at the left cornerback spot. He played on at least 90% of the snaps in 13 of those contests. His 900 snaps from scrimmage rank 2nd on the defense and 4th on the entire club.
He made 3 solo and 5 total tackles on the day. Norman ranks 3rd and 4th on the Redskins in solo and total tackles this year. He ranked tied for 13th at the cornerback position in total tackles.
Norman has recorded 50 total tackles in every season he has played the majority of the games in. He forced multiple fumbles on his tackles for the third consecutive season, as well.
J-No, who allowed an average of 69 receiving yards in coverage between Weeks 10 and 14, continued his quest for redemption in this game. He only let his receiving counterparts on the Giants catch 2-of-4 targets for 13 yards and 0 first downs. Josh Norman also defended a third-down pass, a pass that he probably could’ve picked off just outside of the Giants’ red zone.
He finished the last three games of the year by only giving up a total of 3 receptions for 23 yards in them. I’d say he effectively bounced back from his mid-season slump.
Only two players who went out in coverage on more than 160 passing snaps were targeted less often than Norman was this season, but that didn’t stop enemy QBs and receivers from putting up 30 receptions for 477 yards and 3 touchdowns against the veteran cornerback. The resulting 114.1 passer rating on balls thrown in his coverage ranked 10th worst at the position.
That number would have been significantly lower if he had intercepted just a couple of passes; alas, J-No did not intercept a single pass. I know he wasn’t targeted much, but this is still just insane for several reasons:
- Josh Norman carried the highest cap hit by a cornerback this season ($20M) and the 9th biggest cap charge regardless of position. He also had the 2nd highest cap number on the Redskins’ roster.
- He got his hands on at least 9 passes (9 PDs), including one in this game.
- Norman is one of just eight players in the NFL who have defended 8 or more passes without recording a single interception this year. There aren’t a lot of likeable names on this list: Eli Apple, Nigel Bradham, T.J. Carrie, D.J. Hayden, Doaree Jackson, Logan Ryan and Jamar Taylor.
- There were 231 players who recorded an interception in 2017 and 9 of them were on the Redskins.
- 56 of those players were linebackers or defensive linemen. Even Keenan Allen had an interception.
It’s pretty plain to see Norman hasn’t been the playmaker that most were expecting him to be for the Redskins. But that doesn’t mean he’s been some kind of anchor weighing down the defense, either. He is still a very good player, which is exactly what he was for the team in 2017.
But just how long will his body hold up as he enters his age-31 campaign in 2018? Will Josh Norman still be worth cap hits in excess of $15M in the final two years of his deal when he is 32 and 33-years-old? If not, then who will replace him?
Bashaud Breeland- In all likelihood, the answer to my last question will not be Bashaud Breeland. Multiple reports indicate that this was probably Breeland’s last game with the team. If so, he went out on a high note.
His 90.1 PFF grade for the game ranked 1st on the team and 4th among all cornerbacks this week.
Breeland made 2 tackles (1 solo) and defended a team-high 3 passes against the Giants. No surprises here, breaking up passes is what Breeland does best. He led the team with a career-high 19 PDs this season, which are 9 more than 2nd place had (Fuller and Swearinger). BB has actually led the squad in pass defenses in three of his four years in the league.
Those 19 PDs had Breeland ranked 5th in the entire NFL this season. His 59 career broken up passes rank 4th in the league since he became a pro in 2014 (Josh Norman is right behind him with 57).
He is not just some riverboat gambler who either gets deep or makes a play on the ball; Breeland has the ability to lock his man down, and he showed that again this week. The Clemson product did not allow a single reception on his 30 coverage snaps. He was targeted on 3 passes, but like I said, he defended all of them. This was the seventh time in 2017 he has allowed 16 or fewer yards in his coverage.
He bounced back from a 2016 season in which he gave up 500-plus yards and 5 TDs in 14 games, by only allowing 397 and 3 this past year. He only intercepted a career-low 1 pass, but unlike someone else we know at least he got on the board in this regard.
Bashaud Breeland’s play-making ability will be missed if he moves on from Washington. Part of me even wants to make an argument to keep him over Norman. He is almost a full four years younger and he would probably be cheaper; however, I just don’t see it happening. All signs (drafting of Fuller and Moreau, Dunbar’s new deal, off-the-field issues, media reports, etc.) point to Breeland being on a new team in 2018.
Kendall Fuller- Fuller had one of his worst games in coverage Sunday, which is the second time that I’ve had to say this in the past three weeks.
He was targeted 6 times on his 24 coverage snaps and gave up 2 receptions and 2 first downs for a season-worst 45 receiving yards. He also allowed the player he was covering to score a touchdown for just the second time in 2017. The main issue here is the players who caught those passes against Fuller (Travis Rudolph and Hunter Sharp) had only played a combined total of 220 offensive snaps coming into the game.
His subpar showing against the Giants shouldn’t detract much from Kendall Fuller’s fantastic sophomore season. His interception and pass defense totals of 4 and 10 were tied for 1st and 2nd on the team (both with D.J. Swearinger). His 54 total tackles ranked 6th among Redskins’ defenders.
Fuller finished the year with a top-10 ranking among all cornerbacks in both passer rating allowed (7th/56.7) and yards per coverage snap allowed (10th/0.78).
The sky is the limit for Kendall Fuller as he enters his age-23 season in 2018.
Quinton Dunbar- Quinton Dunbar only played on 3 defensive snaps this week, which brings him to a total of just 30 snaps in Weeks 15-17. The only stat the third-year corner had in the game was a solo special teams tackle. Dunbar only recorded 1 total defensive tackle since Week 15; he also wasn’t been targeted on his 16 coverage snaps in that span.
He allowed 20 targets for 281 yards on his 208 coverage snaps. He picked off 1 pass for the third straight season, and even more impressively, he did not give up a single receiving touchdown all year. Of the nine players on the team with 170 or more coverage snaps, Dunbar is the only one of them who did not allow a touchdown.
Dunbar set new career highs in games played (15), starts (4), defensive snaps (371), pass defenses (8), solo tackles (24), assisted tackles (4) and total tackles this season (28). He was due to become an unrestricted free agent until the team signed him to a 3-year deal worth $10.5M ($5.25M guaranteed and a $3M signing bonus).
That is a great deal for an ascending player who has only played the cornerback position for three years and is still 25-years-old, especially considering that Bashaud Breeland likely just played his last game for the Redskins. If you’re a betting man you’d have to put your money on Dunbar beating out our next player for the right to start opposite of Josh Norman in 2018.
Fabian Moreau- Fabian Moreau has all the athletic talent in the world, but it wasn’t enough to earn him significant playing time on defense as a rookie. His relative athletic score of 9.98 ranks 3rd out of a list of over 1,200 cornerbacks (Marshaon Lattimore and Darrelle Revis are 1st and 2nd), but he only played a total of 59 defensive snaps for Greg Manusky in 2017.
Part of the problem was that quarterbacks picked on Moreau when he was out there. He allowed enemy receivers to catch 7 of the 10 targets thrown in his coverage for 132 yards and a touchdown over the course of just 48 coverage snaps. The rookie CB was at least able to make an impact on special teams (see below).
Moreua is basically the defense’s version of WR Robert Davis, the difference is that Moreua is younger, he went to a legitimate Power 5 school and he was more productive in college.
The former UCLA Bruin missed the majority of the offseason program as he recovered from a torn pec, so it’s understandable for him not to play much as a rookie. With Bashaud Breeland likely gone and Josh Norman entering his age-31 season, the Redskins must unleash Moreau next season so they can find out whether or not all of his talent will translate into success at the NFL level.
Joshua Holsey- Washington’s final pick of the 2017 draft only played on 10 defensive snaps all season long (5 snaps each in Weeks 6 and 7). He did play 227 snaps on special teams, the fourth highest total on the team.
Holsey recovered one of Jamison Crowder’s fumbles on a punt return and made two solo specials tackles.
He will likely stick with the team next season as Kendall Fuller’s backup at slot CB, which is where Holsey played 7 of his 10 defensive snaps this year.
D.J. Swearinger- D.J. Swearinger started for the 16th and final time this season and played on 100% of the snaps. He was one of only six players on the team, three of which play on defense, to have started every game. Swearinger only missed 3 defensive snaps all year. He led the entire team in both snaps from scrimmage (1,091) and total snaps (1,176).
The veteran safety from South Carolina tied a game-high with 9 solo tackles and led all defensive backs with 11 total tackles (tied Adrian Amos) in Week 17; both figures were new career highs.
His 79 total tackles on the season represented a new personal single-season record for Swearinger. He ranked 15th among all safeties in tackles in 2017. He was not perfect as a tackler, though. His one miss in the game came on the Orlean Darkwa 75-yard touchdown.
Swearinger forced his first fumble of the season (6th career) on a Giants’ running play, but Wayne Gallman recovered it.
He was targeted twice on the day, but only surrendered 1 reception for 16 yards and a first down. Although, the pass that was not caught was dropped in the end zone by Jerell Adams.
Swearinger did pick off a career-high 4 passes this season, but that doesn’t totally absolve him for some of his mistakes in coverage. He was responsible for allowing 4 passing touchdowns, which ranked 11th worst among all safeties and 2nd worst on the Redskins’ defense.
Swearinger was very active against the Giants. He also returned a blocked extra point and was flagged for a tripping penalty. His 86.3 PFF grade for the game ranked 3rd on the team.
The fiery safety carries cap hits of $4.3M and $5M in 2018 and 2019, which are his age-27 and 28 seasons. This means the Redskins won’t have to pay that much to hold on to Swearinger through what should be the prime years of his career.
Deshazor Everett- Deshazor Everett finished the year by starting in his career-high eighth game and playing on over 90% of the snaps for the seventh time this season. Everett had never started or played on more than half of the defensive snaps prior to 2017. In fact, he played 511 more snaps this season than he had in his first two years in the league combined (587 to 76).
He recorded a career-high 7 solo and 10 total tackles on Sunday in New York. Everett actually recorded more tackles in this game than he did in his first two years in the league combined (9 total tackles from 2015-2016). He did, however, miss 2 tackles in the running game, his 8th and 9th MTs of 2017.
The third-year safety scored the first QB hit of his career when he rocked Eli Manning on a 3rd-and-10 pass that would fall incomplete.
Everett played well in coverage, too. He defended a 3rd-down pass thrown at Rhett Ellison (his 5th PD of the season), was only targeted once and only gave up a non-chain-moving 5-yard reception on the play. This season he gave up 13 receptions for 176 yards and 2 TDs on 295 coverage snaps and 23 targets. Unfortunately, he did not pick off any passes all year (1 career INT).
Deshazor Everett is scheduled to be a restricted free agent in the Spring. Everett has only played safety for a couple of years and he doesn’t turn 26 until next month; his best football is likely still ahead of him.
At worst, he can be counted on to be a key backup and special teams player. The team should either tender him or sign him to a modestly-priced deal like they did with Quinton Dunbar.
Fish Smithson- Anthony “Fish” Smithson didn’t play on defense in what was his second NFL game. His only defensive snaps of the year came last week against the Broncos (4 snaps).
The only stat the rookie UDFA recorded this season was an assisted special teams tackle against Denver. In the preseason, the man they call Fish did get an interception, make 7 total tackles and register a solo special teams tackle.
Smithson also made plays in college. While at Kansas he made a total of 253 tackles and recorded 6 interceptions, 17 PDs, 3 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.
He played well in college and the preseason, but he’ll have to do even more in order to overcome his UDFA status and his limitations as an athlete (13.1% pSPARQ percentile) if he hopes to make a similar impact at the NFL level.
Smithson is cheaply under contract with the team through the 2019 season. He is scheduled to be an RFA in 2020.
DeAngelo Hall- Sunday’s game against the Giants marks what will very likely go down as DeAngelo Hall’s final game on the sidelines as an NFL player.
Unfortunately, he was inactive for the game. I totally understand why the coaches did this, but I don’t agree with it, either. Why not make Manasseh Garner, who didn’t play at all, or someone else like that, inactive and honor Hall by giving him at least a few snaps on special teams? I suppose this is just not this team’s style. Anyway, let’s put that aside and try to give Hall a proper sendoff.
DeAngelo Hall has been with the Washington Redskins for 10 seasons, which makes him easily the longest tenured player on the team. He played 107 games and made 97 starts for the Burgundy and Gold since they signed him in midway through the 2008 season.
Hall ranks 3rd in both games played and started by a Redskin in the last decade; Ryan Kerrigan is the only current Skins’ player with both more games and starts under his belt during that time period.
Hall finishes his 14-year and 165-game career with 140 pass defenses, 43 interceptions, 835 interception return yards and 5 pick sixes. Those numbers rank 13th, 63rd, 20th and 31st in NFL history. No active player has intercepted more passes or scored more non-offensive touchdowns than Hall has.
His 23 interceptions and 82 pass defenses with the team rank 10th and 1st in team history (PD data only dates back to 2001).
Darrell Green is the only player in franchise history who has scored more defensive touchdowns with the Redskins than Hall has (8 to 6 in favor of Green). DeAngelo Hall is the only player in the history of the NFL to have ever returned 5 interceptions and 5 fumbles for touchdowns.
He also made 811 total tackles, recorded 2 sacks, forced 11 fumbles, recovered 15 fumbles and returned 5 of those fumbles for touchdowns. He was named to 3 Pro Bowls (1 with the Redskins) and won 2 Player of the Week awards, one of which came when he tied an NFL single-game record with 4 interceptions (tied with 12 other players) against the Bears in Week 7 of the 2010 season.
It would have been nice if Hall could’ve played more in the last few years - he missed 41 of his last 64 possible games - but a DB struggling to stay healthy after he turns 30 shouldn’t shock anyone, either.
DeAngelo Hall has expressed interest in coaching or working in a front office role; I selfishly hope that his first job will be with the Washington Redskins.
ALL DEFENSIVE PLAYERS
Snaps- Ben Kotwica called on 35 of the team’s 46 active players to work on his special teams unit over the course of 31 snaps against the Giants. The group of 35 was made up of 19 defenders, 13 offensive players and 3 specialists.
Fabian Moreau and Pete Robertson tied for the team lead in ST snaps, with 28 of them each. This was the seventh time that Moreau led the squad in specials snaps this season. He played on more special teams snaps (349) than any other Redskin this season. His 7 total ST tackles were tied for 2nd on the team.
Niles Paul, JHC and Otha Peters were tied for the second most specials snaps against the Giants.
Kick Coverage- Peters made his third teams tackle of the year when he stopped a 4-yard punt return at the New York 25.
Quinton Dunbar scored a solo specials tackle of his own on a return that saw Kalif Raymond go backwards 1 yard to the Giants’ 31-yard line. Dunbar finished the year ranked second on the Redskins in solo ST stops (6).
Harvey-Clemons ended an 11-yard punt return at the 24, which was his fifth tackle for Ben Kotwica’s unit in 2017.
Zach Vigil somehow led the entire game in both defensive and special teams tackles. He made two teams takedowns: on a muffed return which went for no gain and another return that Raymond gained 17. The tackles on those plays were made at the New York 17 and 37, respectively. Those were his 3rd and 4th ST stops in 2017.
Deshazor Everett did not make a special teams tackle in this game, but he still deserves some love. Everett led the club with 10 total and solo special teams tackles. His 10 solos rank 11th in the whole NFL. The safety has led the Redskins in solo special teams tackles in each of his three years in the league. He’s led Washington in total specials tackles in two of his three years; he came in 2nd last season.
Dustin Hopkins- Hopkins made his first field goal of the day, a season-long 49-yarder, but missed on a 47-yard attempt. That snapped his streak of consecutive field goals made at 11. Hopkins went 14-of-17 on the year, with all three of his misses coming from 47 or more yards out.
His 82.4% field goal percentage ranked 22nd among the 36 kickers with at least 10 attempts. Former Redskin and current L.A. Charger Nick Rose (78.6%) is 26th on the list. Hopkins has hit on 73 of 87 attempts since becoming the Skins’ full-time placekicker in 2015. That 83.9% clip ranks 20th among the 32 players who have kicked 50 or more times since 2015.
He hit on his only extra-point try against the Giants and booted touchbacks on both of his kickoffs. Dustin Hopkins 72.5% touchback rate ranks 6th among all kickers with 40 or more kickoffs. That sounds good, but it’s actually not. Kickers should actually encourage returners to field their kicks by placing them just outside of the end zone instead of trying to give them the free 25 yards every time.
The myriad of touchbacks did allow the Redskins to set a new team record for the fewest kickoff return yards allowed in s season (448 yards).
Hopkins is schedule to hit free agency in a few months.
Tress Way- Tress way was extremely busy on Sunday. He set new career highs in number of punts (9), punting yards (426) and net yards (395).
He also tied a career high with 4 punts inside the 20. His 33 such punts is tied for the third most in the NFL this season and the most by a Redskin in team history (data dating back to 1976). Matt Turk put 33 punts inside his opponents’ 20-yard lines in 1998.
Way’s 40% touchback rate was the 11th best clip in the NFL this past season.
Punt Returns- Jamison Crowder returned 3 of Brad Wing’s 9 punts and posted new season highs in both return yards (46) and return average (15.3). Most of his yardage came on a season-long 29-yard return, his longest return since his 85-yard score in Week 5 of last season against the Ravens. He hadn’t recorded more than 24 return yards and an average over 9.0 all season.
His numbers from Sunday only moved his season-long figures up to 171 yards and yards-per-punt average of 6.3. He ranks 22nd and 23rd in the NFL in those statistics this season. That’s quite a drastic drop from his 2016 performance as a punt returner. He ranked in the top-4 in return yards and average last season.
We also can’t forget Jamison Crowder fumbled the ball a career-worst 6 times this season, and that 5 of those fumbles/muffs came on punt returns. Only two non-quarterbacks fumbled more than Crowder did in 2017. Jalen Richard led the league with 8 fumbles and Alex Erickson was right behind him with 7. Isaiah McKenzie was the only other non-QB who had more than 5 fumbles (6).
As a team, the Redskins ranked 28th in punt return yards (178) and 27th in return average (6.1).
Kickoff Returns- Kapri Bibbs was credited with returning both of the Giants’ kickoffs that didn’t go for touchbacks. Bibbs returned one kick for 17 yards before being tackled at the Washington 17. He recovered a muff returned by Bashaud Breeland at the 15-yard line.
The Redskins finished the season ranked 15th in kickoff return yards (673), but that seemingly average ranking had more to do with their number of returns (34 which ranked 10th in the league) than the actual quality of them. This is evidenced by their 25th-place ranking in return average (19.8 yards).
Overall- Washington’s special teams’ DVOA of -2.4% ranked 22nd in the NFL. They earned a -0.5 in ESPN’s FPI metric, which was tied for 28th.
*All statistics are courtesy of Air Yards, CSN Mid Atlantic, ESPN, Football Perspective, NFL.com, NFL Gamebooks, Player Profiler, Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, Redskins.com, Sharp Football Stats, Team Rankings and The Washington Post*
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