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Illegal Notion: The Vaunted Redskins Front Line

Who’s to Blame?

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Illegal Notion

Sunday’s 32-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles truly encapsulates what it is to be a Redskins fan for the past two decades. Some of you may remember glory years before that, but I’m guessing the majority of our readers felt exactly what I did as the Redskins came out early in the first half and put 17 points on the Eagles while only giving up a meager 34 yards; ‘the Redskins are going to lose.’ This team has a way of teasing us; showing us some hope and extinguishing that hope without fail.

The best teams in the league are second-half teams. Adjustments are made at halftime, the team is mentally prepared for more football, and the team performs decidedly better in those facets after the halftime break. Well, the Redskins have not been a second-half team since I can remember. Blame it on culture, coaches, or just a weak roster, but please don’t chalk it up to bad luck, as so many blind fans tend to do.

The vaunted front line

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
DaRon Payne and company did not deliver on Sunday against the Eagles.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

This team has tremendous talent up front on defense. Throughout the offseason, both at training camp and in my preseason game recaps, I asserted that the team and fans alike should be worried about the lack of push from the defensive front. I was mostly told to kindly (or usually not-so-kindly) ‘shut up’ on Twitter, but what I asserted is now coming to light; whether it be poor scheming or players that just aren’t as good as they’re chalked up to be…the Redskins’ vaunted defensive front has not been generating enough pressure.

Registering one sack and 4 QB hits simply isn’t enough, and is a similar refrain from recent years under both Jim Haslett and Greg Manusky. While I do believe the secondary is much improved, the defensive backs simply cannot be asked to cover for the amount of time they’re asked to cover.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins
Greg Manusky might be nearing the end of his time in Washington if his defense doesn’t produce.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In the first half, the Redskins did a good job of keeping Carson Wentz in the pocket as well as stuffing the run up the middle. In the second half, Wentz was able to create extra time outside the pocket too often, and zone-runs created gaping holes between our DEs and DTs. Sure, Jonathan Allen was missing for most of that time, but there simply can’t be such a drop-off after losing one player.

How do you fix these issues? I’d argue it’s mostly scheme and personnel choices. Manusky plays vanilla coverage in the back end while rushing only 4 over 80% of the time. In addition to such a plain scheme, the defensive line doesn’t have a healthy rotation. Jonathan Allen came out of the game after just 7 snaps, and Caleb Brantley only played 8 snaps before re-aggravating his foot injury. Tim Settle played 48% of the snaps, and will continue to see more time if Allen’s knee injury lingers. Treyvon Hester will have his number called soon.

This defense is not talented enough to just play straight-up vanilla D and win games, especially when its players begin to wear down. Moving forward, Manusky is going to have to mix in more exotic blitzes and some disguised coverages if this supposed top-five defense is going to perform as such. Otherwise, this will be another middling Redskins defense that, this time, wastes significant, young talent.

Other observations:

Jimmy Moreland played 75% of snaps. I know he is a favorite of the coaching staff and fans alike, but I doubt it was a great idea for him to be thrown into the fire so quickly. He failed to complete his assignment on the second DeSean Jackson touchdown, completely blowing coverage over the top. He’s got the tools to be a great player, but there are going to be growing pains.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
Jimmy Moreland was the victim of DeSean Jackson’s second TD catch.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Cole Holcomb was one bright spot of Week One, as he compiled 8 tackles, 2 TFLs, and was flying all over the field. If he can continue to develop, he’d be another Jay Gruden pick that pans out. I truly do think they should give Jay more power in the NFL Draft. The guys he stands on the table for almost always work out (Michael Thomas, Matt Ioannidis, Robert Davis, Cole Holcomb to name a few).

Draft Nugget

While wide receiver Terry McClaurin shined on offense, WR still seems to be a top need for the Redskins heading into 2020. Luckily for them, there are four game-changing WRs that can be expected to be taken in the first round. Check out for more and find me on Twitter @Kennedy_Paynter