December 9, 2019

Washington Redskins Preseason Game 2 Analysis: Takeaways for the Defense

The Washington Redskins were able to defeat the Cleveland Browns Monday night in a sloppy game that ultimately resulted in a 24-23 victory for Washington. Here are some key takeaways for the Redskins defense:

AREAS OF CONCERN

Penalties: The yellow flags were a problem for the team all night as they accrued 11 penalties for 100 yards as a whole. The defense was responsible for five of them. The worst of which occurred in the second quarter with the Browns facing 3rd-and-18. Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel could not complete a short pass (which was highly unlikely to get a first down even if completed) but Redskins cornerback E.J. Biggers was flagged on the play for defensive holding. Only a five-yard infraction, but one that also results in an automatic first down.

As the official announced the call, the Redskins sideline voiced their frustration. There’s no telling what was said but the uproar produced another flag, unsportsmanlike conduct charged to the Redskins bench, immediately following the initial announcement.

While the second penalty can’t be blamed on the defense, the first one absolutely cannot happen especially in a third-and-long situation. Granted, calls like this one have been in vogue this preseason and it’s possible they’ll tone down the frequency of such calls once the regular season arrives, but it prolonged a drive that should’ve been over and in the regular season, the team can’t afford to give opposing teams those kinds of extra opportunities.

Defending the run: As a team, the Redskins Monday night gave up only 100 yards on 27 carries (3.7 yards per rush) which was pretty good. However, the starting unit allowed Browns first string running back Ben Tate to gain 51 yards on ten carries (5.1 yards per rush). That’s not very good.

With an aging secondary which was minimally upgraded from last year’s unit that ranked second worst in the league in yards allowed per pass attempt, the Redskins front seven and their ability to stop the run will have to be a strength if the team wants to be successful.

Late Hail Mary: In the games waning moments, Cleveland attempted a Hail Mary in a last second effort to score. Amazingly, Browns tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi was able to haul in the deep pass from quarterback Connor Shaw to put the team within one point with no time left on the clock.

Plays like this happen from time to time with an offensive player lucking into a catch after the ball deflects off other players but what was most concerning was the Redskins lack of defenders around the ball when it came down. In fact initially, the ball actually hit off another Browns player’s hands before being caught by Ogbuehi.

While it obviously should be noted that this was the final seconds of a preseason game and the majority of players on the field are unlikely to even make the team, the defense not being able to even get a hand on the ball is inexcusable.

BRIGHT SPOTS

Pass rush: The Redskins continue to show signs of promise when it comes to getting after the quarterback. After a strong showing in their opening game against the New England Patriots in which linebacker Brian Orakpo recorded a sack and the starting defense consistently applied pressure on Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett, it was more of the same in Game 2.

This week, it was Ryan Kerrigan’s turn. The linebacker had a very good night, recording two sacks against the Browns first team. As a whole, the defense turned in a total of five sacks and consistently flushed Cleveland quarterbacks out of the pocket all night. There’s been much talk this offseason about how defensive coordinator Jim Haslett planned on his unit being more aggressive rushing the passer and so far, it seems to be coming to fruition.

Only regular season games will tell if this holds true, but next week’s action against the Baltimore Ravens will provide another good test as the starting defense is expected to get more time on the field.

Responding to turnovers: Thanks to turnovers from the starting offense on each of the team’s first two possessions, Cleveland was able to start drives from Washington’s 48 and 46-yard line respectively on consecutive series in the first quarter. Yet despite the tough circumstances, the starting defense was unfazed and was able to force three-and-outs on both occasions.

Frequently last season the defense was put in similar situations, having to defend at a field position disadvantage due to a turnover or poor special teams. It was a major reason why the Redskins were dead last in the league in opponent average starting field position. The team has to hope it’ll occur far less often this year, but it bodes well that the team was able to respond well to the adversity in this game, refusing to give up any points on either Browns possession.

Defending the pass: The decision on who should start at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns wasn’t made any easier Monday night. Splitting reps with the first team, the incumbent Brian Hoyer went 2-for-6 for 16 yards and the rookie Manziel went 7-for-16 for 65 yards and a touchdown. Combined, that’s a 41% completion percentage and an average of 3.7 yards per attempt.

While the defense was aided by general inaccuracy from the two quarterbacks, they did a good job applying pressure to make throws more difficult and were effective breaking up passes. With a new offense for the Browns, passing woes are to be expected but it was still a strong performance by the Redskins defense. They’ll face their biggest test yet next week against the Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco, who’s far better than any quarterback they’ve faced in the preseason so far.

Other notables: Rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland had a great night, tying for second on the team in tackles and breaking up two passes. Most notably, on a 4th-and-1 in the third quarter, Breeland applied a hard and clean hit on former Redskins receiver Anthony Armstrong right after the pass arrived to jar the ball loose and force the incompletion. It was a big play in the game and further exemplified the physical nature the rookie has shown throughout these first two games. Despite a run-in with the law while in Richmond for training camp, Breeland has looked very good and figures to be a lock to make the team as a backup corner/special teamer.

Second year players Will Compton and Bacarri Rambo both had strong showings as well. Rambo continued to play well as he did in the first preseason game, making sound tackles and even forcing a fumble on Browns tight end MarQueis Gray while Compton led the team in tackles. Neither is a contender to start at this point but continued strong showings would further solidify their chances of making the final 53.


Joe Miller is Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins. A southern Maryland native, Joe is an alumnus of the University of Maryland with a degree in communication. He’s been a passionate follower of D.C. sports and especially the Redskins his entire life, even watching a Redskins’ Super Bowl victory from his dad’s arms as a baby in 1992. When not watching sports, Joe works at the Bowie Baysox, a minor league baseball team in Prince George’s County, MD and also contributes content for Son of Washington. You can follow Joe on Twitter @JoeCoolMiller.

About Joe Miller

Joe Miller is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins. Joe is a southern Maryland native and an alumnus of the University of Maryland with a degree in communication. He’s been a passionate follower of D.C. sports, especially the Redskins, his entire life. Joe works for the Bowie Baysox and contributes content for Son of Washington. You can follow Joe on Twitter @JoeCoolMiller.

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