August 20, 2019

Washington Redskins Week 5 Analysis: Defensive Notes

The Washington Redskins defense had an up-and-down night against the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks Monday Night in the Redskins’ 27-17 loss at home. At times, they looked absolutely porous, allowing the Seahawks offense to move the ball at will, while at other times showing flashes of dominance.

The Redskins were certainly aided by a total of 13 penalties for 90 yards against the Seahawks (the majority of which on the offense), but I don’t quite buy into the notion that this is what kept the Redskins in the game.

More than likely, you’ve heard by now that the Seahawks were ‘robbed of three touchdowns’ negated by penalties. But if you actually examine each instance, you’ll see that two of those cancelled touchdowns occurred on the same drive which ultimately resulted in a successful field goal. The third occurred on a drive where they went on to score a touchdown anyways. So in essence, all in all, instead of scoring a possible 14 points on those two drives, they ended up scoring 10 points. A four-point difference is a lot different than ‘three touchdowns’.

Additionally, penalties are always an issue for the Seahawks. In their Super Bowl winning season last year, they had the most penalties in football.  To imply that if Seattle limited its penalties, Washington would’ve been blown out is an exercise in futility because it ignores reality. It’s part of who they are.

Sorry, rant over. Let’s get to the notes:

Defensive Notes

The Redskins defense had an up-and-down night accentuated by Perry Riley's continued struggles. (photo by Brian Murphy)

The Redskins defense had an up-and-down night accentuated by Perry Riley’s continued struggles. (photo by Brian Murphy)

First half struggles: The Washington Redskins really struggled to stop the Seahawks’ offensive attack for the first two quarters. The game started with a quick and easy drive for a touchdown that took only two minutes and 16 seconds. Seattle started with great field position at their own 35 after the Redskins intentionally kicked the ball short to keep it away from the speedy, electric Percy Harvin. The Seahawks would then average an unreal 10.8 yards per play on their way to the endzone, thanks in large part to quarterback Russell Wilson’s legs. He’d go on to rush for 80 yards… in the first quarter (more on him later).

The drive ended with an easy 15-yard strike to wide receiver Jermaine Kearse down the seam. The corners on that side of the field seemed to bite on a screen route on the outside, allowing Kearse to easily coast past them wide open in the end zone. Unsurprisingly, Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather, who has really struggled in coverage this year, was late getting over top. (In Meriweather’s defense, he did have a pretty good night rushing the passer, disrupting several plays.)

The Seahawks went on to largely score at will in the first half adding another ten points before the half. The drives they didn’t score on were mostly a result of self-inflicted wounds including penalties and multiple botched snaps.

Responding to adversity: For as bad as Washington’s defense looked in the first half, they played really well early in the second half. In the third quarter, Seattle had three drives with extremely advantageous field position. Here’s how they went:

SEA 40: 3 plays. 8 yards. Punt.

50: 3 plays. 5 yards. Punt.

SEA 40: 3 plays. 5 yards. Punt.

On these drives Washington did an especially good job containing the run and limiting yards after the catch. The only problem was that the Redskins offense could never move the ball after these drives to help out. Even so, the defense deserves praise for three straight three-and-outs with their backs against the wall.

Missed Tackles: Struggling to bring down the ball carrier was a big problem for this defense in 2013’s disastrous season and that problem reared its ugly head again in this game. Here’s the two best examples:

On one scramble in the first half, Redskins corner E.J. Biggers attempted to tackle Wilson one-on-one in space. It did not go well. Wilson smoothly veered around him and sped upfield as Biggers went to the ground. He needs to be more aggressive than that with a guy like Wilson in open space, any hesitation and the defender has no chance.

Another example came as the Seahawks scored their touchdown to go up by 14 in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Perry Riley flew down to the right flat in an attempt to bring down Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch who had just hauled in the pass. Lynch than proceeded to brush off Riley’s tackle attempt with ease and strode into the end zone. Speaking of Riley, outside of a nice hit in the second half, he really struggled again Monday night.

We found out after the game that he was playing through a sprained MCL he suffered at some point during the game but his play has got to improve as does the team’s overall tackling for this defense to be successful.

Young corners: Young starting cornerbacks David Amerson (2nd round 2013) and Bashaud Breeland (4th round 2014) bounced back well after struggling greatly against the New York Giants last week. Breeland especially played well, consistently fighting through tough blocks to make tackles in run support. Amerson’s best play came in the third quarter on a third down when he closed in quickly on Harvin running a drag route to make a tackle. The result was a one yard gain forcing a Seattle punt in Redskins territory.

Overall, Seattle’s receivers were limited to nine catches for 92 yards combined. This bodes well for the Washington secondary going forward as the young corners appear to be getting more comfortable in starting roles.

Russell Wilson: What can you say about Russell Wilson? He was sensational. 122 yards rushing, 201 yards passing, 3 combined touchdowns, no turnovers. His play prompted Redskins safety Ryan Clark to refer to him as “the best player in the NFL” after the game. He consistently gashed the defense all night with his legs. And when he didn’t take off himself, he would buy just enough time scrambling around to make completions. He is one of the best in the league at consistently keeping his eyes downfield while eluding pressure and it was every bit on display in this one. Sure, the Redskins edge-rushers often bit too hard on run fakes, losing contain allowing Wilson to get major yardage but that’s not to take away from what Wilson did. He was exceptional.

There’s only so much you can do against a talent such as he, and the Redskins hope injured quarterback Robert Griffin III can someday perform similarly as a true dual threat. He’s got all the tools to do so but Wilson is clearly a lot farther ahead of him right now.

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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