The Outsider: A position-by-position look at how the defense performed against the Raiders

September 30, 2013

Brian Orakpo gets to Matt Flynn in the first quarter, but it wasn’t just his sacks that impressed against the Raiders. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

Mark Bullock has joined The Insider as our Outsider, where twice a week we’ll feature his insights. Here’s the second part of his review of the Redskins’ play against the Raiders. The offensive review was posted here. Follow Mark on Twitter and find links to more breakdowns at @UkRedskin1.

Defensive Line

Barry Cofield looked to be getting back to best after recovering from his broken hand in preseason. Cofield registered two sacks and a fumble recovery. His first sack came on a cross stunt with defensive end Stephen Bowen. Cofield lined up over the right shoulder of the center, but attacked the A gap to the center’s left side. He forced the attention of the left guard, and allowed Bowen to cross behind him. The center had to leave Cofield and pick up Bowen, but Cofield was too good for the unsuspecting left guard and beat him quickly to sack Matt Flynn for a six-yard loss.

Cofield’s second sack came as a result of another stunt. Cofield lined up over the right guard and shot to B gap between the guard and tackle. Ryan Kerrigan got upfield quickly before cutting back inside behind Cofield. Flynn dodged Kerrigan, but couldn’t run away from Cofield, who did a good job disengaging and wrapping up Flynn as he tried to scramble.

On his fumble recovery, Cofield drew a double team on a four-man rush, allowing the other rushers a one-on-one match up. Kerrigan beat the right tackle and stripped the ball free from Flynn. Cofield used great awareness to keep his eye on Flynn, and then the ball as it came free. He disengaged his blocker quickly and dived on the ball moments after it hit the ground.

Linebackers

While Brian Orakpo might grab the headlines, Kerrigan has become the Redskins’ most important and consistent player on defense. Kerrigan had two sacks and a forced fumble as well as being a force in the running game. Right tackle Tony Pashos, who was with the Redskins in training camp, really struggled to deal with Kerrigan, who was versatile and switched up his rushes with a nice balance of inside moves and outside speed rushes. He beat Pashos for his first sack on the inside with his power and quickness, while using his speed and rip move on the outside for his second sack and forced fumble.

But Orakpo had a very good game in his own right. He had four sacks last time he played the Raiders, and while he only managed two this time, he perhaps had a more complete game. He read a fake screen perfectly. Flynn pump-faked to the flat before he looked to throw deep. Orakpo didn’t bite on the fake to the flat and dropped back into coverage. He couldn’t hold on to what should have been an easy interception, but the fact he was in perfect position to make a play in coverage is encouraging for Orakpo. A few plays earlier, Orakpo managed to get his hand up and deflect a quick pass from Flynn, which fell incomplete. Orakpo needs to show he can have an effect of the game outside of purely rushing the passer. Plays like those two shows he has the ability to disrupt the game in more ways than one.

A negative from the Redskins linebackers came from defensive captain London Fletcher. Washington used a lot of zone coverages, which require defenders to react to underneath routes and make tackles for minimal gains. Quite often, Fletcher found himself reacting to a check-down in the middle of the field, but missing the tackle and giving up big gains. Twice in the second half, Flynn checked down to running back Rashad Jennings. Both times Fletcher was in position to make a tackle for minimal gains and both times he missed the tackle. Jennings picked up 11 yards on the first missed tackle and 14 yards on the second, moving the chains on both plays. Fletcher has had a poor start to the season so far, but had similar troubles at the start of last season before picking up his game and finishing the year strong. Washington will need him to pick up his game in similar fashion after the bye week.

Secondary

The Redskins secondary got caught at times rotating their coverages after the snap. Washington attempted to confuse Matt Flynn by showing certain coverage looks before switching to another coverage. On Flynn’s touchdown pass to Mychal Rivera, Washington showed a ‘Cover 2′ look pre-snap, but shifted to ‘Cover 3′ post-snap. Brandon Meriweather originally lined up in a two-deep safety look with Jordan Pugh, but rotated down to join a bank of four zones across the middle of the field. That left Pugh to rotate to the deep middle third of the field while DeAngelo Hall dropped from his corner alignment to take a deep outside third. As Meriweather came up to take his zone, he crossed in front of Hall, leaving a big hole up the seam of the defense. Rivera ran right up that seam and was wide open for the easy touchdown.

It’s not uncommon for defenses to rotate coverages post-snap to confuse opposing quarterbacks, but it was odd that the Redskins had Meriweather and Hall almost flip positions. It would have been more efficient for Hall to sit in the underneath zone and allow Meriweather to shift from his deep half look pre-snap to a deep outer third post-snap.

But it wasn’t the only time Washington’s defense got caught rotating coverages. Later in the first half, the Redskins sent David Amerson on a blitz from the outside on third and four, rotating E.J. Biggers from a deep safety look to cover the vacated receiver. But Flynn saw the blitz coming and had plenty of time to find Denarius Moore wide open for a first down.

Amerson’s touchdown was an undoubted highlight, but was somewhat fortunate. Moore lined up to the left of the line on his own, with the Raiders lining up their tight end, running back and other two receivers to the right. Amerson was trusted to cover Moore in man coverage. Oakland ran double crossing routes from the right to create traffic for Amerson as he chased Moore on an underneath crossing route of his own. The traffic bought Moore a step but Flynn was late to throw; partially because of his tendency to pat the ball with his non-throwing hand before he begins his throwing motion, delaying him for a split second. That gave Amerson time to recover and undercut the throw, intercepting it in stride. It was a risky play for Amerson to attempt given that he had given up a 41-yard reception against Detroit in a similar situation; but Amerson was drafted to create turnovers. To do that, you have to take some chances, something Amerson has never shied away from.

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.

What’s ahead:

● Mike Shanahan speaks with reporters at 3 p.m.

More on the Redskins and NFL:

Mike Jones’s five observations from Redskins vs. Raiders

D.C. Sports Bog: Photos of Redskins in the Black Hole | More Bog

The Takeaway: The D earns an A | Wise: It wasn’t pretty, but it was needed

Griffin uses grit to get it done | Amerson’s interception was the spark

Punt protection issue resurfaces | Vets: ‘It’s just one win’ | Photos from Oakland

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

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