While reviewing tape of the Redskins’ six-game winning streak, Dallas Coach Jason Garrett noticed many potential problems in facing Cofield and Bowen. They are effective at occupying offensive linemen — that’s their top responsibility in Washington’s 3-4 defense — which opens lanes for linebackers to make tackles. They also “affect the quarterback in the passing game,” Garrett said. “In that scheme, typically, you don’t get great pass rush from those interior guys. But they’re good at what do.”
When it comes to harassing quarterbacks, Cofield and Bowen make a difficult job look easy.
During the Redskins’ streak, Cofield (you won’t find a more nimble 318-pounder in the game) has often dominated opposing centers and defeated double-teams. Bowen, quick and powerful, is a matchup problem for many offensive tackles. “I really feel like the game is slow for me right now,” Cofield said. “I just feel comfortable.”
Although quarterback “pressures” aren’t an official NFL statistic, their high totals during the past six games tell the story. Cofield leads the team with 16 pressures. Bowen is second with 11. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who leads the team with 8.5 sacks, is third with 10.
“For people who really don’t understand football, you wouldn’t have any idea how hard that is for [interior linemen] to get after the quarterback like that in our defense,” inside linebacker Perry Riley said. “You’re taking on all those linemen, you’re getting double-teamed . . . and they’re still making it happen. It’s definitely been a difference for our whole defense.”
The Redskins’ defense has been among the league’s worst from the opening kickoff this season. The biggest problem? Their safeties are awful in pass coverage.
The team ranks 28th overall in defense and 30th against the pass. In large part because of what Cofield and Bowen do upfront, though, the Redskins are fifth against the run.
After Washington dropped to 3-6, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett asked everyone under him to do more. Cofield and Bowen immediately stepped forward.
The Redskins had to improve their pass rush to compensate for the secondary’s deficiencies. Haslett did his part by calling more blitzes than he did in the first nine games. Cofield and Bowen began playing at their highest level of the season. The combination has disrupted the timing of opposing offenses.