Redskins defensive backs hope accountability leads to improvements

September 28, 2012

On Monday morning, the day after the Washington Redskins’ loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in their home opener, the doors to the team’s locker room opened for the customary media availability revealing what appeared to be a deserted room.

It’s a pretty common sight the day after Redskins losses. If players stay out of the locker room during that period, they avoid subjecting themselves to questions. A handful of accommodating players usually eventually straggle through and make themselves available. But at first glance Monday, it appeared as if that would take some time.

In the far right corner of the otherwise empty room, however, members of the team’s much-maligned secondary were in front of their lockers. They sat on their wooden stools, smiling sheepishly, bracing for the interrogation.

The defensive backs had seen their defensive coordinator, Jim Haslett, come under fire after the two previous games in which the pass defenders had been burned repeatedly. And their struggles had only continued against Cincinnati.

The defensive backs – sticking with a theme of accountability being preached within their ranks this season — insisted that neither Haslett nor new secondary coach Raheem Morris were to blame for the problems.

“Honestly, it all falls back on the guys on the field,” free safety Madieu Williams said. “You can’t worry about the calls being made on the sideline. We have to execute. You can’t worry about the calls that are being made on the sidelines. It’s up to us to execute whatever call that’s made regardless of the situation.”

Said cornerback DeAngelo Hall: “You’ve got to be better. It ain’t no secret about it. Any time you give up big plays like that, the chances you’re going to win a game is going to be slim to none. . . . This defense hadn’t been used to things like that happening. We have to re-evaluate it, look ourselves in the mirror and get better as a team, as a defense, and better at the one-on-one matchups and we have to win them.”

After allowing 401 yards and three touchdowns through the air against Cincinnati, the Redskins’ season total swelled to 1,012 yards (fourth most in the NFL) and 10 passing touchdowns (a league high) allowed. And the average 9.1 yards per catch that the Redskins have allowed is second highest in the NFL.Washington has allowed 13 pass plays of 25 yards or more this season.

Haslett took the blame for the Bengals’ 73-yard touchdown pass on the game-opening play, when Cincinnati used a wildcat formation and snapped the ball directly to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who had lined up in the backfield, rather than quarterback Andy Dalton. Sanu connected with wide receiver A.J. Green to give the Bengals a 7-0 lead.

Haslett said the Redskins had never practiced for the formation. But his players said Hall should have switched coverage assignments with safety DeJon Gomes so Hall could have covered Green on the play. Hall actually said he attempted to signal to Gomes to make the switch, but that Gomes didn’t hear him.

Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said the Bengals inserted the play specifically for the Redskins game after spotting an opening in the Washington defense.

“We had a pretty good indication that they were gonna be in Cover-0 [man-to-man] when we went wildcat with whoever we had back there other than a quarterback, whether it’s a running back or wide receiver,” Gruden said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “It took a little bit of time, but the free safety came out of the middle of the field, and came in the box, and we knew we had A.J. one-on-one against a safety.

“And it was just Mo’s job to just launch it as high and as deep as he could and let A.J. run under it,” Gruden said. “And he threw a great ball, a much better ball than he did in practice, that’s for sure. It worked out great, obviously.”

The Redskins players and coaches believe two things will help cure their problems. The first is better technique. At times the backs have gotten fooled on double-moves or haven’t shaded receivers properly. Other times they have missed tackles and modest gains have turned into big plays.

On a 48-yard touchdown pass that gave the Bengals their second score, i wide receiver Armon Binns made the catch after a short pass, but cornerback Josh Wilson stumbled while trying to get to him and took a bad angle on the play. The Redskins were in man-to-man coverage and Wilson had no help deeper downfield, but Wilson said his flawed execution and not the defensive play call was to blame

“I’m not going to make any excuses,” Wilson said. “I took a bad angle, I stumbled, but I have to make that tackle. That’s what I’m here to do.”

Redskins notes: Shanahan said left tackle Trent Williams is questionable for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay after being able to practice on a limited basis on Friday.

Williams has a bone bruise in his right knee. Also listed as questionable are wide receivers Pierre Garcon (foot) and Brandon Banks (hip). . . .

Starting strong safety Brandon Meriweather and running back Evan Royster are probable after being limited by knee injuries. Meriweather hasn’t played yet this season while Royster suffered his injury last Sunday. . . .

Backup cornerback Cedric Griffin has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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