By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 20, 2006
With his run defense slumping and the health of his linemen in question, Gregg Williams would like to be in a position to station additional players near the line of scrimmage to stop the ground game. But the Washington Redskins' assistant head coach-defense realizes that against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, that may not be entirely possible.
The Colts, coming off a bye week, have several of the NFL's dominant offensive players, including quarterback Peyton Manning and wide receiver Marvin Harrison, and an aerial attack that demands full attention. So, even with the prospect of perhaps having to rely on two rookie tackles at times again Sunday, and after allowing a total of 349 rushing yards in consecutive defeats, Williams said there is only so much a defense can do to concentrate on the run against an offense as versatile as the Colts'.
"Obviously, [the run defense] is not where we want it to be," Williams said. "We're playing a lot of combinations of people, and this week right here we're kind of caught in between in respect to how do you want them to have the opportunity to move the football.
"We're going to have to pick and choose our times in devoting to coverage or devoting to the run front, and we've got to pick those right down and distances this week. We're going to have to have guys come off blocks and play the run game with sometimes not that extra guy in the box. That's part of how you have to play the Colts."
The Redskins started rookies Kedric Golston, a sixth-round pick, and Anthony Montgomery, a fifth-round pick, in Sunday's 25-22 loss to previously winless Tennessee, with veterans Joe Salave'a (left calf) and Cornelius Griffin (hip) injured. The Titans spoke openly after the game about attacking the younger players on the defensive line, and they rushed 41 times for 194 yards. Salave'a has made strides this week in practice and was upgraded from questionable to probable yesterday, but Griffin has not practiced fully and remains questionable.
With Salave'a back, Williams would likely not need to play both rookies at the same time against the Colts. Early on in the Titans game, one of them was usually removed from the field in passing situations. But with Manning so effective at running the no-huddle offense, getting personnel on and off the field between plays could be difficult, Williams said.
Last Sunday, veteran Ryan Boschetti, who was inactive for much of the season, played a lot and Renaldo Wynn, who has played primarily at defensive end, was moved inside as well. After reviewing film of the game, several players and coaches said the problems along the line went beyond the tackle position.
"It's a little different when we ain't got Griff and Joe, and as an end you feel like you've got to do more to help the young guys out," Phillip Daniels said. "But you can't forget your job. The trust factor is the thing with the young guys in there. Joe and Griff know the system, and we've been in the battles with them before and know they're going to be where they're supposed to be. And with the young guys, they're learning on the run and sometimes they're not sure, but overall we've got to keep trusting them and our system. We don't change anything with them in there. We just go."
Golston, in particular, has shown a penchant for making plays, getting into the backfield at various times, knocking down passes and harassing the quarterback. Even when the line was fully healthy, he received ample playing time, but no one expected him to be counted on for so much, so soon. Despite his rapid progress, however, the rookie is far from pleased.
"We didn't win, and that was the main thing," Golston said. "I could have played better fundamentally, using my technique better, doing whatever it took to get a win. I have to be more consistent. But I didn't feel that they were targeting me. They're a team who likes to run the ball. That's what they're going to do whether they're playing us or whoever it is. It doesn't matter. They want to run the ball, and we allowed them to do that."
With Griffin and Salave'a out, certain fundamentals do change. Griffin often draws a double team, which can open up space for the ends to make plays. The presence of Griffin and Salave'a also aids middle linebacker Lemar Marshall in run support, while opponents would not assign additional blockers to Golston or Montgomery at this point.
In Week 5, the New York Giants controlled the game on the ground even with Griffin and Salave'a both playing. Tailback Tiki Barber ran 23 times for 123 yards, with quick cuts part of his game. The Giants focused on the right side of Washington's defense for the second straight year, picking up chunks of yards at a time. Tennessee profited from targeting end Andre Carter and linebacker Warrick Holdman as well, with Henry stretching past Holdman's tackle to score a touchdown on a perimeter run.
"It's up to us, how we execute," Carter said. "It's just the level of consistency, because we'll have moments where we play well and we have moments where it's not there, as far as footing or hand placement. Certain guys are not there to fill in holes, and that kills us. The little things kill us, and as you know, the little things add up."
Colts Coach Tony Dungy and Manning said they did not expect to adjust their game plan significantly should the Redskins be without the starting tackles again, but the team is definitely reemphasizing the running game. The Colts rushed 70 times in their last two games, after running 78 times in their first three games.
"We've gone into a game throwing 22 times in a row on teams that blitz and pressure," Dungy said in a conference call. "And we've faced an eight-man front in other games and run 38, 40 times. We have to see how they play us."