Redskins vs. Jaguars: Anonymous defenders make names for themselves
Sunday, December 26, 2010; 9:27 PM
JACKSONVILLE, FLA. - For much of the afternoon Sunday, the Redskins' defensive huddle could've benefited from a batch of nametags. Suddenly, there's a Jackson, a Scott, a Wilson. One new guy - lineman Joe Joseph - apparently has the same first and last name.
"It was basically, call the guys by numbers because you didn't know everybody's name," linebacker and defensive captain London Fletcher said with a laugh.
In the end, it was the most unlikely of players who found themselves on the field for the most crucial play in the Redskins' 20-17 overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. For a team in the twilight of the season and a head coach eager to evaluate new, untested players, the scenario produced results that will pay even bigger dividends as the team's talent evaluators decide how next season's roster might look.
The defense produced one of its best performances of the season - four sacks, two interceptions and fewer yards (336) than the Redskins had allowed in a month - despite missing six regular starters.
"We didn't use it as an excuse," said linebacker Andre Carter, who started for just the fifth time on Sunday. "We didn't come to the game like, well, we're wounded here, let's just give them a show."
Duct tape and twine couldn't hold this unit together. Three defensive linemen were placed on injured reserve last week alone. Four defensive players were added to the 53-man roster in the days leading up to the game - including two less than 24 hours before kickoff.
In the end, several players made names for themselves when it mattered most. The Jaguars were on their third play of the first drive of the overtime period. Facing third and four, quarterback David Garrard was in a shotgun formation, and the Redskins' nickel unit featured just three players who'd normally be in the stating lineup (Fletcher, cornerback DeAngelo Hall and linebacker Rocky McIntosh).
When the Redskins needed a big play, their two safeties - Macho Harris and Kevin Barnes - were actually cornerbacks forced to play out of position because the team's top four safeties this season were all injured. In addition to Phillip Buchanon replacing an injured Carlos Rogers in the second half, their nickel corner (Byron Westbrook) and outside linebacker (Chris Wilson) were both primarily special-teams contributors. One linebacker (Carter) was playing due to an injury to Brian Orakpo, and another (Rob Jackson) had been added to the 53-man roster just a few days earlier.
When the ball was snapped, the group of no-names scattered.
"What we try to do is disguise a lot," Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said. "Obviously, you can't bring everybody or you are going to leave a couple of people short. Some people fade back into paths and other times, we bring people."
The Redskins mixed up their blitz schemes at halftime, and before the key snap in overtime, Garrard had no way of knowing that six Redskins were about to rush. And he certainly had no shot of guessing which six.
"They were definitely disguising a lot," Garrard said.