SAN DIEGO, JAN. 29 -- The Washington Redskins try never to use the same defense two plays in a row, which makes for nonstop substituting.
If it's second down, it must be Clarence Vaughn and Kurt Gouveia and Ravin Caldwell.
If it's third down, it must be Dennis Woodberry and Markus Koch and Steve Hamilton.
If it's first down, the revolving door starts all over again.
Redskins defenders stay extra close to Richie Petitbon, their defensive coordinator, because he'll call their names any time, any down. In recent playoff victories, the Redskins have used a 5-1-5 defense, a 3-4, a 3-8, a 4-2-5 and the good old reliable 4-3. Ideas change with the down and distance. Against Chicago one time, defensive end Charles Mann ran over to fellow defensive end Dexter Manley's side and said, "Move over." They rushed the passer side by side.
Another time, defensive tackle Koch dropped back in pass coverage. Every member of the secondary has blitzed in the playoffs.
And if that wasn't enough, defensive assistant Larry Peccatiello says: "In the Super Bowl, we're going to really let it all hang out."
First and 10
Pretty boring, here. A simple 4-3 defense with Manley at right end, Dave Butz at left tackle, Darryl Grant at right tackle and Mann at left end. Neal Olkewicz is the middle linebacker, while Monte Coleman plays right linebacker behind Manley. Mel Kaufman is the left linebacker.
In the secondary, it's Darrell Green and Barry Wilburn at the corners and Alvin Walton and Todd Bowles at the safeties.
Analyzing this defense, Coleman has to be especially careful with Manley in front of him. Manley sometimes takes a real wide outside rush, and Coleman has to stay put in case the opponent runs inside of Manley. On the other hand, if Coleman blitzes, Manley must stay at home.
What's it like playing behind Manley?
"Scary," Coleman recently said with a giggle.
If it's a first and 10 situation midway through the Super Bowl game with the Redskins leading, Rich Milot might take Olkewicz's place at middle linebacker. Milot, inactive for the NFC championship game victory over Minnesota, is better than Olkewicz against the pass and might be more valuable if the Broncos are trying to score in a hurry.
In the secondary, Green usually covers the opponent's best receiver (against Denver, that might be Mark Jackson), but Coach Joe Gibbs said today that it's not always that simple. Against Minnesota, for instance, Green covered dangerous wide-out Anthony Carter on first and second downs. On third downs, however, Wilburn and a nickel back double-covered Carter, while Green played the Vikings' second receiver -- Leo Lewis -- man-to-man.
Second and Six-to-Eight
Vaughn's development helps in these situations, when he plays the versatile role of linebacker/safety. On second and about six, he comes in for Olkewicz because teams generally throw in that situation. But what's ideal about Vaughn is that he was an inside linebacker in college and is quick to play the run. Denver, for instance, usually will be in a shotgun on second and six, but they'll also have quarterback John Elway slip in a handoff out of that formation. Vaughn must be aware.
Also, to be extra careful of the run, defensive tackle Koch might come in at nose guard, while linebacker Kaufman leaves. Koch, if necessary, even can skip backwards and play pass defense. He's that mobile.
Second and Three
Here's where the Redskins often employ a 3-4 defense, with younger, quicker linebackers like Gouveia and Caldwell checking in alongside Coleman and Kaufman. They'll blitz out of this a lot, and Koch will be the nose guard between Manley and Mann. This is a strong pass rushing unit, although the extra linebackers help control the run.
Koch, though, needs to get more physical. Petitbon mentioned this week that Koch hasn't come along as quickly as they thought he would, considering he was a second-round pick out of Boise State in 1986.
Second and Long
In the best interest of the pass rush, starting defensive tackles Butz and Grant leave and Koch comes in with Hamilton. Hamilton is a superior pass rusher who lines up next to Manley and is sort of an unsung hero. When Hamilton was injured in Week 12 last season against Dallas, Manley slumped and didn't get a full quarterback sack until early this season. When Hamilton wasn't around, teams were freely able to double-team Manley, but now -- with a healthy Hamilton -- Manley sees more one-on-one blocking.
Again, in second and long situations, Vaughn replaces Olkewicz, because he can play both the pass and run. If Elway hands off, Vaughn must be there waiting. If Elway passes, Vaughn must quickly drop back.
Third and Long
With the pass a more likely threat, another defensive back enters in addition to Vaughn. It'll probably be Woodberry, a former replacement player who excels in man-to-man situations.
Also, that sixth back could be rookie Brian Davis, who might be better in a zone concept.
To make room for that extra defensive back, Kaufman leaves, and Hamilton and Koch are in there to aid Manley and Mann with the pass rush.
Third and Short
Size is the word here, with Butz and Grant moving in with Koch and Mann, while pass rushers Manley and Hamilton leave. Caldwell, at 6-3, 229 pounds, is big, so he moves in at linebacker with the physical Gouveia.
Third and About Six
This is the Redskins' blitzing situation. At least it was against Minnesota two weeks ago when Caldwell, Vaughn and Gouveia each recorded sacks. Manley, Koch and Mann are up front, and either Gouveia, Caldwell, Coleman or strong safety Alvin Walton will come charging, too. Vikings quarterback Wade Wilson was always pointing at the line of scrimmage against this defense, reminding his linemen who to block.
This is different than second or third and short, because the back of the end zone limits what the offense can do. Coleman serves as a safety in this defense, and only Walton and Bowles remain in the secondary. Butz, Koch, Mann, Grant and defensive tackle Dean Hamel and linebackers Caldwell, Olkewicz and Gouveia cram the line of scrimmage.
Hail Mary Pass Defense
Games have been lost in the final seconds with bombs, so the Redskins take every precaution. Any defensive back who's anybody gets in there. And there are only three linemen rushing. If a ball's thrown up for grabs, the defensive backs are taught to knock it down, not up.
The Redskins substitute as much as any defense, so perhaps the best way to beat the Redskins is to use a hurry up offense for 60 minutes.
-----------------PROBABLE DEFENSIVE SUBSTITUTIONS-------------------
Based on recent Redskins games
First and 10:
DE Dexter Manley, DT Darryl Grant, DT Dave Butz, DE Charles Mann, LB Monte Coleman, MLB Neal Olkewicz, LB Mel Kaufman, CB Darrell Green, FS Todd Bowles, SS Alvin Walton and CB Barry Wilburn.
Second and about eight yards: S Clarence Vaughn in for LB Olkewicz; Sometimes, NT Markus Koch in and LB Kaufman out.
Second and about three: A 3-4 defense, sometimes, with LB Kurt Gouveia and LB Ravin Caldwell joining LB Coleman and LB Kaufman. DT Koch in with DT Butz and DT Grant out.
Second and long: DT Butz and DT Grant out; DT Koch and DT Steve Hamilton in. S Vaughn in and LB Olkewicz out.
Third and long: Same as second and long, but either CB Woodberry or CB Brian Davis is in secondary and LB Kaufman joins LB Olkewicz on sidelines.
Third and short: DT Butz, DT Grant, DE Koch and DE Mann in; DE Manley and DT Hamilton out. Caldwell and Gouveia and Olkewicz at linebacker; Coleman moves to safety; CB Green out, CB Wilburn, FS Bowles and SS Walton in.
Third and about six: DE Manley, NT Koch and DE Mann up front; Gouveia and Caldwell and Coleman at linebacker, S Vaughn, CB Green, CB Wilburn, FS Bowles and SS Walton in secondary.
Goal line: DT Butz, DE Koch, DT Grant, DT Hamel and DE Mann; Caldwell, Olkewicz and Gouveia at linebackers; LB Coleman moves into secondary with SS Walton and FS Bowles.
Pass defense against Hail Mary: DE Manley, NT Koch and DE Mann up front with Coleman as only linebacker and seven in secondary -- Green, Wilburn, Davis, Wilburn, Bowles, Walton and Woodberry.