In a Week 8 win over the Texans, Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson had one of the best games of his career, throwing for 452 yards and four touchdowns. He completed 63 percent of his passes at 11 yards per attempt. Following that performance, the Redskins’ defense held Wilson under 300 yards at 6.6 yards per attempt, along with two touchdowns, two interceptions. The Redskins’ pass rush did a solid job flushing Wilson out of the pocket, but so did the Texans a week earlier. The key difference is the Redskins secondary.
Under new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and defensive backs coach Torrian Gray, the Redskins secondary has become perhaps the best unit on defense. The anticipation of routes and the communication between defenders is excellent and it appears as though every member of the secondary is performing at a high level.
Star cornerback Josh Norman is rarely tested, safety D.J. Swearinger has been instrumental in leading the unit, but everyone is contributing. Second-year slot corner Kendall Fuller, for example, has taken huge strides forward this season and has been playing as well as anyone in the secondary.
This is a great example of the anticipatory skills the Redskins’ secondary has displayed this season. Fuller is lined up in the slot over Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin. Baldwin runs a simple out route, but the Seahawks use their outside receiver to try to create traffic for Fuller.
Fuller initially plays with slight inside leverage, but as he reads Baldwin approaching him slowly and feels the outside route closing in, Fuller anticipates what the Seahawks are trying to do. He breaks outside before Baldwin even makes his cut and completely takes the route away from Wilson, who was winding up to throw. Wilson was forced to pull the ball down and try to escape the pocket, only to run into a sack.
While the Redskins did send a blitz to get after Wilson on that play, it was Fuller’s ability to anticipate and take away the quick throw to Baldwin that allowed his teammates the time to get to Wilson and complete the sack.
Swearinger has made plenty of similar plays to that one this year, but against the Seahawks he made an even more crucial play.
Here, the Seahawks are attempting a two-point conversion. They run a quick slant-flat route combination designed to create traffic for the defenders and set the slant route free in the end zone. Swearinger, however, knows exactly what the Seahawks are trying to do. He looks outside to Zach Brown and makes a subtle signal to switch off receivers.
As the ball is snapped, Swearinger gets his hands on tight end Jimmy Graham, trying to jam him but also maintaining inside position so he can peel off and take away the slant route. The slant route works underneath the route from Graham, and Swearinger peels off his route perfectly. He jumps the slant route and makes a great catch to seal the interception.
Every member of the secondary has improved this season. Bashaud Breeland, who had somewhat of a down year last season, is playing at a high level opposite Norman on the outside.
On this play, the Seahawks split three receivers to the left of the formations. Breeland lines up about eight yards off the line of scrimmage, over the outside receiver. The Seahawks run a route combination designed to beat a three-deep zone coverage. The hitch route on the outside is used to keep the outside corner from getting depth while the slot receiver streaks up the seam.
Breeland reads the hitch route quickly and gets his eyes inside. He spots the seam route and Wilson beginning his windup to throw the ball. Breeland does a fantastic job getting back and undercutting the throw, nearly coming away with an interception, but most importantly preventing what might have been a touchdown.
All of the Redskins’ defensive backs played well against the Seahawks, but Fuller made the play of the game.
Fuller once again finds himself lined up in the slot over Baldwin. He plays with inside leverage, but takes a step back and outside as Baldwin took a vertical step off the line of scrimmage. However, Baldwin cuts inside off of that vertical step on his slant route. Fuller reads the angle he takes and drives off his back foot, getting his eyes inside to find the ball. He arrives at the catch point at the same time as Baldwin, pulling in a fantastic interception.
Throughout all the injuries the Redskins have suffered, the secondary has maintained a high level of performance. Washington will need its secondary to continue to produce when they host the likes of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs when the Minnesota Vikings come to town Sunday.
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