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Getting Defensive

At the quarter-mark of the season seems like a decent time to do some statistical analysis of our Redskins to see how the offense and defense are doing.

I will focus on the defense this week, offense next week. All stats are courtesy of the phenomenal site, Football Outsiders

Let's start with the opponents running game, then we will focus on their passing game, moving from bad to good.

Our run defense, according to FO's metrics, is ranked 20. Not great. On average, running backs are getting almost 4.5 yards per carry, obviously not good. We are ranked 20 in the league at tackles for a loss, our second level and open-field ranks are 17 and 25, respectively.

What does all this mean?

Basically, it means that our line is not getting great penetration, allowing too many second level rushing opportunities. Our LBs are very mediocre against the run, and our secondary is actually pretty bad, when the RB gets that far.

Let's look at the DLine specifically. One silver lining with this group is that when last Sunday's sack-fest against Bradford is added in, we are tied with Philly for the NFL lead in sacks with 15. This is translating to better coverage numbers for our secondary than many would have expected. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Back to the line.

When teams run Left End against us, that coresponds most of the time to Rak and Bowen, and we are getting blown off the ball. Per attempt, teams are averaging 6.39 yards, good for 30th in the league. Left Tackle by comparison, is good for only 3.8 yards, 13th in the league. We ar ejust about average defending up the middle runs at 4.22 ypc, 18th; rushing at Carriker on the right nets 3.73 yards, good for tenth in the league. Lastly, the rookie is holding his own at 3.65, good for 17th. This tells us that the right side of our defense, between Rak and Bowen is probably a little too focused on the run, and is getting caught out of position some, allowing big gainers. Teams haven't noticed yet, as only 7% of opposing running plays have gone to the left end, by far the lowest percentage of any of the 5 directions (15%, 43%, 15%, 21% are the rest if you were interested).

But they will catch on. Hopefully this is something Haslett addresses with Rak during the bye week.

With all this bad news about the Run Defense, it is safe to assume that our passing defense is equally as bad, right?

Well, no. In a word.

We've already covered the pressure our Line is getting on the QB, let's look at the opposing teams' WRs, individually.

According to FO, our pass defense right now is third, ranked behind only Baltimore and the Jets. Not bad company, huh? We have two serious trouble spots, the opposing team's Tight End and passes to the RB. Additionally, the opposing team's #1 WR is problematic. Let's start there.

Nicks, Fitz, Bryant and Sims-Walker (I think?) are only getting about 7.5 targets a game, but they are making the most of them, averaging almost 83 yards/game. Quite simply, DHall is letting receivers by him once or twice a game for big gainers. Either he is expecting safety help and not getting it, or he is biting on double moves, which we have seen before. Either way, he needs to improve, as 83 yards/game ranks only 17th in the league.

Conversely, Josh Wilson is shutting down the #2 WR, limiting the 5 targets a game that receiver gets to only 29 yards/game, good for first in the league. Hall tends to gamble more, Wilson is apparently playing good strong coverage instead. We may get rewarded with some Hall INTs as the season goes on (are we playing CHI this year?), but for now, Wilson appears, by the numbers, to be playing better coverage. Barnes and the rest of the CBs are stepping up as well, limiting all other WRs to 34 yards/game on 9 targets.

To be fair to Hall, he has matched up against three of the top 15 (arguably) WRs in the league so far. The problem with that argument is that two of those WRs reside in the NFC East, so he plays them twice a year. Hall needs to improve, but the rest of the DBs look solid.

Now, on to LBers in coverage. Yikes. TEs get targeted 8 times a game, good for almost 60 yards, which puts us at 27th in the league. RBs get 6 targets a game, good for 31 yards/per game, or 20th in the league. How much these numbers would have changed had Landry played all four games is impossible to quantify. I remember Witten killing us against Kerrigan, but that is to be expected. His 9 targets and 6 receptions for 60 yards are actually in line with other TEs however, which means this is an area of concern.

A couple of takeaways from all this. First, in some ways, it helps explain the playcalling of Kyle, especially early in the game against the Rams. Kyle has to know these defensive stats, so he knows we are in good shape if we get an early lead, as it is much harder to pass on us than it is to run on us. That explains looking for the big play early against St. Louis; in addition to wanting to demoralize a young team, he knew we always seem to struggle with SJax, and wanted to take the game out of his hands (or more importantly perhaps, or more importantly perhaps, put the game in the hands of their WRs :)).

I would look for that pattern to continue. Our best bet to win some of these games is probably to get up early and quickly and force the other team to throw more than they may want to in order to catch up. Against the Eagles, for instance, McCoy will have a field day unless we can take him out of the equation. That also allows us to have Rak pin his ears back and go after the QB, and not have to worry about the run as much, which plays to his strengths.

We will look at the offense next week to examine trends in the run and pass game that affect the overall gameplan as well.
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