Quick Links

Redskins-Falcons preview: Spotlight on Skins' defense

907635.png

Redskins-Falcons preview: Spotlight on Skins' defense

What:Falcons (4-0) vs. Redskins (2-2)
Where:FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
When:Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV:Fox WTTG-5
Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live:Comcast SportsNet noon and 4.In the first four games, the biggest storyline for the Redskins has been the sublime play of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and his impact on the teams resurgent offense.Not this Sunday, though.The Redskins struggling defense will be the focal point against Matt Ryan and the high-flying Falcons, one of only two undefeated teams remaining (the Texans are also 4-0).For Washington to have any chance against an Atlanta offense thats racking up 31 points per contest and ending a seven-game home losing streak they must pressure Ryan and slow down a versatile repertoire of weapons that includes standout wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Michael Turner.If that sounds like a lot, well, it is.I think every weeks a statement game, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. This is a great football team were playing. Theyve got the hottest quarterback in the league, a really good running back and two good receivers and theyve got maybe the greatest all-time tight end that ever played. So its a great challenge for us.Although the Redskins have been adept at stopping the run theyre 10th the units struggles against the pass and propensity for yielding big plays they might be in for a long afternoon. Consider:They rank last in passing touchdowns against (11), 31stin passing yards against (1,305) and 30thin yards per attempt (8.8). (Ryan leads the league in passer rating and ranks second in passing touchdowns with 11.)The Redskins have yielded pass receptions of 30 yards or longer nine times, including second half completions of 65 and 54 yards last week in Tampa. Both of those backbreaking miscues led to Buccaneers touchdowns and, making matters worse, came against the teams best cover corners, DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson.Defensive end Stephen Bowen acknowledged that the Redskins front-7 must help out the backend by forcing Ryan to make hurried decisions. We have to get there, Bowen said. Weve been working on a pass-rush skills this week. I know Im going to the best I can to get one sack on the board --finally.For three weeks now, the secondary has talked about playing tighter coverage and eliminating the long receptions that have plagued them.Now would be a good time for that to start happening.In addition to keeping an eye the secondarys performance, here are some other areas the crew atcsn.washington.comwill be monitoring:Ground superiorityThe troubling news for the Redskins is they have yielded 123 points. The encouraging news is they have scored 123, as well.In order to move the ball and produce points against the Falcons, the NFLs second best rushing offense (Washington is averaging 171 yards per game) needs to follow a simple formula: run the ball, then run it some more.The Falcons are allowing only 19 points per game, but their run defense has been shaky, permitting 146.3 yards per game (29th).Last week, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton gained 86 yards on nine rushes against Atlanta. The Redskins, meantime, boast a pair of the NFLs top rushers in Griffin and Alfred Morris and, as a team, are tied for the most 10-plus yard runs (23). Its also possible Ryan Grant will make his debut for the home team.No excuses2) Kicker Billy Cundiff preserved his job last week by making a 41-yard field goal in the final seconds against the Buccaneers. But misses from 41, 31 and 57 earlier in the game means his margin for error against the Falcons is negligible.Cundiff, snapper Justin Snow and holder Sav Rocca have had another full week to work out any kinks in the field goal operation. So there will be no excuses Sunday.Strength against strengthAtlantas pass defense has been significantly stronger than its run defense. In fact, the unit is tied for the seventh fewest passing yards against per game (207).The Redskins air attack, meantime, ranks among the leagues most formidable. Griffin is tied with Ryan for the second best completion rate in the game (69.4) and has thrown only one interception.Washingtons receivers, meantime, rank second in the NFL in yards after the catch with 625, an effort led by Pierre Garon and Fred Davis.Somethings got to give.

Quick Links

Need to Know: Redskins stay in house for both coordinator jobs

Need to Know: Redskins stay in house for both coordinator jobs

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 23, 37 days before the NFL franchise tag deadline.

Timeline

Days until:

NFL free agency starts 45
—NFL Draft 94
First Sunday of 2017 season 230

Staying in house

­There are reasons to dislike the hire of Greg Manusky as defensive coordinator but the notion that he got the job because he is buddies with Jay Gruden really doesn’t hold water. They had no connection prior to last year and with them working on opposite sides of the ball they didn’t work side by side. I’ve heard the two have a friendly relationship but it’s not like he’s out of the Tampa Bay Yacht Club or anything.

I know that everyone is obsessed with yardage rankings, which is a pretty weak indicator of the quality of a defense. Since you want to know, in Manusky’s nine seasons as a defensive coordinator his defenses have finished ranked 18th in yards allowed on average. In reality, Football Outsiders’  DVOA is a more accurate measure of the effectiveness of a defense since it takes the strength of the opponents into account. There isn’t much difference there, Manusky’s average DVOA ranking was about 17. In other words, he’s run middle of the pack defenses. Sure, you'd like them to do better but having a defense that's around average would represent an improvement over most of the last seven seasons.

How has his talent been? Three different players have been first-team All-Pro selections. LB Patrick Willis made it three times, S Eric Weddle and DE Robert Mathias once each. Players under him made the Pro Bowl 13 times with Willis (3), Mathis (2), and DE Justin Smith (2) making it more than once. His defenses had three Pro Bowlers on one occasion when LB D’Qwell Jackson, CB Vonta Davia, and S Mike Adams all made it. That year the Colts defense was ranked 11th in yards and 13th in DVOA.

It remains to be seen how much the Redskins will change schematically. Manusky has run both 4-3 fronts and 3-4’s so the Redskins could make a switch. Even if they go with a 3-4 base the unit is likely to be more aggressive than it was under Joe Barry. Some fans seem to be worried that promoting an assistant coach means that thinks will be done the same. Let me ask you this: If your boss was fired for not getting the job done and you were promoted into his position, would you do things the same way he did? I didn’t think so.

­There will be continuity on the offensive side of the ball as Matt Cavanaugh is going to get moved into the offensive coordinator job. It’s Gruden’s offense anyway so there would not have been much change even if they had brought someone in from the outside. It seems likely that Gruden will call the plays, although we won’t know for sure for a while. The only immediate question on that side of the ball is if Wes Phillips will stay on as the tight ends coach or if he will follow Sean McVay to Los Angeles. That should be resolved over the next several days.

Tandler on Twitter

This was in response to a tweet saying that Kyle Shanahan is likely to get roster and personnel control when he becomes the head coac of the 49ers.

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

Quick Links

Kirk Cousins had his eye on Kyle Shanahan's offense, but is there more to it?

Kirk Cousins had his eye on Kyle Shanahan's offense, but is there more to it?

Of course, Kirk Cousins is disappointed the Redskins didn’t make the playoffs, but among the various things he’s done in the offseason, one of them is a little curious.

Sunday, Cousins wasn’t just watching the Falcons dominate the Packers, 44-21, in the NFC Championship Game. He sent out a picture on Instagram from the stands of the Georgia Dome.

“Watching two of the best in the world do what they do & taking notes to make it to this game next year -score a lot of points!” Cousins wrote.

But — especially with rumors that Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will be offered the head coaching position with the 49ers — is there more to this post than the Redskins’ quarterback simply watching the game?

Shanahan was the Redskins’ offensive coordinator from 2010-2013 and was reportedly “integral” in the team selecting Cousins in the 2012 NFL Draft.

So if Shanahan makes the move out to San Francisco and if the Redskins don’t put a franchise tag on Cousins, could the pair be reunited?

It’s possible, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, who said, “don’t be surprised if the 49ers make a run at Kirk Cousins if the Redskins do not make him their exclusive franchise player.”

There’s a lot of if’s involved for that to happen, but it’s possible. It’s also possible Cousins was just enjoying the NFC Championship Game and decided to Instagram about it. 

MORE REDSKINS: Why Matt Cavanaugh makes sense for Washington