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Pearl Harbor Crew II

Pearl Harbor Crew II


Chief among the concerns of the Redskins these days is their pass defense. Even during their recent two-game winning streak the opposing passing game has put a scare into the team and its fans. While the Skins are playing with fire, it is possible to have a successful season without anything resembling a shut-down pass defense.

The 1983 Redskins went 14-2. The team scored 541 points, which at the time was the NFL record for the most points scored in a season. They had the Smurfs, a group of diminutive wide receivers. The Hogs had grown from being a group of large, sweaty linemen into a certified pop culture phenomenon. The Fun Bunch, which had some Smurfs as part of its membership, celebrated touchdowns.

There was one other group with a nickname, one that wasn’t particularly cute or complimentary. The defensive backfield came to be known as the Pearl Harbor Crew as it was getting bombed with alarming frequency.

It started in the opening game when Danny White rallied the Cowboys from a 23-3 halftime deficit with three second-half touchdown passes. Two of them were to Tony Hill covering 75 and 51 yards. In the fifth game against the Raiders, they got hit with the ultimate bomb, a 99-yard touchdown pass from Jim Plunkett to Cliff Branch. A couple of weeks later Green Bay’s Lynn Dickey got into the act, throwing for 387 yards in a Monday night thriller that the Packers won.

After that game, the Redskins were last in the NFL in pass defense. Nobody was all that worried, however, since they were 5-2. In fact, they finished the season allowing an average of 273 yards a game through the air; they ranked 28th out of 28 teams in pass defense but they were able to joke about it because they were 14-2.

There were a few reasons why the team put up such poor stats. One was that teams almost always found themselves trailing the high-scoring Redskins in the early going, forcing them to put the ball up early and often. Also, it was very difficult to run against the Washington defense; they finished the year ranked #1 against the rush. “Running at them is like throwing popcorn at a battleship,” commented former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil at the time.

Another was that the Redskins had a lot of new faces in their secondary. At cornerback Joe Lavender had retired and Jeris White sat out the year in a contract dispute. Taking their places were rookie Darrell Green, who was talented but very raw, and second-year player Vernon Dean. At safety, Tony Peters, a Pro Bowl performer the year before, was out serving a drug-related suspension, leaving Curtis Jordan, a veteran much better suited for special teams duty, to start alongside Mark Murphy, who was a savvy veteran but one who was slow afoot.

The current Redskins aren’t quite as low as their ’83 counterparts in the NFL rankings against the pass after four games this year. The 232 yards per game they have allowed so far puts them 26th in the 32-team league. Certainly, you can’t look at the team having large leads as the reason for the high opposition totals. The Redskins have trailed or have had a single-digit lead for the vast majority of the time this year. They have, however, been solid against the run, giving up an average of just 79.3 yards a game, fourth in the NFL. If I’m an opposing offensive coordinator, I’m probably going to be throwing it all day, too.

And, certainly, there has been turnover in the personnel. Adam Archuleta and Kenny Wright are new to the defense and Carlos Rogers started just five games last year and played in 12.

While the original Pearl Harbor Crew did get blasted for some big plays, they also made a lot of their own. Washington picked off 34 opposition passes that year, a theft pace that this year’s group will be hard-pressed to match. If they keep up their current rate of one every two games they’ll have eight picks by the end of the year.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com

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Redskins interviewed Greg Manusky for defensive coordinator

Redskins interviewed Greg Manusky for defensive coordinator

The Redskins interviewed current outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky for their defensive coordinator opening, the team announced yesterday.  

Manusky has a long history with the Redskins organization. He served as outside linebackers coach this past season, and was also linebackers coach back in the 2001 season. In his playing days, Manusky was a Redskins linebacker from 1988 to 1990. 

He has held three separate defensive coordinator positions in his coaching career, including with the San Francisco 49ers (2007-2010), San Diego Chargers (2011) and Indianapolis Colts (2012-2015).

For more on his defensive philosophy and background, check out Rich Tandler's profile of Manusky

The Redskins have confirmed four interviews for the defensive coordinator position: Manusky, Rob Ryan, Gus Bradley and Mike Pettine

MORE REDSKINS: Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

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Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

The Redskins are looking at potential free agents and continuing with the draft process as they try to move team from residing in the middle of the pack in the NFL to becoming annual contenders to go deep into the playoffs. The process is all about trying to build a solid 53-man depth chart. Let’s get out the crystal ball and see what that depth chart might look like.

Earlier this week we looked at the offense; today the defense is up. Although there could be a change to a 4-3 base defense in the making depending on who the coordinator is, we’ll line them up in a 3-4 until there is word to the contrary.

*Pending unrestricted free agent

Defensive line

Starters: Chris Baker*, draft pick/free agent X 2
Backups: Matt Ioannidis, Ricky Jean Francois, Anthony Lanier

It seems that Baker wants to stay and give that the Redskins would be starting their D-line virtually from scratch without him the chances of coming up with a deal seem strong. I will spend the entire 99 days between now and the draft saying that it’s not a given that they will take a defensive lineman, or any defensive player, with their top draft pick. But someone like Malik McDowell of Michigan State sure would fit in well here along with a free agent like Bennie Logan of the Eagles. The organization will be looking for leaps forward from Ioannidis and Lanier.

Related: Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Jason Tarver

Outside linebacker

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Backups: Junior Galette, Trent Murphy, Lynden Trail

Although nothing is certain until pen is put to paper, the chances of Galette giving it another go after two torn Achilles in two years are strong. Trail and Houston Bates will battle for a fifth spot, if there is one. Given Smith’s inconsistency and the uncertainty of Galette’s health it wouldn’t be surprising to see them draft an edge rusher.

Inside linebacker

Starters: Will Compton, free agent
Backups: Martrell Spaight, Mason Foster, draft pick

I’m putting Compton there in dry erase marker, not in Sharpie. They love his leadership and work ethic but he must make more plays. I have a free agent starting beside him because it’s a tough position for a rookie to learn. But if they spend a high draft pick that player could jump into a starting job quickly.  Foster moves into the nickel role that he performed well after Su’a Cravens went out with an injury. Steven Daniels, a 2016 seventh-round pick who spent the year on injured reserve, could push Spaight for a job.

Cornerback

Starters: Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar
Backups: Kendall Fuller (nickel), Tharold Simon, free agent/draft pick

This could go in a lot of different directions. The only spot set in stone is Norman’s. I have Bashaud Breeland moving to safety, which is something of a speculative hot take. If they make that move, they could spend a high draft pick or substantial free agent money on a corner or they could stay in-house with Dunbar or Fuller. Simon could make the team and contribute or he could be cut.

More Redskins: An early look at first-round draft possibilities

Safety

Starters: Su’a Cravens, Bashaud Breeland
Backups: Will Blackmon, Deshazor Everett, draft pick

Safeties are hard to find. In college, potentially good safeties gravitate towards cornerback, where the NFL money is better. If a good one hits the free agent market, the laws of supply and demand push the price up beyond the value of the position. For those reasons, the Redskins might try Breeland at safety. Some in the organization have believed for a couple of years that safety is his best position. Cravens announced that he would be moving to safety so that change is firm. Duke Ihenacho, who is a free agent, could be back but I think he moves along. Blackmon is a good veteran reserve who can play nickel also. Even though he made a key interception when forced into duty against the Eagles, it still seems that they don’t trust Everett at safety and perhaps a mid-round pick will replace him.

Specialists: LS Nick Sundberg*, P Tress Way, PK Dustin Hopkins

I predict that Sundberg will be the first of the team’s pending free agents to agree to a contract. Hopkins may get some camp competition but it is unlikely to be of more than the token variety.

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.