It’s been out for a while now that Mike Shanahan, who made his reputation as an offensive guru, was involved with Redskins’ defense. In a pre-mortem shortly before Shanahan was fired the Washington Post reported that he called the “Cover-0” blitz that ended up costing the Redskins a 2011 game in Dallas. Jim Haslett recently said that we will “see more of what we want to do”, seemingly employing the royal “we” there in that he is now going to be able to do things his way.
And after agreeing to a contract to return to the Redskins, cornerback DeAngelo Hall said to ESPN 980 that Shanahan “liked to micromanage things” and that Haslett was “handcuffed” and the defensive coordinator will “unleash his full arsenal of play calls”.
That all sounds great. But what Haslett and Hall and others are assuming is that Shanahan’s input was mostly, or perhaps even entirely, detrimental to the team. We really don’t know what Haslett unleashed—or, per Hall, un-handcuffed—will do. It could be better than the Shanny-plus-Haz hybrid we’ve had on defense for the last four years. Or it could be has Shanahan was keeping Haslett from making some killer mistakes in key situations.
The pressure is on Haslett this year more than any other coach or player with possible exception of quarterback Robert Griffin III. Jay Gruden will have his hands full getting his offense installed. It will be on Haslett to improve a defense that ranked 18th in yards last year.
And, if he gets his way, he will have to work with largely the same group of players he had last year. Hall is back and Haslett said last month that he also wants Perry Riley, Brian Orakpo, and Chris Baker to re-sign with the team. While you can make a solid case for all of those players coming back, there will be little room for a fresh infusion of talent on defense.
And that would mean that any improvement will have to come from Haslett’s game planning and play calling skills. We will see if Haslett had the better approach all along or if Shanahan was right to step and save him from himself from time to time.
Here is what you need to know on this Monday, December 5, six days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.
—Today's schedule: Jay Gruden conference call 3 p.m.
—Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 6; Panthers @ Redskins 14; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 19
Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
C Spencer Long (concussion), S Will Blackmon (possible concussion/stinger)
Postgame injury report
Redskins vs. Cardinals by the numbers
—Kirk Cousins passed for 271 yards. While compiling those yards he moved up six spots in the team’s record book for single season passing yardage. He passed four different quarterbacks in the process and passed Mark Rypien and Joe Theismann twice.
—Cousins also moved past Jason Campbell for sixth on the team’s career passing yards list.
—DeSean Jackson caught a 59-yard pass from Cousins in the third quarter. It was his 35th career reception of 50 yards or longer. Since he entered the league in 2008 no NFL player has more.
—Ryan Kerrigan sacked Carson Palmer in the second quarter, giving him 10 for the season. He now has his second career season with double-digit sacks; he had 13.5 in 2014.
—Trent Murphy recorded a third-quarter sack of Palmer; he now has eight sacks this season. He had a total of six in his first two NFL seasons.
—Dustin Hopkins kicked a 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. It was the second-longest of his career. He hit a 54-yarder in Atlanta last season.
Tandler on Twitter
In case you missed it
GLENDALE, AZ—The Redskins went into today’s game against the Cardinals somewhat banged up and they exit with a couple of additional injury concerns in the form of concussions.
Center Spencer Long left the game in the second quarter. Initially it was announced that he had been evaluated for a concussion but that he had been cleared. But after halftime the word came down that he had been retested and it was determined that he does have a concussion. Long has entered the concussion protocol.
Veteran John Sullivan, picked up earlier this season when Kory Lichtensteiger went on injured reserve, filled in a center the rest of the way. He is a capable fill-in but if Long is out he would be the only available center. The Redskins might have to sign a center if it looks like Long will be out of action against the Eagles.
In the fourth quarter safety Will Blackmon left the game. According to Redskins coach Jay Gruden he was being evaluated for a concussion and a stinger. His exact status is unknown. Gruden will give more information during a conference call with reporters on Monday.
[MORE: JOSH NORMAN ON HIS CRUCIAL FOURTH-QUARTER PENALTY]