- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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Thoughts and observations after the re-watching the Washington Redskins' defense versus Dallas:
1. The Redskins did a good job covering Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, using a mix of man and zone but usually having DeAngelo Hall in his area. Hall plays tighter on Bryant, knowing how much he runs comebacks and digs. But teammates helped: the linebackers did an excellent job for the most part of running at him on their drops, or at least getting enough depth to muddy the passing lane. This was a well-coordinated effort at times to take Bryant and the deeper passing game away.
2. One example on the first play of the second series: Hall is aligned against Bryant and it looks like man coverage. At the snap Bryant runs a shallow cross with Hall going with him at first. Then Hall backs into a three-deep look. Slot receiver Miles Austin, on the left, could have been open as linebacker Brian Orkapo, aligned over him and several yards off, rushed. But linebacker London Fletcher dropped into coverage, taking the slant away. Josh Wilson was near Bryan and Hall was about five yards behind him. Maybe if Tony Romo had been more patient he could have had a bigger play, but he was quick to check it down. He did not force passes Sunday.
3. The Redskins, for the most part, did a good job getting Romo to move off his spot yet not get outside. Late in the first half they sent Riley and Fletcher through the right guard, causing Romo to slide left and throw. The pass was behind his intended target.
4. Hall did a nice job all night in limiting Bryant after the catch; his tight coverage helped prevent Bryant from getting momentum after the reception. Hall did miss one tackle, leading to nine extra yards. But overall Bryant was tackled shortly after the catch. One of Hall’s best plays was the tipped pass in the end zone or Dallas would have had another touchdown. He was in cover-2 but the Cowboys occupied the safety on that side, Brandon Meriweather, with a Bryant post. Fortunately for Washington, there was no receiver in front of Hall so he continued to drop, allowing him to get his fingertips on the ball. He was clearly upset with Meriweather after the play, but if Meriweather leaves early, then Bryant is wide open.
5. I like Dallas’ rookie center Travis Frederick, who did a nice job against nose tackle Barry Cofield. Frederick opened the hole on the Cowboys’ first touchdown by moving Cofield out of the way. There were times when Cofield got past him with his swim move and he did better as the game went on. But Frederick will be a solid player for the Cowboys. I liked how he handled one rush on the opening drive. He was engaged with defensive end Stephen Bowen (who had a pretty solid game) when he saw linebacker Perry Riley start to rush. A tight end in the backfield came over to help with Bowen and Frederick calmly slid to his left to pick up Riley. The pass was incomplete, but Frederick did a nice job.
6. David Amerson was beat off the line of scrimmage by receiver Miles Austin on his holding penalty in the first quarter. Amerson was a little impatient with his feet allowing Austin to get past him.
7. One attribute defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has wanted at safety is speed. It’s especially desirable when trying to disguise coverages, allowing players to wait until the last second to shift. Or they can show different looks knowing the player is fast enough to get to the real coverage. That’s one benefit of using three corners and a safety at times. On one first-quarter play, corner Josh Wilson was aligned in the slot, then dropped back into a cover-2 look. The downfield coverage was good; two missed tackles (Amerson, Riley) led to a 14-yard gain.
8. Yes, the Redskins’ defensive numbers look a little better because of the Cowboys’ punt return for a touchdown as well as starting one drive at the 15-yard line. But Washington held Dallas to 213 total yards and only 4.3 yards per play. That’s impressive.
9. The Redskins’ rushers were told to attack Romo on his outside shoulder, preventing him from getting outside the pocket. They were successful, for the most part. But on his 15-yard touchdown pass to receiver Terrance Williams, Romo was able to get outside. Wilson blitzed from the slot on Romo’s right. But, while his initial path was to his outside, Wilson then took an inside path as Romo moved in the pocket. He then got wide and hit Williams with a beautiful throw. Corner E.J. Biggers got caught looking inside a bit too much in man coverage and did not plaster Williams soon enough, allowing him to get to the back of the end zone.
10. We point out the times when Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III misses open receivers, but it happens to all of them. Romo didn’t see Bryant wide open about 18 yards downfield on a dig. No one was within five yards of him. Romo even had a clean pocket, but he opted for the checkdown. Maybe he felt the Redskins had been taking him away all game so he didn’t anticipate him being open. Whatever; it was a missed opportunity.
11. Linebacker Brian Orakpo was not credited with any sort of defensive stat in the game book. Yes, it looked like he was held on one play (there were a couple that were missed; one of the most glaring involved Bowen, who after he got past the guard to the inside, was clearly being pulled at his jersey – with an official in view). But Orakpo needs to make more noise.