- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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Just a few observations after re-watching the Washington Redskins' defense against New England. Again, so many starters missing from the Patriots that you have to keep it in mind, but still have to try and evaluate players, so here are a few thoughts:
I loved Brian Orakpo's sack because it was a team effort. First, Ryan Kerrigan pinched Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett up in the pocket with a good outside rush. For what it’s worth I saw Kerrigan using a technique Brian Baker has emphasized. Kerrigan turned the corner on the tackle with his right arm up and inside his man. At the top of his rush, he did what Baker has focused on: He dropped his arm hard, returning his weight to his hips. Anyway, it worked. He pinched Mallett. Then, tackle Jarvis Jenkins had collapsed the pocket so Mallett had no room to step up, and Orakpo finished it by getting inside the left tackle -- he had beaten him a couple times outside, so the tackle set wide and Orakpo took him up and then in. Teamwork. Sack.
I have written that most plays I’ve seen rookie linebacker Trent Murphy make have come when he has attacked inside. Same was true Thursday. He ducked inside the right tackle to make a tackle for a loss. I think he surprises blockers by how low he can play. Murphy did not look comfortable in coverage; he did do this in college, but it’s a different ballgame here of course. But I liked how he took on the lead blocker on one run. And I liked how he attacked the guard on one rush, at his outside shoulder. The guard turned outside a bit. File that away for a possible stunt with Kerrigan.
Linebacker Perry Riley played fast in his limited snaps. He missed a tackle on the first play of the game, but he shot through the gap hard. And he was picked up by a group of teammates who made sure it didn’t turn into a long gain and limited the back to two yards. Gang tackling is always good. Riley also filled the hole hard on the second play (I wrote about Robinson’s success on this play here).
Trenton Robinson loves contact. I could give you a list of examples. But I’ll leave it at this: he loves contact.
OK, a little more on him: He helped on three plays when the Pats had the ball at the Redskins' 2-yard line. He came from the backside to help Will Compton make a tackle (good job by Compton here). He was in coverage on a pass high over the middle. And he flew up hard on a run to his right to get in on the stop. The part that he will have to watch (though I don’t know what his job was on this play in fairness): Being too aggressive. He was in coverage over the middle on fourth down when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo started upfield -- but he was still several yards behind the line of scrimmage. Robinson raced at him, but Garoppolo slid to the right, kept the play alive and threw back to the middle. Cornerback Chase Minnifield defended on the play, but it was the area that Robinson had been positioned.
Nose tackle Barry Cofield held a double team on the second play of the game, allowing Riley to run free. But Cofield was too upright on a swim move, allowing the center to stop him (next to him: Chris Baker was lower and drove his man back).
This has nothing to do with defense, but it does involve a defensive player. Linebacker Adam Hayward had a terrific block on Rashad Ross' 37-yard kickoff return. Held his ground, allowing Ross to make a cut and keep going. Others made nice blocks too: Niles Paul and, at the end of the run, Robinson. But Hayward's was huge.
Bacarri Rambo was more competitive and aggressive than a year ago. This needs to continue, but it was a good start. I liked what he did on a couple plays in particular. On a second-quarter run the receiver came out to block him. He launched into the receiver, keeping his eyes on the ball carrier. He shed the block and helped on the play. Later, Rambo shed another block from the same receiver (Brandon LaFell) and tripped up the runner. Need to see more from him, but it was a stronger start than last summer.