Washington Redskins: Eric Weddle

The Washington Redskins' defense is optimistic about where it's headed, thanks to the addition of Jason Hatcher and a tweaked philosophy regarding the pass rush. Whether their play matches that optimism always remains the biggest hurdle. What's not in doubt: They will have two players among the most expensive at their positions when it comes to the salary cap. The fact both are in their front seven isn't a coincidence as the Redskins' offseason goal has been to improve the pass rush. So, after breaking down where the Redskins' top cap hits at each position offensively stood in comparison to their NFL counterparts earlier this week, it's time to take a look at the defense.

Safety

NFL's top five cap hits
Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs $11,619,700
Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers, $10,100,000
Antrel Rolle, New York Giants, $9,250,000
Dashon Goldson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, $9,000,000
Michael Griffin, Tennessee Titans, $8,000,000

Meriweather
Redskins' top cap hit
Brandon Meriweather (59th), $1,000,000

Summing it up: Notice who’s not in the top five? Jairus Byrd, after his new deal with New Orleans. But don’t worry: He’s set to take up the most cap room in 2015 at $10.3 million. I like Byrd, but not at that figure (I’d have paid Sean Taylor that sort of cash). But Byrd was never really a legitimate option for the Redskins. Mike Mitchell was and he’ll count $2.2 million this season and $4.95 million in 2015. But the overriding point is Washington views the best way to help this position is by bolstering the pass rush. Starters Meriweather and Ryan Clark both are on one-year contracts, so this position is still a question mark beyond this season (and still will be one entering the year).

Corner

NFL's top five cap hits
Brandon Carr, Dallas, $12,217,000
Johnathan Joseph, Houston, $11,250,000
Lardarius Webb, Baltimore, $10,500,000
Brandon Flowers, Kansas City, $10,500,000
Tramon Williams, Green Bay, $9,500,000

Porter
Redskins' top cap hit
Tracy Porter (43rd), $2,800,000

Summing it up: Next season, Darrelle Revis' cap hit jumps to $25 million. Which means he’s playing on a one-year deal. Is it a good thing the Redskins’ biggest cap hit here belongs to Porter, who has battled injury issues along with consistency during his career? Of course, it’s not like he occupies a lot of space. DeAngelo Hall's cap hit is $2,062,500 but that jumps to $4,812,500 in 2015. By then the Redskins need young corner David Amerson to have fully emerged -- can he become their best corner? If not, then they’ll have to start looking for a No. 1 corner. By the way, the top five on the list for 2014? They’ve combined for four Pro Bowl appearances and one All-Pro spot (Joseph). But Carr did do a good job vs. Washington last year in the first game but not the second (and in at least one game against then-Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson).

Linebacker

NFL's top five cap hits
Lawrence Timmons, $11,816,250
Tamba Hali, Kansas City, $11,464,706
Brian Orakpo, Washington, $11,455,000
Clay Matthews, Green Bay, $10,943,750
James Laurinaitis, St. Louis, $10,400,000

Orakpo
Redskins' top cap hit
Orakpo

Summing it up: That’s quite a list for Orakpo to be part of, but to stay on there after this season -- at least in Washington -- he’ll have to be a little more productive. But even if he has another season like last year, Orakpo will still be in the $10-million range. When Hali got paid, he responded with sack totals of 12, nine and 11 in the next three seasons (with nine forced fumbles and one interception). I don’t think anyone says Hali's overpaid (well, at least not many). In Orakpo’s last three full seasons, he has a combined 27.5 sacks, but only four forced fumbles. More game-changing plays and he’ll get the contract he desires. Another interesting part on this is that two of the five are inside linebackers, though Timmons plays in a 3-4 and Laurinaitis in a 4-3.

Defensive tackle

NFL's top five cap hits
Ndamukong Suh, Detroit, $22,412,000
Haloti Ngata, Baltimore, $16,000,000
Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay, $15,627,253
Geno Atkins, Cincinnati, $9,000,000
Barry Cofield, Washington, $7,667,500

Cofield
Redskins' top cap hit
Cofield

Summing it up: Cofield’s base salary jumped from $840,000 last season to $4.55 million (the lower figure was the result of a restructuring last spring in which $3.5 million in base salary was converted to a signing bonus). This is as high as Cofield’s cap number will be and in two years it falls to $6,877,500. I know the coaches felt he would become the NFL’s top nose tackle by this time. That’s not the case, but Cofield does have his strengths and has done a nice job with Washington. For a short stretch last season he was playing as well as anyone on the team defensively, and he always plays hard. He’ll be helped by having Hatcher in the pass rush, perhaps giving Cofield more one-on-one matchups. If that happens, then perhaps Cofield will have the sort of season in all phases that coaches have hoped for.

Defensive end

NFL's top five cap hits
Mario Williams, Buffalo, $18,800,000
Charles Johnson, Carolina, $16,420,000
Chris Long, St. Louis, $14,900,000
Greg Hardy, Carolina, $13,116,000
Calais Campbell , Arizona, $11,250,000

Bowen
Redskins' top cap hit
Stephen Bowen (15th), $7,020,000

Summing it up: All of the top five on this list play in a 4-3, where ends can excel as playmakers and, therefore, command big bucks. The 3-4 ends, typically, are not -- with some exceptions. Bowen has not been a playmaker, though for a while he was an effective player both against the run and as a rusher. However, he has just one sack since the 2011 season (26 games). And after microfracture surgery and being 30, I wonder about the level at which he’ll be able to play. Multiple Redskins sources said they still expect him to be in the Redskins' plans, but will it be at this cap figure? That's a big hit for someone in his situation. If Bowen returns healthy and plays well, the Redskins will greatly benefit. If not? That's a lot of cap room to occupy. One more note: Johnson and Hardy combine for approximately 23 percent of Carolina's cap.

Film Review: RG III third down success

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
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When Redskins coach Mike Shanahan was asked why Robert Griffin III threw so well on third downs Sunday, he’d point to a variety of factors, from coverage to accuracy to receivers winning routes. And after watching each of his third-down throws, it’s easy to see why Shanahan did not just point to one factor.

Yes, Griffin threw well. He was accurate and gave his targets a chance to make plays after the catch most of the time. But the Redskins did a good job taking advantage of matchups, allowing Griffin to throw with more confidence. Overall he completed eight of nine passes on third down for 89 yards and six first downs.

Here’s a look at his third-down plays:
  • Third and 6, Redskins’ 5, first quarter. A mismatch the Chargers eventually changed, but not in time. They had safety Eric Weddle cover tight end Jordan Reed one-on-one, with Reed in a stack formation to the left. Easy pickings here. Griffin knew pre-snap where he would go and it showed. He reached his third step and the ball was out as Reed broke to the outside. Griffin hit him on his outside shoulder. Eight yards.
  • Third and 11, Chargers’ 39, first quarter. Same drive. Same scenario: Weddle trying to cover Reed one-on-one. They still haven’t learned. This time, Reed was in a three-point stance next to left tackle Trent Williams. Again Griffin was decisive. Weddle shaded Reed about two yards to the inside, forcing him to break outside. Reed pivoted back outside at the top of his route, Griffin made another decisive throw – third step, pat and throw -- to his outside shoulder. Fourteen yards.
  • Third and 6, Chargers’ 21, first quarter. Same drive. Same victim. This time the target was Logan Paulsen, out of a three-point stance next to Williams. But he was not the initial read. However, at the snap Griffin peaked in that direction and then back to the middle. He immediately went back to Paulsen, again hitting him on his outside shoulder allowing him to gain yards after the catch. Again decisive: 2.0 seconds, no hesitation. Seven yards.
  • Third and 5, Redskins’ 22, second quarter. The Chargers mixed it up here, playing zone and that caused indecision. Griffin did not look calm in the pocket. The protection was good and had he been more patient, he could have hit Reed sitting down around the right hash in a soft spot. But he wanted Aldrick Robinson running a crossing route underneath. Four yards.
  • Third and 12, Redskins’ 34, third quarter. Back to man coverage with a single high safety. Pierre Garcon is aligned wide to the left against corner Derek Cox. Mismatch. Griffin knows this is where he’ll throw, eyeing him the whole way (against man coverage, the corner can’t read the quarterback’s eyes so it’s not a huge sin; the safety was held in check by another route over the middle). Griffin let Garcon try to win, taking Cox from the numbers almost to the left hash and then back outside. He has a step, but the ball is underthrown and Cox had his back to the quarterback. Garcon makes a one-handed grab with his right arm reaching around Cox. Griffin deserves credit for patience and staying calm, sliding to his left with his eyes upfield after a blitzer starts to get free. Griffin delivered the ball in 3.3 seconds. Thirty eight yards (Cox was called for pass interference, too).
  • Third and nine, Chargers’ 46, third quarter. The Griffin run. A great effort, but the hit could have been avoided. The Chargers played man with two-deep safeties. Corner Johnny Patrick looks like he has Reed one-on-one off the line, but then as Reed breaks outside, Patrick settles in the middle and the safety on that side rotates over to cover Reed. However, Reed was open on the break at the 34-yard line and Griffin was looking in that direction. Instead, he scrambled to the left.
  • Third and six, Chargers’ 19, third quarter. The Chargers played zone coverage, with Leonard Hankerson running a crossing route. But he crossed by safety Darrell Stuckey. Griffin made a decisive throw. Stuckey had tight coverage, but Griffin put the ball low and to the outside, preventing any deflection. A good throw. However, Reed, split wide left, also ran to the middle and was uncovered. He would have reached the 5-yard line and with one broken tackle might have scored. Still, a good throw by Griffin. Eleven yards.
  • Third and eight, Chargers’ 35, fourth quarter. Griffin knew where he wanted to go pre-snap and it showed. He immediately targeted running back Roy Helu, who started in the backfield and ran wide of the tackle and, with Stuckey playing outside leverage, cut back to the middle. Griffin eyed him the whole time and had the right matchup. But it only gained six yards. Part of the problem? A missed hold on Stuckey. Right decision by Griffin because of the matchup.
  • Third and eight, Chargers’ 45, overtime. Back to Reed, who motioned to a stack formation on the right against man coverage with two linebackers playing zone in the middle. Again, Griffin knew where he wanted to go. Safety Jahleel Addae was about eight yards off Reed at the snap. So Reed went inside immediately, Griffin did not eye him the whole way – in fact he did not look at him until his third and final step of the drop -- so the linebacker to that side could not cheat (he also had a receiver running underneath). Reed caught the ball about a yard from the first down, but gained five after the catch. Twelve yards.

How Raiders helped the Redskins' option

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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The Washington Redskins added a twist to their option game Sunday. You can thank the Oakland Raiders for showing them what would work against San Diego.

When the Raiders ran their zone-read option against the Chargers on Oct. 6 quarterback Terrelle Pryor had a good, but not great, day. He ran the option three times for 19 yards. But what he did was show the Redskins how the Chargers would defend this play.

Then the Redskins added their own wrinkle with the triple option. It worked twice – and should have worked the third time as well.

Against the Raiders, San Diego left the outside exposed on the first two runs. Pryor gained eight yards the first time because outside linebacker Larry English rushed hard upfield, then at the running back on the fake. The safety stayed back and the inside linebacker to that side did not fill the gap and wasn’t very aggressive.

The next time, the end rushed upfield but with the Chargers in man coverage no one was left outside and, once more, a passive fill by the linebacker left the outside exposed. Six more yards. Finally, on the third time the Redskins saw how San Diego likely would adjust in their game. The Chargers brought safety Eric Weddle into the action as an eighth defender in the box and had him run at the quarterback while the linebacker defended the running back. Pryor gained five yards by reversing field and running the other way.

Flash ahead to Sunday. San Diego played it the same way as it did when it should have stopped Pryor. Weddle walked up as an eighth defender and ran at quarterback Robert Griffin III, with English targeting running back Alfred Morris. Play stopped, right? Nope. Griffin pitched to Jordan Reed and, with eight defenders pinned between the tackles, San Diego was in trouble. Tackle Tyler Polumbus and tight end Logan Paulsen doubled linebacker Andrew Gachkar, with Paulsen eventually driving him to the ground. Reed had room to the outside for an 18-yard gain.

On the 18-yarder to Santana Moss, the Chargers again used eight in the box. Moss lined up about five yards behind the left tackle. Again, the outside linebacker runs at Morris. This time San Diego’s inside linebacker, Manti Te’o, rotated to the outside but did not fill the gap aggressively. Another double team with Polubmus and Reed; when Polumbus peeled off then Reed drove Te’o. That left Griffin one-on-one with the safety and when he forced him up, Griffin pitched to Moss who ran untouched for the first 13 yards.

The third one should have worked the same way, but Reed did not help Polumbus, who blocked down first, on a double team with the linebacker. Otherwise, it would have been the same scenario: a safety trying to stop both Griffin and Moss. Instead, it turned into a forward pass for two yards.

Regardless, the Redskins ran the triple option three times and gained 38 yards. The Raiders deserved an assist.

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