Welcome back to The Burgundy and Gold Report. Week 10 proved to be another nail biter for skins fans. The team’s offense gave another anemic performance and once again the defense was the team’s saving grace. Although the defense gave up over 500 total yards to the Bucs, they did record two interceptions along with two fumble recoveries. Washington’s redzone defense had it’s best performance to date allowing only the 3 points even though the Bucs made it to the redzone five times.
It was another up and down performance from the opportunistic Skins’ defense. One thing was apparent though, the Redskins cornerbacks gave up way too much ground in coverage. The game plan was to limit the high powered Tampa Bay passing attack from going over the top of the defense, but playing stingy redzone defense ultimately helped Washington prevail.
It was apparent that rookie corner Danny Johnson was in over his head covering Tampa’s Desean Jackson and often gave up 10-15 yards of cushion. After struggling in coverage the entire day, Redskins’ coaches replaced Johnson with another rookie in Greg Stroman, who rewarded their confidence with a timely interception. As the season progresses, the Redskins defensive backs’ tenacity will be tested. The small stature of the rookie corners (Johnson 5’9″ and Stroman a slender 5’11”) could pose a problem for the upcoming match-ups.
Insert 6’3 cornerback Adonis Alexander into the fold. The supplemental draft selection of Alexander came as no surprise to many Redskins fans who also follow Virginia Tech. Redskins Defensive backs coach Torrian Gray coached Alexander during his freshman year, which coincidentally was Alexander’s most impactful collegiate season. The word is, Gray knows how to best utilize Alexander and has been working on the basics with the youngster.
D. Hall with Alexander discussing technique.
Some fans believed the former Hokie defensive back would end up on the practice squad, but it seems coaches didn’t believe he’d clear wavers. This was supposed to be Alexander’s redshirt year in which he wouldn’t be expected to play. In fact, he was Washington’s 6th cornerback and has routinely been a game day inactive. But the lingering injury issues with Quinton Dunbar have changed things. Alexander has been activated on the games Dunbar has been out and it doesn’t seem that will change this week. Alexander has strictly been used as the special teams gunner, but his impressive combination of size and athleticism need to be considered for the season’s stretch run. The question remains, how to best utilize Alexander with the Redskins secondary struggling.
Although the Redskins are currently ranked 5th in the league in rushing defense, they are ranked 25th against the pass, giving up 270.1 passing yards per game. DJ Swearinger has been a standout among the other Skins DB’s and has capitalized off of timely turnovers. Aside from Swearinger, the performance of the other defensive backs have been inconsistent at times. As previously mentioned, the size of the rookie corners could become an issue with Dunbar out. Although Alexander has been clocked as low as 4.7 sec in the forty yard dash, his imposing size (6’3″ 193 lbs) makes him an asset. Redskins’ coaches have attributed Alexander’s lack of playing time to maturity and inexperience.
The Redskins have a tough stretch ahead with some big bodied receivers on the horizon. Texans receiver’s Deandre Hopkins and recently acquired Demaryius Thomas come to town during Washington’s Alumni Weekend and the pressure will be on. Although Norman, Moreau, Stroman and Johnson are currently ahead of Alexander on the depth chart, rotating him in on passing downs should be considered. The Redskins have been playing a lot of quarters/zone coverage versus the better passing teams and have struggled. They’ve rotated Johnson and Stroman as the third corners with little success. They’ve also kept an extra safety in on a few occasions. Alexander had success playing cornerback and safety while at Virginia Tech so the Redskins have options.
Alexander has the ability to help Washington this week and although Johnson has upside, the former Va. Tech defensive back brings more to the table. Fans should expect more zone coverage from Washington against a dangerous Houston offense. Adonis Alexander fits the mold as a zone corner, but also has the ability to be effective in press coverage. Safety Deshazor Everrett has looked decent when deployed as the Redskins third safety and that’s exactly the role Alexander could thrive in as he learns to be an NFL cornerback.
We are now past the seasons midpoint, the Redskins are 6-3, and every win brings them closer to an NFC East title. The key to the Skins’ defensive success going forward will be versatility because Manusky’s defensive scheme scares nobody. Attacking offenses with a strong defensive front and a competent back-end could get Washington to 10 wins, but in order for the defense to keep pace they need to take more chances. With the suspect play of the Skins defensive backs it’s time to try something new.
By Adam Aniba