Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Oct 2010

ESPN AGS: Redskins over Eagles

This week's Any Given Sunday discusses the holes in the Philadelphia run defense as well as the problems the Redskins are having against the pass.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 05 Oct 2010

9 comments, Last at 08 Oct 2010, 2:41pm by Bowl Game Anomaly


by stephenmcf :: Tue, 10/05/2010 - 6:29pm

still wondering where the sept 28 AGS is? there were tons of upsets that week..

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 10/05/2010 - 8:12pm

Oops. Don't know why it was never posted, but AGS Week 3 Falcons Over Saints can be found right here. The theme is that the Saints defense, just like last year, plays great when they're ahead, but is very beatable in close games. (That almost cost them another game against Carolina this Sunday.

by Rod B. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/05/2010 - 11:07pm

If a team has good pass defense, however, isn't it possible to tolerate a mediocre run defense?

Isn't passing defense more important in today's NFL than rush defense? This is the Colts formula: use a plethora of speedy, undersized players on defense that can rush the quarterback and cover, giving up some ability to stop the running game to establish an effective pass-rushing unit.

So far, Philadelphia's defense seems to mirror this approach. It has held quarterbacks to poor passer ratings in its four games, but it has also given up excessive amounts of rushing yards.

The theory is that if you score enough points on offense, your defense can mostly disregard the running game and focus on shutting down the other team's passing as they try to come from behind. It doesn't work well if you don't have a powerful offense, but if Philadelphia can get their offense running more effectively, the defense may work just as well as the Colts, no?

by Vincent Verhei :: Wed, 10/06/2010 - 2:40am

You're not wrong, but it's a dangerous game to play. Just look at the Colts -- Peyton Manning has been the best QB in football for the first month of the year, but the Colts are 2-2, 0-2 in the division, mainly because the Texans and Jaguars ran all over them.

by qed :: Wed, 10/06/2010 - 8:11am

Some of Jim Johnson's best Eagles defenses would give up quite a few yards on the ground in the first half. They would prevent big passing plays, the d-line would aggressively attack their gaps, and sooner or later they'd stop the RB in the backfield, get a sack, or the offense would make a mistake. Once they got the offense in a bad down and distance it would be all over. And in the second half they'd usually be playing with a lead which would help neutralize the opponent's running attack.

This is not one of those defenses (and hasn't been for a couple years). This defense will give up some big plays, isn't always good in the red zone, and can't reliably get off the field on 3rd and 7+. Not that this defense is awful or anything, but they definitely need some consistent offensive firepower if they're going to win consistently.

by Dean :: Wed, 10/06/2010 - 8:59am

There's actaully an article in todays Philadelphia Inquirer which discusses this exact point. The Eagles D is deliberately crafted with an emphasis on edge players - DEs and CBs who can stop the pass, at the expense of S and LB types who are more run support players. The philosophy is that the offense should get a lead and let the D pin its ears back and harass the passer. Of course, whe the offense doesn't get a lead...

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 10/06/2010 - 3:24pm

Hard to get a lead when the O-line lets the other team play Whack-a-Mole with the QB.

by The Other Ben Johnson (not verified) :: Wed, 10/06/2010 - 11:12am

It's strange how much the Redskins personnel has fluctuated while the defensive philosophy has not changed too much. They've been more or less a cover-first defense since time immemorial (Darrell Green).

But since Snyder took over, they've done some real head-scratching personnel moves in the defensive backfield. The Hall contract, the dropping Ryan Clark in order to pay for Adam Archuleta debacle, trading Justin Tryon, and the Champ Bailey trade chief among them.

Drafts have been a mixed-to-empty bag, with Carlos Rodgers and Fred Smoot (he counts) looking workmanlike at best. We don't know about Barnes yet, which might say it all. They did score some decent late-round depth in Doughty, Moore, and Horton. Laron Landry is an athletic hothead without any discernible cover skills who needs help from both the scheme and other players to hide his weaknesses. I loved seeing him assigned to spy Vick, that's the kind of thing he needs to be doing.

All in all, I watch this Redskins defense every Sunday and my eyes well up about Sean Taylor. So talented. So much fun to watch. Still so totally the solution to all of their problems on that side of the ball. So that's fun.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Fri, 10/08/2010 - 2:41pm

Each of those 4 moves you mention in your 2nd paragraph were and are defensible except Ryan Clark/Adam Archuleta. Hall was signed to replace Shawn Springs who pretty much fell off the face of the earth immediately after that, Justin Tryon has done nothing to prove that the Skins were wrong to trade him, and Champ Bailey was franchise-tagged and wanted out (he was essentially a throw-in in the deal which was really Portis for a 2nd. Sure, the Skins paid too much, but Bailey was not coming back in any case).

All that aside, I agree with you that the Skins badly miss Taylor.