After evaluating the Washington offense on film earlier this week, I wanted to take some time to look at this defensive scheme that's under new management. Former linebackers coach Greg Manusky was promoted to defensive coordinator this offseason. He will be calling plays for the first time in Washington, but it's not his first rodeo as a coordinator. I also don't expect too many wholesale changes schematically from this unit since Manusky was an internal promotion.
One thing was apparent in both Eagles-Redskins games last year after reviewing the tape. When it was third down, the Redskins wanted to bring pressure. Carson Wentz dropped back 23 times on third down, and Washington pressured him 14 times with mixed results.
The Eagles converted on 10 of those 23 situations (44 percent), with Wentz completing 14 throws. The rookie quarterback was also sacked twice and threw one red zone interception. Washington, for the record, finished dead last in the league on third downs in 2016, allowing a conversion rate of 46.6 percent. This is a sore spot for Redskins fans in general. The Eagles will have to be ready for pressure on third down, especially since we saw a similar style from the Redskins during the preseason.
Shot 1 - #Redskins blitzed #Eagles on 14 of 23 third down passes in 2016. Saw more 3rd down pressures from them this summer as well pic.twitter.com/JN666jQhUs — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 7, 2017
On third-and-2 against the Packers this summer, Washington brings a Cover 0 blitz with straight man coverage across the board. There's no safety help over the top and six defenders going hard after the quarterback. There's also a significant amount of movement after the snap, with linebackers looping from multiple gaps over to confuse the protection. Washington's nose tackle lines up head over the center, and he ends up getting to the quarterback with little resistance for the sack as a result of the design of this pressure scheme.
Shot 2 - Wentz completed 14-of-21 throws on third down against #Redskins last year. Must be ready for pressure on third down #Eagles pic.twitter.com/7o5YqQW68J — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 7, 2017
Here's an example of one of the blitzes Washington ran against the Eagles last year. It's third-and-14. Cornerback Josh Norman comes from the boundary on a corner cat blitz. The pressure is disguised well. Wentz gets the ball out on time to prevent a sack, completing the throw to tight end Trey Burton just short of the sticks.
Wentz has done a nice job at this young stage of his career of recognizing blitzes and adjusting things before the snap. We saw that on the opening drive of the first preseason game this summer against Green Bay, and even going back to his first regular-season game against the Browns last fall. He will have to bring his A game in that regard on Sunday. The offensive line has to be on the same page as the running backs and tight ends when it comes to protection because Washington likes to send second-level defenders, which can be difficult for the line to pick up if they come from depth. This could be one of the pivotal "games within the game" to watch out for on Sunday afternoon.
There are a lot of new faces on this Washington defense from a personnel standpoint, namely in the front seven. First-round pick Jonathan Allen was viewed as one of the best pure football players in April's draft. A one-year starter but longtime impact player for the Crimson Tide, I thought Allen would fit best in a 3-4 scheme like Washington's as a three-down player. He's tough, physical, instinctive, and versatile. He'll be a key cog for this Washington front for a long time.
Shot 3 - Two examples of what Jonathan Allen can do for a defense. Relentless motor and a physical presence. At his best as an inside rusher pic.twitter.com/NTJbH2O0Cl — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 7, 2017
Allen chases a play down near the sideline on the first rep, flashing that relentlessness that endeared him to many an evaluator over his four-year career with the Crimson Tide. On the second play, Allen controls the block from snap to finish and never loses sight of the football on his way to the quarterback sack. Allen isn't the only former Alabama star who stood out this summer. Second-round pick Ryan Anderson has flashed as well.
Shot 4 - Fellow #RollTide rookie Ryan Anderson showed up well this summer too. Physical edge setter and a smart, savvy player #Redskins pic.twitter.com/4wesd1cw1e — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 7, 2017
I was a fan of Anderson's play, even though he wasn't the greatest athlete in the world. He's a tough, smart, physical football player. Anderson has a plan of attack when getting after the passer, and he's always been a strong run defender. Anderson sets a hard edge in the play above but then also finishes one-on-one in the flats as a player in coverage. The Redskins spent a second-round pick a couple of years ago on Trent Murphy, but I view Anderson as a superior football player.
Shot 5 - Another look at Anderson here, but the athleticism & range of Zach Brown shouldn't go unnoticed. #Redskins didn't have that in '16 pic.twitter.com/515UpTWYXp — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 7, 2017
Anderson's physicality is present here, but notice the athleticism and explosiveness from inside linebacker Zach Brown on the two plays above. Brown, who is now on his third NFL team, has his flaws, but he brings the type of range and sideline-to-sideline playmaking ability that was lacking a year ago from this Washington team.
In the secondary, Josh Norman is still viewed as the No. 1 corner. His best traits are his ball skills and ability to finish at the catch point, but Norman is a physical, competitive player as well. Whether it's the perimeter run game or throws to the flats, he'll come down and lay a hit on a ball carrier without a moment's hesitation.
Shot 7 - Kendall Fuller & Bashaud Breeland make up the rest of the CB corps in nickel. Two competitive corners who have flashed when healthy pic.twitter.com/Qa3m54it6Q — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 7, 2017
The starter opposite Norman is young veteran Bashaud Breeland, a long, lanky, athletic corner who has had his moments in the league (namely in prime time against Dez Bryant as a rookie). He's a bit inconsistent, but Breeland is physically gifted and can impact the game on the perimeter. Kendall Fuller has had issues with injuries since entering the league but has versatility and toughness that should allow him to thrive on the inside.
Shot 8 - Rookie CB Fabian Moreau has had REALLY good flashes on defense and special teams this summer. 4 great plays here #Redskins pic.twitter.com/jXJQKZGcle — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 7, 2017
Washington added a rookie to the secondary in April's draft in Fabian Moreau out of UCLA who a lot of analysts were really high on. With ideal size, speed, and physicality, Moreau had some injury concerns and I thought he was more of an athlete than a football player with the Bruins. There were plenty of people around the league, however, who thought more highly of him than I did. He has proven me wrong thus far. In the four shots, he displays physicality at the line of scrimmage in press coverage, the makeup speed to recover, and then the pure special teams potential as a gunner. I'm anxious to watch him develop throughout his career.
The Redskins' second-round pick a year ago, safety Su'a Cravens made headlines this week when he flirted with retirement shortly after making the team. A college safety who was used mainly as a linebacker when he was healthy as a rookie, Cravens was going to be a starter at strong safety for this team this year by all accounts. With him out of the lineup, free agent addition D.J. Swearinger will have to shoulder more of the workload, but I think there's a rookie who could see himself thrown into action sooner rather than later - linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons.
Shot 9 - Rookie LB Josh Harvey-Clemons, down the road, could fill the role the team imagined for Sua Cravens. Time will tell. #Redskins pic.twitter.com/XMrQCAVQGM — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 7, 2017
Harvey-Clemons began his career as a hard-hitting safety at Georgia and left for Louisville after a couple of strong years with the Bulldogs. He was drafted in the seventh round in April as a linebacker. At 6-4, 226 pounds, he has the type of build to potentially get up to north of 230 pounds and be the type of coverage player in the middle of the field who they hoped for with Cravens. Time will tell on that one, but Harvey-Clemons made the 53-man roster in somewhat of an upset, and with Cravens off the roster, for the time being, he could be in line to make an impact as the season progresses.
Fran Duffy is the producer of "Eagles Game Plan" which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices and opponents.