I took a closer look at the Washington offense on Thursday, so today it's time to look at the defensive unit and the challenges it will present the Eagles on Saturday night. In my eyes, the best player on this defense is outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. A relentless pass rusher who wins with his hands, quick first step, as well as power and leverage, Kerrigan has been a thorn in the side of the Eagles throughout much of his career.
Since his rookie year in 2011, Kerrigan has racked up 36 tackles and seven sacks against the Eagles through nine games. In the remaining 69 games of his career against the rest of the NFL, Kerrigan has had 247 tackles and 39.5 sacks. Remember, on the final possession against Washington back in Week 4, it was Kerrigan getting pressure off the edge against Lane Johnson that stalled the Eagles' attempt at a game-winning drive.
Here's a double A-gap pressure look from Washington before the snap. You'll see this look from this defense from time to time, but they don't blitz those players as much as other teams. Still, offenses must protect as if they're going to come, and that helps create a man-on-man scenario across the line. With no running back in the backfield to help chip Kerrigan, Giants tackle Marshall Newhouse is left alone. Kerrigan wins cleanly and gets into the backfield untouched as he brings Eli Manning down for the sack.
Washington isn't a huge blitz team, but they do a good job of generating pressure with their use of stunts, and the Eagles' offensive line will have to be prepared for picking them
Communication among the offensive linemen will be key in these situations. When linemen begin passing players off to one another, everyone has to be in sync. The Saints clearly are not here. The center passes off the nose tackle to the right guard in order to slide inside to block the looping defensive end. The guard is unable to comply, and quarterback Drew Brees goes down hard.
At the linebacker position, Washington has a lot of experience and a lot of speed. Linebacker Keenan Robinson, a former mid-round pick from Texas, has turned into a fast, physical player inside for them. Despite missing some time due to injury this season, Robinson is still one of the team's leading tacklers, and his athleticism allows him to play in coverage and be very effective in space.
You see an interception Robinson was able to reel in here against New England quarterback Tom Brady. The former Longhorn's movement skills serve him well both in zone coverage, like you see above, and in man situations. In both matchups last year against the Eagles, Robinson was used often in man coverage against tight end Zach Ertz. That could be something to keep an eye on for Saturday night because I would expect Ertz to see a healthy combination of both Robinson and safety DeAngelo Hall.
Hall has made a great transformation to the safety position. Washington has cycled dozens of players into the safety spot over the last few years, unable to find the right combination of players to provide stability in the deep part of the field. The veteran Hall has done a nice job both in base and dime defensive packages, but a rookie stood out to me multiple times on tape as well. First-year defensive back Kyshoen Jarrett is making plays against the run and against the pass, and has been flying around the field for this Washington defense.
On this play against New York, Jarrett is lined up as a single-high safety in a Cover 1 concept with man coverage underneath. The Giants are running a Post-Wheel concept with cornerback Will Blackmon over the slot receiver running the wheel route. Jarrett reads the play immediately, and explodes into receiver Dwayne Harris, helping to dislodge the ball, knocking it into the air and into Blackmon's hands for a big interception deep in Giants territory. With players like Hall, Blackmon and Dashon Goldson patrolling the secondary, Sam Bradford and the Eagles' offense will have to play sound football on Saturday night.
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.