Redskins struggling to execute Haslett's defense

Posted Sept. 30, 2010 @ 10:03 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

The Redskins made several dramatic changes this offseason, and the popular focus had been on the new tandem of head coach Mike Shanahan and QB Donovan McNabb.

But the biggest issues have come on the defensive side of the ball the past few weeks. After a strong performance in Week One, coordinator Jim Haslett's defense has taken several steps back.

The first sign of trouble was allowing nearly 500 yards passing in the Week Two loss to the Texans. In the game, Haslett was asking nickel CB Phillip Buchanon and injury-replacement FS Reed Doughty, who is not known for his coverage skills, to cover Texans star WR Andre Johnson. After the game, CB DeAngelo Hall questioned the tactic and pleaded with the coach to allow him to cover top wideouts and follow them around the field, as opposed to being planted at the LCB spot no matter who lined up opposite him.

Then came the loss to the Rams in Week Three, when the Redskins allowed 133 yards rushing, even though Rams RB Steven Jackson missed half the game with an injury. The Redskins were outscored 16-3 in the second half and lost to a team that had won only six games over the previous three seasons.

Scheme-wise, there have been drastic changes from the past few seasons, even though the Redskins fielded a top-10 defense each of the past three years.

Haslett installed a 3-4 defense and has played predominantly zone coverages. The Redskins had found a successful formula under former coordinator Greg Blache by playing a 4-3 with primarily man coverages.

Shanahan says the team will stick with the 3-4 and that they'll continue to correct the mistakes. There's no time to waste with three good teams and three hot quarterbacks on the schedule in a row: the Eagles and Michael Vick, the Packers and Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning and the Colts.

The ’Skins have not delivered much pressure, which was fine when the team ran a 4-3 and tried to punish receivers after the catch and control the run game. But in the 3-4, the team has only one true pass-rush threat in Brian Orakpo. Andre Carter has struggled as a linebacker, and DT Albert Haynesworth is playing in a rotation and not flourishing in a two-gap scheme.