Haslett feels heat of 'Skins' defensive troubles

Posted Nov. 20, 2010 @ 12:34 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

As part of the grand plan to remake the Redskins, the team set out to build not just on the offensive expertise of head coach Mike Shanahan but also to remake the defense into a championship-caliber unit. The powers that be determined that utilizing the 3-4 defense, ever growing in popularity, would be the best approach toward that end.

Through nearly two-thirds of the season, the results have been shockingly bad, even if Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett have admitted that the process of remaking the defense would be, at times, an arduous process. Although there have been some bright spots on that side of the ball, it's impossible to look at the team's solid-to-strong rankings using a 4-3 system the past few seasons and see how far things have been set back.

One major problem has been fitting some square pegs into round holes and trying to make them work in a scheme that doesn't fit many of the players' strengths. DT Albert Haynesworth is the most obviously miscast player in the new scheme, restricted to even fronts that utilize his penetration skills in gaps, but it also applies to the OLB spot opposite Brian Orakpo, as well as the DE spots that require the players to hold gaps and free things up for the linebackers to make most of the plays.

That said, it's not just the defensive front that has required players to adjust their techniques. Former defensive coordinator Greg Blache was a 4-3 coordinator who utilized primarily man coverage, and this season the team has used far more zone coverages, which has led to a major adjustment. Much of their blitzing has been from zone-pressure packages, which also is a departure from the previous system.

The steps backward have led to the Redskins allowing a league-worst 415.3 yards per game, with 286.6 of those yards coming through the air. You can't say that the inflated passing total is the fault of the secondary completely, though, because the front seven isn't getting enough consistent pressure. Haslett is not in a situation yet where he should fear losing his job, we hear, even with the debacle of the Week 10 loss to the Eagles still fresh in everyone's minds. But his unit must show some improvement down the stretch to justify the team making such wholesale changes for the long term.