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FFODC Looks At Our Run Defense

Tentative Depth Chart for 2018:

Interior Defensive Line 2-Deep (Nickel):

Ion Allen
McGee Lanier/McClain/Hood*

Interior Defensive Line 2-Deep (3-4):

McGee Hood* McClain*
Ion Allen Francis

Inside Linebackers 2-Deep (Nickel and 3-4):

Brown Foster
Spaight Harvey-Clemons/Vigil*

Safety 2-Deep (Nickel and 3-4):

DJ Nicholson
Everett DHall*

* – Trouble Spot

Three of the most common runs we faced this season were Power, Inside Zone and Outside Zone. How we defended those three plays went a long way in determining how we fared against the run. So without further ado, here’s how we fared:

Power Run

Defensive Line: Against Power our scheme dictated that our line slant inside and suck in the double teams:

This created a shorter distance for our Linebackers to cover on their way to the pulling Guard, which in turn allowed them to rally to the Running Back in less time.  It was a simple assignment that most if not all of our defensive lineman showed they could execute.

On the perimeter Kerrigan and Smith set the edge and funneled ball carriers inside.  Anderson struggled early on with that task but has been steadily improving week to week.

Inside Linebackers and Safeties: The problems that cropped up against Power have primarily come from the second level fills by our inside linebackers and safeties.  Here is Brown missing his gap even after Compton cleared a path for him:

DHall is late to fill over the top (he’s switching gaps with Brown):

And here is both DHall and Brown late to fill their gaps with DHall also taking a poor angle to the running back:

Defending Power was an issue that cost us games against Minnesota and New Orleans.  We look to have addressed it since then via personnel changes at the safety level (goodbye DHall) and making better reads at the linebacker level.

Here is Brown with a great pre-snap read, knowing Power was coming by the formation:

While Brown and his other ILB counterparts have cleaned up their reads, safety fills have remained a lingering issue:

DJ has been the most consistent safety when it comes to filling against the run while Nicholson was sheltered from the box for most of the season.  Everett, shown in the previous clip, had hitches in his run defense but remained serviceable as a backup rotation piece.

Issues to address in the offseason: The Defensive Line is fine and the problems with Brown that popped up mid-season seem to be corrected.  In terms of stopping Power, finding another safety to help DJ fill should be priority number one.

Inside Zone

Compared to Power, Inside zone offers a more vertical push with its double teams.  Against this run, the deeper we had to dig into the defensive line depth chart, the more our lack of strength was exposed.

Defensive Line: Francis, McGee, Ion and Allen have all shown to be viable options against inside zone.  Allen:

Meanwhile Ziggy Hood and McClain struggled holding their gaps against stronger offensive lines:

But the most god awful defense against Inside Zone came when Lanier was inserted into the lineup:



Conversely, AJ Francis has shown to be more than capable of holding the line against inside zone


Inside Linebackers and Safeties: For the most part nothing to report.  Brown and Foster have made exceptional plays when they were able to diagnose Inside Zone pre-snap:

Otherwise the fills have been solid to good.

Issues to address in the offseason:  Please resign AJ Francis.  Lanier is a clear liability and we have to figure out if his moderate-plus pass rush is worth keeping on the roster; he’ll need to stay glued to the squat rack along with Hood and McClain.

If we bring back Francis we would have four viable options against inside zone (Ion, Allen and McGee being the other three) which would give us a legitimate two deep for the interior of  our Nickel front.

To fill out a two deep in the interior of our 3-4 we would need two more bullets in the chamber.  Best case scenario is we hit on whoever we sign in the offseason and hope that one of Hood-Lanier-McClain bulks up and is ready to go in 2018.

Outside zone

Results here are very much connected to level of opposition.  We dominated the Wide/Outside zone plays against Seattle but roles were reversed against stronger offensive lines such as Dallas.

Defensive Line: We started out fine when Ioannidis and Allen were in the line up:

Ion and Allen were the two guys strong enough and technically sound enough to hold up against outside zone.  Ion has issues with speed when the run was stretched past the Tight End but otherwise he was a solid starting rotation piece.

The problems began once those two left the field.  Against Dallas Ziggy Hood had one of his worst outings:

The good news is we seemed to have found an interior combination as strong as the Ion-Allen combo with McGee and Francis:

Kerrigan and Smith didn’t make many splash plays but they also didn’t cede any big runs outside.

Inside Linebackers and Safeties: Foster, Brown and Spaight were able to keep up with the flow of Outside Zone but we need to find a fourth guy to fill out our ILB depth chart–Josh Harvey-Clemons seems to be the most athletic option.  Vigil is more technically sound but struggles with speed if his first read isn’t perfect.

The Safety corps lacks a true third and fourth option after DJ and Everett.  Nicholson is just a rookie and chances are he’ll get coached up as a third option.

Issues to correct this offseason: Ion, Allen, McGee and Francis are stout up front but after them it gets shaky.  Just like with Power we seem to be a couple of guys short of a full two-deep in our 3-4.

At the Inside Linebacker level we either need to get Josh Harvey-Clemons coached up or find a guy in the offseason.  Technically Zach Vigil is an option but his lack of athleticism and speed is reminiscent of Compton and is a worrisome road block.

The Safety corps has a solid starter in DJ.  Nicholson is revving up and at the beginning of his learning curve.  Everett is a solid back up option which would leave us with one open spot to fill.

Targets for the Offseason

Numbers wise, the needs are shaping up to be

  • 2 guys on the Defensive Line
  • 1 at the Inside Linebacker level
  • 1 at the Safety level

Besides getting healthy, the top priority for the Defensive Line is to resign AJ Francis since he bolsters our depth against zone runs and can be a legitimate starter.  After that the options to fill out the line are more numerous in Free Agency compared to the draft but both offer great options.

At the ILB level, the top priority is to resign Zach Brown.  Literally everything else falls into place after that.  Foster might be a tossup depending on his desire and ability to come back.

Safety is a tough one to call.  It looks like Everett comes back and that would leave us with one roster spot to fill.  The main problem to address is gap fills against Power.  We could shoot for the moon and draft a first rounder or play it cautious with a proven solid Free Agent.  Either way the corps seems to be in good shape with DJ and Nicholson spearheading the way.

L.A. 30 Washington 13 (Skins 5-8)

Postgame:

Kimberley A. Martin on Twitter

D.J. Swearinger repeatedly said #Redskins didn’t prepare well and the outcome of the game wasn’t a shock to him. “We out here practicing blah… It’s not surprising at all to me.” https://t.co/49H3sMzZgg

The front office needs to make that a team issued hat.

PFF Top 5:

  1. Edge Ryan Kerrigan, 81.0 overall grade
  2. Edge Junior Galette, 81.0 overall grade
  3. T Trent Williams, 80.7 overall grade
  4. CB Kendall Fuller, 79.5 overall grade
  5. RB Samaje Perine, 77.6 overall grade
It was a rough game for Norman, who gave up over 100 yards into his coverage for the first time in his career.

Looking ahead to next week, Washington will half-ass their way into FedEx Field to take on Arizona.

Who’s Coming Back: Safeties

Previously:  Defensive TacklesDefensive EndsInside Linebackers, Cornerbacks

This is the last part of a series in which I list who will make our 53-man roster next year. Having watched and charted almost every snap this season I feel somewhat qualified to blog an amateur opinion on the matter. Today’s position group is Safeties.

Washington kept four Safeties on their roster so that’s the number I’m assuming we will keep for next year.

Holy Lock To Come Back Next Year:

Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

DJ: He’s willing to make linebacker fills versus the run, has the range to play deep safety and is able to rob underneath routes. Man to man coverage is the one gadget missing from his toolkit.

Montae Nicholson: Wowed immediately with his range as a deep safety but was not prepared for most of the season to play in the box or in man coverage, which put DJ in a compromised position as the man-coverage safety.

When we tried to use Nicholson in man coverage he looked clumsy:

He went on concussion protocol after the Saints game and wasn’t able to iron out that issue.  If he can get it fixed by next season the starting FS job is his.

Will Most Likely Return Next Year:

Everett: Plays a press technique over Tight Ends which puts him in the trenches versus the run and keeps DJ out of man coverage:

Everett is a restricted FA this offseason.  PFF ranks him as the 73rd best safety in the NFL and the equivalently ranked contract pays $1.1 million per year which is about double what we could pay a rookie.  However, Everett has been serviceable in man coverage and his willingness to play in the box keeps DJ as the deep safety which helps to hide his flaws.  I would expect us to shell out the cash to keep Everett if it averages within the $1-2 million per year range.

50/50:

Cravens:  I’m throwing him in this category because I have no idea what is going on here. I’m not sure if he can get another chance or if he even wants one.  He is scheduled to make $1.2 million next year and if he was to be let go under normal circumstances he would count $700,000 against the cap.

Best of Luck In Your Future Endeavors:

DHall:  Takes horrible angles to the ball, lacks the speed required to play in the NFL, most coverage busts over the last two years have come with him on the field. Reputed to be a nice guy and has a cool beard.

Fish Smithson: Practice squad guy.  Gruden mentioned him as an option at safety in a recent press conference, but if he couldn’t pass DHall on the depth chart then there is a serious deficiency somewhere.  The only thing DHall could have had over him is knowing the calls.  Smithson is probably due for an Adderall infused offseason of digesting the playbook.

Who’s Coming Back: Cornerbacks

Previously:  Defensive TacklesDefensive Ends, Inside Linebackers

This is the fourth part of a series in which I list who will make our 53-man roster next year. Having watched and charted almost every snap this season I feel somewhat qualified to blog an amateur opinion on the matter. Today’s position group is Cornerbacks.

Washington kept six Cornerbacks on their roster this season so that’s the number I’m assuming we will keep for next year.

Holy Lock To Come Back Next Year:

Josh Norman: I’m going out on a limb with this one you guys.  He’ll be our highest paid player in 2018 and deservedly so.  Can play any Corner position.

Kendall Fuller: The ninth ranked Cornerback in the NFL according to PFF is slated to make just $827,000 next year.  Currently plays in the slot against 11 personnel but can also play Safety if needed.  Blows up any and all WR screens and can take away the deep throw.  He’s a do it all shut down Corner.

Will Most Likely Return Next Year:

Quinton Dunbar: Splits time with Breeland as the outside CB opposite Norman.  Has the speed and confidence to press WRs at the line and play trail technique on deep routes:

His aggressive style disrupts routes enough that QBs tend to come off and look elsewhere.  Horrible at stopping the run, possibly the worst on the team.  He was a developmental prospect that now has the skills to play Cover 2 flat and Cover 3 press-and-trail technique.

He is at the end of his rookie contract and made less than half of what Breeland did even though PFF has him ranked 23 spots higher as the 34th overall CB.

Fabian Moreau: Backup outside CB.  The third round rookie is slated to make under $800,000 next season.

50/50:

Joshua Holsey: A seventh round rookie who backs up Fuller in the slot.  He could be replaced with an offseason acquisition or he could start as our Nickel CB if we move Fuller outside; both moves would make sense.  He is set to make $575,000 in 2018.

Bashaud Breeland: Made his name off of Dez Bryant and was one of the hottest young Corners until he ran into Antonio Brown.  Since then he’s been ok to good but not Shutdown level.  Doesn’t possess the fastest straight line speed and plays with a big cushion in Cover 3 because of it.  His technique is the polar opposite of Dunbar’s and QBs tend to throw his way often.  He has the ability to come off of his receiver and rob routes.  Not a good run defender but will occasionally stick his nose there.

Breeland made $2 million this year and is due for a new contract.  He is ranked as the 57th overall Cornerback according to PFF and the 57th ranked contract for CBs is $2.2 million (Bradley Roby) so I would expect a fair deal for 2018 to be in the ballpark of $2-2.5 million.  How they negotiate past that will decide whether or not he comes back.

Skins DEFENSE vs The Cowboys (II)

Formations

Versus this two tight end set we went with a Nickel front instead of the usual 3-4.  There are five guys playing at linebacker depth and I think it may have screwed with the Cowboys’ zone blocking.  Fuller (lined up over the near TE) is playing as a quasi-safety.  It was effective but ended up being just a one off.

Defensive Tackles: In the Nickel front McGee and Ion got the start on early downs, while Lanier and Ion got the start on late passing downs.  Hood was used later on and finished the game with the second highest snap count behind Ion.

Linebackers: Vigil and Brown on early downs, Harvey-Clemons and Brown on late passing downs.  As the game went on Vigil took some snaps from H-C.  Spaight came in when Brown had to leave with an injury.

What Happened

In the first half Offense and Special Teams screwed us.  Defense played phenomenal despite the other two-thirds of the team acting as saboteurs.

In the second half, zone double teams wore us down.  Ion and Francis struggled some while Hood and Lanier struggled a lot.

(FWIW Anderson needed to stay inside his block.) This half was the sequel to last game with most of the same characters up front.

After they softened us up they went to the air and picked on Breeland.

Continue reading Skins DEFENSE vs The Cowboys (II)

Who’s Coming Back: Inside Linebackers

Previously:  Defensive Tackles, Defensive Ends

This is the third part of a series in which I list who will make our 53-man roster next year. Having watched and charted almost every snap this season I feel somewhat qualified to blog an amateur opinion on the matter. Today’s position group is Inside Linebackers.

Washington kept four Inside Linebackers on their roster this season so that’s the number I’m assuming we will keep for next year.

Holy Lock To Come Back Next Year:

Spaight: Can play all three downs, had tackling issues early but seems to have overcome those.  Even if Brown and Foster come back his experience and knowledge of Manusky’s defense should guarantee him a spot on the depth chart.  He only counts $764,000 against the cap.

Josh Harvey-Clemons: [EDIT:  After reviewing the Cowboys game I’m going to have to bump him down to ‘Most Likely’]  A college safety that has freakish size and speed.  A project player who is currently relegated to late passing downs and has the ability to blitz.  He has 3 years remaining on his rookie contract and only counts $576,000 against the cap.

He’s behind Zach Vigil in playing time but long term I figure the coaches would rather teach a coverage guy to fit gaps than teach a gap fitter—like Vigil and Compton—coverages.  You can coach reads but not speed.

Will Most Likely Return Next Year:

Zach Brown (Resigning Zach Brown): The only thing standing between Brown and ‘Holy Lock’ status is his agent. Manusky schemed the entire run defense around Brown.

Brown also showed that he is the only guy in our front seven with the instincts and speed to chase down a mobile NFL Quarterback.

50/50:

If we don’t make an offseason acquisition, then one of the following,

Zach Vigil: Used on early run downs; a younger stronger version of Compton.  Unfortunately has Kerrigan type speed in coverage.

Will Compton: Knows the playbook inside out. Quintessential locker room leader. Excels at absorbing blockers and creating a path for Brown.

Compton’s serious downsides include lack of strength, pass coverage and inability to get off of blocks. His 2017 salary was almost $2 million, we could outfit a full two-deep around Zach Brown with that kind of cash. Even if he takes a pay cut we would still have younger, faster, stronger and cheaper options. He’s closer to 30/70 than 50/50, but he put on a clinic in that Seattle game and that’s preventing me from slotting him in the section below. I’d be surprised but not shocked if he stayed.

Mason Foster: If he’s healthy I think he comes back.  There are some rumblings about his Tweetstorm offending the FO guys, but he might be the best all around linebacker we have.

Best of Luck In Your Future Endeavors:

Otha Peters: Signed to the practice squad last month after Compton went to IR.  Hasn’t seen the field and lots of young guys are ahead of him which doesn’t bode well for his chances.  Might be able to hang onto a PS spot.

Who’s Coming Back: Defensive Ends/Outside Linebackers

Previously: Defensive Tackles

This is the second part of a series in which I list who will make our 53-man roster next year.  Having watched and charted almost every snap this season I feel somewhat qualified to blog an amateur opinion on the matter.  Today’s position group is defensive ends (in our system they also double as outside linebackers.)

Washington kept six defensive ends on their roster this season so that’s the number I’m assuming we will keep for next year.

Holy Lock To Come Back Next Year:

Kerrigan: The only thing that would cause the team to part ways with Kerrigan is his base salary.  In 2018 it will be $9 million and then it goes up to $10.5 million in 2019 and $11.5 million in 2020.  His guarantees work to about $7 million against the cap next year so any initial discussions about a departure won’t happen until 2019.

Smith: He’s been quiet the last few weeks, but a low cap number plus his overall body of work places him as a safe bet to get at least a share of starter snaps.

Anderson: Has an easy to digest rookie contract and continues to pack on strength.  His initial role seems to be a rotational player that sets the edge against the run.

Will Most Likely Return Next Year:

Murphy: On IR, obviously his future depends on how well he heals.  His ability to stop the run was a plus.  If he shows the capacity to recreate his nine sack effort from 2016 he becomes a holy lock to come back.

50/50:

Galette: He has gotten a couple of nice pressures over the previous two weeks but his overall body of work is wanting.  His best attribute is his low base salary.  If we skip on bringing in a high dollar FA and forgo drafting an edge rusher, I could see Galette sneaking back on the roster with another short term contract that pays close to the veteran minimum.

Pete Robertson: Just signed a three year deal for $1.5 million last month.  It’s a small cap hit if we cut him but his contract firmly slots him as a special teams guy.

Best of Luck In Your Future Endeavors:

Chris Carter: Gruden went out of his way to praise his special teams contributions but he only has a one year deal and is the first man out if we make any offseason acquisitions.   If Murphy can heal and we bring back Galette his circumstances are not favorable for a return.

Who’s Coming Back: Defensive Tackles

This is the first part of a series that lists who will make our 53-man roster next year.  This is one blogger’s opinion born from having watched and charted almost every snap this season.

Washington kept seven defensive tackles on the roster so that’s the amount I’m assuming we keep for next year.  I’m also assuming injuries revert back to normal because we are good fans and good fans deserve normal things.

Holy Lock To Come Back Next Year:

  • Allen
  • Ion
  • McGee: The only player signed through 2021 along with Morgan Moses and Jordan Reed. Can get under tackles and take on double team blocks from Tackles and Tight Ends.
  • McClain: His performance dictates he should be let go but because of his contract he will be back in 2018.  Not the case for 2019 when the opt-out kicks in; if he performs comparable to this year he will likely be gone.

Will Most Likely Return Next Year:

  • Hood: Quick up front.  He had a strong showing in November against the Saints, Vikings and Giants.  He showed an uncanny ability to close down gaps on zone runs:

The main chinks in his armor were his early season struggles and stopping the run against Dallas.  His salary will be $1.4 million against the cap next year which is a bargain for his role as a rotation piece that could play 15-20 snaps per game and start when injuries require him to do so.

50/50:

If Hood comes back and we pick up an interior lineman in the offseason, at least one of the following guys should be gone.

  • Lanier: He is a liability against the run which should disqualify him but he is the only one that can generate interior pressure other than Allen and Ion.
  • AJ Francis: Stout against the run which makes him my choice to return next season. Non-existent versus pass.

Best of Luck In Your Future Endeavors:

  • Arthur Jones: An emergency signing to fill in for the Seattle game where he charted a -3 prior to winding up on IR.  He was our first choice in the case of an emergency but his body appears to be near Mr. Glass on the injury spectrum.
  • Caraun Reid: A fifth round draft pick that was waived twice by the Lions and Chargers and has done nothing since coming here.  He was passed over by emergency fill-ins and his contract expires at the end of this season.
  • Phil Taylor: By the start of next season he will have not played a meaningful snap in almost four years.  He is signed to a one year deal and is healing from a quadricep injury while pushing close to 350 pounds.  Unless we refuse to invest in anyone else I don’t see a spot for him on our roster.
  • Ondre Pipkins: The former Michigan and Texas Tech product found a home on our practice squad this season.  It’s not a good look that he’s been passed over by multiple emergency fill-ins.  His best case scenario for 2018 is looking like the PS again with a shot to start if injuries take a similar toll on our roster.

FFODC Looks at Resigning Zach Brown

Most people who follow the Skins are saying the number one priority for the defense is to resign Zach Brown.  But what would that contract look like?

In order to get a better idea of what we should pay Brown I looked at two parameters:

  • What Brown’s peers in ‘on the field production’ are being paid.  I defined ‘on the field production’ by Tackles and PFF grades.
  • The current top 10 contracts for Inside Linebackers.

(All salary figures come from Over The Cap.)

Projected Salary Based off On The Field Production in 2017:

It’s not too hard to figure out that the Skins will be paying Brown to stop the run.  Inside runs, outside runs, quarterback scrambles, whatever the run we will want him to track it down.

A statistic people bring up when referencing Brown’s run defense is his NFL lead in tackles.  It’s not the strongest indicator of success but if you want to reference the tackling metric, here is what the top 5 looks like:

  1. Zach Brown (6th year)
  2. Joe Schobert (2nd year)
  3. Bobby Wagner (6th year)
  4. Blake Martinez (2nd year)
  5. C.J. Mosley (4th year)

From that list only Zach Brown and Bobby Wagner are under non-rookie contracts.  Rookie contracts tell us nothing about Brown’s value on the market but their are two contracts on that list we could use to see what a veteran linebacker leading the NFL in tackles should get paid.

The first, obviously, is Bobby Wagner who has two years left on his contract and the second is CJ Mosely whom the Ravens picked up a 5th year option on for 2018.  Their cap numbers are as follows,

  • C.J. Mosely: His 2018 cap number is $8.7 million, not under contract for 2019.
  • Bobby Wagner: His 2018 cap number is $13.6 million, his 2019 cap number is $14.1 million, not under contract for 2020.

Wagner’s 2018 salary will rank first and Mosely’s would rank ninth.  Averaging the two gives us around $11 million, good enough for the fourth highest contract in 2018.  Because Mosely’s contract only hits veteran status in 2018, these two contracts together can really only tell us what Brown could ask for if he was to get a short term 1-2 year deal.

To get an idea of what a longer term deal would look like we would need to look at PFF’s Linebacker grades.  PFF looks at each play and gives us a better idea of on the field production compared to the generic ‘tackling’ metric.  Unfortunately they have not posted a public list of their top Inside Linebackers but they have tweeted out their top four Linebackers through 12 weeks of play:

If I’m assuming our expectation for Brown is to be a top tier run stopper then this metric is a good reference since you wouldn’t be a top tier Linebacker if you weren’t also a top tier run stopper.  I do think these yearly numbers will be higher than what Brown should expect since these guys have also shown the ability to defend against the pass, and that is an area Brown has struggled in.

Contracts for the players in the pic above:

  1. Bobby Wagner:  4 years $43 million, $22 million guaranteed ($10.75 million per year.)
  2. Lavonte David: 5 years $50.2 million, $10.7 million guaranteed ($10 million per year.)
  3. Luke Kuechly: 5 years $61.8 million, $34 million guaranteed ($12.4 million per year.)
  4. Telvin Smith: 5 years $44.4 million, $15.5 million guaranteed (~$9 million per year.)

The contract value for a top graded Linebacker this season is 4-5 years at around $10 million per year, with 20-50% of that money guaranteed.

To recap, based off of production:

  • A short term 1-2 year deal would be about $11 million per year.
  • A long term 4-5 year contract would be about $10 million per year, with up to 50% of that guaranteed.

Projected Salary Based off Current Contracts:

If we do away with Brown’s contemporaries in production and just look at the current top 10 salaries for ILBs:

we get an average of $8.3 million per year with around $3 million of that guaranteed.  Over the course of 5 years that would be $40 million with $12 million guaranteed.

What Should Brown Get Paid?

The last thing left to factor in is the expected cap increase which is about 7% each year.  So adding 7% to the numbers listed above gives us,

If it’s a short term deal:  If we assume Brown is getting a short term 1-2 year deal then we are looking at ~$12 million per year.

If it’s a long term deal:  If we assume Brown gets a longer term deal, let’s say a five year contract (which is what three out of the top four LBs were given) and factor in the 7% increase, then Brown would stand to receive:

  • Lowest possible deal (Posluszny’s base, Johnson’s bonus percentage): years $26.25 million, $5 million guaranteed ($5.25 million/year.)
  • “Average” deal: 5 years $42.5 million, $15-20 million guaranteed ($8.5 million/year.)
  • Highest possible deal (Kuechly’s base, Trevathan’s bonus percentage): 5 years $65 million, $31 million guaranteed ($13 million/year.)

The highest possible deal looks to be reserved for a more complete all-around linebacker, while the lowest possible deal would be a slap in the face.

We have four guys slated to make over 10 million in 2018–five when Kirk gets resigned–and most teams tend to keep a maximum of five guys on their roster with salaries over 10 million per year.  It’s tough to see a scenario where we make Brown, whose shown to be a liability in coverage, the sixth.

Final Verdict: Anything close to an “average” deal (average of top tier contracts) and both sides come out looking good; this here blog expects 4-5 years at $8.5 million per year with close to half of that in guarantees.