Washington Redskins Breakdown Week 14: Defensive Troubles Could Derail Team

Dec 11, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) is pressured by Washington Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (91) during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Redskins notched an important win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon. However, they dealt with some serious issues that could cause them to miss the playoffs.

Coming into Week 14, the Washington Redskins were desperate for a win. The team was sporting a record of 6-5-1, and they were just a half game back in the NFC Wild Card race. They needed to get a win to at least keep pace, and they were able to do that.

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Thanks to a superb offensive effort, the Redskins were able to outlast the Eagles. The team put up 27 points and only allowed the Eagles to score 22. Still, it seemed like they were about to break at the end of the contest before Ryan Kerrigan strip sacked Carson Wentz to end the day.

With that said, there is a lot to learn for the Redskins in this game. They have to take some lessons away from this one, especially on the defensive side of the ball. With that in mind, here is an in-depth look at this past week’s game. It is time for the Redskins Breakdown.

Dec 11, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) after the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Washington defeated Philadelphia 27-22. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Passing Game: Kirk Cousins Continues Solid Play

Kirk Cousins has been one of the main reasons that the Redskins have been so good on offense this season. The second year starter has been prolific since a tough start to the season, and he had another good day on Sunday. I offered up this analysis of his play in the immediate postgame reaction.

Cousins had yet another solid performance. Cousins went 14-of-21 for 234 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick. He and was able to do a lot to help beat the Eagles. He was able to complete a lot of midrange passes on the sidelines today, and had excellent ball placement. Cousins found receivers when they were open and took advantage of the matchups that were in their favor.

On one occasion, he threw an 80 yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson. Though the ball was slightly underthrown, he threw it at just the right time and took advantage of the favorable matchup against Leodis McKelvin. That play gave the Redskins some momentum on offense and really got their passing game going.

Still, Cousins had room for improvement. He endured a brutal pick six that should have never happened. He floated one outside to Jackson and McKelvin undercut the route. The ball had no pace on it, and it was a walk-in touchdown for McKelvin. Cousins needs to improve upon that in the future or he will cause the team problems.

With all that said, Cousins definitely was more of a positive than a negative. He really led the team throughout the day and he overcame some early struggles to put together a nice performance. If he can play like this in the future, the Redskins will have a chance to win all of the games the Skins play.

Dec 11, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) makes an 80 yard touchdown reception in front of Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Leodis McKelvin (21) during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Passing Game: DeSean Jackson Breaks Game Open With Speed

Over the course of the past few week, the Redskins had been getting some strong performances out of DeSean Jackson. After having some mediocre performances to start the season, the veteran was able to turn things around with his game breaking speed. Against his former team, he once again displayed talent and helped the Redskins get a victory.

Jackson had over 100 yards on just three catches, and a big part of that was an 80-yard touchdown that he caught. Jackson went up against Leodis McKelvin on a play where he ran straight down the field and tried to burn him. After getting a step on him, Jackson made an adjustment to come back to the slightly underthrown ball and catch it in stride. As a result, he pulled away from McKelvin and scored the touchdown that gave the team momentum.

Jackson’s threatening speed has been great news for the team’s passing attack. He has opened up the middle of the field for Jamison Crowder and Pierre Garcon, and the latter put together a nice performance today. Garcon caught a 15-yard touchdown on a fade route in the red zone and made some other nice plays against the Philadelphia corners. They definitely seemed more preoccupied with stopping Jackson and that worked in his favor.

The only downside to today’s performance in the passing game was that Jordan Reed did not factor in. The nicked up tight end was only on the field in certain packages, and he was mostly used as a decoy. If he can get healthy, he will continue to be a huge weapon for the Redskins offense.

Dec 11, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Redskins running back Robert Kelley (32) carries for a touchdown as Philadelphia Eagles safety Rodney McLeod (23) tackles in the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 11, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Redskins running back Robert Kelley (32) carries for a touchdown as Philadelphia Eagles safety Rodney McLeod (23) tackles in the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Running Game: Rob Kelley Keeps Eagles Defense Honest

In the first game that the Redskins played against the Eagles, Matt Jones put on a clinic. He exposed the supposedly strong run defense and gashed them for 133 yards. On Sunday, Rob Kelley was not able to do as much, but he put together a nice performance and helped out the Redskins offense.

The Eagles had their stud nose tackle Bennie Logan back for this contest, after he had missed most of the previous meeting after suffering an early injury. His presence helped the Eagles to keep Kelley bottled up, but the rookie was still able to make some solid runs.

Notably, Kelley had a 22-yard touchdown burst that got the Redskins on the board first. On the play, he scampered 22 yards to the end zone and broke through a few tackles. He dodged multiple other Eagles and did enough to keep the Eagles honest. They could not sell out to stop the pass because they had to focus on Kelley.

Chris Thompson helped the cause on the ground today as well. The shifty, change-of-pace back received three carries and turned them into 38 yards. He had a touchdown on a well blocked pitch play and he should continue to see 5-7 carries each game.

Dec 11, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Redskins inside linebacker Will Compton (51) is helped off the field after being injured during the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Defense: Two Middle Linebackers Suffer Key Injuries

The Redskins have been having some serious problems with injuries in the recent weeks. That has continued through the Week 13 and 14 contests, and the team took some brutal losses once again on Sunday.

Very early in the first quarter, the Redskins reported that Su’a Cravens was dealing with a biceps injury. Soon after, he was downgraded to out for the remainder of the contest. The team is fearful that he may have torn his biceps, per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, and if he is out, then the team will be shorthanded at the position. Cravens will have an MRI in the near future to determine his status.

To make matters worse, the team was dealt another tough loss in the second half. One of the team’s defensive leaders, middle linebacker Will Compton, was helped off with a knee injury. He went down on a play that did not look like serious, but it remains to be seen if it will be a problem moving forward. He too is scheduled for an MRI.

If either is to miss time, the Redskins are going to have to rely more on Mason Foster and Martrell Spaight. Foster is a solid tackler, but he has major issues in coverage. Spaight, meanwhile, is an unproven commodity. The Skins really need either Cravens or Compton to be alright. Otherwise, they will have problems in the middle of their defense.

Dec 11, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Redskins strong safety Duke Ihenacho (29) tackles Philadelphia Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood (28) on the opening kickoff at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Defense: Secondary Issues Continue

Thanks to injuries, the Redskins were dealing with a pretty depleted secondary. They only had three safeties and as a result, they elected to play their cornerbacks in more of a rotation. The scheme did not work all too well, and it made it apparent that the Redskins need some help in the secondary.

At the safety positions, Donte Whitner and Duke Ihenacho had some major issues in coverage. They could not defend against Zach Ertz, who posted 10 catches for 112 yards, and that caused some major problems for the defense. The team also had trouble defending against Nelson Agholor early in the game, and Quinton Dunbar, who played more than expected, had to commit a penalty at one point to keep him from scoring.

Thankfully, the secondary was able to hold up at points in the second half, but the fact remains that Josh Norman is the only quality player on the outside. Joe Barry needs to do something about this in the last couple of weeks or the team may not qualify for the playoffs. If that happens, then he could be scapegoated in favor of a different defensive coordinator. Perhaps his first move could be to play Bashaud Breeland more at safety to see if that sparks anything for the young player.

Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Redskins safety Deshazor Everett (22) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Redskins 31-23. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Final Notes: Deshazor Everett’s Violent Hits

I just want to take a moment to talk about the play of special teams ace Deshazor Everett. The second year safety was playing in a backup role, and fared relatively well on defense. He had a key pick in the end zone that helped shift momentum in favor of the Redskins, but he also brought an overly physical style with him today.

On two separate occasions, Everett knocked Eagles out the game. In the first instance, he had a late hit on Brent Celek during the punt. Celek was operating as the long snapper at the time, and that forced him to leave the contest. Later on, Everett came down as a gunner and was looking to stop Darren Sproles from returning a punt. He laid a horrible blow on the veteran returner and knocked him out of the game. He may have just gotten there a split second too early, but I think it was a dirty play.

It is good that Everett brings energy to a game, but the fact is that he has to be more careful on the field. If he is reckless, he could find himself in trouble and be a liability for the team. If he has a bad reputation, more calls will go against him. I like his physical style of play, but he needs to know when to tone it down. He has to be smarter than he was today.

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