3TFO: Lions @ Redskins, Week 3
Can the Redskins' defense hang with the Lions' offense? Scott Hanson ponders this question and more in his preview of Washington's must-win game.
3TFO: Lions @ Redskins, Week 3
The Detroit Lions have an offense capable of steamrolling the weaker defenses in the league. However, the Lions stalled a bit last week against Arizona, failing to gain a first down on 7 of 12 drives and totaling just 12 yards on those seven three-and-outs. However, they’ll be chomping at the bit after seeing the game film of the Redskins’ phantom defense. Matt Stafford and company will attempt to make Washington’s defense the piñata of the NFL for a third consecutive week.
It’s really pretty amazing how poorly the Redskins’ defense has played through two games. They’ve allowed 1,023 yards and 71 points already. So far, the unit has missed 30 tackles and has 13 different defenders currently grading in the red. Obviously they need to step it up in order to take some pressure off an offense that has actually held their own. Robert Griffin III hasn’t quite been himself so far, but he’s also had more dropped passes than any other QB in the league. Maybe this will be his breakout week, but for now let’s focus on three compelling matchups that don’t directly involve RGIII.
Megatron vs. Redskins DBs
You’ve probably heard the saying “It takes a village to raise child”. Well, it takes an entire secondary to contain Calvin Johnson. Last week, Johnson faced some single coverage against Patrick Peterson, one of the better corners in the league in 2012. Johnson won that battle, and for the game caught six balls for 116 yards and two touchdowns on just eight targets. Don’t expect to see much single coverage this week.
Washington’s secondary is responsible for 21 of the team’s 30 missed tackles, and all seven of their defensive backs who’ve seen action have graded negatively in coverage. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s game plan will obviously devote extra attention to Johnson. Even then, can a Redskins double-team stop him? Can they avoid the type of breakdowns and missed tackles that would lead to Johnson running 50+ yards with nothing but open field ahead of him? Only time will tell.
Reggie Bush/Joique Bell vs. Redskins Front Seven
It’s uncertain at the moment whether or not Reggie Bush will play. Either way, Detroit will have at least one proven threat in both the running game and passing game. Joique Bell has drawn praise from PFF for his elusiveness and excellent receiving skills. His current overall grade of +3.3 ranks fifth among running backs, and that’s in just 64 snaps. Of course, the Lions hope to have both of their dynamic backs for this game, and if they do it will pose quite a challenge for the Redskins. Bell and Bush currently have Elusive Ratings of 38.1 and 38.0 respectively, placing each in the Top 20 in that regard.
The entire defensive line of the Redskins has recorded only six stops through the season’s first two games. If they’re not going to make the plays, they at least need to get some push and occupy blockers in order to free up the linebackers. Speaking of the linebackers, London Fletcher in particular needs to pick up his play, as he has missed four of his 16 tackle attempts, putting him near the bottom of our Tackling Efficiency rankings for inside linebackers. His -8.9 run defense grade is more than 4 points worse than any other inside backer in the league. Both he and Perry Riley also spend a lot of time in coverage, and quarterbacks to this point have gone 8 of 9 for 102 yards, 1 TD, and 0 INT into the coverage of the Washington duo. We’ll see if they can make tackles in space and prevent Detroit’s running backs from consistently getting past the second level.
Trent Williams vs. Willie Young
Building off a strong 2012 campaign, Trent Williams has exploded out of the starting blocks in the first two games of this season. While his work in the run game has been above average, his pass blocking has been almost perfect. Through 104 snaps, Williams has allowed no sacks, no hits, and just two hurries. He’s already stonewalled the likes of Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, and Clay Matthews, and he did it largely in obvious passing situations with the Redskins trying to play catchup. His +6.7 pass block grade currently leads all NFL tackles.
A year ago, nobody would have thought that a matchup against Willie Young would be something to worry about. Not the case this year, as he has broken out in a big way through two games. In 52 snaps as a pass rusher, he has already recorded a sack, a hit, and nine hurries. Add that to his Run Stop Percentage of 13.6% (second among 4-3 DEs) and Detroit has the makings of yet another star defensive lineman. Young plays on both the left and right sides, so we’ll undoubtedly see him against Tyler Polumbus as well. To this point, Polumbus has shown a lot of improvement in pass protection, but he may have trouble dealing with Young’s quickness.
Follow Scott Hanson on Twitter.