January 21, 2011

Crunching Numbers: Season Ending Stats (Defense)

Last week, I had a Crunching Numbers piece focusing on the Redskins offensive performance in 2010. Now for your reading pleasure, I'll take a look at the defensive side of the ball, digging up some nuggets on what was a very disappointing first year in Jim Haslett's 3-4 defense.

The Redskins have long had trouble getting to the quarterback, but after last season when they finished tied for eighth in the NFL with 40 sacks, expectations were that it would be more of the same in 2010. Brian Orakpo was entering his second year and the 3-4 defense would give opposing offenses exotic looks to further complicate matters. However, the personnel on defense was lacking from the start and Orakpo struggled as a pass rusher for much of the second half of the year. The Redskins ended up with 29 sacks dropping them to 25th in the NFL.

Ironically, the Cleveland Browns also had 40 sacks in 2009 and then 29 in 2010. Neither team won more than six games either year.

The worst part was that over the final eight games, the Redskins had just 11 sacks. They hardly applied pressure on quarterbacks, giving them plenty of time to pick apart 31st ranked secondary in the league.

Just how ugly are the Redskins sack totals? Let's take a look:

2010: 29 sacks (25th in the NFL)
2009: 40 sacks (8th in the NFL)
2008: 24 sacks (28th in the NFL)
2007: 33 sacks (16th in the NFL)
2006: 19 sacks (32nd in the NFL)
2005: 35 sacks (20th in the NFL)

One year in the top ten and that's with the Redskins signing Cornelius Griffin, Albert Haynesworth, and Andre Carter to big contracts. They also had pass rush guru Gregg Williams coaching in 2005 and 2006, traded for Jason Taylor, and drafted Orakpo in 2009. All of that effort and the Redskins have had one season where they finished in the top ten in sacks since 2005.

A good pass rush cures a lot of ills, but so does a solid defensive line. The Redskins didn't have one in 2010 as they were consistently pushed around and beaten off the ball. The defensive line recorded 11.5 sacks as a unit and gave up 4.6 yards per carry. The run defense gave up 2,041 yards rushing; seventh most in the NFL and a big reason for that was the lack of a good nose tackle to keep blockers away from the linebackers.

The most interesting part about the huge totals? Opponents ran the ball 444 times against Washington. 11 other teams were run on more, but six of those teams allowed fewer yards than the Redskins.

The defensive line does have some pieces. Adam Carriker was playing very well by then end of the season. He was very disciplined in holding his gaps and by the end of the year, it was apparent he was accustomed to his role. He had 10 tackles and a sack in the final two games of the year.

Vonnie Holliday and Phillip Daniels are both older players, but each contributed. Daniels was valuable on the goal line while Holliday impressed in a pair of late season starts. He had 14 tackles and a sack in his final three games.

Holliday and Carriker are two guys you want to see back next year, but the Redskins should look long and hard at Wisconsin's JJ Watt, a 6-6, 292-pound DE who is projected to go in the first 15 picks of this year's NFL draft. They need a younger presence on the defensive line and Watt fits the mold of a 3-4 DE.

DeAngelo Hall has been a controversial selection in this year's one-again meaningless edition of the Pro Bowl. Hall is a playmaking corner who likes to gamble and his stats only further cement this fact. He had six interceptions on the season, including his four interception performance of Jay Cutler. He also had two defensive touchdowns, which proved to be the difference in two Redskin victories.

Yeah, yeah you know this. Here's the other side of the story which you may not know.

Pro Football Focus dished out this Hall-related information on Twitter the other day. Needless to say it isn't pretty. Hall gave up 420 YAC and 965 total yards receiving. Only Dallas CB Mike Jenkins gave up more yardage than Hall.

One final note on Hall is that his tackling was remarkably improved for the most part and he also forced two fumbles. Overall, he's a high-risk, high-reward player who tends to get exposed when the front seven can't apply pressure. He's not a shutdown CB, but he is an adequate number two.

Creating turnovers was the mantra around Redskins Park during training camp and the offseason. Haslett wanted to see more takeaways defensively especially given the varied looks he was concocting in the 3-4.

For the first half of the season, Washington had 19 takeaways. They had 17 in all of 2009. The turnovers were hugely vital in masking the defense's penchant for giving up more yards than 30 other teams in the league over the first eight games of the year.

Unfortunately, the defense retained its grip on the 31st overall ranking through the second half and the turnovers dried up. Washington managed eight of them and the defense's one support was knocked out from under them.

The absence of LaRon Landry was a key reason the defense worsened as the early front runner for the NFL's defensive player of the year missed the final seven games due to injury. Landry not only accounted for 85 tackles, eight passes defensed, one interception, and a forced fumble, he also brought a swagger to the defense, which it has lacked in previous years.

Had Landry kept up his pace, he would have had 151 tackles on the year. That's an enormous amount for a safety and would have tied him for the third most in the NFL. His role playing closer to the line of scrimmage was one of the best moves made by Haslett and the new coaching staff.

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