A few nuggets after re-watching the first and second defensive units against Cleveland:
The first-team defense wasn’t challenged in terms of facing an offense with a lot of firepower. Cleveland does not know who its quarterback will be and neither option looked all that attractive Monday night. The Browns do have an elite playmaker in Josh Gordon and the Redskins did a good job against him for the most part. But the Redskins’ defense did what it should do -- and they were challenged in terms of field position.
Cleveland started two drives just inside Washington territory and did nothing. The Browns started at the Redskins 48-yard line after a turnover. The Redskins allowed six yards and forced a punt (helped in part by a missed throw to an open receiver, Andrew Hawkins).
The Browns started their next drive on the Redskins 46, lost eight yards on a third-down sack and punted. So the starters did their jobs, but it will be nice to see them against Baltimore on Saturday. They’ll face a legitimate starting quarterback in Joe Flacco and playing on the road. Good little test after facing a backup quarterback in Ryan Mallett in the opener and then the Browns, who had just four plays that went for more than four yards against Washington’s first defense.
Ryan Kerrigan was left with a one-on-one matchup thanks to the defensive alignment. The Redskins stationed Brian Orakpo and Trent Murphy on the right side, causing the offensive line to slide that way. That left Kerrigan one-on-one and he drove right tackle Mitchell Schwartz back with power and got off inside for a sack.
The stretch zone can be a killer on linebackers and that was the case in the first quarter when it delayed the drops of the linebackers, Keenan Robinson in particular, by 2.0 seconds. And yet, in no surprise at all, the Browns failed to complete a pass to an open Gordon.
Robinson made a couple nice stops. On one, an outside run to the right, he was decisive with his read and the lineman had no shot at getting him while coming off a double team. Robinson’s presence forced the back to go wider, as did tackle Jarvis Jenkins driving the tackle back two to three yards. Safety Ryan Clark actually missed a tackle along the sidelines on this play, but Brandon Meriweather cleaned it up.
The starting defense continues to tackle well for the most part. There’s an occasional miss, but it has not resulted in a big play.
The secondary as a whole is playing more physical, in part because of rookie corner Bashaud Breeland and Clark but also the improvement from safety Bacarri Rambo. He had a terrific hit to force a fumble, sprinting aggressively to the ball and getting lower than the runner. It’s not a play he would have made last season.
There’s no doubt the coaches think Breeland can play safety at some point. Thing is, he’s doing a heck of a job at corner right now -- and it’s a more premium position. But he continues to show quite a bit. I love how he hits. On the fourth-and-1 pass to Anthony Armstrong, Breeland sprinted at him, wrapped him up and drove his legs in forcing the incompletion. It was far from his only good tackle, but was a nice example. I know he made a dumb mistake in Richmond, but the kid can play. I like that he does not rely on shoulder tackles, either. He has the mindset you want.
I know Murphy was called for a roughing the quarterback penalty, but on the play he beat the right tackle to the inside. Nothing fancy, just got there. Have said this a handful of times, but Murphy is better rushing inside. Also liked how Murphy got back into a pass play after rushing and helped make a tackle on third-and-7, a yard shy of the first. Not sure if this is part of the freedom tour of the outside linebackers, but Murphy gave up the outside to Johnny Manziel with a spin move to the inside. Manziel took advantage by hitting the tight end for 11 yards.
Thought Barry Cofield was a little more active Monday, with one good rip move in particular after engaging with the left guard. Helped Cofield beat the blocker and make a stop for two yards.
Gabe Miller continues to flash a little bit, though he committed a no-no by jumping in the air when Manziel pump faked. Miller, though, recovered nicely and still chased him down.
Saw Phillip Thomas make a tackle; saw him miss one. The safety was active, but need to see a lot more. So there you go.