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Tyrod Taylor's legs forced Preston Smith, Redskins' D to adjust

LANDOVER, Md. -- Five observations on the Washington Redskins' defense after the 35-25 win over the Buffalo Bills:

  1. Rookie linebacker Preston Smith learned some lessons Sunday about making sure to attack the proper way versus a quarterback such as Tyrod Taylor. Smith had two nice rushes, but both ended up with Taylor escaping around him. Smith had rushed toward Taylor’s inside shoulder; he needed to stay on the outside and pinch him. After that, however, Smith tweaked his rushes to do so with more contain and to the outside shoulder. “I made sure I was taking the right angle on him,” Smith said, “to make sure I don’t let him outside and could contain him.” I liked how Smith ignored a couple of cut-block attempts at the line against him, stepping right over to apply pressure.

  2. Taylor still hurt the Redskins with his legs, running for 79 yards, but they did sack him five times. At various points, the Redskins did a better job of taking away his first read by altering looks and changing coverages. That’s where it’s helpful to have a lot of versatility in the back end, as Washington does. If Taylor’s first option isn’t open, he rarely goes to his second or third. “Normally it’s one thousand one, one thousand two and he’s taking off,” Redskins end Chris Baker said. “We did a good job showing different defenses and making him think more. He held the ball and we were able to get after him.”

  3. The Bills used more max protection in the second half -- on a 26-yard toss to Sammy Watkins in the second half, seven blockers took care of four rushers. They used six blockers against four rushers on the 48-yard touchdown pass to Watkins. That bought Taylor enough time in the pocket to stay on his spot, allowing Watkins time to sprint past the defensive backs. Bashaud Breeland was covering him, but DeAngelo Hall was supposed to provide safety help. I still wonder how much explosiveness Hall has regained because he did not have the burst to turn and run with Watkins. Switching to safety is tough; doing it during the season is really tough. As Hall develops here, he’ll learn when he needs to start to turn and run -- and he’ll have a better idea of what he can or can’t do anymore.

  4. Touched on this in a post shortly after the game, but will expand a little here: Kedric Golston has been terrific in short-yardage and goal-line situations this season. He had two excellent pushes for penetration late in the first half, disrupting runs and setting up others to make plays. On the third-and-1, he set up Will Compton and Terrance Knighton to make the stop. Golston picks a gap to shoot and Compton’s job is to hit whatever gap Golston does not. "Ked’s awesome,” Compton said. “A big component of that too is if they run a wide play, he does a really good job not letting the center up ... and keeping people off the second level so you can get over top of things.” It’s funny but in that whole sequence one of the other big plays was Compton tackling Taylor at the feet for a 5-yard gain to the 1.

  5. Missed tackles started to plague the defense again and it was a big factor in allowing the Bills to stay within striking distance in the second half. There was one 16-yard run in which the Redskins missed five tackles. Taylor rushed for 79 yards, so his legs were an issue -- and they won’t face another quarterback like him for the next two weeks (in the playoffs, it could be Russell Wilson). That’s certainly not to excuse it, because the defense must do better. Those big plays could have cost them big time. On the Bills’ 60-yard touchdown run, they did a good job of creating traffic for the linebackers to sift through (the Redskins were in man coverage and the Bills ran off the defensive backs on the left side with crossing patterns). The Redskins allowed 1.74 yards after contact, the most in the past four games.