Giving Jim Haslett Credit
January 3, 2013 in Redskins Personnel
Look the primary reason the Washington Redskins are NFC East Champions is the exceptional play of their offense, led by rookies Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, but the play of their defense deserves some credit as well. Sure the overall numbers of being ranked 22nd in points and 28 in yards, doesn't seem to lend itself to cause for celebration, but the Washington Redskins could not have won their final seven games if not for the improved play of their defense. Much of that success can be attributed to adjustments and play calls made by Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
Haslett was maligned earlier in the season, despite most of the defensive deficiencies being the result of poor execution on the field. Now with a personnel group even further thinned out by injuries, Haslett deserves quite a bit of credit for the Redskins turn around.
Since the bye week the Redskins defense has dropped it's points per game allowed average from 27.5 to 20 points. They allowed just two teams to score more than 21 points, compared to eight teams in the first nine games. Now allowing 20 points a game isn't necessarily great, but it does allow a team (particularly one with a great offense) to win a lot of football games. Yardage also dropped as they were able to hold three teams under 300 yards during the final seven games after not being able to hold a single team under 330 during the first nine.
A big difference for the Redskins has been their increased pressure, which was non-existent in the first 9 weeks (just 13 sacks), or 1.44 a game. Over this seven game winning streak the Redskins have gotten to the quarterback 18 times, or 2.57 times a game. To put that in perspective, if the Redskins had been able to maintain that average for all 16 games they would have finished with 41 sacks on the year, which would have been tied for 8th best in the league. Had they maintained their 1.44 average throughout the season they would have ranked 31st in the league, and would be watching the playoffs from home.
Haslett is a big reason for the improvement of the Redskins defense in the 2nd half of the season, as he found more and more ways to put his players in the best possible situation to succeed. We saw a more aggressive Jim Haslett, and the defense paid off by executing their assignments better. White the pressure and the penetration were the biggest reasons for the improvement, the coverage held up better as well. Unlike the first part of the season, when the pressure didn't get home, it didn't mean the coverage failed to the point of allowing a touchdown (or at least not as often).
This improved execution allowed for the extra aggression, and seemed to open up the defensive playbook for the Redskins. In many instances we saw Haslett make the right call in crucial situations that led to a big play. This led to a far more efficient defense that limited opponents in the red zone and improved on third downs. These improvements perhaps didn't make the Redskins defense elite, but given the level of personnel that Haslett had at his disposal, he did an impressive job. So while the offense gets the lion share of the credit, the Redskins improved defense helped save this season.