Using Players to Their Strengths: Defensive Edition

Washington Commanders

Yesterday I looked at how to best utilize some of the offensive players, and today I’ll focus on how to get the most out of the Redskins defenders.

Defensive Linemen:

Adam Carriker- With the return of Jarvis Jenkins the Redskins actually have a little depth along their defensive line this year. Given that depth they should look to get the most out of their rotation. Carriker, last season notwithstanding, has a career track record of being an above average-good run defender, and a poor pass rusher. Given that the Redskins should look to give him most of his snaps in more likely running situations. And against teams like Carolina and Minnesota who figure to run the ball more, he should get more playing time in those games.

Barry Cofield- Cofield is a little undersized to stuff the run consistently, and that has been the weakest part of his game. The Redskins could look to play Jarvis Jenkins inside, or sub in Chris Neild more often at more obvious running downs. The other issue with Cofield is his high snap count, which seemed to wear him down as the season went on. Cofield’s 789 defensive snaps, ranked 9th among all defensive tackles and nose tackles last year, and that is probably a bit too high. If the team could look to shave off roughly 5 snaps a game, I think Cofield will do a better job of being productive throughout the season.


Perry Riley- Riley really excelled as a run defender last year, showing excellent instincts and closing ability. On the flip side he struggled some in pass protection, getting exposed for some big gains. Now I would say he deserves at least a chance to prove he’s a 3 down linebacker, but if there are concerns the Skins have some options. Fourth round rookie Keenan Robinson, has a reputation of being a pretty good pass defender, if he looks solid in preseason, then the team could try to take advantage of that skill set. The other thing the Redskins can do is replace him on the field during more passing downs with a safety (Madieu williams perhaps).

Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan- Last season the Redskins only had their two best pass rushers get after the QB 74% and 78% of the time respectively. And while it’s impossible to rush the QB 100% of the time on passing snaps, it’s not surprising that the 3-4 OLB’s that rushed the most produced some of the best pass rushing numbers. Yes Orakpo and Kerrigan need to be able to cover some, but by keeping them away from doing their greatest strength hurts the Redskins. The Redskins should have both of their pass rushers in the 80-90% range next year, anything less than that is a big win for opposing offenses.

The Redskins should also look to move Orakpo and Kerrigan more. Whether that means them flip-flopping sides, or rushing from the same side, changing it up could help boost their sack and pressure numbers. Not only does this create more favorable match-ups, but it can lead to confusion among the offensive line, as to who is coming from where.


Brandon Meriweather and Tanard Jackson- Assuming that these two end up being the Redskins starting safeties Washington needs to play them to their strengths. While Meriweather has the phyiscal skills to play FS, he’s far better in the box and in short area coverage. Jackson on the flip side is better in coverage, but struggles to make tackles. Keeping him out of the run game more, can really help him limit the big plays. Now I know that the Redskins like to say that there is little difference in their safety positions, but that approach hasn’t worked well for them in the past, and it figures to work less here with even more limited guys. Now obviously Meriweather will need to help some in coverage and Jackson some vs the run, but the Redskins should look to limit this as much as possible.

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