The Importance of Stephen Bowen to the Redskins

Washington Commanders

The Redskins saw a marked improvement in their pass rush last season, which helped improve their pass defense last year. The biggest factor in the improved pass rush was the addition of Ryan Kerrigan, but a close second could be could be the free agent signing of DE Stephen Bowen.

Bowen who was essentially a pass rush specialist in the Cowboys 3-4 system, came over last season and offered the greatest push. Bowen paced the defensive line  with 6 sacks, 4 hits and 13 pressures. While not amazing numbers, they allowed him to be a third pass rush threat to Brian Orakpo and Kerrigan. And unlike fellow defensive lineman Adam Carriker, who had 5.5 sacks, Bowen showed better consistency with the hits and pressures. In addition to his sack/hit/pressure numbers, Bowen has a big impact on the passing game in just taking the heat off the linebackers. No longer was Brian Orakpo (who usually rushed behind/next to Bowen) the only pass rush threat. With Orakpo and Bowen both coming from the same side it made it harder for teams to double team Orakpo. And if they did overload the blocking on that side it just made things easier for Ryan Kerrigan coming from the opposite side. Though his numbers led the Redskins defensive line, and were a vast improvement over what anyone did the year before, it’s not impossible for the Redskins to expect better production..

The last two years in Dallas Bowen actually had an even bigger impact on the pass rush despite having fewer sacks. In 2010 in 390 pass rush snaps (compared to 457 this season), Bowen had 1.5 sacks and a combined 31 hits and pressures. In 2009, Bowen in 385 pass rush snaps, had 3 sacks and 24 combined hits and pressures. Though the dropoff could be attributed to a number of reasons, a new team, no real offseason, some serious personal matters going on in his life, less talented teammates, the biggest issue could be his snap count, which went from 484 in 2009, to 815 last season. Just 13 3-4 DE’s, NT’s or 4-3 DT’s had more snaps than Bowen did last year.

Now that is not to necessarily say that Bowen wore down last season (as you could maybe make the case for Barry Cofield), as the 2nd half of the year Bowen had more of his hits and pressures. Instead I think the issue is that the Redskins need to pick there spots better with him. Instead of leaving him in for entire 8-12 play drives, which by the end of he’s got zero chance to be really an effective rusher. They need to pull him on some early running downs to save him for the passing downs which are more important for him. It’s not necessarily easy to do since you could pull him thinking a team will run when they actually pass and you just weakened your defense, but it is a game of chess that the Redskins need to play.  Last year due to Jarvis Jenkins and Kedric Golston missing so much time, it’s easy to see why Bowen had to play so much. Hopefully though this year with them back, and just some better snap management, they will be able to cut 100-125 snaps off his total (preferably against the run).

Despite the fact that the Redskins should be cutting back Bowen’s time against the run, it doesn’t mean its not an area where he can work on. Even with drastically cutting back on his run snaps, he will still probably have 250-275 run defense snaps, and on those the Redskins will need him to be as good as possible. A big part of the Redskins problem last year defensively, was that they allowed other teams to run the ball fairly effectively against them. Which led to extended drives and more 2nd and short or 3rd and short plays. Bowen was hardly the biggest problem with stopping the run, but it’s an area he can be better at, even if it is not him making the tackle. If he can do his part (and hopefully other Redskins will follow suit), it can help his pass rush numbers by forcing opposing offenses into non-favorable passing situations. It’s no surprise that 4 of Bowen’s sacks came in these types of situations. Two of his sacks were on 2nd and 11+, and two more were on 3rd and 6+.

If Bowen can improve both his pass rush and run defense, it could have a significant impact on the Redskins defense as a whole. Making life quite a bit easier for star pass rushers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. Bowen might not get the same hype as them, but how his season goes should be a fair litmus test for the rest of the defense.

What do you think? Will Bowen’s numbers increase this season?.

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