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Redskins putting their eggs in the pass-rush basket

Mar 18, 2014, 2:20 PM EST

Orakpo-sacks-Manning

We are a week in to free agency and the Redskins’ two biggest signees will probably play a few yards apart from each other and will have the same primary responsibility much of the time.

Before free agency started they retained right outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, who had 10 sacks in 2013, via using the franchise tag on him. And a couple of days in they brought in Jason Hatcher, the former Cowboys who is likely to be lining up in front of Orakpo at right defensive end on most snaps. He had 11 sacks last year playing tackle in Dallas’ 4-3 scheme.

When you want to know what a team’s priorities are you follow the money. With the Redskins paying Orakpo $11.5 million this year and giving Hatcher a deal with $10.5 million guaranteed and $17 million over the first two years, you see that they are putting their money into the pass rush.

And they may not be done collecting guys who can get after the quarterback. They are still in pursuit of Anthony Spencer, another former Cowboy who had 11 sacks in 2012 but missed most of last year with a knee injury that required microfracture surgery. That injury has him shopping his services for pennies on the dollar compared to what he would get if he was healthy and making him a possibility for the Redskins.

The flip side of the follow the money coin is that if they don’t put many cap dollars into a particular position they don’t value it all that much. All you have to do here is look at the safety position. In need of two starters, they skipped the high-priced talent like Jairus Byrd and didn’t even get into much serious bidding for the mid-level players like Mike Mitchell and Malcolm Jenkins. They brought back Brandon Meriweather for around a million dollars for one year. The Redskins are in negotiations to bring back Ryan Clark, who they released in 2006. But things are hung up over what is likely a few hundred thousand dollars.

Bet if Clark had four sacks last year instead of one they would have found that extra money no problem.

And it’s not just the allocation of money that tells you where the priorities are. The other safeties on the roster are Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo, and Jose Gumbs, who were a fourth-round pick, a sixth-round pick, and a street free agent respectively. The other primary pass rusher is Ryan Kerrigan, a first-round pick.

The strategy is simple—get to the quarterback before he can expose your lackluster safeties. Will it work? The Giants won two Super Bowls utilizing that strategy. That doesn’t mean it will work for the Redskins but it appears that we will find out starting in September.

  1. kenlinkins - Mar 18, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    Oh yes, the old chicken or the egg debate. Which comes first, the Pass Rush or the guys covering? Most teams will try and throw the ball about 40 times a game and if they complete 26 of them (65%) the defense had a bad day but hold them to 20 (50%) and you could find yourself going deep into the play offs! So, how do you gain 6 more plays in which the WR drops the ball, you break up the pass, get a sack or a QB hurry, force the QB to tuck and run without getting the first down? As someone who played DB most of my life, I say a pass rush is a DB’s best friend. You can try to stack the odds in your favor by going nickel or dime in coverage but IMO nothing helps more then a DT who gets his hands into passing lanes, a DE who makes a QB dump off early, an ILB who doesn’t allow a QB to step up into the pocket, or an OLB who beats a LT on his first 2 steps. Nothing hurts a DB more then seeing a QB checking his sixth read of a passing play. A NFL QB with no fear of being sacked, hit or hurried gets very brave and bold! You can hide weakness in coverage with traps, rotating zones, fake blitz, two deep zones and double teams, but nothing works better than giving the QB only 2.3 sec before he is running for his life. I love the idea of improving our pass rush before we fix the Safety concerns. It is more fun to be yelling “get him, get him” before the ball leaves the QB’s hand then after!

    • internetcareer - Mar 18, 2014 at 5:00 PM

      There is no egg…its all Chicken. If you don’t have a pass rush the best DB’s in the world just gonna get beat over and over and over. If you can’t stop the run, your safeties have to come up and get involved.

      There is no debate. The back 7 are at the mercy of the front 7.

      • Eddie - Mar 18, 2014 at 5:56 PM

        How do u get 14 player on the field. Last I checked it was only 11 players. The skins are doing good we need to protect out backfield by getting pressure on the QB.

      • internetcareer - Mar 20, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        should be back FOUR are at the mercy of the front 7. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW.

  2. cowboyhater - Mar 18, 2014 at 3:33 PM

    Remember when Manley, and Mann were rushing from the outside daring the QB to step up to find Butz, and Grant pushing the middle of the offensive line. We didn’t need top end corners, or safeties but just competent one’s who understand the defensive scheme. So now we are looking at Orakpo, and Kerrigan on the outside with Hatcher, Coefield, and Jenkins pushing up the middle. I can deal with that…..(if it works)

    • kenlinkins - Mar 18, 2014 at 3:58 PM

      Sounds like you are talking about 1983 when Mark Murphy had 9 INT’s, kind of proves the point.

    • internetcareer - Mar 18, 2014 at 5:05 PM

      Cowboyhate…it’s Hatcher, Baker, and Cofield. Those are the starting 3 with Jenkins most likely just rotating in along with Geathers, Neld, and whoever. Baker is the best run stuffer the Skins have and should probably be the Nose tackle. Yes Orakp and kerrigan are outside pass rushers but look for a healthy Brandon Jenkins to get a lot of time on the field.

  3. garyclarkhof - Mar 18, 2014 at 11:02 PM

    I think Jenkins will have a breakout year and we will tag Orakpo and trade him for a 2nd and 4th next offseason.

  4. shermanp79 - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    A pass rush is the most important. It will give less cover time and not expose many flaws. The next thing is tackling. With the quick passing and dump offs if you miss tackles , you are giving up yards everywhere and letting drives continue. I think a great S can help a defense just as much and it is important. They can make CB look better than they are, so we need a S. I hope the young guy Thomas can get healthy and help us. Rambo looks like he has a long way to go. I hate that Merriweather is back. I hope Thomas can beat him out by the 8th game. It was interesting they had the whole front office talk with TJ Ward. Are they thinking if Mathews or Benjamin are gone Ward is the guy? Thinking about it more and more I think the order of need would be WR,S,RT and ILB going into the Draft. I wouldn’t rule out a DL guy at some point in the Draft after those three.

    • murphsman - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:30 PM

      With the Roberts pickup WR is no longer a priority. With the depth at that position this year we can probably make a good pickup in round 5 or 6.

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