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Need to Know: Five things the Redskins can learn from the Broncos

Feb 8, 2016, 7:06 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 8, 16 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Five things the Redskins can learn from the Broncos

You can’t have too much pass rushI said this after the AFC championship game and I’ll say it again. Five players shared in the Broncos’ seven sacks and eight different players hit Cam Newton at least once (13 total QB hits). Pass defense starts with the pass rush. You can’t have too many defenders who can get after the quarterback.

You have to bring extra pressure—Denver has two of the best pass rushers on the planet in Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware but they still brought five or even six pass rushers on occasion. During the season the Redskins brought four in pressure the vast majority of the time and they got 38 sacks, 15th in the NFL. Joe Barry was cautious because his defensive backfield was weak. But sometimes you have to damn the torpedoes and go full speed.

Who needs a No. 1 running back?—Denver started Ronnie Hillman (207 rush att., 863 yds., 7 TDs) 11 times and C. J. Anderson (152/720/5) five times this year. As a team they averaged a respectable 4.2 yards per carry, enough to move the chains and give the Broncos defense a rest. A great, workhorse back can be a good thing to have but sometimes a combination will work just fine.

A game manager can win at quarterback—In terms of quarterback performance, the Broncos went back to the days of Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson, pedestrian QB’s who got rings thanks to playing on a team with a dominant defense. This one just happened to be Peyton Manning, who had a terrible regular season and put up a 56.6 passer rating in the Super Bowl. Manning was smart enough to let the defense win the game. The Redskins are about to drop a lot of money in Kirk Cousins and that’s a move they need to make. But Scot McCloughan’s goal needs to be to try to construct a team that can win even if Cousins doesn’t play well.

Make the obvious hire—Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips seemed to be a natural choice when the Redskins needed a defensive coordinator a year ago. He had a reputation for turning defenses around and that’s exactly what the Redskins needed. But Jay Gruden chose Joe Barry instead and Phillips went to Denver and did a magnificent job, getting named assistant coach of the year and doing a masterful job pulling the levers last night. It should be noted that the Redskins were not the only team to pass over Phillips. Between the time the Texans let him go after the 2013 season and the Broncos hired him (as their second choice) a year ago, 21 defensive coordinators were hired.


—Former Redskins guard Raleigh McKenzie, who started two Super Bowls for Washington, was born on this date in 1963

—The Redskins last played a game 29 days ago. It will be about 216 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 16; NFL free agency starts 30; 2016 NFL draft 80

In case you missed it

  1. skinsgame - Feb 8, 2016 at 7:31 AM

    No telling if Phillios would’ve made a difference with Redskins D as Denver has a clearly more talented group. But what is certain is that, age is not an inhibitor for coaches and the dolts that didn’t want him brought aboard because he was “too old” are eating crow now.

    • firesnyder - Feb 8, 2016 at 12:57 PM

      Agree here. There is no way Wade Phillips could have turned our defense into one as stout as Denvers’. The player talent difference is huge. Miller, Ware, Talib, Ward & Stewart at safety, and two solid middle linebackers??! All of those guys are beasts… we have Kerrigan, Compton, Breeland, and a budding Preston Smith. Come on! Joe Barry did very well considering what we have.

    • ET - Feb 8, 2016 at 1:18 PM

      I think Barry did a respectable job this season (and he deserves credit for that). But I have to admit I was baffled when the Skins passed on Wade Phillips.

      I’d call his head coaching record mixed, but Phillips has a pretty strong record as a defensive guru. Is Gruden too insecure to have a coach with Phillips long track record on staff, or was it something else (age, philosophy, salary, etc.)? Who knows? As Rich noted, the Skins weren’t the only ones to make that mistake.

    • celeoinc - Feb 8, 2016 at 2:41 PM

      I agree that the Denver had way more talent, but I also think that Barry failed big time when came to adjustments specially against the Packers, and he also play too much vanilla defense at the wrong time. Games against the Dolphins, Falcons, and Cowboys are few examples that vanilla defense can lose games for you.

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Feb 8, 2016 at 4:38 PM

        Didn’t Barry hold the Dolphins to 17 points where on touchdown was a punt return? This must be a typo. Again you argument over vanilla doesn’t make a lot of sense. Do you think that it’s vanilla to have more in coverage than blitzing? Because if you do then you’re wrong.

    • colorofmyskinz - Feb 8, 2016 at 9:08 PM

      Bottom line: it would take 5 Ryan kerrigans to equate to 1 Von Miller. We don’t have NOTHING like what we saw last night… Just being real…

      • Trey Gregory - Feb 8, 2016 at 11:35 PM

        Color, you’re not wrong that Von Miller is a very special player. But let’s not get dramatic or be subject to hyperbole. Ryan Kerrigan is a very good OLB, as is Junior Galette and Preston Smith is a rising star. Von a Miller is absolutely better than anyone on our team, but not THAT much better.

        Kerrigan was hurt this year, not his best. But last year he was ranked #3 overall and I believe he had more QB hurries (47) than Von Miller. I believe he was #2 overall in QB hurries 2nd only to Justin Houston, but I have a hard time finding that particular stat so someone please call me out of I’m wrong.

        Anyway. Even in a down year Kerrigan had 9.5 sacks and Von Miller had 11, hardly 5x as many. Not even twice as many. I also realize there’s more to OLBs than sacks, but Kerrigan is solid all around. If you look at his whole career, not just one year, he’s very good. Not the best by any means, but very good.

        Between Kerrigan, Galette, and Smith we have a very good OLB corps. I believe easily top 10, maybe top 5. I have a hard time naming 5 OLBs better than Kerrigan but we could try, but certainly not 10. Also try naming 5 OLB combos better than Kerrigan and Galette. Suggs and Dumerville, Von Miller and Ware, Houston and Hali….. That’s all I can think of off the top of my head.

        We don’t have the greatest situation, but it’s pretty good. Barry didn’t have Galette, and Kerrigan didn’t get healthy until the tail end of the season. But Smith came on and Kerrigan got healthy at the same time. So there was something for him to work with.

  2. dcfaninecuador - Feb 8, 2016 at 7:47 AM

    How do we KNOW that Gruden didn’t want to hire Phillips? Maybe Wade didn’t WANT the job. Seriously, where would you rather work? Denver, with the defensive talent they have, Miller, Talib, Ware, etc.(as well as a future HOF QB) or DC with who on defense and who on offense. And as Skinsgame says, there is no guarantee he would have had the same results (or even close) without the talent Denver has.

    • sidepull - Feb 8, 2016 at 8:27 AM

      Yea I agree with all that but even still I would have liked to see Wade try to make a go of it here.

    • Trey Gregory - Feb 8, 2016 at 1:09 PM

      @DCFan: If I remember correctly, Wade Phillips was ready to go to Washington and wanted the job but Gruden chose Barry instead. That’s what the reports were.

      To this conversation as a whole, I think not hiring Phillips was Gruden’s biggest mistake of the year. I think Gruden, overall, did a very good job; especially assembling his staff. But even before we saw what Barry and Phillips did, I thought we should have gone with Wade. Gruden was in over his head in 2014, and he knew it. So he changed his ways and surrounded himself with very experienced staffers; some of who had previous HC experience. I believe this helped Gruden grow. I think the point where this team was, he should have added that last coach with unquestionable experience. Phillips was he safe bet, and this team needed some stability.

      Anyway. Barry didn’t do awful, but he could have been better. Of course our defense wouldn’t have been #1 like Denver’s because of the talent difference, but they could have been better. Many of us expected at least a top 10 run defense with that roster. Just look at Denver’s defensive improvement from 2014 to 2015. Mostly the same guys, but they took a huge leap. That’s on Wade Phillps. The man knows how to run a 3-4.

      My hope is that Barry also learned a lot of lessons his inaugural year in Washington and makes some changes next year. He has to allow the bump and run guys to, bump and run. He also had to add some wrinkles and send more pressure from time to time. But he also didn’t overdo it, which is a challenge in itself for some defensive coordinators. So it wasn’t all bad. Give Joe Barry some better ILBs (the 3-4 is all about linebackers) and I think he can do a lot more of what he wants successfully. But he also has to realize how he needs to change his scheme based off the roster he has.

    • bangkokben - Feb 8, 2016 at 4:11 PM

      I’m with you on this. I think Philips may have had a heads up with Kubiak’s connections to Elway. He may have heard that there was a possibility for a plum job that he wasn’t ready to accept any offers. I’d have to check the timing but there seems like little reason for lamenting this (since it is done) or making it as some indictment of Gruden. Sure I’m speculating and may be connecting dot that aren’t there just as anyone who see this as evidence to Gruden being threatened by Wade or a poor decision maker because of the hire. Perry Fewell seems like an upgrade. Barry is an upgrade. Callahan is an upgrade. So we’re complaining because we didn’t get maximum possible upgrade viewed in hindsight?

      • ET - Feb 8, 2016 at 4:56 PM

        Good point.

        Despite my suspicions (without evidence) that Phillips might’ve been willing to take the DC job in DC, the coaching staff was upgraded up and down the org chart. Gruden didn’t bring in a bunch of pushovers.

        • bangkokben - Feb 8, 2016 at 7:28 PM

          I’m glad you got my point with all the missing syntax.

      • skinsgame - Feb 9, 2016 at 6:38 AM

        There are a couple folks here that hate everything Gruden does and will hate, no matter what.

        • bangkokben - Feb 9, 2016 at 10:27 AM

          There certainly is that – the bulk of the Barry criticism stems from this, but there also seems to be a significant contingent of folks here that are simply doubling down on their position from a year ago. An indirect “I told you so.” Which is also messed up. What Philips and the Broncos don’t get enough credit for is not re-signing Pot Roast and improving the rushing defense, yet it seems that most of the folks criticizing Barry also want extra portions of Pot Roast.

        • Trey Gregory - Feb 9, 2016 at 11:31 AM

          Bang, come on man. Seriously? Somehow not liking Barry and wanting Knighton back are related? Really? I think Barry did fine, wasn’t great but wasn’t awful. I hope he learned a couple lessons and I think he can be pretty good next year. But I also want Knighton back. Know why? Because we don’t have another option. I want Knighton back until we have a better or as good option.

          Know what the difference between Denver cutting Knighton lose and Washington cutting him lose is? Sylvester Williams. Denver drafted his replacement in 2013’s first round. He was already on the roster, and they already saw him play. They had a plan to replace Knighton BEFORE they cut him lose. They didn’t just cut him lose and hope for the best.

          So what you’re praising Denver for dong (something that I doubt Wade Phillips had anything to do with btw), you’re telling Washington to do the opposite. That makes sense.

          Can you please refrain from acting like we’re all idiots and don’t know what we’re talking about?

        • bangkokben - Feb 9, 2016 at 12:56 PM

          “I want Knighton back until we have a better or as good option.” I certainly understand this sentiment, but in the case of Knighton, his community service off the field was far greater than his impact on the field. Was the Redskin’s defense that much better up the middle with Knighton than it was with Barry Cofield? Was it even any better? 30th in yards/carry at 4.8 a rush. Was it at all worth the NFL’s highest cap at nose tackle? Is that really a good use of resources for a player who plays 35% of the defense’s snaps. There will be at least a dozen FA nose tackles available plus the guys in the draft. Yes, I wanted them to draft an NT last year since they signed Knighton to a one-year deal, but alas that is in the past. Sure Sylvester Williams made the decision easy for Denver, but they also improved while we actually got worse against the run. Sure, there are other factors but again it comes down to resource management and keeping Knighton doesn’t appear to be good management.

  3. goback2rfk - Feb 8, 2016 at 7:55 AM

    Rg3 watch starts today as cuts can begin at anytime.

  4. troylok - Feb 8, 2016 at 7:58 AM

    “Joe Barry was cautious because his defensive backfield was weak. But sometimes you have to damn the torpedoes and go full speed.”

    This is called the “Rex Ryan” philosophy on defense. I’m all for creative blitzes and bringing the house but that secondary has to be able to hold down the backfield or the opposing QB will just take a step back and then lob a deep ball any time he sees the blitz.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Feb 8, 2016 at 8:36 AM

      My impression was we had some particularly awful stats when we blitzed. I thought this included the Panthers game, too.

    • imperishablephantasm - Feb 8, 2016 at 10:10 AM

      But at some point, you’ve got to try. Too many times this season the Redskins were burned because Barry was too confident in a 4 man pass rush. If quarterbacks are marching down the field because your pass rush isn’t getting there, it’s time to switch it up. Barry didn’t do that enough.

    • celeoinc - Feb 8, 2016 at 2:49 PM

      Maybe true, but against Atlanta our D was playing very well against Matt Ryan until he started playing vanilla defense in the last few minutes of the game. Same thing against Miami at the end of the first half. Plus he applied no pressure against one of the worst QBs in Matt Cassel and got burned. Any QB in the NFL can burn you when there is no pressure. My hope is that he learned from his mistakes and become a better DC this upcoming season.

      • bangkokben - Feb 8, 2016 at 7:21 PM

        If DeSean Jackson doesn’t fumble the punt return. The Redskins have the ball with less than three minutes to go with the game tied. Weak game plan but the Redskins would’ve been in a place to win the game had there simply been a fair catch. Bottom line, the defense didn’t lose that game.

  5. gholmesbm - Feb 8, 2016 at 8:04 AM

    I think that Wade’s age worked against him with respect to what Gruden wanted. I think he wanted a DC he could partner with longer term while trying to build a successful team culture. Wade’s age and prior HC experience would mean that he is always more likely to move on.

    Those who are critical of the Barry over Phillips hire should also remember that the Denver defensive players are far more talented than their Redskins’ counterparts at this point in time. Don’t think that Wade could have done what he did with our lineup. Also, the injuries on Redskins’ defense were severe this year – I think Joe Barry did a pretty good job in the circumstances – we should look forward to see what he can do in a new year with added talent and hopefully better health.

    I would prefer that he is more aggressive with the rush – but Denver showed you can do that with 3 great cover corrners – we are not there yet, so perhaps it is not possible until we do.

  6. redskinsnameisheretostay - Feb 8, 2016 at 8:28 AM

    Blitzing works best when a team can produce base pressure. If the front four can apply stress to the line and some pressure on the QB then you send others to completely breach the overall protection. Most QBs can handle one player breaking free but when 2,3, and more defenders come free all along the line then no QB stands a chance in the pocket for long. It’s quite the contrary when base pressure isn’t getting off the blocks or isn’t able to get around the edge in time. If the defense sends another player or two, maybe one breaks free but this normally creates a breakdown in coverage where the QB can exploit an easy opportunity.

    In the Redskins case, does anyone seriously think blitzing would been beneficial? When you don’t have an edge rusher and you don’t have any pressure coming from the interior, blitzing would have rendered many big plays for the opponents offense. Statistically it’s proven time-after-time that on most cases; blitzes don’t result in much success. Maybe with Preston Smith having gaining a year of experience and Gallete returning 100%, this defense can apply some blitz packages. However, there are only a few defense lines in the NFL that have the luxury of applying relentless pressure by sending more than a offense line can block. We saw one of those defenses last night.

    • hail74 - Feb 8, 2016 at 10:37 AM

      Agreed. It immediately comes to mind the Giants game where we blitzed on 3rd and forever and they converted.

  7. shermanp79 - Feb 8, 2016 at 9:02 AM

    During the hiring process I leaned toward wanting experience. No doubt Phillips did much more than Barry but DEN has much more talent on their defense so Phillips may not have done much better. But that puts another thought into my head regarding the building of a team. You can use FA to build. Look at how DEN put its roster together. They signed guys at every level of their D. Yes, the used the Draft but FA built that defense at key positions. In 2011 they had the 2nd pick, we had the 11th, look at what DEN has done since.

  8. renhoekk2 - Feb 8, 2016 at 9:06 AM

    I don’t think anyone is implying that Wade would have turned the Skins D into the top defense in the league like he did with the Broncos, or even a top 10. Just that it is “more likely than not” he would have done a superior job than what Barry did. Isn’t that the only thing that matters. Like Rich said sometimes the obvious hire is the correct one. He doesn’t have to be here 7 yrs from now. How many coaching staffs last that long anyway. Look at John Fox in Denver. All he did was win and he still got canned. So the idea that Wade was passed over because he didn’t seem like a long term solution is nuts. He could have been here say 3-4 yrs and then handed the reigns over to another coach on the staff. Fewell was a DC and could have taken over the job. If you don’t have a super star QB you need to win with defense. That is obvious to anyone who watches the NFL. With that fact acknowledged there is no justifying the Barry hire. I make the same argument about players all the time. You can’t cut a player and replace him with hope. What I mean is trying to replace a proven guy with someone who hasn’t proven he can do it and hoping he becomes a guy who can do it. The same applies to the DC position. They passed over a guy who has proven he can do it, and chose a guy they hope can do it. And before he landed in Denver, Phillips is on the record as saying he would have loved to coach in DC with his son, so he had some interest in the job

    • Thetruthis - Feb 8, 2016 at 11:08 AM

      Agreed! The Wade Phillips miss is just one of the many comedy of errors that Jay Gruden has made beginning from day 1. Jay is what he is and you will find out. Jay makes bad long term decisions and this is just the first of many that the skins are going to eventually see. Wade Phillips showed brilliance and original thinking to win against such a tough opponent. The skins are going to get the long term results of the decision making of its head people and most impact fully is always the head coach. Even with Kirk, while he can do some things really well, he has some critical weakness when under pressure and accuracy issues and you do not know if that will ever change. But, again, remember, it was Jay Gruden making all of these decisions. He is not really smart. He makes careless decisions based on hope. Like the Sean McVeigh hire, like keeping Haslet, like not hiring a QB coach his first year, even though it was his first year as a head coach. Even though he was charged with developing RG3. He looks at only the good of HIS choices and lends a blind eye to how they will compete against the top playoff talent. Good luck with that!

      • wvredskins - Feb 8, 2016 at 11:28 AM

        And thats your opinion fella. I myself think that Barry did one heck of a job for what he had to coach with. I dont care who was the Defensive Cord for that Broncos team, they would have been a top 5 defense anyways. So just keep on hating on Gruden and who he hired cause at the end of the day, the Redskins are on the RISE and Gruden is here to stay HTTR

        • skinsgame - Feb 8, 2016 at 3:36 PM

          Word. Word up. Word to your mother.

      • dcfaninecuador - Feb 8, 2016 at 11:32 AM

        Again, I ask: how do YOU KNOW Wade was not offered the job? How do YOU KNOW he didn’t turn an offer down? Answer: you don’t. Also, name me ANY first year head coach who didn’t make a mistake here or there. Answer: you can’t. Sean McVay hire? Where did that starting QB end up in total stats? Charged with developing RGIII? Uh….no. He was charged with running a football TEAM. Going from 4-12 to 9-7 is, in my feeble mind, improvement. Accuracy issues? Who led the league in completion %? And, yeah, show me ANY QB who completes 100% of his downfield passes. I could go on, but why bother.

      • hail74 - Feb 8, 2016 at 11:46 AM

        Critical weakness under pressure? How did the league MVP do last night under prssure? That’s the secret to beating all QBs and why Pass rushers and LTs are so sought after.

        • bangkokben - Feb 8, 2016 at 4:14 PM


  9. Joy Arney - Feb 8, 2016 at 10:16 AM

    Go Redskins. Fan for life… No matter what. I am 62 and have been a fan since I was 18.#HTTR. Just wish I could afford to go to the games when you play at home. Good Luck 2016!!!!

  10. berniebernard666 - Feb 8, 2016 at 12:06 PM

    oh my here we go again. every time a Superbowl winner emerges however they win…then the experts come out and talk about how OUR team needs to do THAT. So now we can never have enough pass rushers? Well if you can’t stop the run, then pass rushers don’t matter. And pass rushers are nice but if you rush 4 every single time then you don’t always get pass rushers…you get defensive players 5 yards away from the pocket.

    Anybody besides me notice the difference between Joe Barry’s defensive scheme and Wade Phillips scheme? Well let me illuminate. Like I have been saying for 4 months, Joe Barry runs an ineffective and PREDICTBLE PREVENT DEFENSE. Rush 4 virtually every time, tell everybody you’re going to rush 4 every time, and then rush 4 virtually every time.

    Wade Phillips varies his pass rush with 4….sometimes 5….and occasionally 6 pass rushers. And if you go back and watch Carolina….THEY also rush 4, 5, and 6 occasionally. You NEVER know how many are coming and they don’t tell you. Bottom line is that the Redskins have good pass rushers…not great but good…but they rarely get an opportunity to get to the QB because everybody know exactly where the pass rushers are coming from and THAT… not needing more pass rushers….THAT is a function of a poor Joe Barry Philosophy and scheme.

    • berniebernard666 - Feb 8, 2016 at 12:07 PM

      CLUE: Redskins need a new Defensive Coordinator before more pass rushers.

      • celeoinc - Feb 8, 2016 at 2:58 PM

        I could not agree more. He benefited from some very good assistant coaches. Barry’s defense is too vanilla.

    • hail74 - Feb 8, 2016 at 12:32 PM

      Then why was wade Phillips even available let alone passed over by more than half the league? Because Houston was giving up 27 pts/gm. The players matter more than scheme in the nfl. It sure appeared that Miller was getting most of his pressure the traditional way, right around the RT.

    • ET - Feb 8, 2016 at 2:29 PM

      Counterpoint: Joe Barry did an excellent job with a mixed bag of talent and a defense decimated by injuries. The secondary depth was TERRIBLE after a multiplicity of injuries (Culliver, Ihenacho, Hall, Breeland), and Barry did a damn fine job protecting that unit. Do you really think his play calling would be the same with a full slate of healthy players? One more monster DE, one more dependable edge rusher, one more really solid CB—any of those players would’ve changed Barry’s options considerably.

      • celeoinc - Feb 8, 2016 at 2:56 PM

        Our secondary coach did. Barry’s defense is way too vanilla. Rodgers was laughing during the 4 quarter of that playoff game. It was just too easy. In Barry’s defense there is no such thing as trying to confuse the opponent.

        • redskinsnameisheretostay - Feb 8, 2016 at 4:02 PM

          When you have limited player talent and ever changing moving parts due to injury during the season, there is only so much “flair” you can apply to a defense. You need to clarify such a generic claim that the defense was too “vanilla”. In other words your comment is well vanilla. Especially considering that football outsiders has the Redskins ranked 8th in adjustable sack rates.

          Denver 8.1%
          NE 7.8%
          Tenn 7.7%
          KC 7.7%
          TB 7.6%
          HOU 7.5%
          PITT 7.4%
          WAS 7.3%

          Barry did quite well with what he had to work with and these attacks on his coaching are result of some very shallow thinking from some fans here.

  11. lorcanbonda - Feb 9, 2016 at 11:19 AM

    The one thing that I noticed on the Broncos was the ability of their linebackers to cover. They had the speed to keep up with Olsen or the receivers. The could also blitz and stuff the run. Denver has a talent level that we can’t match. It has little to do with Wade Phillips.

    • Trey Gregory - Feb 9, 2016 at 12:01 PM

      Yes yes yes on the linebackers. Not so much the Wade Phillips thing. Give credit where it’s due, the guy did a great job and is a master of the 3-4. He had the players to execute his scheme (a luxury Barry didn’t have) but the scheme and plan was great.

      But linebackers are they key. That’s 3-4 defense 101. You emphasize LBs more. So while I like our OLBs, Smith and Murphy could definitely improve in coverage. But our ILBs are just not very good. It’s hard to execute a good 3-4 with bad ILBs. What’s the point of a NT taking up two blocks if the line backers don’t get there to make the tackles? Or fill the gaps? Why have an extra LB in coverage of they can’t cover? I don’t want to get all crazy into it, but we do need better linebackers. It’s a major concern to me. Archives

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