After reviewing the film of the Redskins-Cowboys week 12 game several times, I hand out the following class grades to the Redskins defense.
HEAD OF THE CLASS
NT Barry Cofield. The big nose tackle has had an up and down season, though more up than down. The last two weeks, though, Cofield has played like a superstar, absolutely destroying his opponents on the Philadelphia and Dallas offensive lines. After harassing Eagles QB Nick Foles to distraction and shutting down the Philadelphia run game, Cofield was in Tony Romo's face so often that the Cowboys QB probably had nightmares about him hours after the game ended. Cofield hit Romo four times and hurried him into bad passes twice more and double teams seemed to make no difference. Washington could use a similar performance from its nose tackle on Monday night when he plays his old team.
CB DeAngelo Hall. The supremely confident corneback has been maddeningly inconsistent this year -- and that's par for the course with Hall. The cornerback who was torched by the Vikings and Steelers -- and humiliated himself against the Steelers -- has been gone without a trace, as he, like Cofield, has dominated division opponents the last two weeks. The Cowboys threw at Hall eight times, completing only five for a grand total of 36 yards. That's 4.5 yards per pass attempt thrown his way, an excellent day's work by Hall. In addition, Hall also intercepted a Romo pass over the middle intended for Cole Beasley. Hall had inside coverage on Beasley, but Romo threw it anyway. Hall snatched it out of the air and returned it 27 yards to set up the offense on a short field. A few plays later, the Redskins scored their fourth and final touchdown of the second quarter. Hall also ended the game by neatly grabbing an on-sides kick and returning it to the one yard line. He could have scored and probably should have. This was clearly Hall's best game of the season and I nearly made him Head of the Class instead of Cofield.
ILB Perry Riley. Washington's best linebacker of 2012 had his best game of 2012, so far, in Dallas last Thursday. He led the team with nine tackles, adding half a sack, a tackle for loss and three QB hurries.
DL Jarvis Jenkins. He's been a very average player this year, proving he's either still recovering from his knee injury of 16 months ago or he wasn't as good as we originally believed. After a poor game against the Eagles, Jenkins bounced back against Dallas by providing a good pass rush all day. He didn't do much to stop the Cowboys rushing attack, but the rest of the team shut that down so Jenkins wasn't needed there. He had three QB hurries and a QB hit and got good penetration on passing downs repeatedly.
CB Cedric Griffin, DL Stephen Bowen, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, SS Reed Doughty, FS Madieu Williams
MUST DO BETTER
ILB London Fletcher. The defensive captain hasn't had a really good game all season and Thanksgiving Day was no exception. He missed two more tackles, bringing his year total to 16. Fletcher is trying to play injured and at 37 this is becoming a real problem. The Redskins pulled Fletcher out of the game in the fourth quarter and that was probably a good decision -- except it should have been done earlier. I understand starting Fletcher to keep his games played streak alive, but he can't be allowed to be on the field so much when he isn't playing well.
OLB Rob Jackson. He plays about half the time and hasn't done badly this season. He defended the run well against Dallas, but provided almost no pass rush. That's a problem since pass rush is a big part of what he's supposed to be doing.
ILB Lorenzo Alexander. Played 50% of the time and got a good pass rush resulting in 2 QB hits and 3 QB hurries. He still struggles in pass coverage, though, and the Cowboys were able to exploit that.
SS DeJon Gomes. Made some nice stops, but also missed two tackles. It was a step back from Gomes' strongest game of the season, the week before against the Eagles.
CB Josh Wilson. Not his worst game of the season, but not good. He gave up two TD passes, a pass interference penalty and missed two tackles. Wilson would thrive in a #2 cornerback role, but he continues to struggle in the #1 role forced upon him in Washington.