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Pearl Harbor Crew II

Pearl Harbor Crew II

Chief among the concerns of the Redskins these days is their pass defense. Even during their recent two-game winning streak the opposing passing game has put a scare into the team and its fans. While the Skins are playing with fire, it is possible to have a successful season without anything resembling a shut-down pass defense.

The 1983 Redskins went 14-2. The team scored 541 points, which at the time was the NFL record for the most points scored in a season. They had the Smurfs, a group of diminutive wide receivers. The Hogs had grown from being a group of large, sweaty linemen into a certified pop culture phenomenon. The Fun Bunch, which had some Smurfs as part of its membership, celebrated touchdowns.

There was one other group with a nickname, one that wasn’t particularly cute or complimentary. The defensive backfield came to be known as the Pearl Harbor Crew as it was getting bombed with alarming frequency.

It started in the opening game when Danny White rallied the Cowboys from a 23-3 halftime deficit with three second-half touchdown passes. Two of them were to Tony Hill covering 75 and 51 yards. In the fifth game against the Raiders, they got hit with the ultimate bomb, a 99-yard touchdown pass from Jim Plunkett to Cliff Branch. A couple of weeks later Green Bay’s Lynn Dickey got into the act, throwing for 387 yards in a Monday night thriller that the Packers won.

After that game, the Redskins were last in the NFL in pass defense. Nobody was all that worried, however, since they were 5-2. In fact, they finished the season allowing an average of 273 yards a game through the air; they ranked 28th out of 28 teams in pass defense but they were able to joke about it because they were 14-2.

There were a few reasons why the team put up such poor stats. One was that teams almost always found themselves trailing the high-scoring Redskins in the early going, forcing them to put the ball up early and often. Also, it was very difficult to run against the Washington defense; they finished the year ranked #1 against the rush. “Running at them is like throwing popcorn at a battleship,” commented former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil at the time.

Another was that the Redskins had a lot of new faces in their secondary. At cornerback Joe Lavender had retired and Jeris White sat out the year in a contract dispute. Taking their places were rookie Darrell Green, who was talented but very raw, and second-year player Vernon Dean. At safety, Tony Peters, a Pro Bowl performer the year before, was out serving a drug-related suspension, leaving Curtis Jordan, a veteran much better suited for special teams duty, to start alongside Mark Murphy, who was a savvy veteran but one who was slow afoot.

The current Redskins aren’t quite as low as their ’83 counterparts in the NFL rankings against the pass after four games this year. The 232 yards per game they have allowed so far puts them 26th in the 32-team league. Certainly, you can’t look at the team having large leads as the reason for the high opposition totals. The Redskins have trailed or have had a single-digit lead for the vast majority of the time this year. They have, however, been solid against the run, giving up an average of just 79.3 yards a game, fourth in the NFL. If I’m an opposing offensive coordinator, I’m probably going to be throwing it all day, too.

And, certainly, there has been turnover in the personnel. Adam Archuleta and Kenny Wright are new to the defense and Carlos Rogers started just five games last year and played in 12.

While the original Pearl Harbor Crew did get blasted for some big plays, they also made a lot of their own. Washington picked off 34 opposition passes that year, a theft pace that this year’s group will be hard-pressed to match. If they keep up their current rate of one every two games they’ll have eight picks by the end of the year.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com

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10 Questions in 10 days: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

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USA TODAY Sports

10 Questions in 10 days: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

Right or wrong, fans blamed Shawn Lauvao for much of the Redskins struggles on the offensive line last season. Pro Football Focus backs up the fans, as Lauvao landed a -19.1 grade, among the worst in the NFL at the guard spot. 

It's worth pointing out that Lauvao was playing hurt during much of his nine starts before getting shut down for the season just before Thanksgiving. In fact, injuries have probably been the biggest issue for Lauvao in his four seasons with the Redskins. 

In four seasons in Washington, Lauvao has never played a full 16-game slate. Last year he played just nine games, and in 2015 he only played three games. 

That points to what may be the bigger issue for the Redskins: offensive line depth. Last season was wild with the amount of injuries Washington sustained up front. It seems almost impossible for the team to have that many injuries again.

Still, the Redskins lost Arie Kouandjio for the year in the offseason. Kouandjio played better last year than Lauvao, and having both men in Richmond would have provided real competition. 

And that might be the biggest question: Neither Lauvao or Kouandjio represent a difference maker at left guard, yet the team did little to address the position. 

All offseason, the Washington brass walked a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The organization believes strongly in the players they already have, and outside of signing Paul Richardson and re-signing Zach Brown, the team had a quiet offseason. The Redskins struggled to run the ball the last few years, and still, the team did not look to upgrade at LG. 

It's important to note that the Redskins have two All-Pro caliber offensive linemen in Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff. Morgan Moses is a plus at the right tackle spot too. The team likes Chase Roullier at center too, and they tried to add depth in drafting Geron Christian in the third round and bringing back swing tackle backup Ty Nsekhe as a restricted free agent. 

Left guard will be a question, and it's hard not to think that it will be the weakest position on the O-line. Should that submarine the group? It shouldn't. What if Lauvao gets hurt?  Then things get quite tricky.

For the Redskins, however, the expectation might be that the line needs to perform as a unit, and with talent like Williams and Scherff, that should cover up any weaknesses.

Time, and health, will tell if that plan works. 

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Need to Know: The best cornerbacks the Redskins will face in 2018

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Need to Know: The best cornerbacks the Redskins will face in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 20, six days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The five best cornerbacks the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Today the cornerbacks are up. They are roughly ranked by Pro Football Focus’ coverage metrics, although I did some juggling based on interception totals and other factors. Prior to this, we looked at the best teamsreceivers, running backspass rushers, and quarterbacks

1. Patrick Peterson, Cardinals—The athletic Peterson has been All-Pro three times and has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his seven years in the league. He hasn’t had a big interception total since he got seven in 2012, but that is mostly because quarterbacks only throw his way about once every ten snaps he is in coverage. 

2. Jalen Ramsey, Jaguars—I could easily have ranked Ramsey over Peterson. I went with Peterson because he’s been doing it for longer and he’s only 28. Ramsey has justified his No. 5 selection in the 2016 draft. His long arms and ball skills serve him well. He has the size to defend the bigger receivers and the athleticism to be effective against shifty and speedy receivers. 

3. A.J. Bouye, Jaguars—If Alex Smith tries to throw away from Ramsey he will encounter trouble on the other side. It’s been trendy to say that Bouye is underrated for so long he’s in danger of becoming overrated. But he’s not there yet. Bouye was one of four full-time (played at least 60% of snaps) cornerbacks who did not allow a touchdown pass last year and he had by far the most plays in coverage. 

4. Malcolm Butler, Titans—If the Brady-Belichick Patriots don’t win another Super Bowl, the coach’s decision to keep Butler on the bench as Nick Foles shredded the New England secondary will be marked as the end of that era. Maybe Butler isn’t good enough to have made a difference, but it would have been interesting to see. He’s with the Titans now and he will give Smith problems in December. 

5. Marshon Lattimore, Saints—Last year’s defensive rookie of the year plays an aggressive style both in press man coverage and when tackling receivers who have caught the ball. An ankle injury sent him out of the game against the Redskins early, perhaps one of the reasons why Kirk Cousins was able to light them up for 322 yards and three touchdowns. 

Best of the rest: Desmond Trufant, Falcons; Brent Grimes, Bucs; Logan Ryan, Titans;k Jaire Alexander (rookie), Packers

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 6
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 20
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 43

The Redskins last played a game 201 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 51 days. 

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