A frequent musing from sports analyzers both local and national has been something to the effect of "X Washington team just cannot bring the D and as a result, they will suck." Well, sports analyzers, after several recent performances, what more can you ask for from X Washington team defense? For the 'skins, the Caps, and now, after a thoroughly dominant preseason performance, the Wiz can all boast of top-notch Ds. And all have been crafted using minimal major additions. Coincidence or 'tismidence?
The skins' defense of 5-11 was usually attributed to adjectives like "woeful," "porous," "historically bad," and "face-punchingly frustrating." The holy suckiness trinity of Archuleta, Holdman, and Wright, lead to widespread lead evaporations, rampant missed arm tackles, and bombs, oh the bombs! So what did the Redskins do to shore up the sieve? One might think the best thing to do would be to cut everyone, trade all of their draft picks, sign Dwight Freeney, Lance Briggs, Nate Clements, et al, and be a pretty decent Madden squad again. While that would have been right in D-Snyd's wheelhouse, the Redskins braintrust again looked at what worked with their squad, dotted in a couple of great draft picks, inked hard-nosers like Smoot and Fletcher, and voila: dominating the NFC. Malignment had been steadily emitted onto guys like Andre Carter, the so-and-so million dollar free agent bust who had like a half a sack (but some stylish lenses) or something last year. Look at Carter now, pwning Jeff Backus with a Austin stunner before landing on a cowering Kitna in the end zone for the deuce on Sunday. Carter and his team leading sack numbers are prime examples of maintaining braintrust trust, and instead of scorching the earth when the plans go slightly awry, why not plug in smaller additions while eliminating more glaring scrubs to see if a more chemistry-based improvement can be made.
Another crucial aspect of the skins' improved D has been healing body parts. Springs' groin is no longer a concern (save for the average groupie), Marcus' hips have been surgically repaired, Griff is finally not banged up; all of these health-boosts have added more to the defense than simply drafting new guys and cutting the rest. Much had been made of the skins drafting a defensive back instead of a lineman with the sixth overall pick. But, according to strong analysis from footballoutsiders.com, the skins needent worry. Why, with the way the D-line has been performing, Gregg Williams didn't need to send anyone on blitz packages during the Lions game to create pressure and send Kitna to the ground five times.
So could we write off 5-11's defense as an aberration due to health? Sure. But I think the developing cohesiveness of the entire unit has been just as beneficial. Keeping guys together develops trust, communication, friendships, choreographed dance moves. And we have seen the results of that in another one of our emerging local defense teams (no not Greenberg and Bederman): The Capitals.
Last year the Caps's defense was bottom-feeder bad, giving up goals as if they were a spoiled Montgomery County teenager, wasting his life away with recreational drugs and the internet instead of working on his/her schoolwork. But in the three recent Caps' games, opposing teams have only been able to score 2 goals total, including one of Olie's "easier" shut outs in the home opener. Could we attribute this to a Philadelphia Flyer like purse-upturning, where every red-blooded blue-liner out there was trucked into Kettler to try and shore things up on the fly? No.
While one free agent, the solid, and clutch diver Tom Poti, has been a solid and clutch reason for the improvement, more credit ought to be given to the d-men already receiving paychecks. Brian Pothier, Shaoaaoaoane Morrison, Mike Green, Milan Jurcina, and Norris hopeful, John Erskine. They have been seemingly sticking every puck, disallowing every chance, and actually denying every powerplay! We attribute this immense progress not to Poti's arrival, but to the improved cohesiveness of this squad. Passes off the boards rarely end up back in the defensive zone. Forwards are constantly sprung towards the goal properly. The puck stays out of the tender middle zone. The forwards deserve credit as well, especially the Gordon-Clark-Pettinger checking line, which brings back fond memories of the old Dahlen-Halpern-Konowalchuk line of the early oughties, that used to cause blatant uncalled Mario Lemeux spears and constant rises in plus/minus. Both Johnny and Olie, the goaltending stalwarts of year and too many years past, have been magnificent. The continued reliance on internal development worked here, could it work elsewhere on likely the most maligned of all X Washington sports Ds?
If you tuned in to Comcast last night to see the gold-name tagged Wizards simply laying the wood on the fraudulent, faking Cavaliers, you would agree. The Wizards blocked just about every shot thrown up, with hated-on Haywood doing some serious Zydrunus slapping in addition to grabbing big offensive rebounds. Newly utilized center Andray Blatche also was in the shot abuse stat sheet leaping from the center position to deny chumps like Damon Jones from netting precious preseason points. But we save the heaviest praise for brilliant Grun-trust diamond in the rough 2nd rounder Dominic McGuire, who was just spectacular all night getting in Cavalier grills, swatting shots from the weakside, and providing glittering offense. He played seventeen minutes and was instrumental in what was a dominating win, one we can look very positively at.
Now what did the Wiz do to shore up this defense, other than simply say they would again? The Grun-trust didn't go out there and get some guy who would change everything up while destroying the cap situation and ruining the chance to re-sign Gilbert. No, they drafted some young talent, they eliminated some of the deadweight (and dead to us) veterans, and they spent training camp tweaking. In case you don't believe how much more defensive this team looks, check out this montage of the preseason highlights from Willitary/Asian Zero productions.
Nice usage of Chamillionaire's "Oh's" during Andre Blatche and Dom McGuire jams, although it doesn't allow the viewer to hear Buckhantz and Chenier debate over which Wizard rookie, Young or Mcguire is Chuck and which one is Larry, or the fact that it is a reference to a movie about a couple pretending to be homosexual. Regardless, the montage rules. Defense was the lone, non-God-involving weakness with the Wiz last year. We see this preseason proof of improvement as proof that an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, as predicted by Gilbert, is imminent.
So you see, improving the defense of X Washington team doesn't involve selling the farm and bringing in the latest toys or whatever metaphor you can think of for free-agency abuse. It has to do with one of the DCO's trademarks, trusting the braintrust, and realizing that keeping guys together and letting them learn works. And it is working RIGHT NOW.