Through the first two drives in both the Eagles and Packers games, the Redskins defense is actually up 7-6. As they scored on the backwards pass fumble, and held the Eagles and Packers to just a field goal apiece on their other three drives. Unfortunately that is where the wheels have come off the wagon for for the defense, and their bend but don’t break mentality gets thrown out the window. The Redskins defense (and their playoff run) survived last season due to two reasons; one the Redskins forced turnovers and two the Redskins defense could be counted on to not always break and force some field goals. That second part was key in some crucial games for the Redskins last season, including two in particular.
Against the Vikings, the Redskins offense was stagnant and turned the ball over early on, which led the Vikings to have three straight quality drives to start off the game. The Redskins held them from the 2 yard line and the 9 yard line twice. Instead of it being 21-0, it was 9-0 and the Redskins had a chance to come back in the game. Not only was that 12 point swing the difference in the game’s final score, but if the Redskins went down 21-0 they would have had to have changed their game plan and probably wouldn’t have come back to win that game. In the 2nd Giants game, which was a must win for the Redskins, the Giants had little problem moving down the field for the first three quarters of the game, but only managed one touchdown, and had two other drives stall on the 21 and 16 yard lines. By the Giants settling for field goals, the Redskins were in a position to come back and score the go ahead TD to win 17-16.
Last year you could count on enough stops, holding the other team to field goals or created turnovers to excuse some of the defensive issues, that isn’t the case this year, especially after the first couple of drives. Offenses appear to be able to quickly adjust to want the Redskins are doing and find the holes in the Redskins defense. This past week against Green Bay the Packers started throwing quick passes to neutralize the pass rush, but the Redskins defense didn’t have an answer. They continued to play off coverage, and were slow to react to plays leading to a number of catches and missed tackles. Despite getting gashed against the run each week, the Redskins stayed primarily in their nickel defense and kept their safeties back, which gave the offense the advantage at the point of attack. What’s even worse is it didn’t do much to slow down the opposing passing attacks either.
The Redskins are going to be exposed in some areas just given their natural limitations on defense, but they have to do a better job of limiting the opposing offense in at least one area, otherwise they will continue to be blown out. They also need to do a far better job in the red zone, or more appropriately from inside the 30. The Redskins goal has to be to force longer field goal attempts (or at least FG’s over TD’s), and find ways to force more turnovers. Last year the blitz was effective at creating some turnover chances, but the lack of coverage on the backend is making that problematic. Though it could cost a couple big plays, the Redskins don’t have much of a choice but to blitz more in an effort to get something going. As for stopping the run, the Redskins may need to start keeping an extra DL in there and perhaps pulling a LB, or maybe they just stay in their base package more. They also need to consider bringing a safety into the box. That does leave them more exposed on the outside, but if the Redskins can’t slow down the run, they have little chance of winning many football games.
There is no easy solution for the Redskins, but they need to be realistic in their approach. This isn’t a top 10 or top 15 defense, the key is to make sure you aren’t a bottom 2 defense like they currently are. If they can pick their game up to last year’s levels, this team can be competitive so that needs to be their goal.