Washington Redskins Defense Facing Too Many Problems to Fix in Season
An 0-3 start is a problem in and of itself, but it is especially problematic for the defending NFC East champion Washington Redskins, who entered the season with so much promise.
While Robert Griffin III and his knee will see the big headlines and media attention, the defense is a substantially direr problem.
The supposed upgrades to the defense have only succeeded in turning an already bad unit into one of the worst in the NFL—on pace to be one of the worst in league history.
Heading into their Week 4 contest against the Oakland Raiders, the Redskins have already allowed 1,464 yards (488 yards per game) in 2013-14. That total amounts to just 85 fewer yards than the St. Louis Rams have allowed, and they have already played their Week 4 game.
Last season's New Orleans Saints hold the record for most yards allowed in a season with 7,042, and the Redskins are on pace to surpass that number in Week 15.
Consider that the Saints were in disarray in 2012 following Bountygate while the Redskins are supposed to be heading towards a bright future with all the right players and coaches in place.
In short, the Redskins have no excuse for being so abysmal on the defensive side of the ball.
Sure, outside linebacker Rob Jackson and defensive end Jarvis Jenkins are currently suspended, limiting the depth at both positions, but the defense is healthier as a unit than it was at any point last season.
Brian Orakpo is back and supposedly itching to eat up quarterbacks, Ryan Kerrigan already has three sacks, London Fletcher is still one of the best football minds at inside linebacker, Perry Riley is quietly having his breakout season and the defensive line is underrated as always.
The secondary...well, there's the problem—or at least one of the more glaring problems—with the defense.
DeAngelo Hall has been a ball hawk, for better or worse, throughout most of his career and has two turnovers returned for touchdowns already this season. His coverage and tackling still leave a lot to be desired, but he's actually been the least of the Redskins' problems in the secondary.
Josh Wilson still can't cover anyone, rookies David Amerson and Bacarri Rambo are inconsistent, Brandon Meriweather can't stay on the field, E.J. Biggers hasn't done much to impress and none of them can tackle.
Maybe the collective mediocrity is due to something else, like the coaching staff.
Jim Haslett, as hard-nosed as he supposedly is, plays a soft coverage scheme that nullifies what he tries to do with his blitz and pressure packages.
Kerrigan and Orakpo can't succeed if every opposing receiver has a 10-yard cushion to work with, as quarterbacks start firing shorter passes to stay out of harm's way.
The Redskins defense has eight sacks this season, six of which came in the first half. Five of those six first-half sacks occurred in the first quarter, revealing the ability of opposing offenses to adjust and Haslett's inability to adjust.
If Haslett, or secondary coach Raheem Morris, would only move the corners up to put a jam on receivers as opposed to giving them free runs, maybe this would be a little different.
The cushion is there to protect from the big play, which has been noticeably absent this season, but it isn't because the Redskins have improved in that department.
Maybe it is a lack of trust in Rambo or the corners, but the big cushion means no one is getting past the corners. They keep receivers in front of them, which allowed the Green Bay Packers to adjust to quicker routes, which extended drives, netted big yards after catch and left the Redskins defense in tatters.
Bad tackling, no discipline, poor scheme, inability to adjust. There are just too many problems with the defense to fix in one season.
Is the solution to fire Haslett now, give the reins to Morris for the rest of the season and see how he works out? Can the defense do what Haslett could not and deal with change on the fly?
Should the Redskins let Haslett have the season to turn the defense around and decide at season's end?
Is Haslett even to blame? Is it on the players to work through their poor start, get to tackling, force turnovers or try even harder to pressure the quarterback?
The number of questions that could be asked is troubling, but not nearly as troubling as the fact that none of them have a simple or good answer that will guarantee the Redskins can climb out of the hole they've dug themselves into.
Rest assured, there is likely to be a coaching change in Washington and the 3-4 experiment will either fall by the wayside or finally bring a coordinator who can call a game properly.
It seems almost too simple to think the Redskins could go back to the 4-3 alignment, use a New York Giants-style defensive line rotation and let the former defensive ends Kerrigan and Orakpo get their hands back in the dirt to get after the quarterback.
Wishful thinking in the face of nothing but absolute dread for this 2013 season.
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