The Washington Redskins (7-4) are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive with five remaining games left in the season. What has been their biggest reason for success thus far this season one may ask?
Many would answer undoubtedly Clinton Portis, the league's leading rusher with over 1200 yards in eleven games this year and playing through many nagging injuries. But the play of the offense has sputtered throughout this year leaving a lot to be desired at times, with many shaking their heads wondering why is this team being too conservative?
So if not Clinton Portis then who, or what, has been the keys for success this year?
It has been the play of the defensive unit that has kept the Skins playoff hopes afloat. The defense is ranked third overall giving up a mere 272.0 yards a game. Against the rush, the Skins are yielding only 89.3 yards a game and 182.7 passing.
This is outstanding for a team that doesn’t get much hype for their defensive prowess like other teams. Reason being, no defensive player is ranked high in the stats that everyone looks at. Demetric Evans leads the Skins with only four sacks and the rookie Chris Horton has three interceptions to lead the squad. Not gaudy numbers by a long shot.
So what is it that makes the defense so special? Just those statistics along will make you say wow, how is it that the “D” playing so well does not have players up in the statistical categories?
Defensive coordinator Greg Blache has the team playing outstanding as a unit even with the nagging injuries the team has been plagued with. Jason Taylor, Shawn Springs, Marcus Washington, just to name a few, have missed significant time this year. But the depth on the team has been able to keep the Skins hopes alive.
H.B. Blades, Anthony Montgomery, Fred Smoot, DeAngelo Hall, and Evans all have filled in at different times to help keep the glue together on the defense. In order for this team to make the playoffs, this collective effort has to continue starting this Sunday when the Giants (10-1) invade FedEx field.
This will not be an easy task as Eli Manning has the G-Men clicking on all phases of the game. The D-line must come up big if the Skins are to win this game. They must hold Earth, Wind and Fire (Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, Ahmad Bradshaw), the leagues best rushing attack at 164.9 yards a game, in check and force Manning to get rid of the ball early.
Following the Giants, the Skins have to go on the road to face an opportunistic defense in the Ravens, another team with playoff aspirations. If the defense can outshine Baltimore’s the Skins should be able to prevail in the game.
Afterwards, they face a Bengal team that is wishing the season was over. Then return home to face an Eagles team that is trying to salvage a sub par season followed by a season finale on the road against the 49ers. The team should finish 4-1 and make the playoffs.
If Taylor and Springs can get healthy it will help the team tremendously. The secondary will be that much stronger. Taylor’s presence will help the D-line with pressure on opposing teams’ quarterbacks. The outcome should be a happy one for Skins fans. Only time will tell if this becomes reality.