Should the Redskins be Second Guessing Their Defensive Approach?

Redskins Activate Barry Cofield, Waive Jackson Jeffcoat

This will be the first post in a new column we are starting here at titled “Just My Two Cents,” which will highlight opinion-based Redskins topics.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the Washington Redskins have a laundry list of issues to solve on both sides of the ball. What is lost in the mix of the everyday NFL world is that the quarterback is not always the person to blame. That’s not saying Robert Griffin III isn’t at least partially to blame as well, what it means is he shouldn’t automatically be the center of the “what’s wrong in DC” discussion.

The Washington Redskins have given up 1,023 yards in total defense (currently last in the league) or 511.5 yards per game so far and have surrendered 71 points in two games (second worst in the league behind only the New York Giants). Those type of numbers will have the Redskins giving up an unreal 8,184 yards and 568 points for the 2013 season if the defense continues at this rate. The NFL record for yards allowed was set by the New Orleans Saints just last year at 7,042, and the all-time record for most points given up is held by the 1981 Baltimore Colts, who gave up 533.

Looking at those numbers even a sixth grader can tell you that the Redskins defensive unit is on pace to be the worst in the history of the league.

There are a couple of intangibles that should be mentioned before looking into this any further. First of all, the Redskins did face a high-octane offense in week one (the Eagles) that no one knew fully what to expect from (not even Philly fans). While many had seen Chip Kelly’s offense when he coached at Oregon, none knew just how that offense would cross over or perform with the personnel the Eagles only managed a 4-12 finish with a year ago. That explains why the Redskins didn’t have any answers when the Eagles came out and called 53 plays in the first half and scored 27 points. The fact that Philadelphia only ran 23 plays for 72 yards in the second half either shows that the defense made several key halftime adjustments, or the Eagles offense was gassed after such a torrid pace in the first.

The second intangible is the fact that the Redskins faced All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers in week 2 when they traveled to Lambeau Field last weekend. Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL and had the luxury of not one rookie, but two rookies starting in the Redskins secondary, which for Rodgers is like taking candy from a baby. The stat sheet from the Packers game was not pretty for the defense, the Redskins surrendered 480 yards passing (Packers record) with four touchdowns passing by Rodgers and gave up 38 total points, 31 in the first half alone. In addition to the passing yards the Redskins also gave up 132 yards on the ground to back up Green Bay running back James Starks, it was the first time a Green Bay running back had rushed for over a hundred yards since 2010…the last time they played Washington. It should also be pointed out that Washington has been hamstrung by two 18 million dollar cap penalties the last two off-seasons and hasn’t been able to replace or improve their defense.

All that being said, giving up over 1000 yards in two games is never an option, at least not for a team looking to make the playoffs. That is exactly what this Redskins team has been focused on doing since the season ended a year ago along with repeating as NFC East champions.

Watching the Redskins first two games of the season there is one thing that stands out above all others things in terms of this teams failure on defense; poor tackling. Too many times in the last two weeks Redskins defenders have been spotted missing tackle after tackle. Poor tackling rolls back to coaches and players when looking for someone to blame for the inability to stop the opponents players.

Many, including myself, have questioned coach Jim Haslett’s defensive approach to things. For example, it seems like the Redskins cornerbacks give opposing receivers a five to ten-yard cushion (while mainly in zone protection) on the edges every single play, which is something the Redskins did at the beginning of the year last season as well. During the Redskins seven-game winning streak they played more man-to-man coverage, and the cushion evaporated, the result was an improved secondary in the second half of the year. Now that’s not to say that playing less zone coverage and not giving the cushion will lead to victories. The team from a year ago was also fifth in the league against the rush, so far this year this team has given up two one-hundred yard rushing days.

One has to question why Haslett continues to sit in the coaches box way up in the stands and not on the sidelines while the Redskins have looked so horrible on defense. The defensive coordinator should be with his team if they are struggling and leave the sitting in the box to his assistants. By now Haslett is feeling the heat as his unit struggles, and if he wants to keep his job with the Redskins beyond this year, it’s time for him to get his defense going in the right direction. Don’t get me wrong, the coach can only do so much, but leading by example is the best way to get things going, and Haslett hasn’t looked like a leader at all in his three years with Washington, some may even say it appears that secondary coach Raheem Morris has that role. With that being said it’s only natural that Morris himself absorbs some of the blame. During his time in Tampa Bay, it has been said he was too friendly with players, while there is no proof that is the case in Washington, Morris is in charge of the secondary, and they have played below standard in his two years with the team.

Accountability amongst the players and coaches is one of the main keys to getting the Redskins defense back on track, I’m no coach, and even I know that. It’s still early, and the Redskins can still very much turn this thing around as they are only one game back in the NFC East standings and still have 14 weeks to play. A lot can happen in that amount of time. But if the Redskins don’t find a way to make players and coaches accountable for their actions and improve on their play this could be a long year for all involved including the fans of the burgundy and gold.

This week they have Detroit coming to town, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush are already licking their chops at the thought of it. Let’s hope for the sake of having a winning season that the Redskins get back to the basics this week and re-learn how to tackle opponents before Sunday.

Of course, that’s just my two cents on the situation…what’s yours?

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