Nothing is won in the first four weeks of the NFL season, but you can certainly bury yourself early if you stumble out of the blocks. Fortunately for the Redskins, they were able to rally after an 0-2 start (both losses at home). What have we learned about the 2016 Redskins? They can be unstoppable at times on Offense and have shown no ability to stop anyone on Defense.
So what’s up with the Defense? There are so many embarrassing numbers about the Redskins defense, but the most telling is the 3rd down defense that is allowing a 57% conversion rate – last in the NFL. The next worst team is the Detroit Lions at 47%. They can’t get off the field right, now and that must improve if they are going to be a playoff team.
What’s going wrong? Last Thursday, Redskins Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry was asked if he’s getting the most out of his talent – and true to form, he put a lot of it on his own shoulders.
“Well, not good. You know, a job of a coach is no different as a teacher, and if a math student simply isn’t just getting the good grades on math tests, you could say ‘Oh, that kid is just dumb.’ Well, I look at it as the teacher is not getting it out of him. And I put a lot of pride and a lot of input on myself to get it done and we’re not getting it done right now. I’m not getting it done. So, it’s a two-way street. You know, obviously, players have got to play and make plays on the field but as a coach I believe I’ve got to get them to play better. I’ve got to get us to tackle better. I’ve got to get us to win on third down better. And, you know, I’ll turn over every rock to get what the issue is solved because that’s my job as a coach. That’s my job as a teacher, and I promise you, it was worked on yesterday on Wednesday in practice, it’ll be worked on today -Thursday – at practice, until we get it solved.”
Barry will need to get the most of his players with his schemes because there’s not a lot of talent on defense. They didn’t spend much in free agency on defense until Josh Norman fell out of the sky. Ziggy Hood and Greg Toler look like nice bargain picks ups. Norman has been better than advertised. He makes plays every week. Thankfully, the Panthers decided he cost too much otherwise the defense would be historically horrible.
The team released DE-Kendall Reyes this week. He was among those signed to upgrade the defense line and they also shelved disappointing Safety David Bruton (3-year, $9(M) deal this off-season) with a concussion. Instead of waiting on Bruton, who may still be back this season, the team opted to bring in Donte Whitner and Josh Evans off the street to solidify the safety position.
The Redskins made what looked like a smart draft selection in Su’a Cravens during round two. They took CB Kendall Fuller in round 3 – and he made an impact in his first active game last week. But the bigger weakness coming into the off-season was the defensive line and pass rush. Yet there has been very little investment in those areas.
The Skins took Matt Ioannidis in round 5 and signed undrafted rookie Anthony Lanier. Both players may end up being really good, but right now neither has been a factor. Ioannidis has been active the past few weeks and Lanier has been inactive for all four games. They clearly were banking on Junior Galette being healthy. The Redskins have not been getting sacks (18th) or generating that much pressure thru 4 weeks.
The defense has shown some scrappiness in the past two wins despite some serious deficiencies. They have 6 takeaways in two weeks, both during wins over the Giants and Browns. They lead the league in forced fumbles with 8. There is clearly plenty of room for improvement.
There are several defensive players that have yet to make their presence felt. Many Redskins players predicted a Preston Smith breakout season this year. He has yet to deliver one on a consistent basis. On the other side, Ryan Kerrigan has not consistently been able to create pressure. Meanwhile, Trent Murphy has been a pleasant surprise with a team-best four sacks. The defense might get a boost from Duke Ihenacho being on the field more at safety. He flies around the football and has a much better grasp of the defense than Bruton.
The biggest asset for the Redskins defense is still the offense. They have been good overall thru four weeks, but there is still another level for this offense. They finally showed some red zone prowess last week scoring touchdowns on 4 of their 5 trips in the Red Zone. There is still plenty of room for improvement. They currently rank 30th in the league in Red Zone scoring. The Skins currently rank 7th in total yards per game, but only 13th in points-per-game at 24.8, which could be higher if they can get the Red Zone execution back to last year’s level.
A more balanced offensive attack with Matt Jones getting more carries like we have seen the past two weeks can help, too. A threat of the run game sets up the play action and helps in time of possession to keep the defense rested. So while the defense works out their issues, the best defense will have to be a good offense if the Redskins are going to be a playoff contender.