The Redskins run defense ranks 27th in the league and is giving up 4.8 yards per carry. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers give up more YPC (we saw why last week when Ryan Torain rushed for over 170 yards against them).
Maybe it's the switch to the 3-4, the bad tackling, or injuries, but whatever the reason, opposing teams know they can pound the ball on the ground at will. The Redskins, usually quite stable against the run, can't fill gaps and often overpursue, leaving cutbacks lanes Mack Trucks could fit through.
To get some answers to the defensive woes. I caught up with Adam Carriker to help me pinpoint what's been going wrong. Carriker has quietly put together a solid season, starting in all 14 games this year at defensive end and he looks like a role player on the defensive line for next season. He was drafted by the Rams out of Nebraska and many felt his 6-6, 311-pound frame would be perfect for the 3-4 DE position in the NFL. Now he's playing there in Washington and doing a pretty good job of it.
What's going wrong out there against the run?
We just gotta tackle. I mean it's not complicated, just tackle and get the guy to the ground....To be honest with you, it's different on each play. I mean there's some times when our guys don't have their gaps, sometimes it's just tackling, you know we just gotta stop them.
I agree with his point. The defensive line has struggled to fill gaps, their primary function in a 3-4. However, when the D-line does hold up, linebackers are out of position. When they linebackers are in position, they miss tackles. Same with the secondary.
Is the transition to a 3-4 leading to some growing pains and if so how much time will it take to get things up to speed?
That's something we're working on, that's something we're getting better on and we're just gonna keep getting better on the longer we're in it. The better personnel we get, the better the coaches get to know us within it, it will just get better and better.
The team doesn't have a true nose tackle to command double and triple teams. Without that it's hard to stop the run or generate a pass rush. You also have to factor in the comfort level for the players. Another offseason will certainly help. However, the personnel is is still a couple offseasons away if you ask me.
Despite the defensive struggles, you guys have shown an ability to make some terrific goal line stops. In tight situations you have been a tough out. Is that something you can build on?
Definitely. Mental toughness, the ability to fight through adversity, I mean somebody gets down to the goal line, a lot of teams just fold and let them walk right in, but we've shown we're not gonna do that. You know we're gonna hit you right in the mouth and make you earn it.
Jim Haslett did emphasize the importance of turnovers to start the year and you've created them as a defense. Even on a big play for an offense, you're trying to strip the ball and swing momentum. That's a good positive because last year the turnovers weren't coming.
Obviously you don't want to give up big plays, you don't want to give up yardage, but if you do that and you're able to get the turnover, it almost wipes it away. So that's why we've been emphasizing it more this year.
13 fumble recoveries and 11 interceptions for a total of 24 takeaways. The Redskins had just 17 last season. So it's better, but things have slowed down in the second half of the season. The other downside is that often the secondary appears more interested in the strip than the tackle. Turnovers are great, but not at the expense of giving up an extra ten yards.
Nothing an emphasis on fundamentals and a dose of LaRon Landry can't teach.