Thursday, October 21, 2010 2:45 PM
By Rich Tandler
Through six games, the Washington Redskins have yielded 2,520 yards of offense to their opponents. Not only does that number rank dead last in the NFL, it represents a historically bad performance in this area. Those 2,520 yards given up are the most that the Redskins have given up in the first six games of a season in team history and the fifth most of any team in NFL history. The Redskins' previous worst came in the start of the 1954 season when they gave up 2,392 in the first six weeks. This situation is causing considerable consternation among Redskins fans and among some of the players themselves. "It bothers me a lot," inside linebacker London Fletcher said. "I'm not used to being on defenses that are ranked last in the league. That doesn't sit very well with me." However, all of that yardage is not doing much for the opposition in terms of putting points on the board. That 1954 team gave up 223 points, an average of more than 37 points per game. The current edition of the Redskins has been touched up for 119 points, a shade fewer than 20 per game. For the record, the Redskins gave up more than 119 points through six games in 34 previous seasons. And if you look at the ultimate numbers, wins and losses, the Redskins are in decent shape. At 3-3, they are one win away from their total for last season (when they ranked 10 in terms of yards given up) and they are in the thick of things in the NFC, where no team is better than 4-2. So what are we to make of this? Should Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett be concerned about giving up yards at such a prodigious clip? What, if anything, can be done? Why is it that the Redskins opponents are not lighting up the scoreboard? Here is a look at a few of the elements in play here: This isnt likely to continue At their current pace, the Redskins would give up 6,720 yards in 2010. Since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1976, only one team has give up more yards in a season. The 1981 Baltimore Colts yielded a whopping 6,793 yards (424.6 per game). That team went 2-14. The second-worst yardage total was more recent. The 08 Lions of 0-16 infamy were smacked around for 6,466 yards (404.1game). The two worst teams in this category in post-1976 Redskins history were coached by Norm Turner. Oddly, both of those teams had winning records. In 1996 they gave up 5,723 yards (357.7game) and still managed to go 9-7. In 1999, the Redskins went 10-6 and won the NFC East despite allowing 5,705 yards (356.6game). It is not a reach to believe that this Redskins defense is far better than those of the 81 Colts and 08 Lion. Its probably better than the Redskins units in 96 (Stanley Richard at safety, Rod Stevens at MLB) and in 99 (Greg Jones at OLB, Sam Shade at safety). Over the course of the season, the Redskins wont prove to be as bad defensively as their numbers make them look now. A string of strong QBs The quarterbacks that the Redskins have faced have not exactly been a murderers row but they have yet to face a soft touch at the most important position on the field, either. Tony Romo has his flaws but he can light up the scoreboard. Matt Schaub had the sixth-best season in NFL history in terms of passing yardage last year. Sam Bradford is the weakest of the bunch and he is an up and coming rookie. Michael Vick was the NFC offensive player of the month for September and Kevin Kolb was the NFC offensive player of the week last week. Aaron Rodgers has been the Packers starter for two years and he has two 4,000-yard seasons. Peyton Manning is on the short list when youre talking about the best quarterbacks ever. With the exception of Bradford, these players are in the you cant stop them, you can only hope to contain them category. These guys were going to pile up some yards. The quality of the slate of opposing quarterbacks diminishes somewhat the rest of the year. This weeks opposing QB, Jay Cutler, can carve up a defense but he also can gift wrap some interceptions. Bret Favre and the Vikings come to town in November and who knows what Favre will be playing like by then. Matthew Stafford, Vince Young, Josh Freeman and David Garrard are capable of having their moments but none of them demands any sort of exotic defensive scheme. The toughest of the lot comes from the NFC East as the Redskins will have to face Romo and VickKolb again and Eli Manning twice. The Redskins should be able to make some hay against some of the lesser lights at the quarterback as the season goes on. Take it away If something doesnt make sense in the NFL, taking a look at a teams turnovers can frequently make things fall into place. The Redskins have intercepted four passes and they have recovered seven fumbles. That means that, on average, almost two opponents drives per game have been stopped dead in their tracks. The offense has helped out by being very good with ball possession. They have turned the ball over six times, meaning that the defense has rarely had to face one of those sudden change situations where they have to go out with unfavorable field position. In contrast, look at the Dallas Cowboys. They have just four takeaways and they have given the ball away nine times. One could argue that two of those turnovers directly cost them games. One was the opening-day Tashard Choice fumble that DeAngelo Hall returned for the Redskins only touchdown. The other came last Sunday when the Vikings intercepted a fourth-quarter Romo pass to set up the game-winning field goal in Minnesotas 24-21 win. The Cowboys are fourth in the NFL in yards allowed with 280 per game. They also sport a 1-4 record. The ideal situation, of course, is to take the ball away while remaining stingy with yardage given up. "I want to have both turnovers and yards," Fletcher said. "I'm greedy. That's the mindset that I have and I think that's the mindset that we all need to have.