What’s working: In short: not a whole lot. A season after finishing 13th, Jim Haslett’s unit was supposed to take a step forward. Instead, the injury-depleted group has regressed in many areas. Through the first seven games, one of the few bright spots was the run defense, which limited six opponents to 94 or fewer yards. But even that has fallen off, with the Steelers and Panthers rushing for 140 and 129 yards, respectively.
Despite the recent letdown, the London Fletcher-led Redskins rank ninth in rushing yards allowed per game (96.2) and are tied for 13th in yards per attempt (4.2). Fletcher is tied for ninth in the NFL with 73 tackles.
The unit has also produced four touchdowns (Rob Jackson, Ryan Kerrigan, Josh Wilson and Madieu Williams) but none the past three games.
What isn’t: The pass defense. It’s been a disaster. The Redskins rank last in passing yards allowed (2,715) and are tied for the most touchdowns yielded through the air (20).
Just as concerning has been the number of big plays the secondary has permitted. Through nine games, opposing passers have feasted, completing 12 passes of 30 or more yards, of which six resulted in touchdowns.
Is it preparation? Not enough top-notch talent? Quarterbacks getting too much time to go through progressions due to the lack of a consistent pass rush?
The consensus is it’s a combination of all three.
Haslett said this week that safety Brandon Meriweather (knee) will likely make his debut against the Eagles. That should help some.
What’s got to improve: Speaking of the pass rush, it’s been A.W.O.L. since linebacker Brian Orakpo and end Adam Carriker were lost for the season in Week 2. The injuries have had a trickledown effect on Kerrigan, the team’s standout second-year linebacker who now finds himself fighting off double teams and chips more often. Last week against the Panthers, Kerrigan was credited with an assisted tackle, no solo tackles, no sacks and no quarterback hits – his lowest output since turning pro.
In all, the unit has been credited with a combined total of 14 sacks (tied for 22nd) and no quarterback sacks the past two games (Kerrigan sacked Pittsburgh’s Emmanuel Sanders on a halfback pass attempt).
The secondary can’t get any worse – literally – but there’s no doubt it could use some help in the second half from the big guys up front.