Grading the Redskins at the bye: The defense

Grading the Redskins at the bye: The defense
November 9, 2012, 10:15 pm
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By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir 

How have the Redskins done this year going into the bye? Over the next three days Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir grade the team’s performance unit by unit. Over the last couple of days we’ve looked at the offense and special teams. Today, the defense goes under the microscope.

Tandler’s grade: D

There isn’t a whole lot positive to say about this group. They just keep on finding ways to fail. They have blown leads early in the fourth quarter and they have blown them in the last minute. Other times they have been cut up with surgical precision from the very beginning of the game.

It’s no secret that the pass defense has been the major issue. Although they are no longer on pace to become the worst pass defense in NFL history in terms of yards yielded, they still are likely to be among the worst dozen or so ever. They are making the Pearl Harbor Crew from the 1980’s look stout by comparison.

The rushing defense is better, top 10 in yards allowed in fact. But why would you try to run against this defense when going via air has the potential to be so much more rewarding?

The rushing defense is one reason why they weren’t graded as a total failure. The defense also gets credit for racking up 16 takeaways (8th in the NFL) and returning four of them for touchdowns.

One thing not taken to account here are the injuries that have hit both the front seven and the backfield. Injuries are part of life in the NFL and teams need to have depth to deal with them.

El-Bashir’s grade: D

This was supposed to be the season the defense transitioned from “good” to “great.” Instead, Jim Haslett’s unit has plummeted to the bottom of the rankings, crippled by injuries to linebacker Brian Orakpo, lineman Adam Carriker and safety Brandon Meriweather and stung by its inability to generate a consistent pass rush or prevent big plays.

Through nine games, opponents have scored on plays of 30 or more yards eight times. Opposing quarterbacks have connected on passes of 30 or more yards 12 times, including last week’s 82 pass from Cam Newton to Armanti Edwards that set up Newton’s turning-point touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 21-13 loss.

As a result, the Redskins’ defense ranks last in passing yards against (2,715) and is tied for touchdowns yielded through the air (20.)

Compounding Haslett’s biggest concerns at the bye is the unexpected struggles of his once solid run defense. After holding six of the first seven opponents to 94 or fewer yards on the ground, the Steelers rushed for 140 yards and Carolina gained 129.

When the Redskins return to the field Nov. 18 against the Eagles, it’s possible they’ll have Meriweather for the first time all season. But it’s doubtful one player will be able to turnaround a defense that’s permitting 397.9 yards of total offense per game – up 58.1 over last year’s average.

Is it scheme, personnel, a combination of the two? All that’s certain right now is that hard questions must be answered this offseason.