Can A Youth Movement Help the Redskins Defense?
- Updated: November 1, 2012
Porous. Manhandled. Steamrolled. Just plain embarrassing. However you choose to describe the Redskins defense of late, the fact of the matter is that they are currently the team’s biggest liability. Through eight games, the Redskins have allowed 2,514 passing yard which is the second most ever in NFL history. For the first few games of the season, our run defense seemed to be the only saving grace for the injury-plagued unit, but on Sunday they let a lackluster Steelers run game run roughshod over them. The defense is in serious trouble and it is time to shake things up.
Amid injuries, suspensions and the league-imposed salary cap hit, the Redskins have been forced to fill key defensive needs with aging and second-tier free agents who would hardly be considered starting-caliber by most average teams. The team has, however, also added depth through both the draft and the acquisition of younger, less experienced free agents. Most of these young players have seen game day action, but few of them are getting the reps they need to both grow in the league and be fully vetted. Let’s go young against Carolina and start evaluating and developing the next generation of our defense.
With DE Adam Carriker on injured reserve with a torn tendon in his right knee, it is time for Jarvis Jenkins to step up as the playmaker we saw last preseason before an ACL injury derailed his rookie season. The second year DE out of Clemson has shared snaps with veteran Kedric Golston and now seems to be getting the bulk of the playing. While Jenkins is not yet playing at a high enough level to compensate for Carriker’s absence, he is showing great improvement as he works to get back to NFL speed after a year off and should continue to start for the rest of the season.
The other big-name injury that has crushed our pass rush is that of Brian Orakpo, who is also out for the season. Rob Jackson, Chris Wilson and rookie Keenan Robinson have shared playing time at outside linebacker, with Jackson taking the majority of snaps thus far. Jackson has been productive, with two INTs and .5 sacks, but doesn’t share Orakpo’s pass rush prowess. Wilson is a career reserve linebacker and should remain as such. Robinson, however, has a unique athleticism and speed that could help him develop into the multidimensional threat needed to balance the OLB position. With an aging London Fletcher having an uncharacteristically bad season, Robinson, who has also played inside linebacker, may be asked to serve double duty occasionally. Wherever he ends up, it is important for Robinson to have adequate playing time to show how he can best contribute.
Orakpo’s absence has not only left a hole on the weak side, but has put added pressure on second year strong side linebacker Ryan Kerrigan who, despite struggling without his best foil, still leads the team in sacks with 4.5. Kerrigan is a guaranteed starter and, whether Jackson or Robinson ultimately proves the best fit at weak side, he needs a consistent force on the other side in order for him to continue to excel.
The troubles up front have only exacerbated the challenges we’re facing in the secondary. Our secondary has regressed beyond repair. Even without the losses of off-season acquisitions Tanard Jackson (suspended indefinitely) and Brandon Meriweather (most likely out through the bye), we have a serious lack of talent and size and an even less clear line of succession than in the front seven.
With DeAngelo Hall facing a suspension after his profanity-laden encounter with the refs on Sunday and Josh Wilson remaining somewhat inconsistent, rookie Richard Crawford should see more time on the field. Crawford got burned badly by Hawkins in the Bengals game, but our veteran CBs get beaten regularly, too, and Crawford has to be given a chance to learn from his mistakes. He has a few inches on both Hall and Wilson, should add more speed to the CB position and seems eager to learn.
We can only hope to see Meriweather back on the field soon where he can help bolster a dysfunctional safety corps, but, until we know that he is 100% healthy, we will need continued contributions from all of our safeties, including second year DeJon Gomes and recent acquisition Jordan Pugh. Gomes had a stand out performance in New Orleans, but has seen reduced playing time in recent weeks. Pugh, a third year vet who has played both strong and free safety, struggled with injuries his first two seasons in the league. Both Gomes and Pugh need the opportunity to establish some consistency of play. If you give them the chance and they still can’t get it done, fine, but first let them try.
If our young offensive players are learning on the go, why shouldn’t our young defenders as well? We don’t have the RGIII of defense on our roster, but we do have potential talent and it needs to be nurtured. Whether you blame the coaches, the scheme, the players or all of the above, there is little to be done right now. A new coordinator will inherit the same issues, so we may as well start working through them. How much worse can it get?