The Redskins are having a difficult time getting sacking the opposing passer. They have brought the quarterback down just 13 times this year. Only four teams have done that fewer times.
Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and end Chris Baker are tied for the team lead in sacks with 3.5. Rookie linebacker Preston Smith has two and Stephen Paea has 1.5. Nobody else has more than one.
In the 3-4 defense, the primary pass rushers are supposed to be the two outside linebackers. Kerrigan should be the main man according to his contract; he signed a five-years, $57.5 million extension in July. He will be the first to tell you that he has been disappointed in his production in the sack department.
But to have a solid year rushing the passer you need to have help from the other side. The left outside linebacker spot rushes the blind side of a right-handed quarterback and he should be an impact player. But starter Trent Murphy (383 snaps) has just one sack this year. Rookie Preston Smith has played 198 snaps and in addition to the two sacks he has forced two fumbles and has a fumble recovery.
It seems that if Smith could provide the big plays more frequently he could get on the field for more than about 40 percent of the snaps. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry spelled it out when asked about both Murphy and Smith.
“Consistency — a great quote — ‘Consistency is the truest measure of performance,’ and you can’t be, in this league, one day up, one day down,” said Barry. “I think that’s the hardest thing for young players. Trent being a second-year player, Preston, a first-year player, and… it’s everybody.”
Jay Gruden echoed the up and down theme when he was asked about the play of the two young linebackers.
“Well, we’re always going to challenge our guys to do more,” he said. “I’m not going to say I’m displeased; I’m not going to say I’m pleased. It’s a work in progress and we’re working with them.”
General Manager Scot McCloughan possibly sensed that Smith and Murphy would go through some growing pains. That could be why he took a risk in signing ex-Saints pass rusher Junior Galette at the start of training camp despite the presence of some off-field red flags. Before he could take the field in even a preseason game, however, his season ended with a torn Achilles tendon. With the Saints coming to town and the pass rush struggling the subject of Galette came up in Barry’s press conference on Thursday.
“I look through the windshield not through the rearview mirror,” said Barry. “I’m always, constantly looking ahead, trying to improve, but Junior, specifically, absolutely – great player, impact player. It would have been great to have him. Unfortunately, he got injured so we’ve got to move on. But no question, any time you lose an impact player, any time in the season — whether it’s the beginning, the middle, the end — it’s hard. No question, that was hard losing him.”
No question, the Redskins would like to get the quarterback more often. But Galette isn’t walking through the door at Redskins Park except for an injury rehab session and neither is Dexter Manley. They will have to do it with the players they have.