BY JEFF SLADE
It was a night of ups and downs on a rainy Thursday in the Redskins second preseason contest against the Lions.
Most of the focus will center on the injury to starting quarterback Robert Girffin III, and the questionable offensive line play that led to that injury. Some focus will also be turned to the play of the backup quarterbacks, and the strong rushing attack that propelled the team to a 21-17 victory.
There’s also another side to the story, however, as the Redskins defense showed some signs of being a productive unit for the coming season. The defense was highlighted by a strong front seven that emphasized shutting down the opposing rushing game and they did just that, limiting the Lions to three and a half yards per carry.
“I don't know what they ended on rushing yards, but I think we did a good job of stopping the run and getting after the passer,” defensive tackle Chris Baker said.
“We’re just really attacking the line of scrimmage, knocking people back and disrupting in the backfield,” defensive end Jason Hatcher continued. “I think that plays a big load on the offensive line if you’ve got guys getting off the ball versus last year we were just kind of stepping sideways.”
Shutting down the opposition on third down will be a major focus for the defense this year. Detroit’s five for 12 third down efficiency on Thursday showed that progress is indeed being made.
“We made the offense have a difficult time on third down,” said defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois. “It gave a better chance for our defensive coordinator to open up the playbook.”
Even with the strong play so far this preseason, however, there's always room for improvement.
“I believe we can improve,” Francois said. “Stopping the run – I understand they had a little bit of yardage. They’re so many areas there’s not just one thing to pick out.”
What’s most important to success for the defense going forward? In addition to the focus on third downs, limiting big yardage plays will be pivotal in any success or failure.
“Keep up the communication and making sure we don't give up any big runs or big plays on defense,” Baker said. “So far we’ve been doing a good job.”
True, but it’s only the preseason and fans won’t blink an eye until that 2-0 preseason record carries over to when it counts. There remains high hope and confidence in the locker room, though, as the defense is excited to implement the new scheme come September 13th.
“It’s a great scheme – I’m really enjoying it,” Hatcher said. “Still yet to learn everything I can about it, so I’m excited to see where we’re at come Miami.”