Through the season’s first three games, the Redskins rank second in yards allowed, third in rushing yards permitted and sit eighth in points yielded.
But there’s one key statistic on defense where Head Coach Jay Gruden says he needs to see significant improvement: takeaway total.
The Redskins’ defense has recovered one fumble and is one of only three teams yet to intercept a pass. Washington and Jacksonville are the only teams with just one takeaway.
When combined with six giveaways on offense (four interceptions and two fumbles lost), the Redskins own a minus-5 differential. Only the Colts, at minus-7, have a worse differential.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” Gruden said, asked why the defense has struggled to force takeaways. “We’re not getting enough pressure when the quarterback is throwing the ball. If we’re not going to get pressure, we have to get some hands in the throwing lanes [and] tip some balls.”
The Redskins are tied for 21st in sacks with four and are tied for 29th in passes defended with seven.
“We’re stopping the run fairly well,” Gruden added. “They’re doing a lot of good things, but we’ve just got to figure out ways to get the ball out, get them into some third-and-longs and then bring the pressure. Have our four-man rushes get [to the quarterback] a little more consistently. [Ryan] Kerrigan, [Trent] Murphy, Preston Smith, [Jason] Hatcher—those guys—we have to do a bit better job with the pass rush. But we’ve got to give them a chance to rush, also.”
Kerrigan agreed with his coach's assessment.
“We got to try to force more turnovers,” he said. “We kind of have to force the issue a little bit more and not sit back and say, ‘Let’s play it safe here.’ We’ve only [forced] one turnover in three games. I think we’re a minus-5 overall in the turnover battle, and that’s not going to get it done.”
Kerrigan, the team leader in sacks and forced fumbles a year ago, has half a sack and one forced fumble so far.
“Personally, you have to win your one-on-one matchups more,” he said. “If I win my one-on-one matchups with the O-linemen more, and get to the quarterback quicker, then I have a chance to get the ball out of the quarterback. Then the ball is bouncing on the ground; it can be our ball. Who knows what will happen? And those 50-50 balls, balls that get deflected at the line of scrimmage, [we need] to start coming down with some of those. We just have to make it happen.”
“I’ve been close a number of times,” Kerrigan added, referring to sacks, “but close doesn’t cut it.”
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