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Redskins' Midseason Report Card: Is the defense actually that bad?

Redskins' Midseason Report Card: Is the defense actually that bad?

Defense Grade: D

Defensively the Redskins have dramatically underperformed compared to expectations. Statistically, the Washington defense isn’t as bad as the offense, but that’s not saying much.

The Redskins’ defense doesn’t fail because the team has started to slow down some opposing offenses, barely, but the team can’t move above a D because of how awful the group has been on 3rd down. Opposing offenses have converted 50 percent of their third down attempts against Washington. 50 percent! That’s one out of every two attempts, just to be clear. That’s putrid.

If it wasn’t for third downs, the Redskins defense might be ok. The team gives up about 366 yards-per-game, good for 21st in the NFL. The Redskins give up 24.3 points-per-game, which ranks 20th in the NFL.

Neither of those ranks are good, but they’re not awful. Not even bottom third of the league.

It’s also worth pointing out, however, that since Bill Callahan has been installed as head coach that the Redskins are playing quicker, more plodding games. That doesn’t allow their opponents as many possessions to score. It might be producing lower scores, though it’s not necessarily giving the Redskins a better chance for wins.

The Redskins are tied for 18th in the NFL with 21 sacks, same as Houston and the Chargers. The Redskins have eight interceptions through nine games, which lands them in a five-way tie for 6th place in the NFL.

Landon Collins is the team’s leading tackler, and Matt Ioannidis leads the team with 4.5 sacks. Quinton Dunbar leads the team with three interceptions.

Again, the Redskins defense isn’t too bad. The problem was many expected the group to be very good. That hasn’t happened.

And to be clear, the Redskins defense is awful on third down. That means the group stays on the field, and in turn, that creates more problems. It’s a cycle, and it’s bad.

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Terry McLaurin was not surprised a hobbled Dwayne Haskins stayed in vs. Green Bay

Terry McLaurin was not surprised a hobbled Dwayne Haskins stayed in vs. Green Bay

Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins played much of the Redskins Week 14 loss to the Green Bay Packers with a sprained ankle.

The rookie had a very noticeable limp and struggled to put weight on his bad leg. Haskins was clearly not at full health. Backup quarterback Case Keenum was seen warming up multiple times on the sideline, but never entered the game.

In the team's postgame press conference, interim head coach Bill Callahan said he never considered pulling Haskins from the game. Rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who was teammates with Haskins at Ohio State and has known the quarterback for a while, never thought that Haskins would exit the game, either.

"I know Dwayne. I've known him for a while now," McLaurin told NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay. "He's a tough guy, and I feel like he gives us a good chance to win games. I knew if he was out there, he was going to be good to go. He was hobbled a little bit, but he wasn't going to use that as an excuse at all. It was cool to see him fight through it. We just hope that he can get healthy for next week."

McLaurin was then asked whether he thought Haskins should have been pulled. The wideout commended his quarterback for his toughness, and believes that will go a long way in terms of earning respect from his teammates.

"I mean, I'm not a doctor, so I feel like if you feel like you can play, then you try to play. Only that person knows how bad it is," McLaurin said. "He's a tough guy. He's a guy trying to earn the respect of this team. He's a quarterback, he's young. I feel like stuff like that really puts you in a step forward to get some respect. He was noticeably hurt and he fought for us."

Haskins finished 16-for-27 for 171 yards. He connected on an incredible late touchdown pass with McLaurin to pull the Redskins within five with just over a minute remaining in the game. On the two-point conversion try, Haskins put his body on the line, diving for the goal line headfirst. He didn't convert.

The Packers recovered the Redskins ensuing onside kick attempt, the Burgundy and Gold's final hope at pulling off the upset. 

The Redskins offensive line did not help out a hobbled Haskins much either. The rookie was sacked four times in the loss and hit the turf on numerous other occasions.

Although the Redskins weren't able to pull off the upset, Haskins showed poise and toughness by fighting through a noticeable injury and giving the Redskins everything he had.

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The Redskins’ far-fetched playoff dreams were officially dashed after losing to the Packers

The Redskins’ far-fetched playoff dreams were officially dashed after losing to the Packers

The Redskins entered Lambeau Field in Week 14 with a 3-9 record, but because the NFC East has been such a mess this year, they still had very slim playoff hopes. 

Thanks to their 20-15 loss against the Packers, however, those slim hopes are now nonexistent. Washington will not play in the postseason for the fourth straight campaign. 

The Burgundy and Gold would’ve had to finish by winning their final four contests and also would’ve needed major help from the Cowboys to the Eagles in order to sneak into the playoffs. That scoreboard watching isn’t necessary anymore, of course. 

“It’s tough being eliminated,” Terry McLaurin said in the visitor's locker room. “Our division is so open.”

Now, the team will use the next three weeks to further look at Dwayne Haskins’ growth as well as the development of other young pieces on both sides of the ball. Then, when those games wrap up, they’ll need to find a new head coach for 2020 and consider other possible changes within the franchise as well. 

When this season began back in July at training camp, there was some thought that the Redskins could compete behind a potentially improved defense and a run-centric offense. Those things didn’t emerge, though, and now, the organization will again be irrelevant on the field when January comes around.

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