Power ranking the Redskins' 2016 Opponents: Defenses
Best defenses on the schedule
The Redskins’ schedule doesn’t have them facing a dominant defense—there are very few of those out there—but they play some good ones. We rank them here.
13. Cleveland Browns
I dare you to name a single Browns defender outside of maybe Joe Haden. It's not that they haven't tried to add playmakers but they recently traded former first-round picks LB Barkevious Mingo and CB Justin Gilbert for late draft picks.
12. Dallas Cowboys
They could be awful when they come to Washington in Week 2 with pass rushers Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence both suspended. If those two are back on Thanksgiving the Dallas D should improve to just under mediocre. That's what can happen when you make your second-round pick a linebacker who won't play this year due to an injury.
11. Chicago Bears
The Chicago defense was worse than most people thought last year, ranking 31st in DVOA. There is talk that cornerback Kyle Fuller is in a make or break year. There may be some hope for the future in 2016 draft picks DE Jonathan Bullard and LB Floyd Leonard come through but for now this is not a good defense.
10. Detroit Lions
The group really has no identity, nothing it does particularly well, no identifiable players unless you recognize Haloti Ngata in a uniform that's not purple. They were in the middle of the pack last year and should be somewhere around there in 2016.
9. New York Giants
They were near the bottom in defense last year. Do you expect someone familiar with the history of the Redskins to think that some big-money free agent signings are going to improve the unit a great deal?
8. Baltimore Ravens
They may be a few Ozzie Newsome drafts away from having what we think of as a "Ravens" defense. Many of the key contributors like Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, and Elvis Dumervil are on the wrong side of 30 and injuries are a concern. The key may be how well corners Jimmy Smith and Shareece Wright perform.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
Their sacks leader last year, DE Cameron Heyward, had only seven but they had eight players with at least 3.5 sacks and were third in the NFL with 48. They will need to get pressure on Kirk Cousins because their secondary, with the exception of safety Mike Mitchell, looks shaky.
6. Minnesota Vikings
Linebacker Anthony Barr flies under the radar because he plays in Minnesota and he doesn't have glitzy stats (7.5 sacks in two seasons). But he has great insticts and pounds like a jackhammer. Safety Harrison Smith is another young, effective Vikings defender. They could be better than this by the time they play the Redskins in Week 10.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Their defensive front, featuring Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, is a force to be reckoned with. And Adam "Don't Call Me Pac-Man" Jones is still getting it done at cornerback.
4. Green Bay Packers
While the Green Bay offense struggled at times their defense kept them in playoff contention. Clay Matthews is a given but Julius Peppers getting 10.5 sacks at age 35 was remarkable. It seems like they keep on patching their secondary together year after year but they get the job done.
3. Arizona Cardinals
I'm not sure who won the Twitter war between Patrick Peterson and Josh Norman, but as much as I like Norman, I'd take Peterson over any CB in the league. Add a healthy Tyrann Mathieu into the mix and it's a tough bunch to pass against.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
This may be a little high for them but I broke them out of a pack of very good defenses because the Redskins have to play them twice. Fletcher Cox will be a nightmare to handle.
1. Carolina Panthers
They may have made a mistake in letting Josh Norman go but they still are in pretty good shape with Luke Kuechly, Kawann Short, and the ageless Thomas Davis.