The Redskins have been playing some pretty good defense so far this season in terms of the raw numbers the NFL uses to rank defenses. They are second in yards allowed with 285 per game and eighth in scoring defense with 19.7 points allowed per game. In all, they are in the top 10 in 14 of the 18 major defensive stats the NFL tracks.
With a fairly small sample size this year, those numbers represent a solid improvement over 2014 when they allowed an average of 357 yards per game, 27.4 points per game, and were in the top 10 in just one of the 18 statistical categories.
But it is hard to say that the Redskins are a top defense because of their low ranking in one, very important statistical category. They have just one takeaway, tied for last in the NFL with the Jaguars. Preston Smith’s sack, strip, and recovery in the third quarter of week 1 remains the team’s lone turnover.
Excuse me, that’s takeaway, according to defensive coordinator Joe Barry.
“We don’t call them ‘turnovers.’ We call them ‘takeaways,’” said Barry “We’re not taking the ball away right now ... It’s our job as defenders no matter if we’re rushing three, four, five or six, whether we’re playing man or zone or zero, takeaways are our duty to take the ball away.”
The Redskins 1-2 record could be better had the team been able to get a few more takeaways. They had at least two game-turning interceptions in their hands in Week 1 against the Dolphins but dropped them.
It’s not a coincidence that the Redskins are also ranked low sacks. They have just four of them in three games, tied for 21st in the NFL. Sacks lead to turnovers directly by setting up plays like Smith’s against the Dolphins and indirectly by forcing the quarterback to get rid of the ball before he wants to.
“I think we’ve pressured the quarterback fairly well,” said Barry. “You look at the Miami game, you look at the St. Louis game — the St. Louis game was a big point of getting [Nick] Foles off the spot. Now, you look at the final stat sheet from a sack standpoint, it wasn’t where you wanted but we affected the quarterback ... I’d tell you, our whole D-line room would tell you, ‘They’re greedy. We’re greedy. We want to sack the quarterback. We want to get after the quarterback.’”
Barry’s assessment seems to be fair. Against the Dolphins and Rams combined they had five QB hits and 23 hurries. That is decent pressure on the quarterback.
Regardless, it doesn’t appear that Barry will be trying to dial up any new defensive calls to force more takeaways.
“I’m a firm believer also there’s not some make-believe call that you can call to create a turnover,” he said. “It’s our job as defenders to take the ball away. Now sometimes, obviously, within the call, if there’s a breakdown on their part, sometimes takeaways happen a little bit more easier, but no, I don’t think there’s some magic call that you can call to create a turnover.”
There may not be any magic involved but the Kirk Cousins and company would surely benefit from having a short field to work with on occasion. The chances are that things will turn around at some point but the Redskins hope it will not be too late.
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