One area where the Redskins’ defense has shown improvement this season is in the takeaway dept. In fact, with four games remaining in the season the unit has 20—one more than it amassed in 16 games a year ago.
Washington’s takeaway total—nine interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries—was tied for the 10th most entering Thursday’s Arizona-Minnesota game.
“I feel good about it,” Coach Jay Gruden said. “We’ve got to just keep flying to the football, keep ripping it out when we have an opportunity. And when the ball’s in the air, we’ve got to make sure we do the best we can to get it.”
“That,” Gruden added, “is what it’s all about. Definitely, it’s all about getting the ball back and that’s what we preach.”
The takeaways have come in droves the past couple of weeks. Against the Giants, Joe Barry's unit intercepted Eli Manning three times. Against the Cowboys, it recovered a pair of Darren McFadden fumbles and one ball was ripped from the hands of Devin Street.
The recent uptick has more than made up for a slow start that saw the Redskins record only one takeaway through the season’s first three games.
Cornerback Bashaud Breeland has been the most productive individual, recording two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two recoveries.
But what’s been more impressive is the fact that so many defenders have gotten involved. Consider: the nine interceptions are shared by seven different players, 11 players have forced fumbles, while the recoveries have been made by nine different players.
Gruden said the fumble-causing strips are contagious.
“Well, I think once you pull a couple out of there you start to get more confident and it starts to be contagious for defensive players and everybody wants a piece of one,” Gruden said. “Everybody is working hard to get the strips. It’s been a focal point of our defense since day one of OTAs, and it’s something we continue to work on.”