The Redskins overhauled their defense this offseason, changing over half of the starting lineup and the coordinator. Will this fix the team’s perennial fatal flaw?
True or false: The Redskins’ defense will improve to at least average in 2017.
Rich Tandler: False
The Redskins have struggled on defense since 2010. They have finished in the top half in yards allowed just once. And their No. 13 finish in 2011 is very much an outlier; they were 20th or worse in five of the seven seasons.
They have not finished in the top half of the league in scoring defense at all since 2010. Their best showing was 17th in 2015 and, again, the number sticks out as they ranked in the twenties five times.
Since the 2016 season ended the Redskins have invested both money and draft resources into fixing a defense that finished 28th in yards and 19th in points. They spent free agent dollars on two defensive linemen, linebacker Zach Brown, and safety D. J. Swearinger. Their top three draft picks went to the defensive side including top selection DL Jonathan Allen. They also changed defensive coordinators, firing Joe Barry and promoting Greg Manusky.
But anyone who has followed this team knows to be wary of equating change with improvement. We’ve seen free agency sprees and coach shuffling before and it has led to the same disappointing results. Could things be different this time? Sure they could, but show me.
I think the defense will improve some. They are not facing a very tough schedule of opposing offenses based on their 2016 performances so that will help. The unit should improve marginally. But it’s too much to ask for dramatic improvement in one year. They need at least one more draft/free agency cycle and a year to get settled in with Manusky and then they have a shot.
JP Finlay: True
This is a classic Tandler setup. Will the Redskins defense improve significantly? Yes, I think they will. I think the unit could jump near 10 spots in yards allowed, going from 28th in 2016 to 18th in 2017. Now, when Tandler changes the statement to will the Redskins be at least average in 2017, that's probably false. Average in the NFL means being the 16th best defense, and I just don't think this unit can improve that much in one offseason.
The Redskins invested up the middle, and Zach Brown and D.J. Swearinger will make a big impact. I'm particularly bullish on Swearinger's impact. The Redskins have lacked quality safety play for nearly a decade, and if Swearinger stays at the level he played at during the 2016 season in Arizona, the Washington secondary will make big strides.
I don't expect the Redskins fortunes against the run to improve much. Jonathan Allen should help, but the rest of the defensive line does not seem much improved from last year's unit. Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain might be better than Chris Baker and Ricky Jean-François, but they might not. While younger, the Redskins new defensive line duo is certainly less durable than Baker and François were in their time with Washington.