Last year the Washington Redskins defense prided themselves on getting after the quarterback, and getting sacks. They finished the year with 41 sacks in 550 drop backs against. Though their total sack number was in a four way tie for 10th in the league, their sack percentage (number of dropbacks that resulted in a sack) tied for 6th in the league at 7.5% (Eagles led the league at 8.8%). This year that pressure just isn't there as they have just 8 sacks in five games, and a paltry 3.7% sack rate, which is tied for 27th worst in the league.
Of those eight sacks, Ryan Kerrigan is responsible for 3.5 of them and no other player has more than one. This is where the loss of Brian Orakpo is significantly impacting the Redskins pass rush. No one else has stepped up to fill the void and the Redskins have essentially become a one man pass rushing team. Yes every now and then someone else may get a sack, but Ryan Kerrigan is the only player that teams really have to worry about. Prior to Orakpo's injury (and even throughout that Rams game), Stephen Bowen was also getting after the quarterback at a high level. Now that teams don't have to worry about Brian Orakpo, they can neutralize Bowen on that side.
Though much of the focus is on sacks, the real dropoff from last year to this year, is the lack of pressures and hits. They might not be as flashy as sacks, but can have a big impact in forcing incomplete passes and even interceptions. Since the Rams game these numbers have plummeted for the Redskins. Even in a game like the one against the Bengals where the Redskins got to Andy Dalton twice, he had a clean pocket for nearly every other throw.
The lack of the pass rush was most notable this past weekend where Matt Ryan rarely had to move around the pocket and only was ever sacked once. Outside of his interception Ryan Kerrigan was completely controlled, managing just one pressure in the game. Stephen Bowen had two pressures, but was really only close one time. And Rob Jackson and Chris Wilson combined for just a single pressure. If your three best pass rushers can only combine for four pressures in a game, then you are in some serious trouble.
One concern is that the Redskins still continue to rely on four pass rushers the majority of the time, which just hasn't been working for the team. Especially troubling is the fact that Ryan Kerrigan has been in coverage 20% of the time this season, including a season high 16 times versus the Falcons. If your best pass rusher is injured and your second best pass rusher is in coverage, your chances of getting at least some pressure on the quarterback are pretty slim (especially when rushing only four).
Things don't get any better this week as the Minnesota Vikings offensive line has done a good job so far of keeping Christian Ponder upright, including not allowing a single sack against the 49ers. The Redskins are going to have to find a way to get more pressure on the quarterback, if they have any hope of improving their defense this season.
What do you think? How can the Redskins best fix their pass rush?