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Fixing a Stat for 2015: Penalties impact on the defense

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Penalties killed the Washington Redskins defense in 2014. That stat needs to be fixed in 2015.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Redskins lost a lot of games last season for various reasons, but defensive penalties were a big reason why. They send a ripple effect down toward other defensive stats and they prevent it from being productive. If the Redskins want to see change in 2015 with new defensive coordinator Joe Barry and the various new pieces they've brought in through the draft and free agency, they can't keep shooting themselves in the foot with stupid mistakes.

How bad were their wounds?

In 2014, They were tied for 4th worst in total penalties with 120 and 31st in penalty yards with 1,164 (note these numbers don't include offsetting or declined penalties). Where the Redskins can see the biggest change in 2015 if the penalties and penalty yards are capped at a low number, is in yards per game and first downs per game (both offensively and defensively). When it comes to defensive penalties, with the exception of offsides (which still allows for a free play or 5 yards), every one is basically resulting in a "free" first down for the other team. On the offensive side penalties equal yards which makes it tougher to move the ball consistently if drives have to deal with multiple losses of 5-10 yards.

While some top teams can overcome high penalties and yardage lost, it makes it incredibly more difficult for teams that don't have a high-powered offense or a shutdown defense (in the Redskins case they lacked both). For the defense if you are going to be giving up those free yards and first downs you have to make up for it somehow if you hope to stop the opposing offense. The key stats to help balance out high penalties will be defensive pressure and turnovers.  With that comes sacks and stalled offensive drives. It also helps get the ball back to the offense, which can hopefully allow it to get a rhythm going.

Getting pressure on the quarterback and backfield is essential to being a productive and dominant defense. The only game last season where I could see the Redskins really bring the heat was week eight vs the Dallas Cowboys. After that game, it was like they didn't pressure the quarterback and mess with opponents tempo and flow the same way. Yes, one game plain doesn't fit every team but that game was a perfect example of how a defense is supposed to play. Being a defense that is fast, physical and attacks the football is what  Redskins fans want to see.

Training camp is coming up and the preseason is not far off. Fans will get to see if there has been real improvement. The Bottom Line is this, if the Redskins want to be one of the best defenses in 2015, penalties can't be an Achilles heel and aggressive defense that puts pressure on the opponent is a must.