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Redskins Defensive Woes: Talent, Coaching or Scheme?

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Is it fair to point fingers at Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry?

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of vitriol has been spewed towards Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry, after the first quarter of the season has seen the Redskins not be able to stop a PeeWee football rushing attack - and for good reason. Does Barry shoulder the brunt of the blame, or is scheme and talent more likely the culprit?

Let's face it, the Redskins have never had the personell to run a 3-4 defense - something forced on us when Mike Shanahan became head coach. We never had a true nose tackle(well, I guess we did last season with Knighton, but we were a one-gapping 3-4 by that time anyways), and like so many echo, this is where the 3-4 defense starts and ends. We have never had true 3-4 defensive ends, with the exception of the oft-injured Adam Carriker. We've never had true 3-4 outside linebackers. All of our "outside linebackers" thrived in college mostly with their hands in the dirt as 4-3, 7-technique defensive ends. Sure Trent Murphy and even Preston Smith stood up a few times, but that's not where their comfort zone lies. We currently do not have two inside linebackers - or as NFL people like to call them, a MIKE and JACK, who can successfully play in a true 3-4.

We have limited 3-4 athletes amongst our front 7. Current GM Scot McCloughan, for as good as he is scouting college talent, has failed to give, or up-grade, our interior talent to fit our scheme. The draft was one of the best I have seen in terms of defensive line talent. Should McCloughan shoulder most of the blame for ignoring that talent until the fifth round of the NFL draft? Can Joe Barry be blamed for trying to fit a square peg into a round hole?

You also need to point the finger at the players. Fundamentals of sound football, mostly including tackling, should be present at this level. If they are not, you can't really point fingers at the current coaches. As I've said many times, if you don't have those skills now, you're likely not going to magically get them through coaching at this level. The NFLPA limits the amount of live contact teams can engage in during preseason and the regular season. Furthermore, some coaches take this even further, not wanting to risk injury to their players before the season even starts. Players don't practice a ton of "live contact" during practices, so coaches are somewhat hampered here. Beyond this aspect, is simply player talent. Some players may have great attitudes, or be vocal team leaders on the field, but only some of this can mask true talent. Speaking especially about our inside linebackers here, you can see my point!

As for the scheme - we need to look at head coach Jay Gruden. He's the man who makes the calls here. He was fortunate enough to have been with the Bengals under defensive mind Marvin Lewis, and then defensive-coordinator-turned-head-coach Mike Zimmer. Both men were well versed in the 4-3, and you can see Zimmer's footprint all over the Vikings defense - who just so happens to be tearing up the NFL this season. Some finger pointing needs to be directed at Jay for his failure to recognize we just don't have the players to run the 3-4.

So, where does the blame here rest? I assume most will agree that it is a mix of all of these factors, but if you had to pin the tail on the donkey right now, who is the ass?