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Hogs Haven Mailbag: Ty Nsekhe, Joe Barry, & Stopping the Run

You ask. We answer. In our first weekly fan mailbag post, we'll take a closer look at the offensive line and Joe Barry's defense.

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Ty Nsekhe played a very strong game last Sunday when he started in place of suspended Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams.  Nsekhe's protection, along with the efforts of the rest of the offensive line, allowed quarterback Kirk Cousins to stay mostly upright, complete 67% of his passes, amass 260 yards, and throw for two touchdowns.  They also set the stage for undrafted rookie Robert Kelley to continue his breakout efforts at running back.

The stand the offensive line took against the Vikings bodes fairly well for their chances against the Packers in some areas.  The Vikings and Packers are comparable in sacks, and both can be stifling, the Vikings in yards and points and the Packers in the run game.  While I'll be watching how well Nsekhe does again this week, I'll also be watching the right side of the line.  Will Morgan Moses, who temporarily left last week's game due to a lingering ankle injury, be able to make it through the game without the Packers being able to take advantage of the situation or without having to leave the game?  Moses' backup is Vinston Painter, an inexperienced young player who Washington picked up at the tail end of the 2016 preseason and who has played in only four games in three seasons.

Defending the run certainly hasn't been one of the Redskins' strong suits this season.  The team finds itself ranked 23rd in both total rushing yards and average rushing yards per game, and they aren't far ahead of where they found themselves in these areas at the end of last season (ranked 26th).  Since last season, Scot McCloughan and company drafted only one defensive end, Matt Ioannidis, who was brought up from the practice squad after Kedric Golston went on IR, and made their "big money" move by locking up Pro Bowl corner Josh Norman.  Players like Su'a Cravens, who teamed up with Anthony Lanier last week on a phenomenal play to stop Ronnie Hillman in the backfield, are improving, which will help in the long run.  Quite frankly, though, these additions haven't been enough to shore up a struggling unit, and the defense needs better personnel.  Be prepared for some bumpy roads in the near future against top ranked backs Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson.

There's a lot here to address: Head Coach Jay Gruden's relationship with Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry, the defensive scheme, and the defensive personnel (which, as I noted above, needs some help).  Barry is no stranger to criticism from fans, players (like Chris Baker and Ricky Jean Francois), and even Gruden, who questioned the lack of pressure and aggression from the defense during the final series of the Detroit Lions game.  Running too much soft zone, or prevent, defense can get you into trouble, especially against high powered teams, but Barry's ability to run a unit that's held its opponent to at least two scoreless quarters in four of the five most recent games is something that buys coordinators good will from their head coaches.  To be fair, you also can't discount the loss of a veteran voice among the DBs from DeAngelo Hall, who went on IR after suffering a torn ACL in September.  But still, to your point, how do the results of Barry's scheme stack up against the rest of the NFL?

It's a mixed bag.  Positively speaking, the Redskins are tied for 2nd in forced fumbles (14), tied with Philadelphia for 6th in sacks (25), tied with Minnesota for 7th in yards lost for sacks (159).  They've only recovered 5 of those 14 fumbles though, and they're in a six way tie for 18th in interceptions (6).  The team may be bending with their middle of the pack fumble recoveries and interceptions, but with impressive FF and sack statistics, they're certainly not ready to break.