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Utterly Defenseless: Redskins defense needs major overhaul

Coming to grips with the sad reality of the Redskins D

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

It is increasingly evident, with each passing game, how entirely devoid of talent the Redskins defense is, and there’s plenty of blame to go around for how it got to this point.

At the coaching level, Joe Barry’s brief tenure with the Redskins may be coming to a fiery end. It was a head-scratching signing to begin with, and while he hasn’t exactly had the greatest talent to work with (understatement), great coordinators seem to find a way to make adjustments and work around deficiencies. Barry hasn’t.

The Redskins are 23rd in total defense and are dead last in getting off the field on third down, with opponents converting on 48% of third-down opportunities. As far as generating turnovers, 19 teams have forced more.

In the front office, Scot McCloughan is far from perfect. It’s OK to admit that and still believe in what he’s doing. He’s swung and missed on players like Jeron Johnson, David Bruton, Chris Culliver, Terrance Knighton, and Stephen Paea. Fortunately, though, the aforementioned contracts weren’t the cap-crippling variety reminiscent of the carefree-spending Vinny Cerrato era.

Spending a first round pick on a WR who’s missed the bulk of the season with injury when the defense had so many glaring holes can be debated ad nauseam, but if Doctson proves to be a valuable long-term investment, that discussion will be a distant memory.

After all, the Redskins aren’t a single defensive player away from being a good unit. Sit back and bask in the sadness that is each position group.

Defensive Backs

Josh Norman, despite claims made by the notorious Twitter tough guy and Patron Saint of Insecurity, Dez Bryant, has performed admirably in the first year of his contract, and done so despite having zero pass rush to force opposing quarterbacks into hurried throws.

The positives end there.

Bashaud Breeland, when not arguing with fans on Twitter, has taken up permanent residence in Regression City. Against Arizona, he was even turned around out of his cleats in coverage by the stone-footed Jermaine Gresham. Could he be a future option at safety? He has a hard-hitting mentality that might suit that position better than his current spot, but if this downward trend continues, the team may wish to part with him altogether.

Kendall Fuller is a work in progress and has experienced a tough learning curve against some highly skilled slot receivers, and Greg Toler seems like another wasted McCloughan signing (only played nine total snaps over the last seven games).

It’s not exactly a sign of wealth at a position when a converted WR (Quinton Dunbar) and a player who was signed before Week 2 of last season (Will Blackmon) are two of the team’s more serviceable players.

Donte Whitner is giving everyone Post-Traumatic Madieu Williams Disorder, Duke Ihenacho has a cool name and might be a nice guy (but that’s all), and with his current age and injury history, DeAngelo Hall’s playing days are guaranteed to be numbered.

Verdict: Current DB talent and depth is inflatable-kiddy-pool-level shallow. Aside from Josh Norman, every DB position should be up for grabs.

Inside/Outside Linebacker

Mason Foster has actually had a decent season masked by terrible play around him. He’s graded by PFF as the 22nd rated linebacker overall (82.4), and has excelled in pass coverage (85.3--9th overall). Su’a Cravens is everything the team hoped he’d be when they selected him in the 2nd round (53rd overall) and should only see his role increase next season.

Will Compton, on the other hand, has gone from being a guy with a great story (undrafted, special teamer elevates to starting linebacker, captain of defense) to someone who can’t be shipped out of D.C. fast enough, with missed tackles and getting lost in pass coverage becoming as predictable as the Sun rising the next day.

Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy are both putting together solid seasons, but they don’t exactly scare opponents into game-planning for them. Murphy’s impressive eight-sack contribution has come despite multiple position changes, major weight fluctuations and playing 102 fewer snaps than Preston Smith, who’s been a disappointment considering the high hopes the team had after his strong finish to last season (five sacks in final three games).

Then there’s Junior Galette. Who knows? He’s now on his 37th Achilles tendon.

Verdict: The linebacking corps is slow, like dial-up Internet slow. The OLBs consistently lead the NFL in "almost sacks" and get beat around the edges like it’s part of the job. Adding speed is a must. For the ILBs, Mason Foster could be a holdover if needed, or at least be a depth player behind Cravens and another player-to-be-added this offseason, but Will Compton continues to invent new ways to bottom out. Another edge rusher and an inside backer should be on the top of McCloughan’s shopping list.

Defensive Line


Take one look at this group on paper during the preseason, laugh heartily, then stop and say, "Wait. This isn’t a joke?" Nope.

Preseason provided plenty of feel good stories about how Ziggy Hood had reinvented himself. Into what, the world may never know. Hype videos of Ricky Jean Francois punching the chests of fellow defensemen during pregame are meant to instill pride, though that pride vanishes the moment actual football occurs.

The team signed, then cut, then signed Cullen Jenkins, who played good football a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. And don’t forget about eternal depth man, Kedric Golston, who’s been making tackles for the Redskins since the days of Sonny Jurgensen slinging the ole pigskin around.

Commentators on Fox are so desperate to find a decent player on this dilapidated line that they’ve routinely elevated Chris Baker to demigod status, simply because he’s not terrible.

("Here’s Chris Baker. Freeze it. FREEZE IT HERE!" - Chris Spielman.)

Matt Ioannidis and Anthony Lanier are unknown commodities, but deserve a shot the rest of the season if healthy. It’s hard to imagine them being any worse than the current group of replacements.

Verdict: Outside of Chris Baker, who is a good player (but that’s it), this is a yard sale where everything must go.

Mass overhauls are in store at every defensive position (and coordinator). That is the reality of this current smorgasbord of Swiss cheese.

While McCloughan has made some significant moves to make the team competitive again, failure to remedy this utter lack of talent on the defensive side (please, please remedy the lack of talent) will have fans breaking out the torches and pitchforks that are all too familiar to D.C.