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How Good Can a Healthy Redskins Defense Be?

NFL: Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that the Redskins defense has been decimated by injury; for that matter, so has half the team! So just how good could this overall unit have been if it wasn’t for untimely injuries?

We may never know the true answer to that question, but we can always go and look at the personnel we have, and to a degree, predict some future success.

Below, I will break down by position group the starters and key reserves on the Redskins defense, and see how this unit may look moving forward.

Defensive Line: Grade - C


Jonathan Allen

Matt Ioannidis

Ziggy Hood

Key Reserves:

Stacy McGee

Terrell McClain

Anthony Lanier

As you can see, we have two high-level players in Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis, and one above average reserve in Stacy McGee. The rest are below average. Ziggy Hood is not a nose tackle, nor should he have ever been asked to be one. To get better, the Redskins need to continue to invest on the defensive line in the draft, both in an effort to get younger and more talented. Another option would be to move Stacy McGee to nose tackle in base looks - or just scrap the 3-4 all together.

Outside Linebacker: Grade B


Ryan Kerrigan

Preston Smith

Key reserves:

Trent Murphy

Junior Galette

Ryan Anderson

This group certainly doesn’t scream “Athletes”, but surprisingly, they are getting it done. Kerrigan has 9 sacks, while Smith has 5. Both Murphy and Galette are free agents next year, and I see only Murphy returning. So far in his young career, Ryan Anderson has been a huge disappointment.

Better over athletes at this position group could go a long way, as would changing the scheme, as these guys are truly 4-3 defensive ends.

Inside Linebackers: Grade - C


Zach Brown

Mason Foster

Key Reserves:

Martrell Spaight

Zach Vigil

Will Compton

Brown has been a beast all season. He currently leads all NFL players in tackles with 117. He’s also chipped in 2.5 sacks. He is not the best in coverage, but makes up for that with his sideline-to-sideline play. Outside of Brown (who is a free agent), the unit is barren. Foster is about average, but Spaight and Compton are below average linebackers. Vigil has shown some flashes as he’s been forced into a starting role, but he’s not the long-term answer. This is a position I believe we are in drastic need of upgrading with a high pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Cornerback: Grade - B+


Josh Norman

Bashaud Breeland

Kendall Fuller

Key Reserves:

Fabian Moreau

Quinton Dunbar

Joshua Holsey

This is a solid unit that only has one key free agent - Bashaud Breeland. Even if Breeland walks, we have solid guys in Fuller and Moreau who can replace him. Norman is excellent on the outside, and should continue performing at a high level for at least another couple years. Fuller has had an excellent season to date in the slot, and can also play outside. Our reserves are young and developing, but there is talent among them.

Safety: Grade C


D.J. Swearinger

Montae Nicholson

Key Reserves:

Deshazor Everett

DeAngelo Hall

Su’a Cravens

This grade can easily become a solid B if Nicholson can just stay healthy. Swearinger has been a free agent delight when he’s played as primarily a strong safety. It’s really the depth here that scares me. Hall’s time is done, and no one knows what will happen with Cravens. Everett to me is a JAG.

Investing a high draft pick on a true center field free safety would be much welcomed in D.C. We haven’t had an impact player on the back end since the late, great Sean Taylor.

The Future:

In my opinion, the 2018 offseason will be monumental in determining the future of the Redskins defense. The Redskins have reportedly been working on a contract extension for linebacker Zach Brown, and that deal, if and when it gets down, will be key. Outside of Brown, there are a few free agents who I think we need to re-sign. Both Trent Murphy and Mason Foster would top my list. For me Breeland is a guy we can afford to let go, but if he’s willing to sign for a reasonable contract, I wouldn’t mind retaining him.

The 2018 NFL Draft is where it’s at. If we can take care of a long-term deal with Kirk Cousins this offseason, I wouldn’t mind seeing two of our top three picks go towards the defense. Defensive tackle, inside linebacker and safety are the areas I’d look to improve with a top selection.


If the Redskins can retain some key free agents, and draft well on defense in the first three rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft, we have the potential to become a very solid unit. The development of Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis will be key for the defensive line. Obviously adding another quality piece, perhaps a player who can also play some 1-technique, will be huge.

Re-signing Zach Brown can be something to start this ball rolling in the right direction, but we still need help at inside linebacker. One young stud next to Brown can make this unit dangerous. Can Cravens be that guy when/if he returns?

Overall, I see some promise for this unit in the future, but we still have some serious holes to fill if we want to take that next step and become a top 15 defense.


How good can the Redskins defense be in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    It will remain poor.
    (33 votes)
  • 28%
    We should improve to the top half of the NFL.
    (227 votes)
  • 38%
    With a good draft, we can be a top 10 unit.
    (301 votes)
  • 29%
    Ask me this when Bruce Allen is fired.
    (231 votes)
792 votes total Vote Now