COMMENTARY | After three weeks of football in this young NFL season, the Washington Redskins' defense has allowed 98 points which, surprisingly, is the second most in the league. Their NFC East rivals, the New York Giants, have given up a league-worst 115 points. After three very poor performances this season, is Jim Haslett's defensive coordinator job in jeopardy?
On Sunday against the Detroit Lions, the Redskins' defensive struggles was one of the highlights of the game. Aside from a DeAngelo Hall interception return for a touchdown, the Redskins' defense was about as effective as a wet paper towel. They couldn't tackle and they couldn't cover.
A little over halfway through the first quarter, the Lions scored their first touchdown behind a 12-yard run by Joique Bell. On the run, Bell broke through a number of tackles. The Redskins had shots at him at the line of scrimmage and Bell ran right through the would-be tackles on his way to the end zone.
Last week, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said that the Redskins would emphasize tackling after having issues with that against the Green Bay Packers. Based off of Sunday's performance, the Redskins still have plenty of work to do in that area.
On just about every defensive snap, you could find some example of poor tackling technique. In this day and age in the NFL, defenders are simply going for the big hit rather than the sure tackle. This can hurt the team, and the player, on a couple of different levels. On one level, the player can get flagged for an illegal hit or get seriously injured. On another level, usually the players comes up empty with the attempt because the ball carrier is able to anticipate the hit, absorb it and keep right on going. A perfect example of that is Bell's touchdown run on Sunday.
In a few different instances, you can see Redskins' players basically launching themselves at the ball carrier hoping that they'll land the hit. However, rarely, if ever, did that happen. If you're Haslett, this has got to worry you. Even after an entire week where tackling was evidently emphasized, the Redskins' defenders still couldn't do it right. Tackling technique comes down to coaching and a player's will to learn the technique. Getting a player to buy into that technique means that they need to buy into the coach's philosophy.
To be fair, the tackling woes and the woes of the defense can be centralized on one group, the secondary. The front seven of the Redskins may be one of the best in football. On the game's opening play, linebacker London Fletcher came clean right up the middle and sacked Lions' quarterback Matthew Stafford. The front seven did a good job getting pressure on Stafford, they hit him ten times, but when Stafford had time to throw, the secondary just couldn't match up with the Lions' receivers, especially Calvin Johnson.
Johnson had seven receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. Interestingly enough, Johnson wasn't even the Lions' leading receiver. His counterpart, Nate Burleson, had six grabs for 116 yards. On the day, Stafford threw for 385 yards and two touchdowns. In the secondary, the Redskins just didn't have an answer for the Lions' aerial attack.
With the way this defense is currently playing, they could enter the bye week 0-4 after playing the Oakland Raiders this coming week. The Raiders currently rank second in the NFL rush yards per game and the Redskins are second to last in rush yards given up per game. They are also going up against a big and strong quarterback in Terrelle Pryor that is not afraid to run. If the Redskins don't figure out how to wrap up and form tackle, Pryor will run wild on this defense along with running back Darren McFadden.
If the Redskins do end up 0-4 heading into the bye week and the defense plays poorly for a third straight week, you have to believe that Haslett's job will be in question. While he may not get fired, he will certainly be on the hot seat and feeling the pressure. One bad game from a defense is fine and can be excused, but four consecutive bad showings will put your job in jeopardy.
While the front seven has played well, the Redskins have been severely outplayed by three good teams. The game plan that they have come up with to stop those offenses just hasn't worked. Somethings got to give. Either the defense has to step up or Jim Haslett may be asked to step aside.
Brian Skinnell lives in the Washington D.C., metro-area and began covering the Redskins on his own blog titled "The Skinny On Sports". You can also check him out on RantSports.com and on a weekly NFL segment on Yahoo AM 730 Sports in Memphis, Tennessee. You can follow him on Twitter, @Brian_Skinnell.
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