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Washington Redskins' First Quarter Report Card: Defense

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COMMENTARY | Yesterday, we took a look at the Washington Redskins' offense and graded them with an in-depth analysis. Today, we take a look at a defense that has had to shoulder much of the blame for the team's slow 1-3 start.

Where do you begin with a defense like the Redskins'? Across the board, it's been sloppy play from the tackling to the pass coverage. In fact, if it weren't for their NFC East counterparts in New York and Philadelphia, the Redskins would be widely considered to have the worst defense in the National Football League. Let's take a look at some statistics.

The Redskins are second to last in the NFL in total yards given up (1,762), average yards given up per game (440.5), rush yards given up per game (142.3) and rank 25th in pass yards given up per game (298.3). Simply put, this defense hasn't been able to stop a nose bleed. Let's break it down position by position.

We'll start with the boys up front. The Redskins run a base 3-4 defense which simply means they have three down defensive lineman and four linebackers. The front three primarily consist of Kedric Golston, Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen. Often times in a 3-4 defense, the linemen are there to soak up offensive linemen to let the linebackers roam free. For the Redskins, that appears to be one of the key roles for the front three as they have only accounted for 29 tackles and just two sacks.

If that's the case, that must mean that the linebacking corp has been a force this season, right? The Redskins have a lot of talent, on paper, at the linebacker position. Unfortunately, that talent hasn't always shown up on the field.

The NFL's iron man, London Fletcher, just isn't what he used to be. He's slowed down and the Redskins are even considering giving him less snaps throughout the course of the game in order to keep him fresh. He's a great player that's had a good career, but he's on the backend of it and just can't keep up with the speed of the game. Some have speculated that Rob Jackson could see a more increased role.

Despite Fletcher's slowing down, the Redskins linebacking corp have been acceptable. Ryan Kerrigan has 24 tackles this year and two forced fumbled. So far, he has recorded five sacks and is on pace to blow away his career high 8.5 sacks from a year ago. Brian Orakpo has been solid and he had four tackles including two sacks and two pass deflections against the Raiders. The Redskins' fourth linebacker, Perry Riley, leads the team in tackles with 38.

Now onto the final unit of the defense: the secondary. It's been a very rough start to the season for them and things don't seem to be improving any time soon. Against the Packers, they allowed Aaron Rodgers to throw for 480 yards and Matthew Stafford threw for 385 yards the following week when the Lions came to D.C. They haven't matched up well with very many receivers and miscommunications aren't all that uncommon. The secondary is by far the weakest part of the Redskins defense and possibly roster.

Fundamentally, there are things wrong with this defense with most glaring being tackling. It is not uncommon to see a Redskins' defender simply fling his body at the ball carrier. The ball carrier then braces, shrugs of the hit, or avoids it completely and keeps on running. Detroit Lions' running back Joique Bell broke three tackles on his way to the end zone in Week 3.

The final 12 games of the season don't get any easier for the Redskins. They play the Cowboys (don't disrespect their offense), the Broncos, the 49ers, the Chiefs and Falcons. If they have any hopes in finishing the season above .500, they'll need the defense to improve dramatically.

Now for the grade. The Washington Redskins' defense has been poor this season. With that, I'm giving them a grade of, and I feel generous with this grade, C-.

Brian Skinnell is a contributor for and Yahoo Sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Brian_Skinnell.

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