The Washington Redskins have at least been able to depend on their defense in recent years. Now, they’re struggling on both sides of the ball.
The Redskins look to bounce back from a demoralizing defeat Sunday when they face the winless Tennessee Titans.
The Redskins (2-3) were pounded 19-3 by the New York Giants last Sunday after consecutive wins over Houston and Jacksonville. Washington’s defense continued its trend of allowing big plays, allowing completions of 44, 46, 27 and 21 yards on Giants’ scoring drives.
The Redskins’ defense ranks 10th in the NFC with 331 yards allowed per game and has recorded just seven sacks and two interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks have thrown for nine touchdowns while averaging 236.6 yards passing.
Washington has given up 21 passes of 20 or more yards and only the Green Bay Packers, who have allowed 28, have conceded more.
“If there’s been one central thing that we would like to improve upon (it) is the big plays down the field,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “How do you improve upon it? Work your guts out and hope you get a better pass-rush scheme and everything.”
The Redskins allowed 411 yards against the Giants, the most since assistant coach Gregg Williams took over the defense in 2004. Washington’s defense ranked third in the NFL in 2004 and ninth last season.
Star cornerback Shawn Springs hasn’t played this season because of abdomen and groin injuries, and nickel safety Pierson Prioleau was lost for the year during preseason with a knee injury.
“The first two years, we had a defense flying around making plays and we weren’t giving up any big yardage,” defensive end Phillip Daniels said. “And now they’re getting that, and teams are coming in here looking to throw the ball and get that one big play.”
Washington had hoped to complement Williams’ defense with an offense directed by Al Saunders, who was brought in this season from Kansas City. The offense was lackluster in season-opening losses to Minnesota and Dallas, but appeared to hit its stride after generating 67 points and 976 yards in wins over Houston and Jacksonville.
Against the Giants, however, the Redskins regressed and totaled only 164 yards. Quarterback Mark Brunell threw for 109 yards on 12-of-22 passing and running back Clinton Portis—who rushed for 112 yards in an overtime victory over the Jaguars—was limited to 76.
Receiver Santana Moss, who was named the NFC offensive player of the week after catching three touchdown passes against Jacksonville, had three meaningless receptions for 39 yards.
Nick Novak will take over as Washington’s kicker against Tennessee after John Hall was placed on injured reserve—ending his season—with a strained groin and a strained quadriceps.
The Redskins could be able to work out some of the kinks against the Titans (0-5), who rank 30th in the NFL defensively with 374.8 yards allowed per game, and 27th offensively with 273.6 yards. Tennessee has been outscored 135-60 and scored the fewest points of any team that has played five games.
The Titans, though, nearly pulled off a major upset last weekend, building a 10-0 halftime lead on the road before falling 14-13 to the undefeated Indianapolis Colts. Tennessee rushed for 214 yards, including 100 in the first quarter, and rookie quarterback Vince Young had a 19-yard touchdown run in his second career start.
“We still didn’t win it, and so it’s not OK,” said coach Jeff Fisher, whose team jumped from 30th to 23rd in rushing offense. “But at least we have some things that we can build on.”
Travis Henry had 123 yards on 19 carries for his first 100-yard game since Dec. 7, 2003, when he was still with Buffalo. Henry, acquired after the 2004 season but hobbled by injuries last season, started in place of Chris Brown, who was deactivated despite being healthy, and will likely get the start against Washington—which allowed New York’s Tiki Barber to run for 123 yards on 23 carries.
“I just wanted to go out and have fun and play the game like I can,” Henry said. “The guys up front blocked well all day. My hat’s off to them.”
Young, the third overall pick in the draft, threw for 63 yards and an interception on 10-of-21 passing after throwing two interceptions and a TD pass against Dallas in his first NFL start. He did not talk to the media for the second time this season.
“I’d hope that, regardless of the outcome and of the games throughout the rest of the year, he’ll be available. It meant a lot to him this game, winning this game, because he poured everything into it, and it meant a lot,” Fisher said.
“He took this loss on his shoulders.”
Washington and Tennessee have not played since 2002, when the Redskins earned a 31-14 victory in Nashville.