Talent, scheme or coaching, something needs to change for Redskins defense

JP Finlay
NBC Sports Washington

After two games, the Redskins defense clearly does not appear ready for some of the expectations that arrived before the season. That's obvious. What isn't is why. 

In consecutive losses, Washington's defense has given up more than 30 points-per-game and more than 400 yards-per-game. With just two sacks, the defensive front hasn't generated much pressure at all. The sack numbers are low, but opposing quarterbacks aren't taking many hits or pressures either. Heck, on Sunday against Dallas, Dak Prescott completed every pass he threw during the second half. 

Before the year started, the Redskins defense looked poised for a breakout. The team had strong young talent up front with Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis. The edge rushers were a pair of first-round picks in veteran Ryan Kerrigan and rookie Montez Sweat. Landon Collins was supposed to provide Pro Bowl play at safety. 

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It just hasn't worked. 

The biggest Redskins struggles have come on third down. The defense just can't get on the field. In a Week 1 loss, the Eagles converted 11 of 17 third downs and went on long drives throughout the second half. Against the Cowboys in a Week 2 loss, Dallas never punted in the second half.

Against Philly, the Redskins gave up 4 yards-per-carry, which is usually a losing formula. Against Dallas, the Redskins gave up more than 6-yards-per-carry, which is definitely a losing formula. 

There are plenty of stats to show how bad the Redskins defense has been. These are just a sample. The bigger issue, however, is why it's happening.

And there aren't easy answers.

Injuries are a part of the equation. Losing Allen hurts a lot, as does losing cornerbacks Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau for the Dallas game. But still, injuries aren't a full explanation. 

Scheme is part of the problem. The Redskins tend to play conservative defense, without much blitzing or disguised looks. And if the defensive front isn't getting home, it's big trouble for the secondary when the quarterback has plenty of time. 

Coaching is a problem too. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is in charge of the conservative scheme. He could change that, and maybe should change that, but so far he has not. In his post-game comments, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said his staff isn't "reaching" the defensive players yet. That doesn't sound like a vote of confidence. 

Players also need to play better. Sweat, Ioannidis and Kerrigan aren't generating much pass rush, and that's a major problem. Josh Norman needs to be better too. 

There are no easy fixes here. There's no silver bullet, no singular answer. 

Gruden said there would be no coaching changes because it's so early in the season. That doesn't mean the questions won't keep coming. 

"There are no excuses to be had. We have to look at ourselves, and we have to play better," the coach said of his defense after the 31-21 loss to Dallas.

"We're minus a couple pieces in the secondary, that has an issue. But really, we should be better than this."

Through two games, the Redskins defense should be much better than it has been. Gruden knows it. Fans do too. 

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Talent, scheme or coaching, something needs to change for Redskins defense originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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