The road to a top tier defense may seem long, but not difficult for quick turnaround
January 12, 2018
by Jamual Forrest
For the last six years, the Redskins have had an unimpressive defensive unit that never ranked higher than 18th in yards per game, and 17th in points per game. The investments made on the defensive side of the football have been special team players and backups who were looking for an opportunity to start and earn a better role where Washington needed help the most. Those projects did not work out, in the slightest. The 2017 offseason was a step in the right direction for Washington though. The free agent signings of D.J. Swearinger and Zach Brown, and the drafting of Jonathan Allen in the first round have put pieces in place on each level of the defense that have been game-changers.
The two issues with the Redskins defense is that the unit still lacks speed, especially on the outside, and have depth issues that were mainly on display this past season. Cornerback Josh Norman is a top-tier cornerback but is not known for his speed. His teammate (at the moment), Bashaud Breeland, is no different regarding speed, which makes both these players limited when they defend receivers. The fastest safety on the roster, rookie safety Montae Nicholson, has been often injured but is a difference maker when healthy. However, when he missed time due to injury, one can quickly identify the absence left with Nicholson off the field. Without Montae, inside linebacker Zach Brown is the defense’s fastest player, which just should not be the case. Acquiring speed is not difficult to do in one offseason – if that is done, the onus would then be on the coaches to develop the players and make sure they can use their strengths properly in Greg Manusky’s system.
The go-to example that is currently valid right now is the Atlanta Falcons, who had a defense that ranked 25th in yards per game and 27th in points per game. In Dan Quinn’s third year in Atlanta as their head coach, the Falcons have drafted and developed their guys and found speed on all levels of the defense, which has made a difference. This year the Falcons rank ninth in yards and eighth in points, a complete turnaround from a season ago. The Redskins are undoubtedly capable of completing a similar turnaround and were not too far off from being a solid defense this year if not for injuries. However, a faster defense makes up for many miscues and mistakes, which makes finding quicker and faster players that much more important.