Russell: Redskins getting defensive

The Redskins rank No. 1 in defense and Chris Russell gives his thoughts why while mentioning a certain former defensive coordinator.

The Washington Redskins are the number one defense in the National Football League through two games. Say it with me, ladies and gentlemen; the Redskins are number one on defense in a 32-team league.


Of course, that’s in yards per game allowed (234.5) but it’s a somewhat healthy lead over Denver at number two (243.5).


I’ll say just one thing. It’s all because Jim Haslett is no longer in charge! Yesss, I said it! It feels good to be on top of the world now that ol’ clueless Haz is no longer in command.


I kid. If you know anything about me, I believe absolutely nothing about what I just wrote.


All joking aside, the Redskins defense has come up large in the first two games of the season but they haven’t been tested by a premier offense yet. They also have not had to do something that Redskins defenses of the past and many others around the league have to do every week.


The Redskins defense has been on the field for an average of 22:11 per game against the Miami Dolphins and the St. Louis Rams.


Just for comparison, the 2014 Redskins defense was on the field for 29:26 per game over the full 16 games. In 2013, they were on the field for 29:18 on average per game and finally in 2012, the Redskins defense was on the field for an average of 28:55.


You smell what I’m cooking here? If you don’t continuously expose a defense, you minimize the pressure on them to hold up and increase your chances of winning football games enormously.


That’s the number one reason the defense has allowed ten points per game in the first two weeks. Period. It’s not scheme. It’s not the coordinator. It’s not even the significant investment that Scot McCloughan made in free agency and the draft.


It’s all about limiting the damage. Oh and it doesn’t help to take on two offenses without killer weapons.


That will change to a large degree on Thursday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.


Three words. Odell Beckham Jr.


If the Redskins can control him and limit the damage on Thursday night, now we’re talking. Especially because the Giants are desperate at (0-2) and because Beckham has torn the league and the Redskins apart.


He didn’t play in the week four matchup at FedEx Field in 2014, but in the re-match, Beckham Jr. had 12 catches for 143 yards and three touchdowns last December in a Giants win.

[By the numbers - Grading the Redskins' Week 2 win]

The best chance the Redskins have for success is a much-improved secondary that finally has some normalcy. Chris Culliver returns from his Week 2 suspension, and Bashaud Breeland has already returned from his one-game banishment.


DeAngelo Hallhas played in both games but was in a lot of pain last Sunday after taking a nasty shot to the ribs in the Miami loss. He said he barely got through the win over the Rams, despite taking preventative measures to play.


For the first time this year, the Redskins will be able to have Culliver, Hall and Breeland lined up when they go nickel and they could spot Hall with Breeland in their base package if they want to do so.


The Redskins improved pass rush should also make a difference. Yes, they only had one sack against St. Louis but they consistently applied pressure. Per, the Redskins were credited with six quarterback hits on Sunday.


Stephen Paea finally showed some signs of life and Ryan Kerrigan looked much better against St. Louis after not participating in any preseason games. If both of those players continue to get better (as they should) along with Jason Hatcher and Chris Baker, who have been very good so far, the Redskins could finally be a great, sustainable defense.


It’s easier to do all of this when you stop the run first and that's a lot easier to do with nose tackle Terrance Knighton clogging the middle. They’re third in the NFC and fourth in the NFL in net rushing yards allowed (141). That’s a lot of Pot Roast for everyone.


The Redskins defense has also tackled pretty well through the first two games. Per, the Redskins missed six tackles on Sunday for a two-game total of 16 according to their evaluations.


There are huge, encouraging signs for the Redskins defense. They’ve bent but they’ve only been broken twice. Now they get tested for real.


If the Redskins offense can continue to make it easy, they’ll continue to succeed. If not, all eyes will be on this rebuilt unit. Will they pass the test? We’ll know a lot more by Thursday at 11:30 PM. 

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Chris Russell is a Senior Writer for Breaking Burgundy. You can find him on Twitter @russellmania621.

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