The Washington Redskins are getting set to host the Green Bay Packers this Sunday at FedExField. This is the matchup many fans wanted because even with the great Aaron Rodgers, the Packers offense struggled much of the season.
Don't get too excited just yet.
By now, you know that the Redskins offense is soaring to heights that were completely unexpected by anybody on the outside. It's also true that a great offense can carry an average to above average defense. That's essentially what the Redskins are heading into their first playoff game in three years.
The Redskins defense benefits from that very productive offense but they still have to more than hold their own and when you look at this unit you see a quality front seven and a shaky secondary.
General manager Scot McCloughan tried and the Redskins invested money and a decent amount of resources in their defensive backfield. The top reason why these concerns exist are clearly injury related.
Washington started the season with a plan of Chris Culliver, DeAngelo Hall, Bashaud Breeland, Duke Ihenacho and Dashon Goldson as their starting base nickel personnel. Breeland was expected to be the slot cover man with Hall and Culliver to the outside.
Not one of them played in their respective planned position on Sunday during the Redskins win in Dallas and three members of that group did not play at all. Culliver was banged up all year and finally tore his ACL in a Thanksgiving practice.
Ihenacho was lost for the season in the first quarter of the first week of the season after a tremendous off-season and training camp to easily win the job over Jeron Johnson and Trenton Robinson. Hall missed part of the season with a toe sprain after the twice-torn Achilles from last year and then switched to a safety spot upon returning.
The Redskins heavily relied on versatile rookie Kyshoen Jarrett throughout the year in a variety of roles and in all sorts of different packages. Now he's out for Sunday's showdown with the Packers.
With losing Jarrett and wide receiver turned corner, Quinton Dunbar, for at least last week's season wrap-up, the Redskins reportedly signed veteran corner Cary Williams Tuesday. Williams signed a sizable deal in Seattle this past off-season after struggling in Philadelphia. The Seahawks cut ties last month.
Williams is not going to win a championship for the Redskins by himself, but he certainly can help. He's played in plenty of big games and could have something left in the tank to prove. You know, kind of similar to the impact Will Blackmon has made.
The bottom-line is this: The Redskins are beyond paper-thin and it is a credit to the players, defensive coordinator Joe Barry and defensive backs coach Perry Fewell that are still standing, that they've helped the team come this far.
The cracks in the unstable foundation are there. The Redskins went all season without allowing a team to pass for more than 300 net passing yards until their division clinching win over Philadelphia. Then Dallas added did the same. Granted, both scenarios were by-product of teams trying to erase significant deficits.
It's why you can't purely look at statistics as the only measurement of a team's success. The Redskins have a division winning defense and yet they allowed more net yards of offense than their 2014 defense.
Yup, that's right. The official ranking measurement the NFL uses, yards allowed, is the only one that can be purely attributed to the defense. The Redskins have allowed 6,090 net yards of offense compared to the 2014 total of 5,712.
The difference? It's not necessarily an improved pass rush or rushing defense. It's one vital category. Takeaways. Something you absolutely cannot guarantee or count on.
The Redskins had only 19 takeaways last year and only SEVEN interceptions the entire season. This year, Washington has 11 interceptions and a league leading 16 fumble recoveries. Yep, 27 takeaways erases a lot of other blemishes.
That's it. Period. The yardage total is higher because teams have been in heavy passing situations the last three weeks and moving the football against an injury ravaged secondary. The Redskins have been able to get away with it because of the turnovers they have created.
If the Redskins come away empty in this huge area, they will have a very difficult time winning and advancing.
While you cannot count on turnovers, you can help the cause by harrasing the quarterback, especially against a Gren Bay line that struggles keeping Rodgers upright.
Even though the sack numbers are almost the same compared to last season, Washington has more pass rushing options this year. The Redskins have done a better job of finishing plays of late.
That's what Barry has to hope continues on Sunday and possibly beyond. If the Redskins don't get to the quarterback and make the Packers pay with takeaways, they could be begging for trouble on the back-end. A quarterback with the pedigree of Aaron Rodgers knows that full well.
Chris Russell is a senior writer for Breaking Burgundy, longtime reporter on the Redskins beat and radio host for 1067 The Fan. Follow Chris on Twitter @russellmania621.
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