Snap Judgments: Is There Someone The Redskins Can Turn To For A Defensive Lift?

Is the solution to Washington's defensive problems even on the team?

Here's a look at who played lots, som, and just a little in the Washington Redskins' 31-26 Thanksgiving loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

* Where is the help going to come from for the Redskins' defense over the final five weeks of the season? Washington is struggling at all levels. The coaching staff is rolling with Donte Whitner, (52 of 56 snaps) and Duke Ihenacho (43) as a double strong safety look, but that was troublesome at times. Whitner missed tackles and committed a boneheaded personal foul penalty while Ihenacho dropped an interception. Will Blackmon's role (17) is shrinking, and the team has yet to see what Deshazor Everett can do beyond special teams. Scot McCloughan may not draft for need, but you can bet a game-changing safety is on his Christmas wish list.

* Flipping to linebacker, Washington has to rely on Will Compton (56 snaps) from an intelligence perspective because he seems to be the only one who can properly quarterback the defense. His backup, Martrell Spaight, rarely sees time on defense, so despite Compton's flaws from a physical execution standpoint, the Redskins are stuck with him for now. Some may be regretting the choice not to grab Reggie Ragland in the first round this past April.

* To the other inside linebacker spot we go. After playing 60 snaps -- nearly the entire game -- last week against the Green Bay Packers, Su'a Cravens saw his playing time cut to a mere 26 plays. This makes sense because the Redskins wanted Mason Foster's size against the Dallas running attack whereas Washington enjoyed Cravens' speed against the Packers' aerial assault. Still, Foster played only 31 snaps or 55 percent of the game, which is unusually low for a player if they are a true starter. Cravens' and Foster's roles during the rest of the year will foreshadow how the team will move forward at the position next year.

* To make matters worse, despite the supposed strength at outside linebacker with Ryan Kerrigan (44) Preston Smith (41) and Trent Murphy (28), the trio were constantly put in tough situations all game. All three missed opportunities to make plays in the backfield at times, which resulted in Ezekiel Elliott or Dak Prescott running free. The lack of athleticism at the position hurts Washington's ability to keep contain, which was a root cause of their loss on Thanksgiving.

* The defensive line did not play terribly against Dallas, but it looked that way because of how strong the Cowboys' running attack is with perhaps the best offensive line in football paving the way for the league's leading rusher. After Anthony Lanier left the game with a leg contusion, Ricky Jean Francois (28) and Cullen Jenkins (18) saw a slight jump in field time. But it was Chris Baker (43) and Ziggy Hood (36) who continued to be in the trenches for the majority of plays. Overall, this defense is not anywhere close to a finished product. It will be some time before it is ready to contend for more than just a playoff berth.

http://www.scout.com/nfl/redskins/story/1731816-watch-norman-vs-bryant

* Despite what Dez Bryant may think, Josh Norman had another sound game. He played every down and provided stability at cornerback. Norman's running mate, Bashaud Breeland, (47) also played fairly well, but for yet another week, Kendall Fuller (39) struggled in a tough matchup. Dallas smartly put Bryant in the slot to create the ultimate mismatch versus the rookie who Jay Gruden is supporting through this rough patch. The coaching staff has not benched Fuller nor should they. But his playing time did drop below 70 percent. 

Robert Kelley ran into his first troublesome start of his young career, but it was not all his fault. The rookie running back gained only 37 yards on 14 rushes, a miserable 2.6 yards per average, which is a significant dropoff from his 321 yards on 67 carries -- 4.8 yards per rush -- through his previous three starts. Gruden owned up after the game that Washington "didn't get a lot of good looks" for Kelley and opted to attack Dallas' injured secondary instead of staying balanced. Kelley played only 32 snaps or 43 percent of the game because Chris Thompson (43 snaps, 57 percent) was needed for his skills as a receiver and in pass protection.

* For the second straight week, Kirk Cousins had his full complement of weapons around him and it showed. Here is the snap breakdown: Jamison Crowder (60), DeSean Jackson (56), Pierre Garcon (52), Vernon Davis (45) and Jordan Reed (37). Reed somehow played through an AC joint separation to the surprise of his coach and teammates.This quintet combined for a whopping 412 yards on 31 receptions and three touchdowns. Maurice Harris (18) contributed two receptions while tight end Derek Carrier (14) recorded his first catch in nearly a year. Due to this collective effort, Cousins now holds the franchise's record for 400-yard passing performances with three and led the Redskins to their first-ever consecutive games with at least 500 yards.

* Previous snap judgments:

Offense (75 snaps)

Shawn Lauvao 75

Brandon Scherff 75

Morgan Moses 75

Ty Nsekhe 75

Spencer Long 75

Kirk Cousins 75

Jamison Crowder 60

DeSean Jackson 56

Pierre Garçon 52

Vernon Davis 45

Chris Thompson 43

Jordan Reed 37

Robert Kelley 32

Maurice Harris 18

Derek Carrier 14

Ryan Grant 13

Vinston Painter 4

Houston Bates 1

Defense (56 snaps)

Will Compton 56

Josh Norman 56

Donte Whitner Sr. 52

Bashaud Breeland 47

Ryan Kerrigan 44

Duke Ihenacho 43

Chris Baker 43

Preston Smith 41

Kendall Fuller 39

Ziggy Hood 36

Mason Foster 31

Trent Murphy 28

Ricky Jean Francois 28

Su'a Cravens 26

Cullen Jenkins 18

Will Blackmon 17

Quinton Dunbar 7

Anthony Lanier 3

Terence Garvin 1

Special Teams

Houston Bates 20

Deshazor Everett 15

Terence Garvin 15

Martrell Spaight 14

Duke Ihenacho 13

Dustin Hopkins 12

Ryan Grant 12

Mason Foster 12

Su’a Cravens 12

Bashaud Breeland 11

Quinton Dunbar 9

Anthony Lanier 8

Ziggy Hood 8

Vinston Painter 8

Mack Brown 8

Derek Carrier 8

Rick Lovato 7

Tress Way 7

Trent Murphy 7

Ricky Jean Francois 6

Will Compton 6

Maurice Harris 6

John Sullivan 6

Shawn Lauvao 6

Spencer Long 6

Ty Nsekhe 6

Morgan Moses 6

Chris Thompson 6

Cullen Jenkins 5

Josh Norman 5

Ryan Kerrigan 5

Preston Smith 5

Kendall Fuller 2

Greg Toler 2

Jamison Crowder 2

Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilDalal96.

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