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20 questions in 20 days: 4 Is the defense ready to carry the load?

20 questions in 20 days: 4 Is the defense ready to carry the load?

By Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler
CSNwashington.com20 questions in 20 daysAs we count down to the first game of the Redskins season, Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler are going to be looking at some of the big questions facing the team and attempting to look into their crystal balls and answer them.Question 5:Is the defense ready to carry the load?The background:The preseason focus has been on Robert Griffin III and rightfully so. Although expectations are high for Griffin, he is still a rookie quarterback and it is unreasonable to expect the offense to light up the scoreboard right away. If the Redskins are going to be successful the defense will have to keep the other team out of the end zone and do a better job of taking the ball away than it did last year (21 takeaways, 24thin the league).Tandler:The conventional wisdom is that the front seven, one of the best in the NFL, will have to cover for deficiencies in the secondary. And in this rare case the conventional wisdom is right. Any secondary is vulnerable if the quarterback has all day to throw and it could get ugly if the likes of Eli Manning and Drew Brees have the time to pick apart the shaky back end of Washingtons defense. Brian Orakpo needs to reach his potential as a pass rusher and Ryan Kerrigan and Perry Riley need to take steps forward in their second seasons as starters. But the front seven cant do it all. Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall will need to make plays when they have opportunities and Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams have be solid as the last line of defense. It seems to be a tall order.El-Bashir:When the Steelers switched to a 3-4 scheme under Bill Cowher in 1992, their defense jumped from 22nd to 13th to 3rd in the NFL in a span of three seasons. The Redskins made a similar switch two years ago under defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, and last season improved to 13th, up from 31st. But can the Redskins make a Steelers-like leap in 2012? The players are familiar enough. But are they talented enough? The concern is a secondary that recently lost hard-hitting safety Tanard Jackson to suspension. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall needs to bounce back from a subpar 2011 season, while his counterpart, Josh Wilson, needs to find consistency. Safeties Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams, meantime, need to be better than they were in the preseason. A unit, after all, is only a strong as its weakest link.20 questions in 20 days20 Aug.20Will Jammal Brown play this year?
19 Aug.21Will Chris Cooley make the team?
18 Aug. 22Can Brandon Meriweather get he job done at safety?
17 Aug. 23Is Garon a No. 1 receiver?
16 Aug. 24Can Trent Williams go from good to great?
15 Aug. 25Can DeAngelo Hall be a defensive playmaker?
14 Aug. 26Can Santana Moss regain his old form?
13 Aug. 27Can Orakpo post 15 sacks?
12 Aug. 28Will Leonard Hankerson break out?
11 Aug. 29Can the Redskins flip their turnover ratio?
10 Aug. 30How much can Hightower contribute this year?
9 Aug. 31Was making Billy Cundiff the kicker a good move?
8 Sept. 1Will Josh Morgan be worth the investment?
7 Sept. 2What can Jarvis Jenkins contribute?
6 Sept 3Is the offensive line depth good enough?
5 YesterdayWill a running back by committee work?
4 TodayIs the defense ready to carry the load?
3 TomorrowHow many wins is enough?
2 FridayHow much should RG3 run?
1 SaturdayCan RG3 . . . ?

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Quinton Dunbar did something Redskins haven't done since before Facebook existed

Quinton Dunbar did something Redskins haven't done since before Facebook existed

Quinton Dunbar had one heck of a day in New York on Sunday in the Redskins 29-27 win over the Giants. 

Dunbar grabbed an interception and made a catch in the same game, something no Redskins player has done since Champ Bailey on Christmas Eve in 2000. That was the last days of Bill Clinton's presidency, and four years prior to the invention of Facebook. 

Dunbar's impressive feat was not done in vain either. Both the catch and interception were huge plays for Washington, one bigger than the next, in a game that swung back and forth for four quarters. 

In the third quarter, Dunbar lined up as the gunner as the Redskins went to punt. Only the Redskins faked the punt, and Tress Way fired a pass down the left sideline to Dunbar. It was no easy catch either; Dunbar had to jump for the ball and had a defender right on him. 

Later, as the Giants were driving to extend their fourth quarter lead and deep in 'Skins territory, Dunbar made an excellent one-handed leaping interception. It was a very athletic play and gave Kirk Cousins and the Washington offense the ball on what would prove to be a scoring drive. 

In 2015 Dunbar proved his versatility to be a real asset for the Redskins. A receiver in college at the University of Florida, Washington flipped Dunbar to the other side of the ball to be a cornerback. As the 'Skins took off in the second half of last season, Dunbar came to be a integral part of the teams secondary. 

That same versatility showed Sunday in New  York, and now it has Dunbar's name next to Champ Bailey in the Redskins history books. 

MORE REDSKINS: Beckham gets yards, but Norman gets win

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Odell Beckham gets yards, but Josh Norman's Redskins get the win

Odell Beckham gets yards, but Josh Norman's Redskins get the win

Hype doesn't even begin to describe the attention put on Sunday's matchup between Josh Norman and Odell Beckham. The pairing of star cornerback and star receiver overshadowed the Redskins-Giants game, even though Washington came in desperate for a win.

Beckham versus Norman didn't disappoint either. It's overly simplifying the chess match between the two to declare a victor, but one side definitely left Giants Stadium smiling. 

Make no mistake, Beckham got his. He recorded seven catches on 11 targets for more than 100 yards.  But it's what Beckham didn't do - score a touchdown - that stands out.

Norman's play was solid throughout. He almost snagged a first half interception of Eli Manning and delivered a big hit on rookie Sterling Shepard in the second half that resulted in a personal foul penalty.

In the end though, Norman's team won. And that's what matters.  

"It's an awesome day. Straight awesome day," Norman said after the game.

As the players took the field before the game, the Giants Stadium crowd shouted a lot of ugly comments Norman's direction. Then throughout the game Norman was repeatedly booed by the crowd.

"Towards the end I was just celebrating with my teammates, victoriously, you can't ask for nothing better than that."

Much too much was made of the Beckham/Norman pairing, and perhaps for the next NFC East game between the 'Skins and Giants the focus will be different. But on Sunday, Norman and Beckham were the story.

"He made some plays and I made my plays," Norman said of Beckham.

"We got a team win. That's what it was – the Washington Redskins versus the New York Giants."

MORE REDSKINS: Beckham Jr. gets into fight with kicking net