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Bye week breakdown: Defense

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Bye week breakdown: Defense

What’s working: In short: not a whole lot. A season after finishing 13th, Jim Haslett’s unit was supposed to take a step forward. Instead, the injury-depleted group has regressed in many areas. Through the first seven games, one of the few bright spots was the run defense, which limited six opponents to 94 or fewer yards. But even that has fallen off, with the Steelers and Panthers rushing for 140 and 129 yards, respectively.

Despite the recent letdown, the London Fletcher-led Redskins rank ninth in rushing yards allowed per game (96.2) and are tied for 13th in yards per attempt (4.2). Fletcher is tied for ninth in the NFL with 73 tackles.

The unit has also produced four touchdowns (Rob Jackson, Ryan Kerrigan, Josh Wilson and Madieu Williams) but none the past three games.

What isn’t: The pass defense. It’s been a disaster. The Redskins rank last in passing yards allowed (2,715) and are tied for the most touchdowns yielded through the air (20).

Just as concerning has been the number of big plays the secondary has permitted. Through nine games, opposing passers have feasted, completing 12 passes of 30 or more yards, of which six resulted in touchdowns.

Is it preparation? Not enough top-notch talent? Quarterbacks getting too much time to go through progressions due to the lack of a consistent pass rush?

The consensus is it’s a combination of all three.

Haslett said this week that safety Brandon Meriweather (knee) will likely make his debut against the Eagles. That should help some.

What’s got to improve: Speaking of the pass rush, it’s been A.W.O.L. since linebacker Brian Orakpo and end Adam Carriker were lost for the season in Week 2. The injuries have had a trickledown effect on Kerrigan, the team’s standout second-year linebacker who now finds himself fighting off double teams and chips more often. Last week against the Panthers, Kerrigan was credited with an assisted tackle, no solo tackles, no sacks and no quarterback hits – his lowest output since turning pro. 

In all, the unit has been credited with a combined total of 14 sacks (tied for 22nd) and no quarterback sacks the past two games (Kerrigan sacked Pittsburgh’s Emmanuel Sanders on a halfback pass attempt).

The secondary can’t get any worse – literally – but there’s no doubt it could use some help in the second half from the big guys up front.

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Redskins vs. Cardinals Live Updates: Score, stats, highlights, analysis, video

Redskins vs. Cardinals Live Updates: Score, stats, highlights, analysis, video

The Redskins and Cardinals highlight the Week 13 schedule with a showdown in the desert with heavy NFL playoff implications on the line.

If the Redskins (6-5-1) can score a victory over the Cardinals (4-6-1), the team can move closer to solidifying one of the top two Wild Card spots in the NFC playoff race.

Depite the Redskins' difficult Week 12 loss to the Cowboys, Kirk Cousins is playing the best football of his career as of late, and earned the NFC Player of the Month honors for his efforts.

While running back Robert Kelley did have a slip-up against the Cowboys, the team's run game still looks vastly improved from the early season, which allows the passing game to thrive even more. Jamison Crowder continues to impress, and although Jordan Reed will miss the Cardinals game with an injury, Vernon Daivs has proven to be an excellent option for Cousins.

The most entertaining matchup of Week 13 might be Redskins DB Josh Norman vs. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, but the most important matchup will undoubtedly be the Redskins defensive line vs. Cardinals RB David Johnson. 

RELATED: NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS HEADING INTO WEEK 13

Johnson trails just DeMarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliott -- who finished with 83 yards and one TD in Week 12 -- in total rushing yards with 920 and trails just Elliott and Legarrett Blount in rushing touchdowns with 10. The Redskins rank 25th in rushing defense, and have given up an average of 108 rushing yards in their last five games.

Redskins vs. Cardinals kicks off at 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, Dec. 4 on FOX. Redskins Kickoff gets things started at 3:00 p.m. ET on CSN Mid-Atlantic. (Channel Finder)

CSN is providing all the live updates, stats, scores, highlights, videos and analysis from Redskins vs. Cardinals. Got a comment on the game? Be sure to let us know in the comment section and join Santana Moss and Sebastian Salazar at halftime for the Facebook Live Q&A.

RELATED: BEST & WORST REDSKINS ALTERNATE UNIFORMS

Redskins vs. Cardinals Live Updates

PREGAME:

10:30 AM: Game Preview: The five things you need to know before Redskins vs. Cardinals.

1. Keep it moving
2. Missing in action
3. Consider the source
4. Problems don't go away
5. Harder they fall

10:15 AM: Be sure to follow CSN Insiders J.P. Finlay and Rich Tandler, who are at University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, Ari. Also, give our CSN Redskins Twitter account too. Come for the analysis, stay for the dank memes.

10:00 AM: Welcome to CSNMA's live updates blog of Week 13 Redskins vs. Cardinals. As always, I am Troy Machir and today I will be your online guide to Redskins vs. Cardinals football in the painted desert of the southwest. If you have an issue with me, you can cuss me out on Twitter, 140 characters at a time. It's fun.

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Need to Know: Final look at Redskins-Cardinals—Bottling up David Johnson

Need to Know: Final look at Redskins-Cardinals—Bottling up David Johnson

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, December 4, seven days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Redskins vs. Cardinals 4:25 pm

Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 7; Panthers @ Redskins 15; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 20

Injuries of note:
Out:
TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), DE Anthony Lanier (leg)
Questionable: G Brandon Scherff (ankle), OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle), Bashaud Breeland (ankle), LS Nick Sundberg (back)
Final injury report

Redskins vs. Cardinals
FOX, Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Dick Stockton and Chris Spielman
Line: Cardinals -2.5

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Cardinals

—It needs to be a Ryan Kerrigan day if the Redskins are going to win. Or a Preston Smith day, something rarely seen this year. Or perhaps Arizonan Trent Murphy will get a couple of sacks for his friends and family. Carson Palmer has been ineffective this year because he has been under constant pressure. Washington needs to keep that up.

—It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with Josh Norman and Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals don’t just put Fitz into the slot as a wrinkle; they do it all the time. Norman isn’t comfortable covering in the slot but Joe Barry and Jay Gruden will be very uncomfortable if Fitzpatrick dominates Kendall Fuller. Maybe they will try to start off with Norman on the outside but they will adjust quickly. I know I’ve been back and forth on this all week but the Redskins will not use their base defense very often since the Cardinals like to spread the field so much. There will be no “standard” set for this game.

—The Redskins gain 6.4 yards per play, second in the NFL. The Cardinals allow 4.7 yards per game, first in the NFL. As usual, Washington may have to get their score into the upper 20’s to win. That might require a takeaway or a big special teams play.

—A lot of running backs would like to be in a “slump” like the one David Johnson is in now. After gaining at least 83 yards in five straight games, including going over 100  yards in three straight, Johnson has a combined 240 rushing yards in his last four games. Sixty yards per game is respectable but not dominant. The Redskins will gladly sign up for that going in but the Cards will want to get him going against Washington’s leaky rushing defense.

—I think the Redskins will be able to pressure Palmer but Johnson probably has a big day on tap. Unlike some other teams who have played the Redskins this year, if the Cardinals get a good running game going they won’t abandon it. On the other side of the ball, the Redskins’ offense will be slowed down but not shut down. My prediction, which I make with no hesitation but without much confidence:

Redskins 27, Cardinals 21

Tandler on Twitter

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