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Bye week breakdown: Defense


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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With Matt Ryan in the Super Bowl, Kirk Cousins will make Pro Bowl, per report

With Matt Ryan in the Super Bowl, Kirk Cousins will make Pro Bowl, per report

Kirk Cousins' price tag just moved even higher with the news that he will replace Matt Ryan in the Pro Bowl. ESPN's John Keim reported the roster move first.

Ryan's Atlanta Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl on Sunday with a 44-21 dismantling of the Green Bay Packers. That victory means Ryan will not be available for the Pro Bowl, held this Sunday in Orlando. Cousins got his spot as an alternate.

Cousins gets the spot deservedly. This season he passed for 4,917 yards, completing 67 percent of his passes and throwing 25 TDs to 12 INTs. In two seasons since being named starter for the Redskins, Cousins has thrown for more than 9,000 yards. 

The Pro Bowl nod for Cousins will only make the Redskins pending contract talks that much tougher. The quarterback played in 2016 under the franchise tag, which netted him nearly $20 million. This season Washington could again place Cousins on the franchise tag, with a price tag around $24 million. Both sides can still work for a long-term deal, though the value of that contract would likely soar past $100 million and closer to $120 million.

Some questions exist within the Redskins organization if that is too much money devoted to one player, even if it is a Pro Bowl quarterback.

It's fitting that Cousins is subbing in for Ryan, who has found much success playing under Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. All signs points to Shanahan taking over as the 49ers head coach after the Super Bowl, and a report emerged that San Francisco would make a strong push to obtain Cousins, either in free agency or via trade. 


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Redskins announce coordinators, addition of Tomsula as D-line coach

Redskins announce coordinators, addition of Tomsula as D-line coach

The Redskins have made official some coaching staff changes that have been reported over the last few days.

The team announced that they have filled both coordinator jobs with internal hires. Outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky is the new defensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh is now the offensive coordinator.


The team also announced the hiring of two assistant coaches, one on each side of the ball. Kevin O’Connell will replace Cavanaugh as the QB coach and Jim Tomsula will coach the defensive line.

Tomsula was the 49ers head coach in 2015. He was fired after that one season after posting a 5-11 record. But it was his eight seasons as defensive line coach in San Francisco that the Redskins care about. Tomsula did a solid job there, working under Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary, and Jim Harbaugh. He also was the defensive line coach under Manusky when he was the defensive coordinator in San Francisco.


He is known as a fiery motivator, something that will work well with Manusky’s similar style. The line was one of the weakest areas of the defense last year. They are likely to add some talent to the line this offseason and Tomsula is a good choice to coach them up.

The Redskins still need a defensive backs coach. They have a strong in-house candidate in Aubrey Pleasant and now attention will turn to getting a deal for him. It remains to be seen if they will fill Manusky’s former job or if current inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti will add the outside backers to his responsibilities.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.