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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 Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 25, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 77 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 22
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 69

The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here are the five running backs on the Redskins’ schedule who gained the most yards in 2017. We looked at the top QBs last week.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, 1,631 yards in 2016—The NFL’s leading rusher didn’t pop for a big day against the Redskins as a rookie last year. He still did plenty of damage in two games with a combined 180 yards and three touchdowns. We’ll find out in Week 8 just how much the Redskins’ rushing defense has improved.

David Johnson, Cardinals, 1,239 yards—Yeah, him again. He chewed up the Redskins in Arizona last year, picking up 84 yards rushing and another 91 yards receiving. I think I might pick Johnson over Elliott in a draft simply due to Johnson’s versatility.

LeGarrette Blount, Eagles, 1,161 yards—Blount picked up those yards with the Patriots last year and rushed for 18 touchdowns for good measure. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, 27th among qualifying running backs. It should be noted that the Eagles probably have a better offensive line than the Patriots do. It’s safe to say Blount is one dimensional; none of the top 50 in rushing yards had fewer than his seven receptions.

Mark Ingram, Saints, 1,043 yards—While Ingram had a good year, the Saints apparently weren’t overly impressed. They signed Adrian Peterson as a free agent and they drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the third round. We’ll have to see who is healthy and on the field in Week 11

Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 997 yards—The 2015 first-round pick missed the last three games and most of another one with an injury. When healthy, he was very effective. His stats projected over 16 games come to over 1,300 yards.

Best of the rest: Carlos Hyde of the 49ers just missed the top five with 988 rushing yards last year Besides Kamara, the only running backs drafted in the first three rounds the Redskins will face are Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Kareem Hunt (Chiefs). It will be interesting to see if new Rams coach Sean McVay can revive Todd Gurley, who followed a 1,100-yard rookie season with a 4.8 per carry average by gaining 885 yards with a paltry 3.2 average in 2016. Marshawn Lynch comes to town with the Raiders after spending a year in retirement; with the Seahawks, he picked up 111, 72, and 132 on the ground against the Redskins. 

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

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