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Grading the Redskins at the bye: The defense


Grading the Redskins at the bye: The defense

By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir

How have the Redskins done this year going into the bye? Over the next three days Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir grade the team’s performance unit by unit. Over the last couple of days we’ve looked at the offense and special teams. Today, the defense goes under the microscope.

Tandler’s grade: D

There isn’t a whole lot positive to say about this group. They just keep on finding ways to fail. They have blown leads early in the fourth quarter and they have blown them in the last minute. Other times they have been cut up with surgical precision from the very beginning of the game.

It’s no secret that the pass defense has been the major issue. Although they are no longer on pace to become the worst pass defense in NFL history in terms of yards yielded, they still are likely to be among the worst dozen or so ever. They are making the Pearl Harbor Crew from the 1980’s look stout by comparison.

The rushing defense is better, top 10 in yards allowed in fact. But why would you try to run against this defense when going via air has the potential to be so much more rewarding?

The rushing defense is one reason why they weren’t graded as a total failure. The defense also gets credit for racking up 16 takeaways (8th in the NFL) and returning four of them for touchdowns.

One thing not taken to account here are the injuries that have hit both the front seven and the backfield. Injuries are part of life in the NFL and teams need to have depth to deal with them.

El-Bashir’s grade: D

This was supposed to be the season the defense transitioned from “good” to “great.” Instead, Jim Haslett’s unit has plummeted to the bottom of the rankings, crippled by injuries to linebacker Brian Orakpo, lineman Adam Carriker and safety Brandon Meriweather and stung by its inability to generate a consistent pass rush or prevent big plays.

Through nine games, opponents have scored on plays of 30 or more yards eight times. Opposing quarterbacks have connected on passes of 30 or more yards 12 times, including last week’s 82 pass from Cam Newton to Armanti Edwards that set up Newton’s turning-point touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 21-13 loss.

As a result, the Redskins’ defense ranks last in passing yards against (2,715) and is tied for touchdowns yielded through the air (20.)

Compounding Haslett’s biggest concerns at the bye is the unexpected struggles of his once solid run defense. After holding six of the first seven opponents to 94 or fewer yards on the ground, the Steelers rushed for 140 yards and Carolina gained 129.

When the Redskins return to the field Nov. 18 against the Eagles, it’s possible they’ll have Meriweather for the first time all season. But it’s doubtful one player will be able to turnaround a defense that’s permitting 397.9 yards of total offense per game – up 58.1 over last year’s average.

Is it scheme, personnel, a combination of the two? All that’s certain right now is that hard questions must be answered this offseason.  

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Report: 'There isn't a real price that will make Kirk Cousins happy' with Redskins

Report: 'There isn't a real price that will make Kirk Cousins happy' with Redskins

Following a slew of reports that cast doubt on the Redskins reaching a long-term deal with Kirk Cousins, ESPN's Dianna Russini tweeted Tuesday that the impass is not about money. 

If the report is true, then Washington has run out of good options for retaining Cousins in the long term.

It's possible the team could use a third-straight franchise tag to keep him next season, but the price tag around $34 million would be astronomical for one season.

The transition tag would be worth in the neighborhood of $28 million. 

Russini doesn't elaborate on the reasons behind her report that Cousins wouldn't be happy in Washington regardless of price. But it's important to note that both teams and players have incentive to create leverage in contract negotiations through the media. 

The Redskins have until July 17 to reach a long-term deal with Cousins. 

MORE REDSKINS: Backup center again a question mark for the Redskins

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Redskins 2017 depth chart preview: Interior offensive line

Redskins 2017 depth chart preview: Interior offensive line

Over the next few weeks, Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2017 depth chart as the team enjoys some R&R ahead of training camp. Some positions are easy to handicap. Others have moving parts and, thus, are more complex. So, who’s in? And who’s in trouble?

Up today…

Position: Interior offensive line

On the roster: Guards Shawn Lauvao, Brandon Scherff, Arie Kouandjio, Tyler Catalina, Kyle Kalis, Isaiah Williams; Centers Spencer Long, Chase Roullier, Ronald Patrick

Locks: Lauvao, Scherff, Kouandjio, Long

As noted here this morning, there seemed to be a pretty good chance that Lauvao would be on his way out. But free agency and the draft went by and no serious challenger for him was acquired. It looks like they will let him play out the last year of his free agent contract and then see what they want to do with him next year when he will be a 30-year-old free agent.

RELATED: 3 Redskins who are up, 3 down

The Redskins might like Kouandjio, going into his third season, to emerge as a viable option as Lauvao’s successor. He was not up to the task in a couple of spot starts last year. But, just like Lauvao, he can take some comfort in the fact that the organization did not expend any major resources on bringing in another guard for competition.

Scherff went to the Pro Bowl in his second year in the league. He will be a fixture at right guard for the next decade or so, provided the Redskins can figure out a way to get a third high-priced offensive lineman under the salary cap (in addition to tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses).

Long did a solid job in his first year as the starting center. He will anchor the line again this year. He is eligible for a contract extension and it will be interesting to see if talks heat up between now and training camp.

On the bubble: Roullier

In an ideal Redskins world, the rookie sixth-round pick would be able to learn center and both guard spots well enough to be a workable fill-in on game days. In the real world, that may not work. During minicamp, offensive line coach Bill Callahan told me that while he had been impressed with how well Roullier had picked things up so far, the real test will come with the pads on in Richmond.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins 53-man roster projection, defense

Long shots: Catalina, Kalais, Williams, Patrick

You never know what will happen during the preseason but it seems that the practice squad is the best hope for any of these guys to be around Ashburn in the fall. If injury or issues with Roullier’s development create a hole in the depth chart in the 53-man roster the organization is likely to go outside to find help off the waiver wire. Two or three on this list are likely to be back for another shot in 2018.  

Redskins 2017 depth chart previews: Offensive tackle | Wide receiver

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.