Quick Links

Redskins-Falcons preview: Spotlight on Skins' defense

907635.png

Redskins-Falcons preview: Spotlight on Skins' defense

What:Falcons (4-0) vs. Redskins (2-2)
Where:FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
When:Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV:Fox WTTG-5
Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live:Comcast SportsNet noon and 4.In the first four games, the biggest storyline for the Redskins has been the sublime play of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and his impact on the teams resurgent offense.Not this Sunday, though.The Redskins struggling defense will be the focal point against Matt Ryan and the high-flying Falcons, one of only two undefeated teams remaining (the Texans are also 4-0).For Washington to have any chance against an Atlanta offense thats racking up 31 points per contest and ending a seven-game home losing streak they must pressure Ryan and slow down a versatile repertoire of weapons that includes standout wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Michael Turner.If that sounds like a lot, well, it is.I think every weeks a statement game, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. This is a great football team were playing. Theyve got the hottest quarterback in the league, a really good running back and two good receivers and theyve got maybe the greatest all-time tight end that ever played. So its a great challenge for us.Although the Redskins have been adept at stopping the run theyre 10th the units struggles against the pass and propensity for yielding big plays they might be in for a long afternoon. Consider:They rank last in passing touchdowns against (11), 31stin passing yards against (1,305) and 30thin yards per attempt (8.8). (Ryan leads the league in passer rating and ranks second in passing touchdowns with 11.)The Redskins have yielded pass receptions of 30 yards or longer nine times, including second half completions of 65 and 54 yards last week in Tampa. Both of those backbreaking miscues led to Buccaneers touchdowns and, making matters worse, came against the teams best cover corners, DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson.Defensive end Stephen Bowen acknowledged that the Redskins front-7 must help out the backend by forcing Ryan to make hurried decisions. We have to get there, Bowen said. Weve been working on a pass-rush skills this week. I know Im going to the best I can to get one sack on the board --finally.For three weeks now, the secondary has talked about playing tighter coverage and eliminating the long receptions that have plagued them.Now would be a good time for that to start happening.In addition to keeping an eye the secondarys performance, here are some other areas the crew atcsn.washington.comwill be monitoring:Ground superiorityThe troubling news for the Redskins is they have yielded 123 points. The encouraging news is they have scored 123, as well.In order to move the ball and produce points against the Falcons, the NFLs second best rushing offense (Washington is averaging 171 yards per game) needs to follow a simple formula: run the ball, then run it some more.The Falcons are allowing only 19 points per game, but their run defense has been shaky, permitting 146.3 yards per game (29th).Last week, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton gained 86 yards on nine rushes against Atlanta. The Redskins, meantime, boast a pair of the NFLs top rushers in Griffin and Alfred Morris and, as a team, are tied for the most 10-plus yard runs (23). Its also possible Ryan Grant will make his debut for the home team.No excuses2) Kicker Billy Cundiff preserved his job last week by making a 41-yard field goal in the final seconds against the Buccaneers. But misses from 41, 31 and 57 earlier in the game means his margin for error against the Falcons is negligible.Cundiff, snapper Justin Snow and holder Sav Rocca have had another full week to work out any kinks in the field goal operation. So there will be no excuses Sunday.Strength against strengthAtlantas pass defense has been significantly stronger than its run defense. In fact, the unit is tied for the seventh fewest passing yards against per game (207).The Redskins air attack, meantime, ranks among the leagues most formidable. Griffin is tied with Ryan for the second best completion rate in the game (69.4) and has thrown only one interception.Washingtons receivers, meantime, rank second in the NFL in yards after the catch with 625, an effort led by Pierre Garon and Fred Davis.Somethings got to give.

Quick Links

Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Alabama dominates college football in a way few teams ever have. In the last two seasons, the Crimson Tide has lost just two games, winning one national title and narrowly missing a second.

The strength of 'Bama, year after year, is their defense. Nick Saban coaches it, Nick Saban knows it, and Nick Saban demands the best from his players. 

Oddly, however, a few recent Alabama defenders drafted to the NFL have not produced. Or at least their production did not match their draft status. 

It's not too hard to pick names that fit that perception. Rolando McClain. Terrance Cody. Dre Kirkpatrick. And at running back, Trent Richardson didn't help.

Still, the Redskins invested heavily in the Tide during the 2017 draft. Their top two picks played for Saban's defense last year, and Washington coach Jay Gruden does not buy any part of the perception that 'Bama products regress in the NFL.

"I don’t see any negative whatsoever with them going to Alabama," Gruden said late Friday night.

The 'Skins selected Jonathan Allen in the first round and Ryan Anderson in the second. Both guys started on the Tide's front seven, and both players dominated.

"They come there and they are well coached. Anytime you watch college football, and you watch other defenses, no disrespect, and then you flip on an Alabama game, it’s different," Gruden said. "The speed is different. They are well-coached, they are in their gaps, they play hard, they play physical, and that’s from Week 1 until the end. That has to appeal to you as a coach. They are using their hands, they are physical, they are chasing the ball, they are running to the ball."

The perception, right or wrong, has two main positions. The first is that the Alabama defense looks so good because it is full of five-star recruits. When everyone is good, or great, on the college level, it's hard to truly judge any singular player's game tape. The second is that Saban is so exhausting, so demanding of his players, they arrive to the NFL with too many reps.

For those around the NFL, both theories are laughable. Pro scouts know game tape. How else can they judge a future first rounder when he matches up against a walk-on? And for every alleged 'Bama bust, think about Haha Clinton-Dox or Landon Collins or C.J. Mosley or Dont'a Hightower. 

Might some Tide players get overdrafted because of their success and high profile? That's a different conversation. What's certain is the Redskins are quite confident in both of their Alabama draft picks.

"We know they are both highly intelligent guys. They understand football, understand X’s and O’s and they both play very hard with a high motor and they are well-coached."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

Quick Links

Redskins focus on defense through three rounds in the NFL Draft

Redskins focus on defense through three rounds in the NFL Draft

Coming into the offseason, there was plenty of talk coming from the Redskins organization that the team needed to upgrade the defense. Those who have been following the team for a while have heard this for many years now. However, usually the talk is just that, with more draft capital and free agency money going to the offense year in and year out.

But this year things are different.

The lion’s share of free agent spending went to the defense. They added linemen Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee, linebacker Zach Brown, and safety D.J. Swearinger. Now they have started off their draft with a laser focus in the defensive side of the ball.

RELATED: Redskins add cornerback with first round talent, but injuries pushed him to the third round

In the first round, they were delighted to take Jonathan Allen, the top-rated defensive lineman on their board. In the second round they went with outside linebacker Ryan Anderson, a teammate of Allen’s at Alabama. Then in the third round the pick was cornerback Fabian Moreau out of UCLA.

It’s been 20 years since the Redskins have gone so heavy with defensive picks at the top of the draft. Not since 1997 have they taken defensive players in the first three rounds of the draft. That year they took DE Kenard Lang, LB Greg Jones, and LB Derek Smith in rounds one, two, and three, respectively.

We will see how much impact the three draft picks have on the defense and, as Redskins fans have learned over the years, an influx of free agents on defense doesn’t guarantee improvement on that side of the ball.

But at least the Redskins organization is putting its money, and its draft picks, where its mouth is and that has be considered a positive development.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins make it two Alabama defenders in the 2017 draft class so far

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.