- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 21, 2009

Consider the cracks in the Washington Redskins’ defense fully exposed - just as that unit prepares to face its toughest test so far this season.

The Redskins on Sunday meet a Dallas Cowboys team loaded with playmakers - bad news for a Washington defense that effectively prevented long gains earlier this season but has given them up with alarming regularity lately.

First, it was wideout DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles burning the Redskins for long touchdowns through the air and on the ground.

Then came running back Michael Turner ripping off a long touchdown run to ice a victory for the Atlanta Falcons.

Finally, it was Brandon Marshall’s turn last week. The receiver scored on two long receptions on which he was embarrassingly wide open, staking the Denver Broncos to a first-quarter lead.

The meltdowns represent a major shift: The defense allowed only one gain of 35 yards or more in the first six games of the season. In the past three games, however, the unit surrendered seven such plays - including five for touchdowns.

The Redskins blame themselves more than they credit their opponents for those game-changing moments.

“The big plays are on us,” rookie linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “We gotta not have busted coverages and not miss tackles. We get those two things down, we’ll be fine [where] the big plays are concerned.”

Those big plays have been coming fast in the past three games, two of them losses.

Jackson scored on a 67-yard end around and later used a double move to get free for a 57-yard touchdown catch in an Eagles victory Oct. 26.

Turner dodged blown tackles and rumbled 58 yards for a victory-clinching touchdown for the Falcons on Nov. 8. He also scored on a 30-yard run in the second quarter.

Marshall twice beat defenders on double moves to score on receptions of 40 and 75 yards in the first quarter of the Redskins’ victory over the Broncos on Sunday. Cornerback Carlos Rogers was benched after getting burned on the fourth play of the game.

“The first thing you’ve got to do is play the design of the defense,” secondary coach Jerry Gray said. “That will take away that 75-yarder. Then get your eyes on the receiver, and that’ll take away the second one. … What happened in Atlanta, you’ve got to [tackle with] your arms and you’ve got to be in the right gap. When you do that, you take away a lot of stuff.

“We did it the first five or six weeks of the season, and we can do it again right now.”

Perhaps, but it’s no coincidence that the cracks in the Redskins’ fifth-ranked defense were exposed as the caliber of the competition improved.

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