Redskins’ Shanahan goes on the defensive

Coach stressing defense as Washington looks to rebound against Bills

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Surrendering 33 points and 407 yards to the Carolina Panthers last Sunday got Mike Shanahan’s attention. The Washington Redskins‘ head coach was more thorough than usual with the defense during practice this week, according to Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo.

“He’s really been focused making sure the gaps are right and the coverages are right,” Orakpo said. “And if anything is busted, instead of moving and skipping on, we’ll review it, talk over it and review it on the field. That’s something that’s new.”

Carolina’s 6.4 yard-per-play average was the second-highest the Redskins‘ defense has given up this season. That went against the unit’s overall progression in the second year running a 3-4 scheme.

Familiarity with the system and an influx of personnel better suited to it were two of the driving forces behind the Redskins‘ 3-1 start. Washington entered the game allowing 5.25 yards per play, 11th in the NFL.

Shanahan, however, believed the defense was inadequately prepared to stop Carolina’s diverse offense, led by quarterback Cam Newton.

Carolina Panthers running back Jerome Felton (45) tries to break away from Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson (26) and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (98) in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

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Carolina Panthers running back Jerome Felton (45) tries to break away from ... more >

“I have to do a better job of making sure that we’re better prepared during the week because our defense is too physical and too good,” Shanahan said Monday. “I have to make sure that I put them in situations more times than not to make sure that they feel very comfortable in every look that they see.”

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett indicated he welcomed the oversight.

“He’s a great offensive mind, and he knows how to defend all these types of things,” Haslett said. “So it’s good to have a guy you can go in and talk to and say, ‘Hey, how do you think this should be played?’ That’s what I do with him a lot.”

When Shanahan analyzed the film of last week’s loss, he saw indecisive defenders. The Panthers occasionally ran the option, and Newton executed six zone-read running plays out of the shotgun. Such plays are common in college, but not in the NFL.

Shanahan believes indecisiveness is alleviated by repetitions in practice, and he was determined to solve that problem ahead of Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, whose offense ranks 7th in the NFL in yards per play (6.10).

“That’s what you do as a coach — try to put your players through things as many times as possible, so when you get into a game situation they don’t have to think. They can react,” he said. “We’re hoping when Sunday comes, they’re ready to go.”

Jackson breaks through

Outside linebacker Rob Jackson faces significant obstacles to getting on the field. One’s a two-time Pro Bowler and the other is an emerging first-round rookie.

But Jackson has played approximately eight snaps per game in recent weeks to spell Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo. Kerrigan, meanwhile, has played every snap this season.

“I’m capitalizing on my opportunities, so they’re getting a little more confidence in me on the field because I’m doing what I’m supposed to do,” Jackson said. “I’m in the right place making plays.”

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