Kedric Golston stood near his locker and stroked his goatee late Sunday afternoon as he contemplated how to answer the question that has come to define this Washington Redskins season after two straight ugly defensive performances in a pair of losses.
For most of Golston’s first six seasons in Washington, the Redskins‘ defense has been its rock, the reliable asset that enabled the team to eke out victories when the offense floundered and the search for stability at quarterback seemed never-ending.
What, then, in the name of Robert Griffin III, is wrong with Washington’s defense?
“It’s hard to say,” Golston said. “Defense is simple. Whether you play a 3-4 or a 4-3, you’ve got to play fast, you’ve got to be physical and you’ve got to tackle. No matter what scheme you play in, those are just three principles. That’s just what it boils down to. If you do give up a big play, you get them on the ground and you don’t let them score.”
The Redskins lost their home opener and dropped to 1-2 partly because they failed in that regard. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw touchdown passes of 48 and 59 yards, and receiver Mohamed Sanu threw a 73-yard touchdown on the first play of the game.
“Most offenses aren’t just going to drive the ball down the field and score on you,” said Golston, a defensive lineman. “They look to get yards in chunks, and that’s what you can’t do.”
It was a problem last Sunday, too. In the Redskins‘ 31-28 loss to St. Louis, they gave up 452 yards and six plays of at least 20 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown pass on a double move.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett lamented the big plays during his Thursday news conference, saying defensive backs had to improve their technique.
How maddening, then, that in the minutes after Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati, three different defensive backs explained their respective roles in the Bengals‘ long touchdown passes.
Cincinnati opened the game with Sanu in the shotgun and Dalton lined up as a receiver to the right. The Redskins expected a running play partly because none of the film they reviewed featured Cincinnati throwing out of this formation.
Sanu, however, faked a handoff and threw a perfect deep pass to receiver A.J. Green, who ran past safety DeJon Gomes. Gomes had come up to the line of scrimmage before the snap.
“He’s definitely a fast guy, but it shouldn’t have happened,” Gomes said on his way out of the locker room. “I probably should have backed off a little bit, but I, I don’t know. I can’t really explain it. It’s my fault.”