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SNYDER: Shootouts shine a light on Redskins’ lackluster defense
The good news for the Washington Redskins is their newfound scoring punch, largely due to Robert Griffin III's impact as franchise quarterback and savior. Washington has scored at least 28 points in each of its three games this season.
The bad news for the Washington Redskins is their newfound leaky defense, largely due to a secondary that couldn't cover a baby in a high chair at times. After yielding 32 and 31 points in its two games entering Sunday's home opener against Cincinnati, Washington again let the opposition light up the scoreboard in a 38-31 loss.
As exciting as shootouts might be, they highlight a defense's weaknesses more than an offense's strength. At this rate, RG3 is going to be tuckered out before the Week 10 bye. The Redskins had the ball at the end for the second consecutive game with a chance to either win or tie the game but couldn't come through.
"I thought we'd be a better unit than this and I know we will be," inside linebacker London Fletcher said. "But we haven't performed at our level, especially the last two games. The offense gave us more than enough points to win."
(Actually, the defense opened the scoring in the last two games, with linebacker Rob Jackson's interception in the end zone Sunday and defensive back Josh Wilson's fumble return against St. Louis. "Maybe we need to stop scoring first," Wilson cracked.).
Something -- besides the Redskins' secondary -- has to give. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton completed 70 percent of his passes in posting 328 yards and three touchdowns. Cincinnati wide receiver Mohamed Sanu was nearly as impressive in going 1 for 1 with a 73-yard bomb to A.J. Green for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage.
Dalton's big-play touchdown passes of 48 yards and 59 yards, to Armon Binns and Andrew Hawkins, respectively, created the sense that Washington was always one snap away from disaster when Cincinnati had the ball. The Bengals' scoring outburst overshadowed Jackson's impressive performance in replacing injured Brian Orakpo, as well as another outstanding play by Wilson, who forced and recovered a fumble late in the third quarter with the score tied at 24.
But the defense's terrible moments outweighed the great ones. Last week, the Rams' Danny Amendola found more holes in the zone than a Connect Four grid. On Sunday, the Bengals' receivers put Washington's man coverage in the toaster oven.
Binns beat Wilson for a catch-and-run touchdown on a quick out while the Redskins conducted an all-out blitz. Hawkins simply blew past cornerback Richard Crawford on a fly route out of the slot. Tight end Jermaine Gresham was one of four Bengals with more than 60 yards receiving (64), led by Green's 183.
"Those guys get paid, too," Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "It's not like we're out there playing against elementary kids. They made the plays we didn't make."
The loss of Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker to season-ending injuries last week didn't help. Neither did cornerback Cedric Griffin's absence once he suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter. But it's hard to blame the breakdowns on missing pieces.
Washington's strength entering the season was expected to be the front seven, with questions surrounding the secondary. Heading into Week 4, exclamation points have joined those question marks, with upcoming opponents undoubtedly eager to pile on. The defense that seemed so stout in containing Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints for much of the season opener now looks like an inviting target.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has called man-to-man and zone and everything in between, but the points and yardage keep on coming. He might have no choice but to gamble with more blitzes because quarterbacks are having too much success once they release the ball. Sunday was the second consecutive game in which the opponent completed at least 70 percent of its passes (the Rams' Sam Bradford completed 74 percent).
"It doesn't matter what the approach is, we've just got to execute better," Wilson said. "They can give us any call and we've got to go out and make plays."
At least RG3 gives them a chance to win, no matter how porous they might be. That could lead to plenty of wild, exciting, high-scoring games this season. Whether it leads to many more victories than the past couple years is another matter.
"I hope so," Hall said when asked if the defensive problems can be corrected. "We've got to fix it if we want to win."
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About the Author
Deron Snyder is an award-winning journalist and Washington Times sports columnist with more than 25 years of experience. He has worked at USA Today and his column was syndicated in Gannett’ 80-plus newspapers from 2000-2009, appearing in The Arizona Republic, The Indianapolis Star, The Detroit News and many others. Follow Deron on Twitter @Its_Ball_Good or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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