For the first time in recent history, the Washington Redskins are an exciting team to watch. Robert Griffin III and a new-look offense provide the glitz, the glamour and a boatload of points.
At 33 points a game, the Redskins lead the league, yet they're 1-2 as the defense allowed an average of 429.3 yards through the first three weeks of the season.
This was a defense that players talked about being worthy of top-five status in the NFL. Instead, it's trying to catch up to the offense to give the Redskins a chance to win each time out.
"Frustration. That's probably the best way to sum it up," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "Last year, we would argue amongst each other to get 14 points, 10 points; 21 points was a great day. So to see this offense go out here and week in, week out, the last three weeks put up the kind of points they've put up and the defense just go out there and totally drop the ball, it's definitely been frustrating for us."
As frustrating as these defensive performances have been, special teams ace Lorenzo Alexander made it clear that middle linebacker London Fletcher was the perfect leader to rally a beleaguered unit in time for a turn-around Sunday at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and beyond.
This week, as he lamented big plays surrendered and opportunities lost, Fletcher sketched out his leadership strategy: It's all about accountability.
"I think when you're playing professional football, or professional sports in general, you have to understand what each man's responsibility is: Go back, be self-critical, really look at yourself individually," he said. "In order to last in this business you have to be able to really take a hard look in the mirror and say, 'Hey, what can I do better?' And that's everybody."
The defense is already playing from a handicap with outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker out for the season. Cornerback Cedric Griffin (hamstring) won't be available Sunday at Tampa Bay, likely pushing rookie Richard Crawford into a more substantial role.
The Redskins could get safety Brandon Meriweather back from a left knee injury, though, which, even though he's not a coverage specialist, should help in the passing game because they'll be able to better watch Bucs running back Doug Martin.
Players know the challenges in facing Martin and quarterback Josh Freeman, but in trying to figure out what's wrong, it's about the Redskins' mistakes.
"It [stinks] that the last couple of weeks we have to come in here and watch the film and have to correct mistakes, things that are self-inflicted," safety Madieu Williams said. "In this case, there's a lot of things that we did that are easily prevented."
Perhaps like giving up a touchdown on the first play last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, or forcing the offense to become one-dimensional by playing from behind for much of the afternoon.
But even though Hall and his defensive mates are hard on themselves, guys on the other side of the ball want a share of the blame.
"I still feel like we, offensively, still could've done more [Sunday]," tight end Fred Davis said. "I feel like there's a lot of opportunities and we still left a lot of points out there."
In hovering around the 30-point mark, though, the Redskins' offense can't really do much more. That means the pressure is squarely on the defense to come through on preseason expectations.
"You're upset. I guess as a prideful person, a prideful group you want to play better," Fletcher said. "Your pride is hurt, but you've got to go out and play."
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