This past Thursday in a national Thanksgiving Day game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins defense had one of their toughest tasks of the season as they faced a rather elite Dallas offensive unit. Statistically the defense fared well only giving up 353 total yards of offense, however the Redskins gave up 163 yards on the ground and 195 yards on a 71% completion rate. For any fan looking at the game, it is frustrating to watch because of the level of efficiency Dallas was able to operate at.
There were several issues the Washington defense had against the Cowboys offense, starting with bad tackling. The unfavorable match ups in the secondary with few adjustments didn’t help either, the Redskins front seven shared the inability to shed blocks in the trenches at regularity. Which played a key role in allowing touchdowns all four Dallas forays into the redzone. It’d be easy to continue listing issues, but one of the main keys is the overall lack of team speed defensively. Specifically off the edge, this defense has missed numerous opportunities to make plays against the opposition with inability to pursue ball carriers, flow sideline to sideline, or even contain quarterbacks.
Dak is no slouch of an athlete (more of a strider), but when the Redskins outside linebackers struggle to keep contain on a quarterback who ran a 4.79 40 yard dash, that is a huge issue. Prescott broke containment on several occasions, creating big plays to keep the chains moving or keep the play alive. All three of the Redskins top pass rushers in Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, and Trent Murphy and made it too easy for the rookie. Prescott finished with eight carries for 39-yards and a touchdown and to start the game receiver Lucky Whitehead had a 15-yard carry on a jet sweep.
This is an issue that can legitimately be addressed when the season is over, but it rears it’s ugly head when facing top tier offenses. Against the Steelers, Cowboys (twice), Bengals, and Packers the front seven has often times found themselves in positions to make plays. They just couldn’t get it done. Lack of speed for a defense does not leave any room for error as a defender has to play smart and sound football each and every snap. Last week for example against the Packers, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy had opportunities to make plays on Aaron Rodgers, only to whiff which drastically changed the outcome of the play. It is important to mention Rodgers is a great quarterback and eluding is something he is great at, but at the same time Washington seemingly does not have any players who are capable of making those type of plays consistently. This week against Dallas, Kerrigan and Murphy had boot contains on Prescott and ak still won on the play by beating the Redskins defenders to the edge.
Good speed defensively forces offenses to become quicker decision makers and puts pressure on a offensive line to be perfect on each play, without speed defensively a team is not feared as much. The Redskins are dealing with the Cardinals, Panthers, and Giants who all possess speed if not a quarterback, at the skill positions. It is important to note the lack of speed does not just stop at the front seven for Washington, as it pertains to the secondary as well. The quickest fix for this defense and it’s lack of speed would be to play your best players. If the best 11 are on the field, it is likely their smarts and instincts may be enough to improve this unit and create marginal improvement in the short-term. Regardless, the lack of speed needs to be addressed this offseason in the draft and/or free agency.