The Washington Redskins got only nine sacks out of their defensive lineman all of last season, but after only one game, they are already well on their way to topping that mark.
The linemen on Sunday combined for four sacks with rookie backup nose tackle Chris Neild leading the way with two and ends Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker adding one apiece.
Racking up sacks isn’t usually the prime objective of linemen in the 3-4 defense. Coaches will certainly welcome sacks by linemen if the situation presents itself. But in Washington’s system, linemen generally are asked to take on blockers and open up lanes for the linebackers to fly into the backfield to make plays
“That is still the case. Just some days, it seems to work out and next week, it could all be the linebackers,” said Carriker, who had only 1.5 sacks all of last season. “But the D-line definitely is going to get more sacks this year than we did last year. I think the first thing, we’ve got people to fit the system and that helps a lot obviously. Stephen’s a great pass-rusher. Chris had a great day, beat the block on the one and made the play. Guys are just flowing, and guys are just reacting. We play faster that way. But the main thing, though, is for us to take on those blocks so those guys can be flying around and making plays. This week it just worked out the way it did.”
Carriker feels more comfortable in the 3-4 defense after having received his introduction to the system last season. Bowen came from Washington to Dallas, where he played in a 3-4. And Neild played nose tackle in college in West Virginia’s three-man front, which has helped his transition to the NFL.
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said that having a fourth-quarter lead also helped enable the Redskins to bring more pressure and overload the Giants’ offensive front.
“I think when you’re ahead in football games and teams have to throw, it enables you to get a couple more sacks late in the game,” the coach said. “Hopefully you get ahead. When you get ahead, more sacks occur.”
Neild’s sacks both came in the third quarter, while Bowen and Carriker’s both came in the fourth.
Carriker’s sack ended up being the last play of the game. On second-and-2 from the New York 39 with 20 seconds left, Carriker dropped Eli Manning for a seven-yard loss as time expired.
“It felt good because you can ask anybody, the first one always seems to be the hardest one and then they all fall after that,” Carriker said. “But I got in there, hit Manning and I didn’t even think he had the ball, ‘Aw, crap, he ain’t even have the ball!’ And I got up and saw he did and it was ‘Yeah!’ I was so excited. I thought he got rid of it!”