Redskins defenders see Raiders as a challenge for run defense

Barry Cofield

Barry Cofield says he and his teammates have the most confidence in their base front. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

After getting gouged by rushing attacks in their first two outings of the season, the Washington Redskins’ defensive coaches and players set stopping the run as their top priority.

The Redskins achieved that goal against the Detroit Lions, limiting them to only 63 rushing yards, but did still lose their third straight game.

Although encouraged by the improvement, the Redskins believe that the true measuring stick for growth will come this week when the team faces the Oakland Raiders, who rank third in the NFL, averaging 148.7 rushing yards a game.

“It felt good. But I want to win. That’s first and foremost. But kind of righting that part of the game is important,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “It’ll be a tougher task this week. A team I think is a run-first type of team, that will be a bigger challenge. If we come out and do it again this week, we’ll feel good about that part of our game, and hopefully, it can carry us through the season.”

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor stands out as Oakland’s leading rusher. He has amassed 198 yards on 26 carries (12th in the NFL) for an average of 7.6 yards per touch and. Meanwhile, running back Darren McFadden has rushed for 186 yards (16th) and two touchdowns on 48 carries.

Although uncertainty remains over Pryor’s availability for Sunday, the Redskins are preparing as if the concussed quarterback will play. Their plan for stopping the two-headed rushing attack will likely call for the Redskins to feature more of their base defensive front, as was the case against Detroit.

The Redskins last Sunday used that package, which featured three defensive linemen and four linebackers throughout the game versus run or pass plays. This marked a change from the first two weeks of the season, which saw Washington play in its nickel package (two linemen and four linebackers) for much of those games.

Playing in the base package gives the Redskins their best chance to stop the run and force opponents to become one-dimensional, Cofield says. That will force Oakland, which ranks 28th in the league when it comes to passing offense, into its greatest weakness, and that gives the Redskins optimism.

“There hasn’t been many instances since I’ve been here where teams have run the ball down our throats when we’re in our base defense,” Cofield says. “We have a lot of confidence in that. That’s what we train in during the offseason. We played against our offense in that all training camp and all spring, so it’s really hard to prepare for every type of offense all season. You have to have something that you really rest your hat on, and that’s our base defense. We’ve got three veteran guys: myself, Bowen and Kedric Golston, who are all playing at a high level right now. We’ve got all of our linebackers in there, who are the heart of our defense. When we’re in that defense, we feel like nobody can run the ball on us, and that’s going to be a challenge this week.”

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.

From the news conference:

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