“People ask me, ‘Why aren’t you a top-10 defense?’ ” Shanahan said. “You know why? You lose starters.”
Shanahan hopes the morale booster against Philadelphia was the beginning of a strong finishing kick for the Redskins’ edge rushers. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan could definitely use the help.
The second-year pro is the Redskins’ best pass rusher by far and leads them with 51
2 sacks. “He gives you everything that you want on every play,” Shanahan said.
Kerrigan, however, can’t be in two places at once, and pass rushing balance is an important element of successful 3-4 defenses. When you don’t have balance, well, you’re the Redskins.
“Man, with Romo and guys like that, guys who like to run around a lot back there, you got to just keep after ’em all game,” Orakpo said recently. “You do that, you give yourself a chance. You don’t . . . oh, man. It’s gonna be trouble.”
The lack of a dependable pass rush has especially hurt the secondary, which has given up more momentum-changing deep passes than Redskins fans care to remember. Safety Brandon Meriweather provided a boost while playing for the first time this season (he had an interception and was solid in run support) against Philadelphia.
“He brought a spark to the whole team,” Bowen said.
The energy faded quickly: Meriweather injured his knee and will miss the remainder of the season.
On paper, cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson match up poorly against Dallas wideouts Miles Austin and Dez Bryant (seems that’s the case for Hall and Wilson regardless of the opponent). Star Cowboys tight end Jason Witten usually gives the Redskins problems, and it won’t help if inside linebacker London Fletcher misses the game because of a sore ankle.
Granted, that doesn’t sound very encouraging. But if everything goes perfectly up front, Romo will be kept off balance, and the secondary will have fewer chances to screw up.
Still, the Redskins are in position to remain relevant in their division. Their defense just has to make a stand. They’re running out of time to do it — but better late than never.
For previous Jason Reid columns, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.