Orakpo and Carriker, who were both essential in defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s strategy heading into Sunday, are a big part of why the Redskins’ front seven is considered the strength of the team. Orakpo and Carriker played little during a game in which the Redskins squandered a 15-point first-half lead. In the secondary, the Redskins struggled whether playing zone or man-to-man coverage.
Obviously, there are no guarantees the defense would have executed better if Orakpo and Carriker had played longer. But losing two players of their stature, with what Haslett expected from them, was a major setback. Soon, we’ll learn how long Haslett will have to juggle his plans without them.
The offense again dazzled at times as Coach Mike Shanahan and his son, Kyle, Washington’ offensive coordinator, showed more of how they plan to use rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. Although the Redskins played without top wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who did not dress because of a foot injury, the Shanahans succeeded in devising another innovative game plan.
The Redskins achieved offensive balance (they rushed for 176 yards and passed for 197 yards) and Griffin continued to prove he’s among the NFL’s emerging stars. The offensive line, which was solid in protection against the Saints, did not perform as well against talented Rams defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn. At times, the Rams’ steady pressure disrupted the Redskins.
Still, it was a winnable game for the Redskins, who felt they were prepared for what they faced. Now, it’s time to examine why things ultimately didn’t work out.
Two big losses
If Carriker’s MRI exam reveals the damage to his right knee that is anticipated, he’ll undergo surgery. The Redskins were counting on Carriker to help provide a consistent pass rush against Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. With their strong defensive line, plus Orakpo and outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, the Redskins expect to have an outstanding pass rush each week.
If Carriker winds up missing a lot of games, the Redskins would have to rely on backup Kedric Golston. Although Golston is fundamentally sound, he doesn’t possess Carriker’s pass-rushing skills. Likewise, second-year lineman Jarvis Jenkins, who the Redskins believe is on the path to becoming a standout in his first season back after knee surgery, hasn’t proven he’s capable of winning individual matchups as frequently as Carriker does.
Haslett’s job would become even be harder if Orakpo, as expected, must sit. Although Rob Jackson again filled in well for Orakpo, Jackson isn’t as polished in coverage.