But the result paled in comparison to the team’s other losses, with repercussions that will be felt throughout the season. Within the first 13 plays of the game, the Redskins saw right outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (Washington’s top pass rusher the past three seasons) and left defensive end Adam Carriker (one of the team’s top run stoppers) succumb to season-ending injuries. Orakpo tore his left pectoral muscle, and Carriker tore a quadriceps tendon near the base of his right knee.
Suddenly, the unit that was expected to be the strength of the team — shouldering the load while rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and the offense worked through growing pains — is reeling.
Through two games, the Redskins’ defense has given up 810 yards (fifth highest in the NFL) and 63 points (sixth most). Dating from last season, Washington’s defense has allowed at least 25 points in four straight games and six of its last seven. Already down one starter with strong safety Brandon Meriweather hobbled by a knee injury, the unit must find ways to overcome the losses of Orakpo and Carriker.
“Everybody’s got a plan until you get punched in the mouth,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “You go in that ring against Mike Tyson, you’ve got a plan. But when you feel that power, the plan changes. You’ve got to react. You’ve got to react to injuries, you’ve got to react to the team you’re playing.”
The revamped plan now consists of Washington turning to second-year pro Jarvis Jenkins as Carriker’s replacement, and a three-man committee of Rob Jackson, Chris Wilson and Markus White to fill Orakpo’s shoes.
“It is a challenge,” Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Thursday. “It’s a challenge for everybody. But we’ve got great confidence in Jarvis, and [backup nose tackle/end] Chris Baker is healthy now, so he’ll get an opportunity to play and see what he can do. Rak, it’s going to be hard to replace because he’s a great player, [two]-time Pro Bowler. But I feel good between the three of them — Rob Jackson, Chris Wilson and Markus White. . . . Maybe they won’t play at Rak’s level, but maybe the three of them can be efficient in certain areas, and we’ll have to do some different things.”
In the meantime, more pressure could fall on the offensive side of the ball, where the Redskins currently lead the NFL in scoring at 34 points a game through two weeks.