Redskins coaches and players were fearful of being 0-4 entering their bye week. Thanks in large part to the defense’s front seven, the Redskins at least avoided having a doughnut in the win column at the break. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan continued his steady march toward stardom, outside linebacker Brian Orakpo had another big day against the Raiders and nose tackle Barry Cofield dominated in the middle to lead the Redskins’ seven-sack show.
There also was a Robert Griffin III sighting. The quarterback delivered his first momentum-changing play of the season to help the Redskins put away the Raiders late in the fourth quarter. Washington overcame its usual assortment of missed tackles, turnovers and poor special teams play to finally win.
For a change, the Redskins got defensive. Let’s start there.
Time to make some plays
In a 3-4 defense, outside linebacker and nose tackle are the most important positions. The defense is designed to apply pressure on quarterbacks from both edges and clog everything in the middle. Against the Raiders, it all came together.
Haslett believes that Kerrigan, Orakpo and Cofield are among the NFL’s best at what they do. The trio showed it against Oakland. Each player recorded two sacks (linebacker Darryl Tapp had the other sack).
Kerrigan and Orakpo hounded Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn from opposite directions. Cofield excelled while moving in a straight line. The consistent pressure they applied rattled Flynn, and the Raiders’ offense remained stuck in neutral most of the game.
Trailing 14-0 after the first quarter, the Redskins scored 24 unanswered points. The Redskins’ sack total was their most in a game since the 2011 season. The Redskins also stopped the Raiders on fourth and one at the Redskins 17-yard line with 3 minutes 32 seconds left to play.
Kerrigan has established himself as the Redskins’ best defensive player. His ability to rush the passer, make plays in coverage and provide strong run support is impressive. He wasn’t to blame for the nonsense that occurred on defense in losses to the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.
Orakpo hasn’t been as good. He isn’t as effective as Kerrigan in coverage and did not make enough big plays in the losses. Orakpo, however, loves him some Oakland. He had a four-sack outing in this stadium as a rookie and was a force again.
Cofield is the Redskins’ leader on defense. He talks and backs up his words with actions. The defensive line hasn’t been among the team’s strengths, but Cofield has done his best to raise the squad’s level of play.