Defense Rests, and Fails to Stop Anyone

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

With the defense unable to stop even the most anemic offenses in the NFL, the Washington Redskins' players have absorbed much of the criticism for a 3-7 record after Sunday's loss at Tampa Bay. The defensive coaching staff is slumping, too, with assistant head coach Gregg Williams's scheme getting burned weekly for close to 400 yards.

The defense is ranked 30th in the NFL, allowing 358.8 yards per game, and has just three interceptions. Washington ranks 30th against the pass, 19th against the run, 28th in points allowed and last in average yards allowed per pass, interception percentage and sacks per pass play. The team is dismal even when compared to the 2002-03 Redskins, when Coach Steve Spurrier largely ignored defensive football. In 2003, the Redskins allowed 338 yards per game, but still produced 17 interceptions and 27 sacks, holding passers to an 81.4 rating. This season, quarterbacks have a collective 103 passer rating against the Redskins, last in the NFL.

"It's the scheme, it's the play-calling, it's the execution of the plays that are being called," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "It's both the players and the coaches. It's not just one individual, either. It's some of both. We've got the same group we had last year [when Washington ranked ninth overall on defense] and even added some players, but we're just not clicking like a unit."

End Phillip Daniels said: "The players aren't the only ones at fault. The coaches take blame for lot of stuff, too. They tell us behind the scenes. We know what's going on."

Williams has said that at times his gambles on blitzes have hurt the team, with Joey Galloway's 34-yard touchdown reception against an all-out pass rush Sunday giving Tampa Bay the lead for good in the second half. In that case Rogers, having a difficult second NFL season, was beaten easily by Galloway in single coverage with both safeties blitzing.

"Going against the fastest guy in the league and running [cover-0] and you don't get there [with the blitz], there's nothing you can do about it," Rogers said. "The only thing I can do is line up and play the call that's being made and try to execute to the best of my ability. He's a fast guy, and there ain't too much I can do."

Williams in the past has been able to cull productive seasons out of most of the defensive players. He and his staff hold significant influence in player acquisitions and last offseason recruited free agents Adam Archuleta and Andre Carter. Carter and Daniels, the starting ends, each have just two sacks.

"I wish I had more opportunities to rush, but when Gregg Williams puts the call out there I just play the call and I go with it and I believe it's going to work," Daniels said. "And that's what guys have got to realize. You've got to believe in the calls and believe in everything he puts out there, because there's a reason, and if we do it right and do the things we can do it's going to work.

"You can't argue with Gregg Williams because we were number three and number nine [in total defense] in previous years, so you can't argue that he's not a good coach. The thing for us to do as players is we've got to look at ourselves in morning to say, 'What can I do to help this team?' Whether it means studying more or anything little, technique and stuff like that, we've got to do it all right for it to work. And right now I don't think all the guys are doing all their technique and studying as hard as they need to study."

Coach Joe Gibbs attributed the defensive struggles to "long drives and big plays," and is eager for a turnaround.

"Your defense normally leads you," Gibbs said. "And we need our defense to lead us."

Injury Updates

Gibbs said that cornerback Troy Vincent's hamstring injury Sunday does not appear to be serious, and will be monitored through the week. He said he is optimistic that top receiver Santana Moss can return from his hamstring injury in time for next Sunday's game against Carolina.

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