Redskins' Defense Takes Center Stage
To Avoid Upset, Unit Must Slow Lions' Offense
Saturday, September 26, 2009
While many around Redskins Park spent the past several days trying to emphasize the positive, defensive coordinator Greg Blache has no illusions about the circumstances surrounding Sunday's game at Detroit. A Lions squad that has dropped 19 straight games is rolling out the red carpet to invite a vulnerable Redskins team to town.
"Those guys get up in the morning, and they look at us as a team they can beat," Blache said. "They're looking forward to us. We stank the joint up there last year. If our players don't recognize that, they're not as smart as I think they are.
"We're 1-1 right now. It's not exactly like we're smoking into the Super Bowl."
While Washington's offense has continued to struggle, defensive players say they're prepared to carry the team as far as they can. But they'll be looking for an improved performance Sunday, particularly out of the two big offseason signings, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and cornerback DeAngelo Hall.
The Lions' top offensive threat is third-year wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who has 141 yards and Detroit's lone receiving touchdown through two games. In last year's meeting between the teams, Johnson had a fourth-quarter touchdown that brought the Lions to within one score of topping the Redskins.
"He's a mismatch," Blache said of the 6-foot-5 Johnson. "He's a positive freak of nature to be so tall, so fast, so athletic, and have him on little defensive backs."
With shorter cornerbacks, the Redskins could rely heavily on zone coverage, but the team's defensive backs say they're looking forward to the challenge.
"He's one of the few guys on that team that could beat us," said Hall, who's seven inches shorter than Johnson. "We just always have to know where he is. Their game plan is to get him the ball. We just always have to know where he is and we have to stop him. That's the bottom line. We win the game if we stop him."
Redskins coaches were pleased with the increased impact from Haynesworth in Sunday's victory over the Rams. Though he played 70 percent of the defensive downs in Week 1, Haynesworth was quickly winded and missed key plays in the loss to the Giants. But against the Rams, Haynesworth participated in 45 of 53 downs, 85 percent.
Facing rookie Matt Stafford and a Lions offensive line that's allowed three sacks in two games, the Redskins hope to apply significantly more pressure than previous weeks. But if any head coach in the league is familiar with Haynesworth's possible weaknesses, it's Jim Schwartz. The Lions' first-year coach was Tennessee's defensive coordinator for the entirety of Haynesworth's time with the Titans.
Schwartz said this week he hasn't seen enough footage to judge just what Haynesworth's impact could be on his new team.
"Time will tell, sort of, the packages they use and things like that," Schwartz said. "They use him a little bit at defensive end, the same as we did. Line him up as right defensive tackle, the same as we did in Tennessee. He's making a lot of the same kind of plays. He's a force against the run, he's a force against the pass. He's a guy who has to be accounted for on every play. They know what they're doing."