The Washington Redskins have reached the halfway point of the season and own a 3-5 record for a second consecutive year. But Redskins coach Mike Shanahan would like to believe that those numbers would at least be reversed had it not been for injuries and a suspension.
Asked about the struggles of the defense through the first half of the season, Shanahan said he expected the unit to be the strength of the team, but pointed to injuries that have robbed the team of key players.
A year after ranking 13th in total defense, the Redskins having allowed 3,251 yards and are 28th in points allowed, surrendering 28.4 a game.
“It’s hard to look at it right now, because we’re not the same football team we were a year ago,” Shanahan said. “We’re down four starters and three backups here. Seven players different than what you thought were going to be on your initial 21. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to improve. But we’ve got some guys playing a couple positions that they haven’t played. We’re going to work as hard as we can to change for the positive.”
The players Shanahan referred to are starters–linebacker Brian Orakpo (injured reserve), defensive end Adam Carriker (injured reserve), strong safety Brandon Meriweather (sidelined all eight games) and free safety Tanard Jackson (suspended)–and backups, nose tackle Chris Neild (injured reserve), inside linebacker Jonathan Goff (injured reserve) and safety Jordan Bernstine (injured reserve).
Shanahan said the team’s struggles are not the fault of poor preparation by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and his staff.
Asked if he was happy with the unit’s preparation, Shanahan said, “Without a question, yeah.” He added that Haslett continues to search for creative solutions to mask the deficiencies. “You’ve got to do what you need to win. Sometimes using your base, and then you have to adjust what you do.”
Shanahan said the Redskins, who have a much better offense than they did last year, can’t continue to dwell on the injuries, but that he does believe they — and the inability to overcome them — are the reason for the losing record after eight games.
“Everyone has injuries. You just have to do what you have to do to win,” Shanahan said. “But you have to be realistic on why you thought your team would be a top-five defense and why you’re not in the top five. At least in my thought process, there were guys that would be dressing. But you’ve got to find ways to win, and I’m disappointed that we’re not closing those games that we’ve had a chance to in the fourth quarter, and if we did, we’d be 5-3 at a minimum.”