Cornerback DeAngelo Hall and the Redskins secondary have struggled mightily. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)


Yesterday we took a look at how the Redskins’ offense has fared through the first nine weeks of the season, and now we turn our attention to the defense.

Originally expected to be the strength of the team, the defense has been anything but. It has battled injuries at key positions and has also been guilty of poor execution on many fronts.

Statistical glance: A year after improving from 31st in the NFL to 13th in total defense, Washington has regressed and now ranks 30th in the NFL in yards allowed (3,581) and gives up 397.9 yards per game on average. The biggest area of weakness is in the passing department, where Washington yields 301.7 yards per game. The Redskins also struggle to keep teams out of the end zone, on allowing 27.6 points a game (fifth-most in the league). Defending the run game, where Washington holds teams to 96.2 yards per game, and turnovers forced (16, fifth in the league) rank among the few bright spots. The unit also has scored four touchdowns (three interceptions and a fumble recovery).

Top highlights:

  • Madieu Williams’s interception returned 24 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown in his team’s 38-26 win over Minnesota.
  • DeAngelo Hall’s game-clinching interception in the end zone with 28 seconds left versus Minnesota.
  • Ryan Kerrigan’s 28-yard interception return for a touchdown in his team’s 24-17 loss to Atlanta.
  • Rob Jackson’s diving catch for an interception for a touchdown in the 38-31 loss to Cincinnati.

Lowlights (where to begin?)

  • The New York Giants’ 77-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz, who blew past Josh Wilson and Williams and made an uncontested catch to lift his team 27-23 with 1:13 left.
  • The 73-yard touchdown pass from Cincinnati receiver Mohomad Sanu to A.J. Green to on the first play from scrimmage.
  • Surrendering a 15-catch, 160-yard, one-touchdown performance by WR Danny Amendola in St. Louis’ 31-28 victory.
  • Surrendering two 90-yard scoring touchdown drives to the then-1-6 Carolina Panthers in a 21-13 loss.
  • Hall’s late-game meltdown, which saw him berate an official and draw two personal foul calls and an ejection against Pittsburgh.

The good:

  • Defensive touchdowns – The unit has found the end zone four times this season, the most by a Redskins defense since 1994. The downside is that the first three defensive touchdowns came in losses. Only Williams’ interception helped spur the team to victory.
  • Takeaways – Washington has recorded 10 interceptions and six fumbles. At least two of the goals Jim Haslett had set for his unit have come to pass. The defense is on pace to record 28 takeaways, up from 21 last season.
  • Rushing defense – The Redskins have limited teams to 96.2 yards a game, ninth-best in the NFL.

The bad

  • Season-ending injuries – The team’s leading pass-rusher, outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, was lost for the season early in the Week 2 matchup with St. Louis. In the same game, and several plays before Orakpo, defensive end Adam Carriker also suffered a season-ending injury. Jarvis Jenkins has started in place of Carriker  but has yet to have an impact, and Rob Jackson hasn’t been able to consistently fill Orakpo’s shoes.
  • The secondary – Hall has struggled mightily, and Wilson has had some ups, but some downs as well. Free agent Brandon Meriweather was supposed to solidify the strong safety position, but has yet to get on the field because of a preseason knee injury that he has re-injured two times. Tanard Jackson was supposed to start at free safety, but was suspended for the year. Williams has struggled with consistency, as has third corner Cedric Griffin. The unit that Hall dubbed the “misfits” in training camp has given up 17 pass plays of 25 yards or more, and eight passes of 40 yards or more.
  • Pass rush – The Redskins have mixed and matched personnel, they have used all kinds of schemes, but they continue to muster feeble pass rushes. They’re averaging just 1.5 sacks a week. The Redskins haven’t been able to register quarterback sacks in either of their last two games. The lone sack against Pittsburgh came when a receiver ran a reverse and then turned passer.
  • Third downs — The Redskins struggle to get off the field thanks largely to an inability to get stops on third downs. They have allowed opponents to succeed on 43.8 percent of their third-down conversion attempts (fourth-worst in the NFL). The 205 first downs allowed by the Redskins rank 30th in the league.

Homestretch needs

  • For Brandon Meriweather to return and sport his two-time Pro Bowl form from 2009-10
  • Disruptive play from lineman Jarvis Jenkins and Barry Cofield
  • More consistent pass rush
  • Improved pass coverage
  • Better execution on third downs

Bye-week Q&A: Answers to your Redskins-related questions