It would be easy for Redskins fans to push the panic button after Sunday’s 21-9 home defeat to the Indianapolis Colts, but there has been far too much good in Washington’s first two games to be too concerned.
Let’s take a look at four reasons to feel good about the Redskins’ start:
The defensive front looks legitimate. And, believe it or not, that includes its performance against the Colts. Despite getting just one sack of Andrew Luck, the Redskins were able to notch 16 total pressures, with the trio of Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis and Ryan Kerrigan repeating impressive opening performances. Each generated at least three combined sacks, hits and hurries.
Allen’s future looks particularly bright: The 2017 first-round pick was one of the highest-graded players in the country while starring for Alabama, handling a heavy workload in the process. His NFL career is just 230 snaps old, after his rookie season was curtailed by a Lisfranc injury in his foot, but he has come back strong. His 86.9 PFF grade ranks in the top six for interior defensive linemen.
Another surprising success on the defensive line is Ioannidis. After a slow start to his career, the 2016 fifth-round pick has found a role as an inside pass rusher. Through two games, he has produced the second-best pressure rate among all interior linemen.
The secondary has played well. D.J. Swearinger has continued a remarkable career renaissance since struggling early in Houston. He intercepted Luck twice, as part of a secondary that has had impressive showings from multiple members.
Quinton Dunbar was outstanding in Week 1, intercepting or breaking up more passes (three) than he allowed to be caught by Cardinals receivers (two), and on the season he has allowed a passer rating of just 30.0. That’s almost 10 points lower than if the quarterback had thrown the ball away each play. If he continues to play at a high level, that gives Washington a very strong cornerback duo of Dunbar and Josh Norman.
The offensive line’s struggles vs. the Colts weren’t as bad as they looked. Quarterback Alex Smith was sacked three times, but he was only pressured on 10 plays. Moreover, the problems on the line were almost exclusively the fault of left guard Shawn Lauvao. He surrendered a sack and four additional hurries, the latter of which tied the other four members of the line put together.
Lauvao is a potential problem — a weak link on a unit that is only as strong as its weakest link — but given that the other four members of the line are solid or better, the Redskins should be able to overcome.
Smith and his top offensive playmakers should be fine. A lot of the reasons for optimism we wrote about following Washington’s Week 1 win over the Cardinals are still there: Smith is an efficient quarterback who takes excellent care of the football, and the one-two punch of Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson at running back is still strong, even after the rushing attack disappeared against Indianapolis.
Thompson remains a dynamic receiver out of the backfield, and he was one of three backs to catch more than 10 passes last week, snagging 13 of the 14 targets sent his way for almost 100 yards. Peterson could only grind out 20 yards on 11 carries, with 13 of them coming on one tote, but the team has been able to get some production out of him as a receiver as well, something barely asked of him in the past. He caught three more passes against the Colts for 30 yards.
Losing to the Colts certainly wasn’t part of the plan, and a pair of challenging matchups await against the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints, with the bye week sandwiched between. But given the reasons above, and with a defense that has the second-highest grade in the league through two weeks (only the Los Angeles Rams are higher), it’s too early to panic.
Sam Monson is the lead NFL analyst for Pro Football Focus.
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