The Washington Redskins’ defense started strong in the first two games, but there were tiny cracks that made you wonder when it came to big plays allowed. Only a few were made, but it was clear it was something to watch -- because it has been an issue for a few years. Sure enough, it’s an issue again.
In the first two games, Washington allowed a combined five plays for 20 yards or more. In the past two games, it has allowed a combined 12 such plays. The Redskins faced quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chad Henne in the first two games compared to Nick Foles and Eli Manning in the next two. The latter two have taken advantage of a back seven that routinely leaves targets open -- too often because of a miscommunication or coverage breakdown.
Seattle’s offense has been good in its first three games, but the Seahawks have not been a big-play team. In the first three games they’ve had only 10 plays go for 20 yards or more -- eight passing and two rushing. But be warned: The Giants entered last week’s game with seven such plays and managed five. The Seahawks have a dangerous threat in Percy Harvin.
The Redskins have the talent for a good pass rush, but their jobs are difficult when the back seven don’t do their jobs in coverage or even attempt to disrupt the timing of a route. So the result is quick passes, with the quarterback rarely feeling heat from the rush. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, opposing quarterbacks have thrown 85 passes in 2.3 seconds or less versus Washington -- fourth most in the NFL. That’s 65.4 of all the passes the Redskins have faced.
If Washington’s defense wants to improve, the surest way possible is to eliminate the big plays allowed -- but this has been a trend. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, since 2010, the Redskins have allowed 231 pass plays of 20 yards or more, third highest in the NFL over that period. If this trend doesn’t change, the defense will never achieve what it hopes.