ASHBURN, Va. -- The question of the week was also a big topic at Redskins Park this week. It involves the Washington Redskins and turnovers. Enjoy.
John Keim: That's the big question this week and it's a tough one to answer. First the good news for the Redskins: the Philadelphia Eagles have turned it over six times. As for the answer, my initial thought was that the Redskins need to get teams into more negative third-down situations, but then I looked at the New York Jets. The Jets lead the NFL with 11 takeaways while the Redskins have just one. Washington's defense has faced 36 third-down situations and 20 have been for seven yards or more -- obvious passing downs. The Jets have faced 44 third-down situations with 23 for seven yards or more. A wash. The Redskins have forced 12 situations of third-and-10 or longer compared to the Jets' with 13 of 44. So it's not as much about that as I thought.
And maybe it's about the opponents as the New York Giants have only turned it over once this season. However: The St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins have turned the ball over four times apiece. So they've played teams that do give it away. They've been unlucky in some cases -- a fumble bounced wrong vs. the Giants and corner DeAngelo Hall was about four inches from intercepting a pass; instead it skipped into his hands. (Added: They also dropped two potential picks vs. Miami; get those and it looks a little bit different now. But they dropped them so the question gets asked.). The problem is, Washington's takeaways have decreased each of the past two seasons. The Redskins had 31 in 2012 (another big reason for the division title), followed by 26 and then 19 last season. Bottom line: They don't have a lot of playmakers. That's why the loss of Junior Galette stung; he could have been that guy in this defense. Safety Dashon Goldson has forced just seven fumbles and intercepted 15 passes in eight seasons. He's known for other things, but he's not a turnover machine.
Yes, you can blitz (Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford has struggled vs. pressure this season) but that leaves a weakened secondary more vulnerable. The Redskins blitzed quite a bit last season and recorded their fewest turnovers since 2009. But they absolutely need to generate more pressure to make quarterbacks uncomfortable, something they have not been doing consistently. I like the potential of their stunts and as Preston Smith matures, he'll help even more in that area -- his strength can stun guards inside and his length can lead to tipped passes. The Redskins also seem to be more about preventing big plays than making them. More press coverage would be nice, but some corners like playing off-man or zone to better read the play -- giving them more chance for picks. I think it would help to have your starting secondary intact.
And it's not just about facing teams that throw fast. Here's why -- the Redskins have forced quarterbacks to hold the ball for 2.5 seconds or longer 45 times, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and have intercepted no passes. Arizona has been in this spot 39 times with six picks. New England has been in it 55 times with five interceptions.
So add it up and I don't think this will be a team to cause a lot of turnovers. But they can certainly create more with stunts, perhaps leading to tipped passes. The New England Patriots hurt quarterbacks with a versatile scheme, one that can look dramatically different. It causes passers to hold a little longer, allowing pressure to get home or passes to be thrown at defenders they perhaps didn't see. The Redskins aren't that sort of defense. They need Ryan Kerrigan to get to the quarterback more. Tighter coverage can also lead to tipped passes and possible interceptions. And playing with a lead where the opposition has no choice but to throw always (should) help the rush and produce more throws under duress. Another tip: Do better vs. first-down runs (4.56 yards per carry, 23rd in the NFL) to force even worse situations. Then get a little lucky.