In this edition of fact or fiction, the Breaking Burgundy team addresses the following question: the Washington Redskins defense will improve noticeably.
We know that Greg Manusky has taken over for Joe Barry and the defense has new faces in Jonathan Allen, Ryan Anderson, Zach Brown, D.J. Swearinger, and others, but will that actually make a difference in the end result? The Breaking Burgundy crew weighs in.
There is no denying it, Washington was bad on defense last year and has had a poor defense for the past decade except a couple years where turnovers deflected the flaws in the unit. Now for the first time in six years, when the team selected Ryan Kerrigan, the Redskins have spent a first round draft pick on a defender. They double dipped in the second round with a pass rusher and they may have found a successful safety tandem to seal things off on the back end. Assuming no major injuries take place to any essential player like a Josh Norman, Washington has reasonable answers at every position and/or a depth of options. Despite theoretical weak spots at inside linebacker and nose tackle, the team has multiple options in Zach Brown and Martrell Spaight as well as Phil Taylor and Joey Mbu that can potentially be stopgaps. There really is nowhere to go but up and I think noticeably is a decent bet. Fact.
The Redskins defense was historically bad in 2016. The Redskins at 32, were a full percentage point behind the 31st ranked defense in third-down percentage at 46.6%. They also had 21 takeaways, and without the 5 forced against Chicago they would’ve finished 27th defensively with just 16 on the year. This off-season showed how seriously the Redskins want to change the narrative behind this defense, who has been the bottom half of the league for close to a decade.
There are two reasons I believe why the defense will improve noticeably:
- The first are additions of Zach Brown, Jonathan Allen, and D.J. Swearinger helps the defense on all 3 levels.
- The coaching staff is significantly upgraded and that is an important factor in the areas in which the Redskins have struggled over the past few years.
This depends on your definition of noticeably. Fans will immediately find the first-round draft pick Jonathan Allen and new safety D.J. Swearinger in both the run and passing game. Also, with Su’a Cravens at safety, for the first time in this decade, the Redskins could have two safeties start 14 games or more.
A boosted line backing core (Ryan Anderson and Josh Harvey-Clemons both acquired through the draft) should help some in the run game. Question marks still surround DeAngelo Hall and his health, but at this point, anything Washington can get out of him is a bonus. Hall has started merely 15 games in the last three years, but what may hurt the Redskins defense the most is their lack of a true nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. The other pieces are in place for the Redskins defense to take a step forward in 2017. As long as Ziggy Hood, Phil Taylor, Joey Mbu or even newly drafted Ondre Pipkins can be a consistent force on the frontline, the Redskins defense will noticeably improve from 28th to 20th or better. Fact.
Stay tuned for more discussions from the Breaking Burgundy staff.