A few weeks ago I wrote a column about the potential for the Redskins defense to have a breakout season. It is easy to write such articles during the preseason when everything and anything seems possible. Well, the dress rehearsals are over and the Redskins were asked to put their promise to the test. The New York Giants offered the first real test and came in having a well regarding running game and a quarterback with a last name of Manning. With the Redskins defense concentrating on the run and getting after Manning, the Skins defense had the look of unit with something to prove. With national media doubters seemingly everywhere, the D proved that is indeed poised for a breakout season.
The first thing an average NFL fan does is look at the sheer numbers and they may not come away overly impressed with the Redskins defense. The Burgundy and Gold did give up 315 total yards, which is solid, but not an elite defense a casual fan would say. The numbers in this instance are a bit miss-leading and Redskins fans know this. The Giants are built to run the football and had a few glimpses, but were bottled up for much of the game by the Skins. The DLINE did not get pushed around and the linebackers, led by all everything London Fletcher, yielded only 75 yards on the ground on 20 attempts. In their last six meetings, the Giants have punished and bruised the Redskins. Their fierce rushing attack led to six straight victories over the Redskins, including five straight wins at FedEx. These Redskins, however, are not those of the past. This defense came in keying on the run and pressuring Eli Manning and did just that.
The Redskins defensive front was dominate after the first quarter and set the tone for the rest of the D. Adam Carriker, Stephen Bowen, and Chris Neild all recorded sacks in the home opener and routinely pushed the Giants offensive line backwards. Their push allowed for the linebackers to key on the run game and never allowed Jacobs and Bradshaw to get into the flow of the game. Brian Orakpo was mugged for most of the day and stats would indicate that he did not have the impact that he usually does. However, he routinely drew the attention of the G-Men and allowed rookie Ryan Kerrigan to produce an NFL debut to remember. Without the constant double teams that Orakpo received, Kerrigan recorded 5 tackles and an interception for a touchdown early in the third quarter. If the opposing offenses continue to key on Orakpo, which they will, than Kerrigan could possibly have a remarkable season. Overall, the Skins front seven proved they belong and are going to produce this season.
I would be remiss not to mention that the defense got the stops it needed. In years past the Redskins have handed leads over to the defense only to see the opposing team march right down the field. Not this defense though. There were multiple plays from today’s game that stick out. For starters, Kerrigan’s interception that gave the Redskins a lead it would not relinquish. After that, however, the defense shut down the Giants on 4th and 1 to force a turnover on downs. Perhaps the biggest stop of the day though came on a 3rd and short. After a potentially costly turnover by ‘bad Rex’, the Giants were set up to get back into the game. On 3rd and short, the Giants gave the ball to Bradshaw on a stretch play to the right only to be caught by DT Barry Cofield. The Giants had to settle for a field goal which was blocked by Orakpo. These stops showed a defense that rose to the occasion time and time again leading the way for the Redskins.
The Redskins secondary also played a solid role for the defense on opening day. The secondary did not make the huge plays that the front seven did, but they did there job for most of the game. With the exception of Manning’s first completion to Hakeem Nicks, the secondary was in position to make a play. The huge play that the Redskins gave up a year ago was not there and every time a receiver came down with a completion the secondary was there to make the tackle. The play of the day in the secondary belongs to DeAngelo Hall. On a 3rd and 18 from the Giants own 8 yard line, the Giants ran a screen to Ahmad Bradshaw and before he could make a move, Hall made a beautiful open field tackle to force a G-Men punt. The secondary should thank the front seven for their day, but should also be excited about their potential this season.
The season is far from over, but the Burgundy and Gold may have found that killer instinct on defense that has long been absent. Playing without LaRon Landry, the Redskins responded by dominating the New York Giants for most of the game. Especially in the second half, the Redskins D proved that the good vibes are real. Grossman definitely sparked the offense, but this team was sparked by a defense that led to a season opening victory over the division rival Giants.