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Under Pressure

Pressure… it can be your absolute best friend or your worst enemy, depending on if you’re applying said pressure or being crushed under it.

When Mike Shanahan took over as Head Coach of the Washington Redskins he inherited a defense who had ranked among the best in the league on overall defense. Unfortunately that same defense also ranked among the worst in regards to creating turnovers.

In an effort to increase the pressure that his defense generated, Shanahan decided to switch the Washington Redskins from a 4-3 base defense to a more agressive 3-4, which in theory would lead to more turnovers from increased pressure on apposing Qbs.

While the theory was sound, forcing it on a team built for the 4-3 was, well, lets just call it terrible. The team just did not have the personnel to run the 3-4 and it showed.

Watching former defensive centerpieces like Andre Carter (who had double digit sacks in 2009) wander the field like a lost puppy was equally as humiliating as it was heartbreaking (and don’t even get me started on Fat Albert).

One of the biggest reasons for the Redskins early success this season is the night and day improvement of the defense.

The improvement through the first two weeks has been stunning. To say that the defense has impacted the outcome of the first two games is quite frankly a gross understatement. The results of the switch in year two speak for themselves. In the first two games netting 7 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions and a TD (which came from rookie Ryan Kerrigan’s beautiful Tip Pick Six in week 1).

Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan (KERRAKPO!!)so far are off to a spectacular start. Last year when offenses could hold back Orakpo (literally), they could stop the pressure of theWashingtondefense, especially afterWashingtonlost Laron Landry to injury.

This season offenses have not been able to stop Kerrakpo. If they are able to stop one, the other is coming free terrorizing quarterbacks. It’s not just the sacks either, Kerrigan in his first two games has showed a keen ability disrupt QB’s even when he isn’t touching them.

In each of his first two games as a pro Kerrigan has deflected key passes, against the Giants intercepting his own tip and scoring, then against Arizona he tipped a Kevin Kolb pass stalling a key fourth quarter drive, giving the Redskins the ball when they needed it most.

For Redskins fans the improved play of the defense is a welcome surprise considering that hard hitting safety Laron Landry has been out dealing with Achilles and hamstring issues.

Landry looks set to make his return Monday night against the bitter rival Dallas Cowboys. You can be sure Dallas fans are losing sleep considering their demigod of a quarterback Tony Romo has been on life support all week nursing broken ribs and a now miraculously healed punctured lung (can these guys be bigger drama queens?).

It’s not just the linebackers and Landry the Cowboys should be worried about. The defensive line in 2011 has been much better than last year.

Barry Cofield has done a great job collapsing the pocket and creating opportunities for the linebackers to make the plays they need to and don’t forget Monday marks Stephen Bowens return to Jerry World. I fully expect Bowen to play at a level we have not yet seen from him as he proves Dallas made a mistake by letting him go.

Honestly I hope we see Romo Monday Night, not really just to hush Dallas fans from saying we only beat them because of injury (though that is all I have heard this week), and not just because I want to see Landry/Orakpo/Kerrigan go all “Lavar Arrington” on Romo and knock his star wearing head off (and believe me I really, really want to see that).

It is because truly and honestly Romo is hurt. This week watching him on every single NFL related TV show in existence, the guy can hardly breathe. Rumor has it that he is sleeping sitting up because it hurts too much to lie on his back.

Forget the fact that he could get hurt worse; the guy is a liability to the game. His range of motion is going to be terrible and I cannot imagine he will be able to make the throws that he normally would, and believe it or not this Redskins team will be looking for a way to use that to their advantage.

A lot has been made of Deangelo Hall’s comments stating he would be gunning for Romo’s broken ribs, but lets be honest guys every team looks for ways to exploit weakness. No one is saying they want to intentionally hurt Romo, and honestly I don’t believe that is what Hall meant either. It is all about strategy and finding a way to get an edge on your opponent.

The fact is this; if you take away the Dallas passing game you take away the Dallas offense. The Running game has been terrible for Dallas averaging only 2.3 yards per carry, and Felix Jones is dealing with an injured shoulder on top of that.

Dallas’ offense is riddled with injury with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant likely to miss the game with injury and Romo trying to play hurt. Even the offensive line which has been less than stellar going in will be without former Redskin Derrick Dockery opening the door for Haslett to blitz early and often.

In a big game like Monday the Washington defense will need to set the tone early. Expect the defense to be as aggressive as we have seen under Haslett whether Romo is playing or not.

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About Ray Smith

Ray Smith is the Head Writer and Senior Editor of www.sonofwashington.com as well as the Host of the SonOfWashington Podcast. Follow Ray on Twitter @SonOfWashington

Posted on September 23, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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