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Need to Know: Redskins’ 2012 pass defense better than we thought?

Jul 20, 2013, 6:36 AM EST

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Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 20, five days before the Redskins start training camp.

Pass defense not as bad as advertised?

The Redskins had pass defense issues last year; anyone who even casually watched the games would be able to tell you that. Only two teams allowed more yards through the air than they did and moments like Victor Cruz zooming past the secondary to catch the game-winning touchdown bomb from Eli Manning in the late going are seared into the brains of many observers.

But yards allowed is at best a crude measure of effectiveness and isolated plays do not tell the whole story. If you look at some other measures of pass defense the Redskins do not come off so poorly.

The first thing to note is that no team had more passes attempted against them than the Redskins did. Opponents threw at them 636 times so it makes sense that they would give up a lot of yards through the air.

The Redskins were 21st in the league in opponents’ yards per passing attempt at 7.4. For perspective, the Saints and Giants were the worst here at 8.1 yards per attempt, the Steelers were the best at 6.0 and the average was 7.1. The Redskins aren’t where they want to be here but they’re not in laughingstock territory either.

Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders wrote “If you have to grab one statistic to evaluate a pass defense, [passer] rating allowed is a pretty good one.” Passer rating takes interceptions and touchdown passes into account as well as attempts and completions. The Redskins’ opponents’ passer rating was 87.0, 18th in the league. The worst rating was the Chiefs at 99.9, the best belonged to the Cardinals at 71.2 and the NFL average was 83.8. Again, the Redskins are more mediocre than awful here.

There seems to be a solid correlation between ranking well in opponents’ passer rating and winning games. Of the top 12 teams in that category, nine—the Bears, Seahawks, Packers, Falcons, 49ers, Broncos, Texans, Ravens, and Bengals—won 10 games or more. Only the Cardinals, who had major issues with their own quarterbacks, finished with a losing record.

Working without a first-round draft pick and with a salary cap that was $18 million light, the Redskins did about as well as they could in addressing the secondary. They signed free agent cornerback E. J. Biggers and drafted three defensive backs. The moves may not bring major, instant improvement to the Redskins’ pass defense. But maybe they don’t have as far to go to be an effective pass defense than many of us think.

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In case you missed it

Days until: Training camp starts 5; Preseason opener vs. Titans 19; Eagles @ Redskins 51

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Note that RG3 not obligated to participate fully in camp if he’s not on PUP. Can do virtually nothing if he is on PUP. #Redskins #RGIII

— Rich Tandler (@Rich_TandlerCSN) July 19, 2013

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