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Need to Know: Will the Redskins’ defense be ahead of the offense in 2015?

Jun 2, 2015, 5:10 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 2, 14 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question comes from Twitter:

We’re in the very early going here but there you can look at factors that point to the probability that the offense will lead the way this coming season and there are some preliminary indicators that the defense will carry the team.

As far as rankings, it’s difficult for me to see either unit being in the top 10 overall, in terms of either points or yardage (or DVOA or whatever other advanced metric you might want to use). They just have too far to go (O was 26th in points scored, D 29th in points allowed) to think that there is a realistic chance that they could improve enough to become among the best in the league. But that doesn’t mean that the Redskins can’t improve on both sides of the ball.

The defense has solidified the front seven with the additions of Terrance Knighton and Stephen Paea as free agents and by drafting Preston Smith. Chris Culliver isn’t an elite corner but he’s very good and better than anyone the Redskins have lined up there since the DeAngelo Hall of several years ago.

But even though they have two new starting safeties they still are below average in their last line of defense. And it will take a while to gel with all of the new players and a coaching staff that completely turned over except for linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti.

There is some top-shelf talent at the skill positions on offense with DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon, Alfred Morris, and Jordan Reed (when he is healthy). The line got an upgrade with the addition of Brandon Scherff at right tackle.

Working against the offense showing great improvement is the uncertainty at quarterback. If we see the Robert Griffin III of last year the QB carousel will crank up again. If he can play somewhere between the level of his stellar 2012 season and how he was in a so-so 2013 campaign the offense could be OK.

To answer the original question, I think the Washington offense will be ranked higher than the defense in most of the major statistical categories. Actually I should say “guess” rather thank “think” because it’s hard to get a feel for it until they have put pads on. But if all of the talk of emphasizing the running game comes to fruition, Griffin should have a chance to get his feet under him and the offense could be fairly productive. The defense may be pretty good by the end of the year but by the time they gel it might be too late for them to post any impressive stats.


—It’s been 156 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 103 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 14; Redskins training camp starts 58; Thursday night Redskins @ Giants 114

If you have any questions about what’s going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I’m always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

  1. InstantSports - Jun 2, 2015 at 5:27 AM

    Reblogged this on InstantSports.

  2. colorofmyskinz - Jun 2, 2015 at 6:32 AM

    I would have to agree, top 10 on either side would be tough. I do think Culliver is close to elite. He is ranked top 6 CB in the league, that has to ace him in elite status. We can’t forget the impact of Pea, Pot Roast, and Jean-Francios can have on Hatchers output. Then place Preston in there, and I would say we have 5 new front people because Hatcher will look like a different player with knee fully recovered and surrounded by true talent. Those 5 will make our back 4 look like rock stars. Then factor in the depth at each of the defensive positions and it is possible to say we have the best defense we have seen in over a decade if not 2 decades. If this defense begins to find gel early, we could have a top 10 defense. We have so many linebackers and DBacks, we are really deep here. I will go out on a limb and say Redskins defense will finish the season best in the NFC EAST. On offense, TE and QB bother me the most. With niles Paul as starter (because I write Reed off) and never knowing which QB we are going to have, it is like a random number generator. The best thing we did is add Jones and big changes on front line. If Griffin is geeking, at least we have a running game that can take over. My hope is that preseason proves a few things. Griffin has recovered physically and mentally as a QB with confidence. Mccoy or KIRK has proven themselves as a starter that another team wants. That team may have even had a QB injury where they need one of our QBs. This could set up a trade for a real TE. That would be ideal. What Reed needs to see is serious competition that runs the risk of him riding pine for the rest of his stay here in Washington. Reed can be soft with no real competition. This is one position they failed to motivate the starter with reAl comp. if we get a real TE and Griffin finds his swagger, watch out!!

    • Skulb - Jun 2, 2015 at 8:11 AM

      The talent is certainly there. They still need to play though.

    • bangkokben - Jun 2, 2015 at 10:05 AM

      Who are these ‘real tight-ends’ people keep talking about??!! Mark Bavaro? Give me some names! Because I don’t see any available ‘real tight-ends’ (big badass blockers that can run like the wind and catch the ball by the dozens – guys that actually line up in a three point stance next to the tackle) does that mean I am the only one NOT taking crazy pills???!!

      • colorofmyskinz - Jun 2, 2015 at 10:14 AM

        Celek, Walker, Fleener, Gates, Watson, Green, Clay, Ertz, Gonzalez, Bennett, Olsen, Cameron, Thomas, Witten, Gronc, Davis, Graham…

        Do you even watch football. We are talking about the NFL here. You need more names than that???

        • bangkokben - Jun 2, 2015 at 10:26 AM

          yeah that’s what I thought. Graham is a wide receiver – yeah I take his side when it comes how to put the FA tag on him. You take Jimmy Graham and you mix Gronk’s injury history what do you get? Jordan Reed! Yeah this is the NFL. This team has a modern TE – not one from the 80s and the ‘real ones’ like Whitten and Gates will be with Gonzalez after this year. Which of these guys are you suddenly getting again in a trade for the Redskins 3rd stringer? AVAILABLE?? I’ll put it in all caps since you missed it the first time.

      • rtcwon - Jun 2, 2015 at 10:17 AM

        Some fans want to upgrade every position regardless of the supply & demand concept. Often our guy is much better than what’s available or most other team’s starter but if he’s not in the pro bowl or at least making sports center highlights, replace him!

        • bangkokben - Jun 2, 2015 at 10:28 AM

          Spot on! This is the thinking pattern that brings out my orneriest sarcasm.

        • ajbus1 - Jun 2, 2015 at 1:28 PM

          The grass is always greener…

      • Trey Gregory - Jun 3, 2015 at 5:50 PM

        No, you’re not. I don’t know of any available TEs or TEs on the bubble (meaning that a team will cut or would be willing to trade) that would be worth landing.

        This team needs a true blocking TE. Everyone is so obsessed with improving our Oline, yet it seems most people prefer Joker style TEs that don’t block but catch a crazy number of balls. People forget that TEs block too, and can be a part of improving a line. If we’re really so dedicated to running the ball, we need a strong blocking TE to help in the run game. We have enough receiver depth of we really are to be a run first pass second team. Putting all the pressure on RG3 to win with his arm, at this point in his career, is a losing formula. But if they take the pressure off him by setting up the run and get stout on D to make sure O doesn’t have to score too much, then we might win some games and see RG3 improve and get some confidence back in the process. Oh, and by, “win some games,” I mean 8 or less. This team should be better than last year, but they’re no real contender yet.

    • rtcwon - Jun 2, 2015 at 10:14 AM

      We’ve had many top 5 defenses in the last two decades.

    • Ant - Jun 2, 2015 at 1:08 PM

      I think the D will be much better than last year, but not be the best we seen in a decade. I say because Greg Williams D in 04 and 05, no one really wanted to play them because they were fierce. On top of that they had Sean Taylor too. They were ranked number 3 and 8 those two years I think. They also got after the qb a lot and forced a lot of turnovers and at the right times. But I really hope they find a way to use Griffin to his strengths and call better offensive plays. Last year Gruden was horrible at calling plays and making adjustments. It was so predictable even I knew what they were doing.

  3. sidepull - Jun 2, 2015 at 6:51 AM

    Defense will be ahead of the offense. Lets see the D give the O decent field position and get off he field on third down. If that happens the O will improve quickly. I think the O as a whole has something to prove at QB and O line performance before I can even buy in to what they have been selling this offseason wit the draft picks and the coaching changes. Progress not perfection. I just want to see progress.

  4. gonavybeatarmy - Jun 2, 2015 at 9:12 AM


    Would you please at some point do an update and analysis on the scouting department? The hiring of McCloughan is, on the surface, the best decision this otherwise poorly run organization has made in decades, and I really hope it works out. But call me skeptical. If there’s anyone who would put stupid demands or limitations on the new GM it would be this organization and this owner.

    I understand it’s not unusual and may even be smart for a GM to make no rash decisions or overhaul the scouting department if hired after January 1, which is well into the upcoming draft period. And that by doing so, a new GM would even have the chance to observe closely the legacy staff in the heat of battle. A team certainly would want to be very careful to not lose proprietary research to a compeditor shortly before a draft. And I suppose it’s possible that McCloughan had been working with Campbell prior to his formal hiring. But we are now a month past the draft and it seems like a lot of teams are very actively making moves to try and upgrade their scouting departments and the Skins are apparently status quo, unless I missed something. Just recently and off the top of my head, the Bears made a huge move by hiring the Ravens respected national director of scouting Joe Douglass; Chip Kelly hired Marty Barrett, Chris Shea and Marynowitz; the Jets smartly hired Gissendaner of Green Bay.

    What changes and timeframe do you see McCloughan bringing in his people? My memory is a little hazy but I do recall McCloughan trying to intervew a Packers staff member in early spring but he was denied permission. I could have my facts wrong on this. Will McCloughan be permitted to fire anyone and everyone?

    Honestly, this organization has a well deserved reputation for putting limitations on management and head coaches and inexplicably retaining legacy coaches and staff. And it wouldn’t be at all shocking (but it would be depressing) to eventually learn a couple of years from now that this specific owner made staff demands as a condition of hiring McCloughan, a highly respected personnel man who was out of work and wanted back in the league.


    • colorofmyskinz - Jun 2, 2015 at 10:06 AM

      Well written! And so real and true about Snyder, the ultimate strings attached micromanager. If he could just remove his tentacles from the decisions being made, he might be considering add seats to the stadium vs removing them. SNYDER has been the worst thing this franchise has seen in 2 decades. If he truly gives Scot, Allen, and Gruden the reigns, we have a chance. If he has tethered his tentacles to personnel, like RGIII, with a quid pro quo agreements, this facade won’t last.

      • Trey Gregory - Jun 3, 2015 at 5:57 PM

        Uh, I can agree with almost everything you said. I just think you need to remove Allen from the list of people that can help. At least when it comes to football decisions. The guy is incompetent at making football decesions, and frankly incompetent in front of the cameras, i.e., “Winning off the field.”

    • bangkokben - Jun 2, 2015 at 10:15 AM

      Same story since Gibbs 2 left. It’s not the scouts; its the guys making the decisions. Before Shanahan, it was that we didn’t have enough draft picks. During Shanahan it was the cap penalty and had we known the NFL was going to go all secret society on us we wouldn’t have traded all those picks for Griffin. Since Shanahan, it seems the fans want the scouts to be the new scape goat. Nope. It not their fault and the Dan doesn’t have a pitchfork and horns.

    • rtcwon - Jun 2, 2015 at 10:23 AM

      For all his faults, Shanny finally put the nail in the “melding owner” coffin.

      You’re free to believe it has or is continuing but there are no facts to support the conspiracy and much evidence to the contrary.

      • gonavybeatarmy - Jun 2, 2015 at 10:56 AM

        I’d like to think that Snyder isn’t still meddling. I don’t know. And frankly, you don’t know either.

        Here’s what we do know: Snyder had meddled for many, many years and this once great organization has become a national joke. Therefore, the burden is on Snyder to demonstrate to fans that he’s no longer acting in such a manner. He lost that benefit of the doubt many years ago.

        And meddling can come in many more subtle but equally pernicious forms, such as instructing head coaching candidates during an interview process that a certain player must be given every chance to win a job. Or a GM could be hired on the condition that he must retain certain staff.

        To be clear, I know nothing about any demands that may have been made by Snyder. But apparently the entire scouting department that was on staff the day McCloughan was hired remain with the team. And as of yet, he hasn’t, unless I’m wrong, hired a new scout or director level staffer reporting to him. I’m just a stupid long-term fan that is watching from afar.

        • bangkokben - Jun 2, 2015 at 11:39 AM

          What would his endgame be? Why would Snyder for instance say hands off Scott Campbell?

          Sure he has been a hands on owner and that has not resulted in wins on the field but your assertions that he has to prove he is not meddling is silly. Silly because there is no accountability and where are fans going to go? if you’re a fan you’re a fan. It’s not like you’ll suddenly become a Ravens fan.

          I love Coca-cola but when they went to New Coke that was lame at best and destroying perfection at worst. Should have Coke fans demanded proof that such asinine meddling never happen again? Should’ve we poured our new coke all over downtown Atlanta and refused to by Coke classic because Pepsi (the New York Giants) is available and didn’t do anything as stupid? Should’ve we drank RC Cola (the Cleveland Browns)? Unlike Coke, the ‘skins aren’t subject to shareholders and there is no amount of idiocy that can force out Snyder. I’d also contest that for every stupid thing he has done; he did half as many good things and even the stupid things were done for winning.

        • gonavybeatarmy - Jun 2, 2015 at 12:46 PM


          What is the end game? I have no clue. I can’t see into the guy’s mind. Perhaps he’s the kind of “manager” who likes to keep some of his sycophants in place because he can’t not meddle or needs to have spies within the team he owns. This practice happens in some companies, the military and government but it’s usually counterproductive. And AGAIN, I’m not accusing him of anything. Good Lord, I’m simply trying to surmise why no apparent changes have been made to the scouting department nearly a half year after McCloughan was hired and a month after the draft as some other teams are doing, including one in our division. And that team in our division has had consecutive ten win seasons, when the Skins haven’t had consecutive winning seasons in Snyder’s going on two decades of ownership.

          But it is interesting that you, not I, brought up Campbell. I’m not qualified to opine on Campbell’s abilities. Perhaps you are. He could be some kind of personnel genius for all I know. But I do know that no team has tried to hire him as their GM. And he has been a high level member of this organization’s leadership under this owner’s tenure for a long-time, a time when the team’s on-field record has been among the worst in US pro sports.

          I also never said Snyder has to prove anything. It’s his team and he can run it anyway he wants. But to me and many fans I know he has lost the benefit of the doubt to fully assume that he’s not meddling in some way. You are free to assume that he has completely stepped away, and I hope like hell that you’re right. And perhaps the analogy to pouring Coke in the streets of Atlanta is what’s going on right now: the Redskins needing to rip thousands of seats from Fed Ex Field because demand for tickets is a fraction of what it used to be.

          As for being a fan I apologize to no one. I’ve been attending Skins games for 42 years and my family has owned season tickets for three generations. And my wife and I will be fans until we die as will our kids. We’d never change allegiance to another team. But we are free to step away a little, not re-new our tickets and just watch games on TV, as apparently thousands of fans have done as the Redskins are now in their third offseason of tearing out seats in six years…while the Ravens and Giants add seats to their stadiums. And if there are credible reports down the road that McCloughan doesn’t have full autonomy to hire and fire as he pleases we will be finished as ticket consumers.

        • bangkokben - Jun 2, 2015 at 7:39 PM


          Great response. I kinda stumbled back on it with the blog moving forward. A side note: I’ve noticed that when that orange quotebox appears in the upper right-hand corner you can reply directly at the bottom of the window when you click on it and then whoever you’re responding to will be notified with same orange box.

          Now to the content. Snyder has meddled and this organization failed. But did the organization fail due to his involvement? Yes. But was his involvement the ONLY reason for failure? Probably not. Early on, we saw cases where the decisions he made backfired. Bringing in Jeff George and Dieon Sanders. Going for a fantasy team with old free agent mercenaries. Firing Norv Turner with three games left and still a chance to make the playoffs. These were clear cases of his impetuousness affecting the team. Then there also was the year of Marty and his subsequent firing and the hiring of the ‘ol ball coach. Magically Gibbs came back after that debacle and making the playoffs twice in four years was far below expectations yet was the high water mark since the glory years. Then the can’t find a coach so ‘your it’ hiring of Zorn and following season of trying to make him quit.

          Now we enter the second era of Snyder stepping away. Full control Shanahan, GM of pants and picnics, Gruden new coach, and now finally a real general manager after the worst two-year run since 1993-1994 (Petibone-Turner). So there is no reason to say that Snyder isn’t still meddling. But in this second era of a less obvious Snyder can we see finally that with or without his intervention we stink. Currently, we stink because we stink not because of the owner.

          So yes he could still be demanding some hidden agenda here and there. And his track record speaks for itself but part of that track record is also one who is a fan of the team and one who desperately wants to win. So, I choose to not focus on what he does but the team does.

          As far as not meddling, does Snyder get the credit for not meddling or the blame for not getting RGIII removed from the playoff game against Seattle? When my children on the couch are telling me, “Dad get him out of there. He’s obviously hurt.” you kind of wonder how a chronic meddler was handling the situation.

      • Manuel Gonzalez - Jun 3, 2015 at 9:26 AM

        Can’t disagree with you there. Snyder has given his coaches everything they’ve ask for in the last 5 seasons. He hired Scott and placed Allen where he should be. I’m good with Snyder.

  5. troylok - Jun 2, 2015 at 9:18 AM

    The defense has a lot of solid players but it still has the “some assembly required” label on it. It is up to Barry to put it all together. I am skeptical and will be until he shows something more than he did in Detroit during his last stint as a defensive coordinator.

    On the other side, even if the QB play is spotty, the Redskins have invested in a stronger running game with blockers up front and a power back that could be the running back of the future. I think Griffin will improve this year as he develops an ability to read defenses more quickly. Gruden is going to keep him in the pocket, but if the running game takes off, they might be able to buy him a little more time to read defenses with some play action.

    • ET - Jun 2, 2015 at 12:11 PM

      The defense has a lot of solid players but it still has the “some assembly required” label on it. It is up to Barry to put it all together.

      I agree. This defense has much better personnel than it did a year ago, but we need to see them in action. How will the depth players perform when injuries occur? Will Barry scheme appropriately for the strengths of his players? Will Barry be more adaptive against opposing offenses than Haslett? The early indicators point to improvement, but there are many open questions—and some of them can’t be answered until we see the D on the field against a real opponent.

  6. hk2000 - Jun 2, 2015 at 11:16 AM

    Offense and defense are so intertwined and feed off of each other, it’s almost impossible to measure either as a standalone performance. As long as both are decent, it doesn’t really matter which is ahead. But if either is mediocre, then the other will almost be irrelevant. Unlike many fans on here my expectations are REALLY low, this way I’m more likely to be pleasantly surprised- I’m not holding my breath.

  7. bangkokben - Jun 2, 2015 at 11:42 AM

    Both Offense and Defense will be ranked around 13th in yards. Where it goes from there will largely depend on turnovers and points (6-10 to 10-6). I expect 7-9 and much more competitive falling short more often the rising above.

    • colorofmyskinz - Jun 2, 2015 at 8:25 PM

      Bang, we will trade something for a TE. Watch and learn. And very possible we show KIRK or mccoy as valuable after preseason raising their trade position. TE is our weakest position. Then kick off with Kia.

      • bangkokben - Jun 3, 2015 at 1:29 PM

        “Something for a TE.” Kirk or McCoy for something. Every year, some team is holding on to that guy who could become valuable if X team loses a QB. Ryan Mallet eventually ended up in Houston last year. Then the was the year we traded a corner to the Ravens for Jon Beck. So what! Any TE that we end up trading will be the equivalent of Leigh Torrence for the Jon Beck version of TE. It’s like (in Monopoly terms) trading Baltic for Mediterranean. Neither helps the other team but the other team’s trash looks better in our trash can. Kirk could get some value IF the right circumstances arrised. Matt Ryan gets injured then we might get something for him but otherwise he’s on our team since we kept three last year its safe to assume that we’ll keep three this year especially since both Colth and Robert were knocked from games. Archives

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