Redskins' defense comes up with gutsy effort

Posted Dec. 27, 2010 @ 6:51 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

The season long ago had gotten away from the Redskins, and much of the negative attention centered around the dysfunction of Albert Haynesworth and the simmering three-way feud between QB Donovan McNabb, head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

A third story line has been the defensive struggles of the team, coming off two solid seasons under the previous regime as a 4-3 base unit but unable to make anything approaching a smooth transition to the new 3-4 alignment. Sunday, however, the defense — what's left of it after several injuries — came up with a valiant effort in beating the Jaguars in a game they had to have to keep their playoff existence alive.

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The Redskins were missing six starters for the game against the Jaguars and lost CB Carlos Rogers midway through after Rogers made a big early interception. They already were forced to start Kevin Barnes at strong safety, a seldom-used cornerback who is clearly undersized for the position long term, and Macho Harris, whom they picked up off the waiver wire only weeks earlier. Barnes made the critical interception in overtime off a horrible pass by Jaguars QB David Garrard, but it was one that was forced by pressure.

Credit defensive coordinator Jim Haslett for not playing it safe with such an inexperienced and shorthanded defense to work with. He wanted to make Garrard uneasy and did so with constant pressure. Anthony Bryant did a nice job at nose tackle, winning individual battles. Vonnie Holliday showed his veteran mettle by reading his keys and making plays. Rob Jackson showed some good power at the point of attack and might be proving he deserves a role on this defense. Rocky McIntosh's blitz and Chris Wilson's pressure on the decisive play in overtime allowed Barnes' interception to happen. Haslett knew he'd be asking too much of his mix-and-match secondary if Garrard had time to throw.

Granted, the Jaguars are not the same offense without RB Maurice Jones-Drew. The running game never got going, and Garrard made his share of unforced errors that cost his team. But the Redskins were the aggressors, and they played with a sense of urgency.

Considering how much has surrounded this team and how unpopular the McNabb decision was in the locker room, even among some defensive players, it would have shocked no one if the team came out flat with the season so close to being over. But the Redskins' role players saw their opportunities to prove to the coaching staff they deserve a role on the club and took advantage of them in a stirring performance.