AWOL defense leaves Redskins in quandary Fancy figures disappear in flurry of foes' points

November 17, 1996|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

The defensive plague that first broke out in Baltimore in early October has spread down the parkway to Washington.

The symptoms are lots and lots of arm-tackling and inexcusable penalties in crucial situations.

The cure?

No one around the Ravens or Redskins has found one yet.

Washington defensive coordinator Ron Lynn smiled Monday for one of the few times in the past two weeks and said jokingly when asked what he could do about the illness: "Threaten people."

Then Lynn hinted that the Redskins would be making some off-season moves to help a team that is last in the 30-team NFL in overall defense, ranking 29th against the run and 27th against the pass.

After Boomer Esiason's third-best passing yardage day (522) in the history of the league last Sunday for Arizona, it is hard to believe anybody could be ranked lower than the Redskins in pass defense. But St. Louis, Miami and New England are 28th, 29th and 30th, respectively.

The sickness has turned Redskins defensive tackle Sean Gilbert and cornerback Darrell Green into mere mortals after some award-winning performances earlier in the season.

The pass rush is virtually non-existent these days and the word "sack" is almost a forgotten one after the team recorded 10 in the first four games. The Redskins led the NFL in scoring defense the first month, permitting 40 points in four games, but they have given up 75 points and 1,091 yards in the past two games.

That kind of performance is hardly recommended for a team that faces the toughest part of its schedule over the next 12 days, beginning with today's 1 p.m. game with the 7-3 Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the NFC East.

Next week, 7-3 Washington entertains the San Francisco 49ers and then it's off to Dallas for a Thanksgiving Day showdown with the Cowboys.

The defensive headaches could be magnified quickly today by quarterback Ty Detmer and the Eagles, who have the fifth-best offense in the NFL.

Flamboyant Ricky Watters will also be a load for the Redskins' defense to handle. He has rushed for 949 yards, which is right behind Washington's Terry Allen (976) and fourth in the NFL.

Philadelphia wide receiver Irving Fryar has 56 catches, nearly twice as many as Washington leader Henry Ellard (30).

"Two weeks ago, it was the run that beat us," said Redskins linebacker Patrise Alexander. "Last week, it was the pass. You wonder what this week is going to bring."

Redskins coach Norv Turner said, "We haven't got the consistency in terms of pass rush that we expected Sean Gilbert could bring when he came here this year. We've struggled to pressure the quarterback, struggled to cover and been in and out of a lot of different looks to cover that."

If the Redskins can't shake the defensive problems, they have to hope that Gus Frerotte and the offense can outscore the opposition.

L Thirty-four points in four quarters wasn't enough last week.

Washington (7-3) at Philadelphia (7-3)

Time: 1 p.m., chs. 45, 5.

Line: Eagles by 6.

Vs. spread: Redskins 7-3; Eagles 7-3.

Last week: Redskins lost to Cardinals in OT, 37-34. Eagles lost to Bills, 24-17.

Outlook: Teams tied for NFC East lead and coming off tough home losses. Redskins' defeat was second in row, but slump hasn't stopped RB Terry Allen from churning out yards and TDs (NFC-best 976 and NFL-high 17). Washington defense is slumping, so look for Eagles to control ball with RB Ricky Watters, who leads NFC in yards from scrimmage (1,153).

By the numbers: Redskins are 27-for-27 inside opponent's 20-yard line, with 20 TDs and seven field goals. Eagles haven't lost fumble in last five games.

Injuries:

REDSKINS: Out: C Cory Raymer (back), T Ed Simmons (knee), DE Tony Woods (knee). Doubtful: WR Leslie Shepherd (hamstring). Questionable: DT Marc Boutte (knee), RB Marc Logan (shoulder). Probable: RB Terry Allen (ankle), FB William Bell (hamstring), LB Ken Harvey (knee), TE James Jenkins (back).

EAGLES: Questionable: DT Andy Harmon (knee), TE Ed West (ankle). Probable: G Joe Panos (knee), LB Ray Farmer (hamstring), WR Irving Fryar (ankle), G Lester Holmes (eye), LB DTC James Willis (knee).

*

Statistical comparison:

NFL RANKINGS

................ Total ... Off. Rush ... Pass ... Total ... Def. Rush ... Pass

Washington ..... 10 ...... 3 ........... 22 ..... 30 ...... 29 .......... 27

Philadelphia ... 5 ....... 7 ........... 8 ...... 6 ....... 13 .......... 6

PER GAME

................... Pts. ... Yds. rush ... Yds. pass ... TO .... Sacks

Washington Off. ... 23.9 ... 141.3 ....... 188.8 ....... 1.0 ... 1.1

.......... Def. ... 19.0 ... 142.2 ....... 246.3 ....... 2.2 ... 2.1

Philadelphia Off. . 22.8 ... 119.3 ....... 230.5 ....... 1.8 ... 2.5

........... Def. .. 20.3 ... 100.4 ....... 185.6 ....... 1.6 ... 2.3

Pub Date: 11/17/96

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