The winning adjustments made on gameday are predicated by superior preparation during the week. What fans see on Sunday is a culmination of hours of practice, watching film and gameplan preparation by coaches and players.
Execution and preparation are two different things but one cannot win without the other in the NFL.
“We expect to have a good week of preparation. That’s all you can do, the game is not won on Sunday. It’s won Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,” Kerrigan said. “We got to have a good week of practice if we are going to go out there and win.”
“Practices have become a little more intense. We’ve been emphasizing tackling and things of that nature,” Orakpo added. “I thought we did a great job in the Detroit game, improving what we knew we had to get better at which is stopping the run.
Kerrigan is having his best start of his NFL career, providing a strong encore to his Pro Bowl 2012 season. He is currently third among linebackers with 21 tackles, leads the team with three sacks and first in tackles for a loss (five).
However football is a team game and the defensive unit’s statistics aren’t as impressive.
The defense has sunk to last in the NFL in yards given up, averaging 488 yards per game. The Achilles’ has been the aerial attack where opposing quarterbacks have had an average rating of 120.1 and a 67.9 completion percentage.
“Coming into this season we had such high expectations because of how we finished the season last year,” Kerrigan said. “It’s disappointing but we know we have time to right the ship and we have to start this week.”
One way to negate opposing quarterback play is to generate pressure from the pass rush. Orakpo had four sacks the last time the Redskins played Oakland in 2009 and Kerrigan has had at least one sack in each of the first three games this year.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett knows the defense has a tall task defending Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor, another mobile quarterback, but different from Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers.
“First of all, he is a great athlete. He’s a big guy. He’s fast, mobile, athletic, got a great arm,” haslett said of Pryor. “Obviously that’s a problem for anybody, and the other guys behind him are good football players. Solid.”
Given Pryor’s concussion and limited practice reps this week, it’s also possible the team will face backup Matt Flynn, who has struggled to find his niche in the NFL after leaving Green Bay.
Doesn’t matter who lines up under center, says Haslett, as the defense has been preparing for both.
“We’ll be ready for either one based off who plays,” he said. “They are both pretty good football players. One is different than the other, but [Pryor] is really athletic.”
For the players in the scheme, there is no lack of confidence in Haslett’s gameplan, as the unit made big progress last week against the Lions.
“We believe in [Haslett], we believe in what he brings to the table, we believe in his defense. We know we can do it,” Orakpo said. “We did it all last year, we did it in the offseason and we did it in the preseason.
“We had some beast offenses these first [three] weeks, trying to get acclimated to Week 1 of the season. Hopefully we can figure it out, fix it and get better.”
“We just have to keep being aggressive,” added Kerrigan. “Keep playing our game and do the little things better. Being gap sound, tackle better and limit the big plays.”
Struggles have not been limited to the Redskins this season as the rest of the NFC East has struggled as well.
Kerrigan said the team is focused on getting a win on Sunday and to make a push in improving their standings in the division.
“We know that in this division that we’re never out of it. Dallas is 2-1 and that’s the best team in our division right now record wise,” he said. “We do have to start winning some ball games.
“Just because the other teams haven’t won very much doesn’t mean that it’s OK for us to lose games. We’ve got to get some wins.”
Since 1990, 22 teams that started 1-3 went on to make the playoffs. In that same span, only one team has made the playoffs after starting 0-4. The Redskins aim to make it 23 with a win this weekend.
“You definitely want to go into the bye week with a win,” Kerrigan said. “Going into a bye week with a win verses a loss like we did last year is a big difference mentally.
“Definitely want to go into the bye week 1-3.”