Pro Football Focus has released its rankings for best pass-rush defenses in the NFL and the Redskins have made the preseason Top-10, coming in sixth.
According to the article, released on Monday morning, the Top-10 ranking may “surprise people the most, and that’s because the Redskins pass-rush was quietly one of the best in the NFL last season.”
The Redskins, however, proved worthy of that ranking with their performance in 2017, along with adding weapons into the fold. Washington finished tied for seventh in the league in sacks last season with 42, finishing in the Top-10 in forced turnovers and pressure percentage (37.9 percent). After getting to the quarterback, the Redskins used their blitzes to produce 16 team interceptions, the ninth-highest total in the league.
Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan was fourth in the NFL in total sacks in 2017, taking down the quarterback 13 times. His numbers were the second-highest among outside linebackers, with Arizona’s Chandler Jones having the most sacks in the NFL last season with 17.
Preston Smith also had a respectable year in his third season and was a major contributor in the Redskins’ pass rush success. The 6-foot-5 outside linebacker ranked in the Top-30 overall in sacks with eight while coming up with 42 combined tackles.
With 2017 first-round pick Jonathan Allen going down with an injury during his rookie season along with various defensive players up front, the Redskins lost five out of their final eight games last season. A goal for the defense this offseason has been to stay healthy, knowing that if they can be on the field they can have one of the more dominating defenses in the NFL.
“When we have a healthy defense, we have a lot of guys, including our draft picks in the last few years, a lot of guys that have helped the team,” Smith said during OTAs. “Free agents that we brought in, guys with a lot of talent. As long as we stay healthy, we can be a dangerous defense in this league.”
The Redskins’ depth -- they seven players that came up with at least two sacks over the course of 16 games in 2017 -- gives the defense various options. However, the injuries hurt Washington on the run game and allowed 134.1 rushing yards per game.
Ranking last in the league in run defense, the Redskins hope to shift the successful pass defense over to stopping the running game.
“It definitely helps a lot,” Allen said. “I feel like going back to last year, we definitely had the guys to stop the run, we just didn’t put all of the pieces together. So coming back for another year with [defensive line coach Jim] Tomsula, another year with all the guys I feel like is going to help out a lot. I really feel that we’re going to be a dominant defense. If we can stay healthy and do what I know we can, there’s nothing stopping us.”