ASHBURN, Va. — The oft-criticized Washington Redskins defense is finally clicking, and not a moment too soon with another NFC East matchup coming up.
The Redskins allowed just 210 passing yards to Joe Flacco in a 16-10 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, and they haven’t given up a second-half touchdown in three consecutive games.
Injuries to cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and Dashaun Phillips and season-ending injuries to safety DeAngelo Hall and defensive tackle Kedric Golston threatened to derail Washington, but Josh Norman and others have shouldered the load.
When wind was swirling in Baltimore and coach Jay Gruden knew he couldn’t expect too much from quarterback Kirk Cousins and the passing game, the defense stepped up.
“It’s good to be able to rely on the defense when we have to,” Gruden said Monday.
“It was great to see for their confidence, to let them know that they can do it if they do what they’re supposed to do — play hard and make plays — and they did that.”
Norman aggravated a wrist injury in the win, but finished the game. Gruden said the team will monitor the injury, limit the contact Norman faces in practice and maybe put a brace on it, but expects the shutdown cornerback to play against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
The Redskins could be getting reinforcements back in the secondary, as Gruden said Breeland (ankle) and Phillips (hamstring) will have their workload increased this week.
“We’re confident that they have a chance to be ready to go, especially Breeland, but we’ll wait and see,” Gruden said.
Washington worked out defensive lineman Terrance Knighton on Monday as it considers adding depth in the trenches. Knighton spent last season with the Redskins, signed with the New England Patriots and was cut in late-August.
Familiarity with defensive coordinator Joe Barry and the rest of the coaching staff could only help Knighton, who had 29 tackles and 1½ sacks in 2015.
“If you have injuries creep up, then you have people in your system that you know — how much they weigh, what they look like, how they work out, what their injuries are like,” Gruden said. “We’re not going to sign everybody that we bring in, but it’s good to have a list of emergency-type guys in case we need them.”
The Redskins already signed veteran defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins and have given more responsibilities to rookie Matt Ioannidis. Pressure on Flacco made the previously 29th-ranked defense far more effective.
“Overall, I think the defensive linemen … they were more disruptive and played a lot better, which enabled the linebackers to make plays and very few missed tackles,” Gruden said. “I was happy the way we tackled, happy the way our defensive line was getting off blocks.”
There wasn’t much on the defensive side of the ball for Gruden to be unhappy about. The Ravens converted on just 20 percent of their third-down attempts, and the overall futility cost offensive coordinator Marc Trestman his job .
The second-half and third-down defensive improvements are thanks in part to the players, Gruden said, but coaches made adjustments along the way to put them in better spots.
“We’re trying to get our best pass rushers on the field to get our best cover guys on the field,” Gruden said.
“Guys were able to make some plays. We got just enough pressure on Joe where he had to throw it when he didn’t want to from time to time or check it down because the coverage was very good. … Very few broken tackles in the game, especially when they checked it down, so that was good to see.”