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Defense Is Experiencing 'Growing Pains,' Players Say


Even in a culture of instant gratification, there are times when patience is required.

That's the situation that the Redskins' defense finds itself following Monday night's discouraging 59-28 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Heading into Week 11, the unit is ranked 32nd in the NFL after allowing 592 total yards – including 260 rushing yards – to the Eagles. Dynamic quarterback Michael Vick used his mobility to elude defenders in and out of the pocket, throwing for 333 yards and four touchdowns and running for 80 yards and two touchdowns.

The Redskins' new 3-4 defense has had some success this season – in the Redskins' four wins they have allowed just an average of just 11.5 points – but it's becoming clear that more time is needed for the unit to jell.

"The thing about this defense, you're going to go through some growing pains in the first year," linebacker London Fletcher said. "We've had some games where we've played some really good football and we've had some games where we've struggled.

"That's to be expected, but it's not accepted. We're not just accepting where we are. We're going to continue to work hard and continue to practice, focus and prepare in order to be successful on game day. We're going to try to play the scheme a lot better."

This is uncharted territory for the Redskins' defense. Since 2004, the unit has finished in the top 10 every season except 2006.

Said linebacker Brian Orakpo, who leads the defense in sacks with seven: "We would love to be top 10 in all the stats on defense, but we're struggling right now as far as everyone being on the same assignment, tackling – we've had all kinds of issues."

The question that ultimately arises: do the Redskins have the personnel to run a 3-4 scheme?

Orakpo says yes.

"I feel like we have the talent and the players, we just have to put it all together," he said. "This is a tough defense to play in. It's not easy. You go through stuff where you change your alignment and you change your stance and you change your coverage responsibilities.


"Everyone has new assignments in this defense and you're going to go through these growing pains. A lot of defenses that converted to a 3-4, once they get accustomed to it they're great at it."

If Monday night's loss was the result of matchup problems against Vick, then the Redskins are going to have to figure out how to solve those problems quickly.

This week, they play against Tennessee's Vince Young, who brings similar skills as Vick although he uses his mobility less.

Young has rushed for 1,360 yards and 12 touchdowns in his 5-year career. This season, he has 22 rushes for 105 yards and one touchdown.

Young has steadily improved as a passer since he made his NFL debut against the Redskins on Oct. 15, 2006. This season, he has completed 81-of-140 passes for 1,090 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.

"One thing that VY is doing is he's not relying on his athletic ability to make plays," defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth said. "Don't get me wrong, the guy can still take off and do the same things that Vick did. But now he's studying a lot more and he's trying to throw the ball and be that complete quarterback that everyone said he wasn't."

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