The Redskins improved to 2-2 Sunday with a win over the Browns, but many defenders were still not satisfied with the run defense.*
"We've got to make corrections now – in the second quarter of the season. Because now, as you can see with that schedule, you see what type of caliber teams we're about to play. If we don't straighten that up now, that 2-2 record isn't going to be so great."
Redskins defensive end Ricky Jean Francois didn't mince words when talking about the team's defensive effort in Sunday's 31-20 win over the Cleveland Browns. And Jean Francois wasn't the only one who wasn't satisfied.
"The fact of the matter, when you look at the stat sheet, you still give up – we still struggled in the run game at times, when we shouldn't be," linebacker Will Compton said. "We haven't gotten off the field on third down at times, but we should be."
On one hand, it's encouraging to see a team that isn't satisfied with an 11-point win over the only winless team in the NFL. On the other hand, they're right.
Cleveland running back Isaiah Crowell consistently had room to run, totaling 112 yards on just 15 carries for an average of 7.5 yards per carry. If not for the fumbles by Crowell's backups, Duke Johnson Jr. and Malcolm Johnson, who knows how Sunday's game would have ended.
However, Sunday was not an anomaly for the Redskins run defense, which now ranks 31st of 32 teams in the NFL in yards allowed per carry. Only the Oakland Raiders have allowed more than the 4.9 yards per run that the Redskins have surrendered. The Redskins and Saints are tied for most rushing touchdowns allowed this season with eight. No team has allowed more first downs via the run than the 33 Washington has allowed.
"Well, we have to definitely look at ways to stop the run and find out where the holes are, I think," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "A lot of it has to do with Cleveland, man. [Joel] Bitonio and Joe Thomas had a good running game. [Isaiah] Crowell and Duke Johnson [Jr.] had a good scheme over there, so you've got to give credit to them, but then we have to figure out where we're coming up short. Is it missing tackles at the second level, is it getting off blocks, is it getting pushed back too much on the double teams? We have to figure it out and figure out the answer and try to come up with some solutions."
Back to Jean Francois' original statement. He's right about the caliber of teams coming up. While it's still early, the combined record of the next seven Washington opponents are 17-8.
Despite the records of these teams, running the ball has not been a strength for most. Among the next five opponents for Washington, only Detroit ranks in the top 20 of the NFL in terms of yards per carry.
Up next for the Redskins is the Baltimore Ravens – a team that ranked 26th in rushing offense last year and hasn't gotten much better in 2016.
The Ravens rank 24th in yards per carry this season and the backfield has been an unsettled situation. Baltimore's leading rusher each of the last two seasons, Justin Forsett, was a healthy inactive for Sunday's game against the Raiders.
However, Jean Francois and the rest of the defense understand that the blueprint is out now to beat the Redskins.
"They don't have to throw the ball against us because it looks like they've been suspect to the run," Jean-Francois said. "We've got to straighten that up. This week it's a must against the Baltimore Ravens because these guys will run that ball. (Joe) Flacco won't have to put that ball in the air. Even though he's got some great receivers, but if we don't stop that run, he's just going to keep it on the ground and have an easy day."
Give the Redskins credit. They've forced eight turnovers this season – the third-most in the NFL – including three on three straight possessions in the second half Sunday. However, the team know those turnovers won't always show up at the right time as they did against Cleveland. The team will eventually have to defend the run better and get off the field.
"We've got to play better at the running game – all 11 guys," Compton said. "We've got to shed blocks, make tackles, fit it better. We've got to play the run better. There's no excuse. Everybody knows we have to play better. All we can do is get to work, watch the film and get stuff corrected."