Whenever the Redskins play a nationally televised game, as they did last Sunday in Dallas, defensive backs Sean Taylor, Carlos Rogers, Adam Archuleta and company figure it's a great time to send a message to the rest of the NFL.
They want opposing wide receivers to know that, when you try to catch a pass in their territory, there may be a price to pay.
Last Sunday, the Redskins knocked around 6-3, 224-pound wide receiver Terrell Owens, limiting him to three receptions for 18 yards. Owens sustained several punishing hits from Taylor and eventually left the game with a fractured hand.
"Even in the [nationally televised Week 1] Minnesota game, coach told us to let the league know that our corners and safeties hit," Rogers said. "That's something that you want to continue to get on tape. If they catch the ball, they're going to have to pay for it."
It was Terry Glenn, a 5-11, 195-pound speedster, who found success against the Redskins' secondary. He hauled in six catches for 94 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown reception. The Cowboys won the game 27-10.
This week, the Redskins face off against the Houston Texans, who have a pair of wide receivers in the T.O. mold. Eric Moulds is 6-2 and 225 pounds, while Andre Johnson is 6-3 and 222 pounds.
With cornerback Shawn Springs declared out for the Texans game, the Redskins' secondary faces another challenge. Carlos Rogers and Kenny Wright are expected to start, with Mike Rumph and Ade Jimoh serving in nickel and dime packages.
Last season, Wright played in Jacksonville in the AFC South, the same division as Houston. Prior to Jacksonville, he played for the Texans from 2002-04, so he certainly has familiarity with quarterback David Carr and wide receiver Johnson. Carr was the Texans' first draft pick back in 2002, and Johnson was a first-round pick in 2003.
So far this season, Johnson has 10 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown, while Moulds has 10 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. Johnson earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2004 when he caught 79 passes for 1,142 yards and six TDs, while Moulds is a four-time Pro Bowler who has 685 career receptions.
"We have a lot of work cut out for us," assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. "I have a lot of respect for their receivers. I had Eric Moulds in Buffalo. Physically, he is as gifted as any receiver in the league. Andre Johnson may be one of the most gifted receivers in the league. We have to do a great job in the passing game."
How to defend the duo?
Defensive lineman will tell you that they need to get pressure on Carr, who has struggled at times in his five-year career but currently is the NFL's second-ranked passer.
For the Redskins' secondary, the answer could be to get tough and physical with Johnson and Moulds--just as they were with T.O.
"There have not been very many ballgames in my tenure in the league where there have been as many drops in the passing game as we forced last week [against Dallas]," Williams said. "It is because of our physical nature. We played very physical in the passing game."
Williams said that Taylor's reputation for punishing tackles has had a carry-over affect to other defensive backs.
"The physical nature that our secondary is playing with is very good, and that comes from 21's presence first," Williams said. "Everybody accounts for where he is at. After that, the rest of the guys have jumped on the bandwagon. Mike Rumph had a big third down hit. And we brought in Adam [Archuleta] last offseason because we know he is a physical presence in our secondary and in the run front."
Taylor has forced two fumbles already this season, to go along with 17 tackles. Archuleta is second on the defense with 18 tackles.
Archuleta feels like he hasn't yet made an impact on the Redskins' defense, and he's eager to change that on Sunday.
"David Carr is much improved and he has good receivers to throw the ball to, so we have to play our game, play very well and very sound," he said.