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Redskins' Defense States Its Case For a Return



When the Redskins have their full complement of players on the defensive side of the ball, they can be a dominating unit.

That was the message from Week 16 as the Redskins held off Philadelphia and scored a 10-3 win.

Veterans such as Marcus Washington, Shawn Springs, Cornelius Griffin and Jason Taylor missed a host of games this year due to injuries but they were back as starters on Sunday at FedExField for defensive coordinator Greg Blache.

And it made a world of difference.

"Everybody was healthy and that's one of the first times this whole year where we've had the whole defense, where we had everybody," Washington said. "We had Shawn Springs and Chris Horton back. Jason is feeling better. And I was able to come back.

"We're a talented group. When we get everybody out there together, it definitely makes a difference."

Added Springs: "We played with a lot of pride, a lot of energy. Really, what you saw was the full group back, plus the new guys in this defense in DeAngelo [Hall] and Jason. For one of the first times all year, we were all feeling good physically."

Hall led the defensive effort with eight stops and Taylor energized the pass rush with a pair of sacks and a key forced fumble on Philly's Donovan McNabb. The fumble, recovered by London Fletcher, set up the Redskins' touchdown.

Sunday's game was only the third time all year that Washington, Springs and Griffin had been in the starting lineup together, representing the back of the defense, the middle of the defense and the front of the defense.

The Redskins won all three of those games--versus Arizona and Philadelphia and at Dallas.

It's a defense that has struggled in the pass rush department most of the season and it's a defense that's aging in several areas.

But at least for Week 15, the potential of this group was realized.

"We play hard collectively as a group, but you don't know which player is going to shine each week," Andre Carter said. "The 11 players that are out on the field go out and grind it day-in and day-out. They're going to define how good you are on defense.

"I think this was the first time in a long time that we had every back and healthy. It was good to have everybody back. We believe in each other and we wanted to win at home."

Even if the club goes on the road and beats San Francisco to finish at 9-7, the possibility looms that the defense will feature a new look in terms of personnel for 2009.

If that's the case, Sunday's win over Philly may have been this defense's signature statement for 2008.

For his part, Washington hopes that the unit stays together for another run. The defense is ranked fourth in the NFL through 15 games.

"I think we did make a statement that we don't need to change as much," Washington said. "I think if we stay together, we would definitely be a forced to be reckoned with. We have a lot of talent and we really showed we could play well and play together having everybody healthy.

"We have some veterans at good positions and we have young guys coming on strong."

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