Two seasons ago, the Redskins' defense put the clamps down on the opposition's running game, which became a major contributing factor to the team's big second-half push and eventual NFC East title.
Those 2012 Redskins allowed just 95.8 rushing yards per game, good enough for fifth in the NFL.
Last season, however, the Washington defense proved to be just average against the run, finishing 17th in the league with a 110.6 rushing yards-per-game average.
With several key pieces returning – as well as a couple big-time offseason acquisitions joining the mix – those on the Redskins' defense say they are confident their performance against the run will get back to that elite level in 2014.
Redskins linebacker Keenan Robinson is entering his third year in the league in 2014.
"Haz [defensive coordinator Jim Haslett] has stressed to us to stop the run, stop the run, stop the run," middle linebacker Keenan Robinson said. "Before you stop the pass, you stop the run, because if they can run the ball on you, they can do whatever they want."
Through two games this preseason, the Redskins appear to be on the right track. In home wins against the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns, the Redskins have allowed just 63 yards per game on the ground – the third-best mark in the league thus far.
The Redskins will have their first major test against the run Saturday, when they travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens.
Baltimore – which is also 2-0 this preseason – has averaged an NFL-best 194 rushing yards per game this year, and are averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
Their rushing average is 69 yards per game better than any other team in the league at this point of the preseason.
Fourth-year outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan – who had two sacks in Monday night's 24-23 victory over the Cleveland Browns – said he's excited to see where his defense stacks up against a stout running team.
"It's exciting for us because we try to hang our hat on a run-first defense, stopping the run and then allowing us to get to the quarterback," Kerrigan said. "It is exciting to play against them – they've got a really good offensive line, and Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are a couple of the more physical running backs in the league."
Although the Ravens do indeed return the aforementioned Rice and Pierce to their backfield this season, their rookie tailback out of Coastal Carolina has taken the preseason by storm thus far.
Lorenzo Taliaferro – the Ravens' fourth-round (138th-overall) pick in this year's NFL Draft – is currently leading the NFL in rushing this preseason with 130 yards on 29 carries.
With a three-headed monster at running back for first-year Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, Robinson said his team has really emphasized the importance of sound tackling, as well as everybody on the defense flowing to the ball at all times, this week in meetings and in practice.
"For us, gang tackles are really something that are stressed – getting as many hats to the ball as we can – because now you limit those possibilities of guys breaking tackles and getting yards after contact," Robinson said. "Now, guys get hit and they get hit and get hit and get hit again. Now, we're getting hats to the ball and stop guys from getting yards after contact."