High Hopes for Defense
Expectations are high at Redskins Park about the team's defense, which was ranked No. 4 overall in 2008 and added Pro Bowl tackle Albert Haynesworth and impressive rookie end/strong-side linebacker Brian Orakpo.
Owner Daniel Snyder invested heavily in an effort to improve a defense that produced too few turnovers and sacks, and Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, is confident the front office succeeded in addressing last season's deficiencies.
And the defense's dominant performance throughout camp, against an overmatched offensive line weakened by injuries, has only ratcheted up fans' excitement. But the buzz doesn't matter to defensive coordinator Greg Blache, who is responsible for making Snyder's investment pay off on the field.
The Redskins kick off their preseason schedule Thursday against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, and don't bother Blache with the hype.
"Everybody's got to handle it the way they want," Blache said. "I have my own agenda, my own expectations for this football team. We've got to take every day one day at a time. We can't get all into the ups and downs. It's typical of people to get something new and go ga-ga over the new toy and forget about all the things that they've had all along. I try and stay away from that. I try to be respectful and prideful in the things that I've had, and be appreciative of the things we've added on. So what we're going to do is add these guys on, and see if we can continue to get better.
"We always try to get better. As far as numbers, I don't get into numbers. Only number I get into is points per game. We get our points per game down, then I'm going to be thrilled, because then you've got an opportunity to win more ballgames. All those other numbers, that's for you guys [the media], 'cause y'all get off on that. For us as coaches, it's points per game, [and] it's winning football games. Ultimately, our fate's going to be decided on wins and losses. And the less points per game, the better chance you have to win it."
During the Redskins' 2-6 second-half collapse last season, Blache often reminded media members the Redskins had the No. 4 defense. He seemed irritated at times when the line of questioning turned to the inability of the defense to force more sacks and turnovers, but Blache "learned a long time ago not to worry about outside people. We try to be deaf to what everybody else is [saying]. In our business, if you listen to everybody else, it'll drive you insane.
"What you've got to do is know what you have to do. You've got to be focused on it, and you've got to believe in the people that surround you. I've got a great staff, I've got some very good football players that have worked hard, and I'm very encouraged by that. All that other stuff, that's just for stories. That's not part of what we go through on a daily agenda."
Okay, fine. Eventually, however, Blache acknowledged there is reason for optimism about the defense.
"Yeah, we have the chance to be better. We have the potential to be better, but we've still got to go out and do it," he said. "So far, we haven't played anybody yet. All of it's still just speculation.
"You go back and look at draft picks over the years, and the speculation behind it, there's a lot of them that didn't live up [to the advance billing] and pan out. I don't think that's the scenario here, but you've got to wait and let 'em play."
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