The NFC East has three of their four teams ranking in the bottom five. Dallas is dead last (32nd), with Philadelphia (31st) right there with them and Washington (29th) isn’t too much better.
Looking at the Redskins’ roster, it’s interesting that they’re playing so bad because they have some standout players like cornerback Deangelo Hall. The Skins also display an impressive core of linebackers, they just aren’t getting much push up front which exposes the weakness that is their safeties. You would think they have a strong suit, but teams are having their way and doing whatever they want against them.
For the Cowboys, it hurts to have DeMarcus Ware missing games and his presence means more than statistics, but to be honest he wasn’t playing at a high level. Safety Barry Church has stepped up while linebacker Sean Lee is quickly becoming a household name. They get shredded in the passing game, but at least the cornerbacks are more active than the rank suggests.
Philadelphia, believe it or not, has entered the top ten against the run (9th). They load the box, problem is that the safeties aren’t dependable whatsoever. Defensive Tackle Fletcher Cox is the anchor with physical corners that can tackle. Brandon Boykin is the best slot corner in the game.
Escaping a struggling division to a struggling team, Minnesota ranks as the third worst defense and that was before losing safety Harrison Smith for the year. Keep in mind that two years ago this was a 2-14 team, so it appears that last season’s playoff run behind MVP Adrian Peterson was an anomaly, much like the Redskins. With rumors regarding defensive end Jared Allen and the trade deadline today, that would simply be a financial move that makes sense when you’re not that competitive. They can still turn things around but its difficult to steer a ship in the right direction when half of it is underwater.
Yes, those teams have allowed more yards than Jacksonville, but they are next in line and just don’t have much going for them in general. Gus Bradley is the new coach and it may take awhile to implement his Seattle blueprint, but at least they have a stud in the middle that racks up tackles in Paul Posluszny. Then you get surprises like the Bills, Lions, and Bears, oh my. Injuries hit every team, but Detroit came into the season without a respectable secondary. Chicago isn’t getting the production they would like from Shea McClellin or Julius Peppers, with that said it would be nice of linebacker Jonathan Bostic played like he did in the preseason. Hopefully ball-hawks Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs can have a healthy second half of the season as well.
What is somewhat surprising is the fact the Buffalo and Detroit remain in the bottom third of defense. The Bills have some talent to work with, however the Lions need their young D-line to play consistently because the linebackers depend on them, and the secondary is barely existent. Detroit definitely thought they got better this offseason, and they are getting production from linebackers DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch.
Against the Run
We already discussed the Jaguars, Bears, Bills, and Redskins, but some of these other teams might be news to you. New England, Pittsburgh, and Houston are very stout against the pass, but they just cannot halt a ground game for the life of them so far. The Patriots rank in the middle of the pack overall, except only the Jaguars are worse at defending the run. The Steelers and Texans are struggling and this definitely contributes to their issues, it’s crazy to think that overall and against the pass they have been dictating what offenses do.
We have seen moments from Indianapolis and Tennessee on the defensive side of the football, however they aren’t fairing so well on the ground either. The Colts have a gaping hole through the middle of their cover-2, although the strategy for them is to bend without breaking. If they can add another defender in the box to improve in this aspect, not only will they make the playoffs but a deep run could come to fruition. The Titans attack recklessly and this has been the fault for them, then again they should be encouraging the offense to do whatever it takes to keep them off the field. Unfortunately, that places all four teams representing the AFC East in this category.
Against the Pass
Dallas, Minny, D.C. and Philly give the world up to quarterbacks and their targets, and some other teams mentioned continue to spiral downwards like the Bears and Redskins. Some newcomers to the defensive cellar, against the pass at least, are Denver and San Diego. The Chargers have to realize that their best defense has been the clock-milking offense. The Bolts don’t get much of anything in terms of pressure or coverage. The Broncos get a boost from Von Miller and should move towards the middle of the pack, it’s just the fact that their opponents are usually playing from behind so they’re forced to throw more than usual. Plus, a healthy Champ Bailey should ease the pressure on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to form a feisty veteran tandem.