Here's five takeaways from Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry's Oct. 22 press conference at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
1. Yes, the run defense has struggled the last two weeks, but at times they've continued to remain stout in the area. The key against the Buccaneers will be stopping the run.
After giving up just a little more than 300 rushing yards through the first four games of the season, the Redskins have given up 397 yards on the ground in the last two weeks.
Both Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman and New York Jets running back Chris Ivory each had at least 100 yards, boosted by big runs.
"Well, we talked about last week I think the game plan the week before against Atlanta dictated it a little bit, but the funny thing was – going back to Atlanta – the three biggest runs they had were in what we call eight-man fronts," Barry said. "We just lost a gap and missed a tackle. I know that you can't do this, but just going back and really analyzing this Sunday on Monday and Tuesday, there were seven plays that really hurt us in the run game – two by the quarterback and then five by the running backs."
Against the Jets, they carried the ball 41 times for 221 yards. They had seven big runs. The other 34 accounted for a little more than 50 yards.
"We went back and watched it together as a group and I tried to point out we looked at those other 34 runs where we were pretty damn stout and knocked the run out," Barry said. "But to give up, I don't know what that averages out to be, 34 runs for 52 yards is pretty damn good. At the end of the day, we've got to be more consistent. We've got to play down in and down out. That's what happened the last two weeks. We've let a couple get away from us and that can't happen."
2. Barry likes Bashaud Breeland's aggressive mentality that's resulted in four takeaways over the last two weeks.
Breeland is quickly proving that his rookie season, one in which he recorded 66 tackles with 14 passes defensed and two interceptions, was no fluke.
Against the Falcons, Breeland recorded a late game interception. Last Sunday, he added to his season totals with an additional interception and two fumble recoveries.
His mentality, one that's always seeking for game-changing plays, is just one of many characteristics Barry loves about the second-year Clemson product.
"We stress turnovers. We stress takeaways. We stress taking the ball away," Barry said. "We have a mentality, 'Hey, when the ball is in the air, it's our ball. When a runner is carrying the ball, go take it from him. When the ball is on the ground, scoop and score.' We've been stressing those things since OTA No. 1. Like I mentioned to you guys three or four weeks ago when the takeaways weren't going our way, I said 'We're going to keep stressing it, we're going to keep hammering it, and they'll come.' Now that we've had two pretty good games of getting the ball, taking it away, it's not like our mentality changes."
Barry said when someone starts tallying a bunch of turnovers, it leads to a unit-wide mindset.
"As a corner, when the ball is thrown your way you get opportunities," Barry said. "But I think Bree, I think Chris Baker, they have a great knack for it. The thing that's great is that the other nine guys see those two, 'Wow, when I do punch at the ball, when I do hammer the ball, when I do rake the ball, look what happens.' It's kind of helped us in what we've been stressing. To ask you why it's happening with him, I have no idea. But I'm totally for it and I like it."
3. The Redskins look at Will Compton as a key backup who is also like 'a starter in the waiting.'
The primary backup to both Perry Riley Jr. and Keenan Robinson, Compton has recorded starts at both inside linebacker spots over the last three seasons.
This season, Compton replaced Riley Jr. in the lineup for two games as he dealt with a calf issue, and is currently fourth on the team with 29 total tackles.
While Riley Jr. and Robinson will continue to get their work with the starters, that doesn't mean Compton won't make appearances.
"Every time that we've ever called Will's number to come in and play, he's done a great job," Barry said. "I love the fact that we have Will Compton. He backs up both our Mike backer and our Dime backer in sub. He backs up our Mike backer and Mo linebacker in base, so he's totally adequate to come in and play, but no we're not at that point."
4. There is no one solution to the team's third quarter woes to date, but they've been addressed.
Coming out strong by fading in the third quarter has been a common theme for the Redskins so far this season, as they've lead at halftime in five of six games this season and then have been outscored 46-3 in third quarters.
While it's difficult to say one particular phase is causing the problems, Barry said the team has talked about coming out of halftime as strong as they do the opening kickoff.
"We've got to come out and start faster because we don't have a problem starting the game; we just have a problem starting the second half," Barry said. "But it has been addressed, it's been talked about. It's been kind of a theme on the practice field. Halfway through practice, kind of cranking it up, so I think it's just one of those things. I think the worst thing you can ever do anytime something is not going right is to ignore it and not talk about it. We've talked about it. We've addressed it. Now, we've got to go play better. We've got to coach better."
5. With the Buccaneers involving a lot of screen action plays and passes to their run backs into the offensive scheme, the Redskins must remain disciplined on defense Sunday.
Barry said the coaches this week showed different third-down plays in which the running backs busted out big gains in the passing game.
"You know, I showed a big third-and-15 that [No.] 22 [Doug Martin] converted against New Orleans. [No.] 34 [Charles Sims] had a huge third-and-15 against Jacksonville for 50 yards — on screen plays," Barry said. "I think the more dynamic backs that there are in this league, a little, simple two-yard pass on a screen play can be dangerous if it's not properly fit, if your pursuit angles aren't proper."
Barry said disciplined is being stressed beyond third downs, too.
"These guys do a great job in the screen game on first and second down, on third down," Barry said. "It happens all the time, they have a different variety of screens, but most importantly, the two guys carrying them — No. 22 and 34 --- very good screen backs. So, it's been a point of emphasis for us all week, no doubt."