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Defense Is Opportunistic, Stingy When It Matters Most

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The Redskins' decision to implement the 3-4 defense this season remains closely scrutinized.

Has it been effective?

Jim Haslett's answer: depends on what you mean by effective.

The Redskins' defense is ranked 31st in the NFL in yards allowed and 31st in pass defense, but Haslett contends that's because the schedule has included top offenses such as Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Green Bay and Indianapolis.

Haslett continues to point to turnovers as a top measure of success.

And the Redskins are tied for second in the NFL with 19 turnovers -- nine interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries.

"I would be more excited if we had four or five more [turnovers]," Haslett said. "We should be up somewhere around 25 or 26 turnovers, which would be off the charts. Nineteen is good, but hopefully in the second half of the season we can continue to do that and maybe do a little bit more because I do think they help win games."

The defense is also ranked second in the league on third downs.

While the defense is giving up yards, the unit is opportunistic with turnovers and stingy when it matters most.

"You're never going to be happy with the numbers because the numbers got blown out of the water early because of the teams we were playing," Haslett said. "I don't know if you could ever recover from that. The things we're doing well? We're getting turnovers. We're getting off the field on third down, trying to keep the points off the board as much as we can.

"We're doing a pretty good job of that...We just keep working at it and chipping away at those other things."

One of the keys to the Redskins' defensive success is how Haslett has integrated certain players who don't necessarily fit into the 3-4 scheme.

Two notable examples are Albert Haynesworth and Andre Carter.

Listed as a nose tackle, Haynesworth has been used in a variety of roles – including in nickel packages – to take advantage of his skills. He has played more defensive end than nose tackle.

Haynesworth has been dominant in his last three games, recording 11 tackles and two sacks.

Similarly, Carter has been used in pass-rushing situations, as part of a platoon with Lorenzo Alexander. He is lining up with his hand down like a defensive end – his natural position – instead of standing up as a linebacker.

While Carter's numbers this year – 28 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble – aren't on part with his 11 sacks a year ago, Haslett says he has been effective.

"You kind of learn something new about these guys every day you're with them," Haslett said. "I think the last couple of weeks, we have gotten a really good feel for where we're at [as a defense], how to use guys and take advantage of everybody's ability. When you switch a scheme and change things, it does take time.

"I didn't think you would still be in this process at this time, but I think we have a good handle on it right now."

Added Alexander: "The more the coaches are around us, the more they know what we do best. They can put us in positions that use our skills a lot better."

The defense has been helped by the steady play of middle linebacker London Fletcher, who leads the defense with 96 tackles, and the Pro Bowl-caliber play of safety LaRon Landry.

Playing closer to the line of scrimmage as a strong safety instead of a deep free safety has served Landry well. He has been a hard-hitting presence, recording 88 tackles, one sack, one interception and one forced fumble.

"The scheme fits him," Haslett said. "Troy Polamalu does the same thing in Pittsburgh...You can do a lot of different things with LaRon. He can go out and play corner, he can play in the slot, he can rush, he can blitz and he can cover. We have taken advantage of that."

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