Tenacious, hard-nosed defenses have been a hallmark of the Redskins for decades. From 2007-09, the team finished with a top 10 ranking each year, before sinking to 31st overall last year.
Part of that can be attributed to personnel and adjusting to the new 3-4 scheme. Another part can be attributed to a rash of injuries that depleted the depth on the defense.
Heading into the 2011 season, nearly everyone is healthy and most starters have a full year in the scheme.
The next step is to execute.
"We need to eliminate the mistakes, and be consistent throughout the year," linebacker Brian Orakpo said. "We had games last year where we dominated, and we had games where we were just all over the place."
Last offseason, the Redskins acquired five new starters on defense – defensive linemen Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, cornerback Josh Wilson and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe.
The new-look defense makes its debut against the New York Giants on Sunday.
Orakpo is looking forward to the matchup. He believes the defense has something to prove against the Giants.
"We're very excited, but we've got to be solid against the run," he said. "Obviously, the Giants are a big-run team with [Brandon] Jacobs and [Ahmad] Bradshaw leading the way. We have to be run sound through our gaps, and everybody has to finish tackles."
In Week 12 last year, Jacobs and Bradshaw gashed the Redskins' run defense in a 31-7 win at New Meadowlands Stadium. They combined for 200 yards rushing and four touchdowns in the game.
The two teams met again in Week 17 and this time the Giants rushed 32 times for 82 yards. The secondary yielded 243 yards through the air as the Giants narrowly won 17-14.