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Reaching the QB is Redskins' best hope to improve defense
GRANT PAULSEN:

Date published: 7/26/2009

WHEN it came to sacking opposing quarterbacks, the 2007 New York Giants were second to none. It's no coincidence that New York also won the Super Bowl that season.

A season ago the Pittsburgh Steelers corralled more quarterbacks than any other team in the AFC. The Steelers went on to beat the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl.

It's not by chance that clubs that excel at getting to quarterbacks win lots of games, and it shouldn't surprise anyone that teams that generate a pass rush end up having postseason success.

Simply put: Pressuring the signal-caller forces an opposing quarterback to make rushed decisions, and those swift decisions increase the chances of incompletions and interceptions. Getting to the quarterback for a sack can also lead to a boost in fumbles, and will, at the very least, result in lost yardage.

The Washington Redskins haven't had a pass rush consistent enough to change games in years. In fact, last season the Redskins mustered just 24 all season, less than two per game. Only four teams--none of them Super Bowl contenders--had fewer than Washington

Amazingly, Washington's defense still finished the season ranked in the top five in yards allowed.

Defensive backs had to cover receivers and tight ends for longer. Linebackers had to track down running backs who had built up more momentum.

But the 2008 season didn't mark the first year of Washington's pass-rushing ineptitude. Last season capped a decade-long run of pass-rushing futility in which the team has finished in the top half of the league in sacks only four times.

Defensive end Renaldo Wynn recently told a D.C.-based radio station that it would be a "travesty" if the Redskins didn't get to the 40-sack plateau this season.

Wynn cited the additions of DT Albert Haynesworth and DE Brian Orakpo, the 13th overall pick in this year's draft, as reasons why Washington should finally be able to generate a high-quality and consistent pass rush.

If the veteran defensive end's prediction comes true, it'll be hard to imagine the Redskins' defense not improving.

A boost in the number of sacks would also lead to more turnovers and a spike in drives that begin with short fields, which could lead to the Redskins scoring more points this fall.

Grant Paulsen can be reached at The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401 or by fax at 540/373-8455.