The Sports Xchange

NFL Team Report - Washington Redskins - INSIDE SLANT

In 2013, the word beleaguered often preceded the phrase "Redskins defense." Although coordinator Jim Haslett, line coach Jacob Burney and secondary coach Raheem Morris are all back and eight of the starters who finished out last season are regulars again, halfway through preseason, Washington's unit is playing much better.

Admittedy, it's preseason. Admittedly, New England rested standout skill-position players Danny Amendola, Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski against Washington in the preseason opener. Admittedly, Cleveland has quarterback issues and questionable talent at other spots.

However, the fact remains that the Redskins' starting defense has been on the field for six series this summer encompassing 26 snaps and has surrendered just 71 yards, four first downs and no points. The latter statistic has certainly helped first-year coach Jay Gruden get off to a 2-0 preseason start.

"I thought our defense did a nice job maintaining their rush lanes, playing good pass coverage," Gruden said. "Most importantly we did a great job at tackling and I thought for the most part throughout the game."

All told, Washington has allowed 556 yards, 35 first downs and 29 points on 113 snaps this summer.

On Monday, second-year safety Bacarri Rambo forced a fumble after the Browns, leading 3-0, had advanced to the Washington 44 late in the second quarter. The Redskins also recorded five sacks, two from starting outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and one each from reserve outside linebacker Gabe Miller and backup end Clifton Geathers with backup outside linebacker Rob Jackson and reserve cornerback Chase Minnifield splitting the other one.

"Our unit (handled) some adversity with our offense giving up (four) turnovers (two by the starters)," said three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. "I thought we did a great job. I know what type of defense we're capable of being. We just gotta keep it up. And we ain't even fully loaded yet (minus rehabbing three-year starting right end Stephen Bowen and with veteran cornerback Tracy Porter and inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton, both limited by injuries). Once we get fully loaded, we're gonna be something special. But that's all talk. We got to keep working."

Kerrigan is always working. A Pro Bowl selection in 2012, his second season, Kerrigan likes what he's seeing from a starting unit in which unproven inside linebacker Keenan Robinson has replaced retired captain London Fletcher, second-year man David Amerson has succeeded departed cornerback Josh Wilson and heady veteran safety Ryan Clark was brought back from Pittsburgh after an eight-year absence as an upgrade from Reed Doughty, who's out of the league.

"I've seen a lot of three-and-outs from the ones and that's always encouraging," Kerrigan said. "That's what you want to do. You want to keep an opposing team's defense on the field as long as possible."

As for his pair of sacks on Monday, Kerrigan wasn't crowing. His first came on the opening play when Cleveland quarterback Brian Hoyer was seemingly not ready for the snap and his second got the defense off the field when the Browns had third-and-5 at the Washington 41 in a scoreless game in the first quarter.

"I was fortunately able to get the first one out of the way on a miscommunication on their part," said Kerrigan, who has recorded 24.5 sacks during his three seasons. "After you get that first one out of the way, you're a little more relaxed. I definitely thought the second one was more of a coverage sack than anything, so thanks to (cornerback DeAngelo Hall) and all of those guys back there for making (Browns rookie quarterback Johnny) Manziel hold on to the ball a little longer."


NFL Team Report - Washington Redskins - NOTES, QUOTES

--Quarterback Robert Griffin III completed six of eight passes for 112 yards in Monday's 24-23 preseason victory over Cleveland, but the third-year quarterback still had way too many mistakes. Griffin recklessly absorbed big hits from the Browns in a meaningless game, threw a foolish interception when the Redskins had the ball at the Cleveland 27 and was whistled twice for false starts.

As first-year coach Jay Gruden noted, "(Robert) has a habit in his career of being able to get himself out of predicaments with his speed and his athleticism."

However, Griffin's penchant to try to gain extra yards and make a big play have also caused him to take too many blows and to have his dynamic rookie year of 2012 end with two torn ligaments in his right knee, the recovery from which affected him throughout his disappointing second season.

Griffin, as usual, didn't question his attempted heroics against the Browns.