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Redskins defense holds key to future success

Washington hopes to improve 21st-ranked unit

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RICHMOND, Va. –  There's all kind of attention on the Redskins quarterback switch from Kirk Cousins to Alex Smith for the upcoming season. But the biggest issue moving forward might be the need for the defense to improve after taking a big dip in performance in 2017.
 The Redskins defensive unit,  long a consistent strength, fell to 21ST in the league a year ago,  allowing more than 24 points per game.  A deluge of injuries led to patchwork lineups that lacked chemistry and experience. It's a situation they hope to avoid moving forward.

"We're trying to work to become a successful football team, you know? I think that's for one, why are we even here.  It's why we come here -- to be successful at anything and everything we do.  We have the pieces in place to do that, it's just getting guys to stay healthy and then once we're healthy go deep into the playoffs.  That's the main goal, just get into the playoffs, getting in there anything can happen," Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said.

Former all-pro Josh Norman remains the anchor in a secondary that finished in the top 10 against the pass.  The Skins finished 12 in the league in takeaways, a solid mark that a talented defensive of backfield would love to improve upon. 

"It's just chemistry. Us playing on the same page, me knowing where is Zach's going to be, Zach knowing where we gonna be.  the D-line knowing where Mason is going to be, me knowing where Zach wants to play, you know it's all of those things. Camp helps you build that chemistry. If you don't have chemistry on the defense, you won't be good, So chemistry in the focus, and the small details are going to help us get there," Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger said.

 The glaring weakness? Washington's inability to stop the run. Last in the league a year ago, they've added some big, talented pieces in the middle to try and stem the deluge of rushing yards against them.

"It'll open up a lot of gaps where were able to just hit it and make a lot of TFL's (tackles for loss), so at the end of the day, at that point it's going to depend on us to go out there and make tackles.  So I think there's gonna be a lot of that going on this year, credit to those guys up front," Redskins linebacker Martrell Speight said.