Four Redskins’ Defenders Who Have Improved Dramatically

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The Redskins have only played eight quarters of football. It’s irresponsible to make major judgments based on such a small sample size. That said, there are four players who are already producing at a rate that they never did last season. Here is a look at some of Washington’s young players who look to be in the process of having prolific seasons.

Preston Smith

He looks like a different player than he did for most of last season. He’s got a sack in both games and has played the run exceptionally well, particularly when breaking down in the backfield against a jet-sweep from speedy receiver Tavon Austin this past week. He’s tied for the team lead in tackles-for-loss (3), sacks (2) and he’s already generated four quarterback pressures/hits. Smith went the entire 2016 season without getting a full sack in back-to-back games, something he’s already done this year. It looks like he could be the Redskins’ replacement for 2016 standout Trent Murphy, who is out for the season.

Kendall Fuller

Now we know why Washington drafted the injured cornerback in the third round. The sophomore has been an asset in the slot, covering well while playing a cerebral game and flashing veteran instincts. A year ago Fuller was a liability, routinely in coverage on big plays and rarely impacting games positively. That has changed this September. Fuller’s blown up two screens int he backfield, one of which resulted in a takeaway, and he’s contributed textbook tackling while making seven stops. He’s broken up three pass attempts, which doesn’t account for a sensational play he made on a throw to the endzone negated by an offensive holding call. No Redskin has made bigger strides in the last year.

Matt Ioannidis

Who is this powerful man wearing No. 98? Ioannidis looks like a pocket-pushing, interior-collapsing presence up front. He went weeks without being mentioned last season and almost never showed up on film. Those days are over. Ioannidis has been credited with four quarterback hits/pressures, third-most among the team’s defensive linemen so far. He even had a half-sack in the season-opener, something he never did as a rookie. A fifth-round pick last year, Ioannidis looks like a guy playing a game that has slowed down. He will be an important member of Washington’s d-line rotation all season.

Bashaud Breeland

The 25 year-old has inaugurated his contract year with consecutive sharp games in coverage. Breeland’s lone regrettable plays to this point came on consecutive snaps this past weekend, when he got sucked inside on an outside run and missed a leaping Todd Gurley, who hurdled him, on a touchdown catch, a snap later. But Breeland hasn’t given up any big plays down the field. He shadowed Alshon Jeffrey brilliantly on a couple deep shots in week-one and helped get the Redskins off the field on a couple intermediate throws in week-two. I’m not sure what led to Breeland’s regression as a third-year starter in 2016 but he looks like he’s back to his previous form, providing tight, physical coverage.

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Grant Paulsen

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