The Washington Redskins' defensive backs have been a growing concern in 2012, and secondary coach Raheem Morris has come under scrutiny to improve the unit.
Things don't get easy for Washington on Sunday, when they host the undefeated Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Washington are near the bottom in passing defense, conceding 326.2 passing yards per game, yet the only opponent they've faced with a reputation for a strong aerial attack has been the New Orleans Saints.
The Redskins were in control after the first half against the Tampa Buccaneers on Sunday with a 21-6 lead, but allowed the Bucs to chip away at the lead with 16-straight points, and nearly gave quarterback Josh Freeman his first 300-yard passing performance in 10 games dating back to last season.
Washington eventually pulled out the 24-22 win, but the team acknowledged their poor play in the second half.
“We can’t win letting leads like that go. We’ve got to buckle down and finish games off,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said to the Washington Times. “That has to be our identity. We have to go out there and play for 60 minutes and keep hitting, keep hitting offenses in the mouth. We kind of let up a little bit, and we’ll keep working on that trying to get better.”
Some other disconcerting statistics include: leading the league in most passing touchdowns allowed with 11, leading the league in number of plays that an opponent drove 40-plus yards on one play with six, and third in plays of conceding 20-plus yards to an opponent on one play with 20.
In each of the four games this season, at least one receiver has recorded a 100-plus yard game against Washington, including a monstrous performance in Week Three by Cincinnati Bengals wide out A.J. Green, who caught eight passes for 183 yards and one touchdown.
Despite the secondary, Washington rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III has done his part to keep the Redskins in games. With Griffin at the helm, the offense is third in total yards with 1,687, fourth in points with 30.8 per game and first in rushing yards, gaining 171.0 a game.
And while Griffin was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month, all of his scoring prowess will not help a secondary that can’t seem to play proper pass coverage.
The pressure appears to be on Morris. The 36-year-old coach was the head coach of the Buccaneers from 2009 to 2012, and was looking to have his defensive backs step up against a rather weak Tampa Bay passing attack. The Bucs were able to pounce on Redskins' secondary, prompting pressure on Morris to make adjustments.
Improvement may be difficult against Atlanta with injuries playing a huge factor. Safety Brandon Meriweather could miss his second-straight game after colliding with receiver Aldrick Robinson during pregame warm-ups and spraining his left knee, while cornerback Cedric Griffin may miss his second-straight game with a sore hamstring.
If Meriweather does sit, nine-year veteran safety Madieu Williams will have to step up against early-season MVP candidate Matt Ryan, who has led Atlanta to 4-0 record and leads the NFL with a 112.1 passer rating and 11 touchdowns.