The greatest defensive players in Redskins history
By Jonathan Eig
Defense doesn’t always get its due, but today, we’ll go through the best defenders in Redskins history.
Six former Washington Redskins’ defensive players are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I’m counting real Redskins. Not the mercenaries who showed up for a quick payday at the end of their careers – guys like Deacon Jones, Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, and Jason Taylor. (BTW, fun fact: Three of those names are in the top ten most popular surnames in the United States, while the fourth, Sanders, is in the top 75. Moral: If you are a signing a mercenary, he’s likely to have a generic last name).
Compare that to the eleven Redskins offensive players in the Hall. I’m counting the early two-way players on offense, because even though the likes of Sammy Baugh and Cliff Battles did play defense, they are in the Hall of Fame for their exploits on offense.
I have not done a study of this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is generally true for most teams. Defense may win championships, but offense gets the glory. Offensive players almost always win the league MVP award, or the Heisman Trophy, or the date to prom with the head cheerleader. Not fair, but life.
So it’s time to give the defense some love. I can’t arrange the cheerleader date, but I can choose the greatest defensive players in Redskins’ history. Those six Hall of Famers figure prominently, though three of them played their most significant years for other teams, so they may drop down the list a bit. I’m only considering what players did while wearing the burgundy and gold.
As with any historical piece, I am indebted to Redskins historian Michael Richman for his wonderful reference material, especially when it comes to evaluating the players I never got to see in person.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Lorenzo Alexander, Mike Bass, Bill Brundige, Brad Dusek, DeAngelo Hall, Joe Lavender, Harold McClinton, Ron McDole, Mark Murphy, Neal Olkewicz, Brian Orakpo, Brig Owens, Tony Peters, Joe Rutgens, Barry Wilburn