CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Power Rankings: D drives 'Skins, attack supercharges Pack

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Updated Oct. 4

Who's the quarterback, Rex Grossman or John Beck?

That's all we heard all spring and summer as it related to the Washington Redskins.

We should have been talking defense instead.

Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has a unit that is worth talking about. The Redskins are third in the NFL in scoring defense, giving up 15.3 points per game. That's a big improvement so far for a unit that gave up 23.6 points per game last season.

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If the defense can continue to play at that high level, and Grossman doesn't make mistakes, the Redskins just might have a chance to win the NFC East.

At 3-1, they are the surprise division leader, tied with the Giants, and they are eighth in this latest batch of CBSSports.com Power Rankings.

The Redskins are tied with the Eagles for the league lead in sacks with 15. They had 29 for all of 2010 to finish 25th in the league. They haven't exactly faced a murderer's row of offenses, with only one -- the Cowboys, at sixth -- ranked in the top half of the league. The Redskins lost that game.

Haslett, who is known as an aggressive 3-4 coach, had a tough time fitting the Redskins' personnel to his style of defense in his first season under Mike Shanahan in 2010.

That meant change. The Redskins defense that started in their 17-10 victory over the Rams on Sunday featured five new starters from a year ago, including two important down linemen in Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen and a pass rusher in rookie Ryan Kerrigan.

The addition of the players has enabled Haslett to do more of the things that he likes to do. He can be more aggressive. With Kerrigan complementing Brian Orakpo on the other side, teams are more reluctant to double or slide protections to Orakpo, who leads the team with 3 1/2 sacks. Kerrigan has 2 1/2.

If this defense can continue to progress, Haslett's name will again be mentioned as a head-coaching candidate. His interim stint with the Rams shouldn't hinder his chances of getting a second real chance to be a head coach. Haslett understands the modern player as well as any coach I've watched work. The players who played for him and play for him now love him.

What he's done so far for the Redskins defense should be attention-getting.

John Beck or Rex Grossman?

We missed the big story about the 2011 Redskins.

RANK TEAM MOVE (LW)

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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