There’s no doubt in the eyes of many, Washington’s defense provides the most questions in need of answers. During training camp the biggest question was will the front seven hold up in the run game? Did Scot McCloughan do enough to address the needs on the defensive line? Here’s the issue, there was optimism heading into the preseason but as Washington heads into the regular season, they have shown that they will have their issues versus solid run attacks.
Washington’s secondary has the potential to join the ranks of the elite with Denver, Seattle, Houston, Kansas City, and Green Bay. The additions of Greg Toler, Kendall Fuller, David Bruton, Josh Norman, Duke Ihenacho (coming back from injured reserve), and Su’a Cravens along with the promising developments of Breeland, Dunbar, Hall (who’s converted to safety), makes this secondary solid and the preseason has shown this group is capable of causing nightmares for quarterbacks and coordinators. However what’s promising on one end, can be and more likely will be overshadowed by the opposite on the other end.
Here’s the brutally honest truth as it stands right now, the defensive line has absolutely no threats or game changers in that group. Chris Baker had a great and surprising year last season, Ricky-Jean Francois flashed as well. Still, it is hard for anyone to say the success they had last year will provide consistency from them this year and beyond. The issue Washington had last year was that teams were so efficient offensively because they were often balanced in their attack. The defense was thrown on 566 times, which is 17th in attempts, but the defense was 8th in yards given up at 258. Washington’s run defense was 23rd in attempts at only 406, but the defense was 7th in yards given up at 123 and more importantly tied for 2nd in yards per attempt at 4.8. The last stat that should be noted is the average yards per drive, which was 34 ypd and 5th worse in the NFL.
One may ask, what does last year’s numbers mean as it pertains to this year?
Well while one weakness has improved drastically, another has seemingly worsened. The defensive line has been driven off the line of scrimmage often, numerous interior lineman have had trouble shedding blocks. Which has led to some players taking on unnecessary double teams. According to the statistics this preseason, you may be led to think Washington’s defense is actually pretty good but it should be the eye test and individual performances you should be focusing on.
The addition of Cullen Jenkins proves that this team is seemingly desperate for help. Kendrick Golston, Kendall Reyes, Stephen Paea (who was cut just this week), and Ziggy Hood have shown little to no signs they are capable of starting 16 games and making a difference. Which would be an area that offenses will take advantage of. A team that can’t stop the run, will have difficulty getting off the field defensively. This provides major concerns because if teams can minimize the amount of passing attempts and run effectively, time of possession and playing keep away from a high powered offense can create severe headaches for the defending division champions. Eleven of the 16 games this year will feature teams who were top half in the league in rushing offense, Washington needs to compensate properly for a seemingly ineffective group.