Through three weeks, one of the most surprising aspects of the 2021 season is seeing the Washington Football Team defense get plowed over on the regular.
After finishing as a top-5 defense in 2020, Washington expected to improve into one of the best Ds in the NFL. Instead, they’re wallowing at the bottom.
The star of the group, reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young, has epitomized the struggles. Through three weeks, Young has zero sacks and a single QB hit.
“I feel like everybody right now, we know what we have to change. Something has to change,” Young said on Team 980 on Tuesday, via NBC Sports Washington. “Right now, everybody is real urgent, holding each other accountable. At this point, it’s no other way. It has to be every man on the roster holding each other accountable and working to one mission. That’s where we’re trying to be at right now.”
After ranking in the top 3 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA last season, they currently sit in the bottom-4 of the same metric.
Washington has allowed 30.7 PPG (29th in NFL) and 432.0 total YPG (31st) through three weeks. In 2020, the team allowed 20.6 PPG (4th in NFL) and 304.6 total YPG (2nd). If Washington doesn’t turn it around, it’d become the third team since the 1970 NFL merger to have finished as a bottom-five scoring and total defense the season after finishing top 5 in both categories (2013-14 Saints, 2012-13 Bears, 1994-95 Cardinals).
Was Washington’s prowess last season a mirage based on the mediocre quarterbacks it faced down the stretch? Or is the start of this season simply a group underperforming?
Washington has five players drafted in the first round in their front seven, with a combined five sacks thus far: Jonathan Allen (3.0 sacks), Montez Sweat (2.0), Young (0), Daron Payne (0), and Jamin Davis (0).
Allen has been playing out of his mind to start the season, wrecking the middle of offensive lines with regularity. Unfortunately, the rest of the crew hasn’t yet hit that standard.
Young is confident the group will gel as the season progresses.
“It just goes back to playing together and trusting each other,” Young said. “If you do that, you won’t have those few mistakes that we’ve slipped up on.”
The three-game sackless streak matches the longest of Young’s fledgling career (Weeks 5-7, 2020 after return from groin injury).
Sunday in Atlanta marks a chance for Washington to turn it around against a Falcons offense that has also badly disappointed to open the season, averaging just 16.0 points per game (29th in NFL).
“We’re definitely not worried what people have to say. People are going to talk for the rest of eternity,” Young said. “Right now, what we’re trying to do is lock in and focus on us and nothing outside. Just take another step that you have to take to try to be the best you can be. Those are the steps we’re taking.”
The first step starts Sunday by winning in Atlanta.
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