The biggest surprise of the first two games for the Washington Football Team has been the lack of consistency for the star-studded defense. Coming into the 2021 season, Washington was expected to rely on its defense that was getting national attention.
The defense, so far, has not lived up to that billing. They played well enough to beat the Chargers in Week 1. They forced two turnovers and gave the offense multiple chances to put the game away.
However, they could never get the crucial stop against the Chargers in the fourth quarter to give their offense one last chance. The Chargers were 14-for-19 on third downs in Week 1. Washington’s defense simply has too much talent to be that bad on third down.
Against the Giants, their poor performance was surprising and frankly inexcusable. They gave up 29 points, almost 400 yards, and the Giants averaged six yards a play. Not good. Especially against a team that had an extremely depleted offensive line.
While Washington forced New York into five field goals, playing quintessential “bend, don’t break” defense, should not happen vs the Giants.
That is a game the Washington Football Team is supposed to dominate. And they did not, forcing the offense to make big play after big play. That formula, especially with Taylor Heinicke at QB, is likely not conducive to consistent success.
To the naked eye, it is quite perplexing why the Washington Football Team is struggling so much on defense. But the main reason is pretty clear. Washington added multiple new pieces to its secondary.
There is a clear lack of chemistry with that unit. Over the first two games, they can’t seem to get on the same page. For as dominant as Washington’s defensive line can be, it won’t matter if the backend is poor.
Here’s more on why the lack of continuity in the secondary is crippling the defense and how this one play tells the story.
Lack of continuity is an issue for Washington Football Team secondary
Before diving into the blown coverage on Thursday night, let’s discuss the newness the Washington Secondary has. So far in 2021, the Washington Football Team players who have the most snaps in the secondary are: William Jackson III, Kendall Fuller, Benjamin St-Juste, Landon Collins, Kam Curl, and Bobby McCain.
Only three of those players are carryovers from the 2020 defense. Fuller has been moved back into the nickel after having one of the best seasons of his career on the outside. While he has experience at nickel, there still seems to be an adjustment phase taking place for the former third-round pick.
Oh, and Washington is relying heavily on a rookie corner, Benjamin St-Juste. He has played just over 66% of the defensive snaps. He improved against the Giants, but St-Juste will certainly have growing pains in his rookie year.
While the Washington Football Team secondary may be more talented, the lack of cohesion has been clear. And in a league with as many good receivers as the NFL has, bad results tend to happen with poor cohesion.
Now, let’s dive into the play. Many of you know it. It’s the play that almost threw a dagger into the hearts of Washington fans; the blown coverage on the Darius Slayton drop in the fourth quarter.
As Mark Bullock states, Washington is playing Cover-6. Half of the field is in Cover 4 and the other half is in Cover 2.
The Giants line up in a 2×2 set. As Bullock again states, they call a play that is a textbook Cover 6 beater. It makes the deep safety on the quarters’ side pick either the post route or the deep cross. Whichever one he doesn’t pick will be left in one-on-one coverage.
Landon Collins, the deep safety on this play, chooses the deep cross as he crashes down to take away that receiver. William Jackson III is playing with outside leverage and clearly expects over-the-top safety help.
However, due to poor communication, he does not realize he is not receiving additional help before it’s too late. Luckily for Washington, Slayton drops the pass.
On this particular play, Jackson should continue to run with the deep post. There are no additional routes coming towards his boundary side. However, he expects Collins to stay over the top instead of crashing down.
The fault of this play rests partly with Landon Collins and partly with William Jackson III. And most of all it is a sign of a secondary that is still getting used to playing with each other. As the season progresses, Washington should slowly iron out mistakes like this.
A glass half full approach would be that Washington won a football game where their strength played poorly.
The defense is far too talented to be as bad as they were Thursday night over a 17-game season.And their fatal flaw, inexperience with one another, is fixable. With a tough slate of quarterbacks approaching, however, that problem will need to be fixed fast.