No Week 3 game is worth panicking over, of course. After all, you’re only a handful of games into the season. But after a 43-21 drubbing at the hands of the Buffalo Bills, the restless discontent is beginning to surface with the fanbase, and the desire for answers is growing at a rapid pace.
Sure, Washington sits at 1-2. At worst, by the end of Week 3, they will be tied for second place in the NFC East with the struggling Falcons on the schedule for Week 4. But it doesn’t take a doctor or a professional football scout to see that this team simply doesn’t pass the eye test. Something is clearly wrong and, to be completely honest, I am not sure what it is.
It’s always tempting to make up answers. It’s even more tempting to make up answers about things you want answers to. But the 2021 season for the Washington Football Team to this point has left me baffled. Through three weeks, you could easily argue that Ron Rivera’s squad should be 0-3. So what in the world is going on?
Through three weeks, a number of trends are beginning to surface, and just about all of them are troubling.
What is wrong with the Washington Football Team?
To start with, the supposed strength of this defense has not only failed to show its potential but has been the main reason this team has looked so bad. The team’s “Defensive Player of the Year” candidate Chase Young has yet to register a single sack through three weeks. The “Alabama Wall” looks more like a speed bump than a force to be reckoned with. The secondary has failed over and over again. Combining everything gives you a defense that is giving up an average of 432 yards per game, which is second to last in the league. The group that was crowned “Top-5” before the season began is sinking to the bottom of the league right in front of our eyes.
After losing Ryan Fitzpatrick to injury before halftime of Washington’s season opener, the Taylor Heinicke experience kicked off well before most were ready for it. And while his gamer confidence makes for some fun highlight-reel plays, the pylon diving and gunslinging mentality put lipstick over several incredibly poor decisions that surfaced in a big way in Orchard Park, New York. The offensive line has been off and on this year, Antonio Gibson has yet to run for 100 yards in a game, and inexplicably, Terry McLaurin was only targeted 7 times against Buffalo, which was half the targets he received against the Giants.
It’s easy to sit here and say, “These are the problems with this team, they need to fix them.” But like most problems in life, there is a far more complex process behind why a problem occurs. The problem itself is simply the result of the process.
Am I really supposed to just believe that Chase Young is bad, and last year was a fluke? Did Kendall Fuller go from a dependable number one outside corner to a straight liability throughout one offseason? Are Washington’s linebackers physically unable to cover anyone in space?
It’s impossible to say the answer is 100% no to those questions, but it’s far more likely that something else is going on with the team that we don’t know about. Maybe it’s a scheme problem. Maybe there are underlying injuries that we don’t know of. Maybe it’s as simple as, the stars that we crowned in DC as being defensive game-changers were crowned too soon.
What I can say for sure is this. Chase Young has been invisible for the better part of the last three games. Landon Collins, healthy or not, is not living up to his contract. Jon Bostic and Cole Holcomb are struggling in just about every facet of playing the linebacker position. Kendall Fuller is giving up an uncomfortably large number of back-breaking plays, and William Jackson III is on pace for almost 17 penalties this season. Jamin Davis, the team’s first-round pick this year, outside of a 4th-and-1 stop against the Bills, has shown nothing.
These are all a result of something deeper, and Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio need to take this defense back to the lab and completely re-work it. Something is clearly broken, and it needs to be fixed. You would hope that on a 10-day rest period, the team would have time to scheme up some improvements for a better showing against Josh Allen’s Bills. But after one of the worst losses in recent years, they’ve got exactly seven days to figure something out.
Week 4 is a must-win for the Washington Football Team. Because in short order, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson are all waiting in the weeks ahead.
This team is too talented to look this bad, and whatever it is that needs to be fixed better be addressed by the time the team touches down in Atlanta.