Forget Last Year.
Can the Washington Commanders return to form on the defensive end this year? Signs point to perhaps. While expectations were high to start the 2021-2022 season, their defense settled into familiar mediocrity right out of the gate. What looked like one of the more well-rounded and upcoming units the previous season, quickly became deteriorated. Head coach Ron Rivera never makes excuses. What went wrong?
Whether it was the fact that Washington suffered from one of the tougher schedules in the league, or because their offense couldn’t keep the defense off the field, things fell flat. The pass defense was particularly lackluster. They gave up the fourth most yards per passing attempt and first downs allowed. They ranked 29th in total passing yards allowed and dead last in stopping passing touchdowns. COVID-19 didn’t help matters. 11 Washington starters were placed on the COVID list in week 14 when the NFC East was still up for grabs.
Stop the Pass.
Ultimately, good quarterbacks in particular didn’t have a problem moving the ball through the air against the Commanders. This may be the reasoning behind the decision to part ways with Landon Collins this offseason. The organization is opting for somewhat unproven youth instead. Collins wasn’t the worst strong safety turned linebacker hybrid by any means. He also didn’t impact the team the way the coaching staff hoped he would. He still remains unsigned by other clubs, supporting the case that his production doesn’t necessarily warrant the high pricetag.
Hold the Line.
Adding to last year’s woes was the serious injury to defensive end Chase Young in week 10. The 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year tore his ACL against the Buccaneers and still hasn’t quite made a full recovery. Several reports suggest that he will hopefully be back near the beginning of the upcoming regular season. Young was an instant game-changer after being drafted second overall. He has been adamant that Washington’s front line, accompanied by Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, can compete with the best of them.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio remains hopeful that the unfortunate injury total of last season will not reach the same extremes this year. He also believes a few players in the secondary, including William Jackson III and Benjamin St-Juste, will benefit from having more time within the Del Rio system. When it boils down to it, the linebackers and the secondary need to step it up in order for Washington to regain relevance. A returning Young and one of the easier schedules has the Commanders primed to return to form.
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