The regular season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its second season under head coach Ron Rivera. Stay up to date with "WFT Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.
The Washington Football Team's defensive line was expected by many to have an encore performance heading into Year 2 of its four first-round picks working together.
Through three games, there have been some uneven performances.
The positives -- Jonathan Allen's three sacks and Daron Payne's career-high 11 pressures against the Buffalo Bills -- have not been enough to hide the fact that Washington simply isn't getting to quarterbacks as anticipated after a strong 2020 season. The defense is currently tied for 16th with six sacks.
Part of the issues, according to Ron Rivera, come from the group failing to work together consistently.
"One of the things that we saw, we really kind of saw it on tape this past Sunday, was that the rush wasn't as coordinated as it needed to be," Rivera told reporters Monday afternoon.
A lack of sacks doesn't necessarily mean a lack of pressure. Rivera believed the team would be fine rushing just four players, which was partly true. Payne led the charge for a defensive line that did manage to get in the backfield on several occasions.
However, Josh Allen found a way to maneuver around the pressure and complete passes, and playing out of sync was to blame. Payne would win his matchup, but whatever defensive end he was working with wouldn't be coordinated with him. So, Washington would have two players on the outside, meaning there would be a gap in the rush.
And since Washington has a gap-control defense, that creates problems Buffalo could -- and did -- exploit.
"We all play off each other," Chase Young said, "and I feel like we're just not doing that right now."
It's worth pointing out that the defensive line has also received more attention because of last year's success. Young, in particular, has been the victim of getting chipped at the line of scrimmage. Rivera still believes Young is a disruptive player; he's seen some positive plays despite the circumstances, but he also wants Young to play to his strengths to deal with the extra blockers.
"Sometimes, I think he has a little stutter in one of his moves and that to me it's not what he does best because the stutter he's got to stop, start and go again," Rivera said. "And I would much rather see him keep going vertical because when he is moving, he is a force, and he is difficult to stop."
The Washington Football Team went on the road for this first team this season to play the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
Washington can't help that offensive lines are going to do everything they can to hamper the pass-rush's success. That's what comes with being a successful group. So, Rivera reiterated that the defense, and the entire team for that matter, needs to play to its assignments.
"We have to play the schemes the way they're designed," Rivera said. "They're set up in a specific way, and there's an accountability to it. You have to do your job, and you have to be mature enough to handle that situation and circumstances."
The talent on Washington's defensive line didn't just disappear. Young, Payne and the rest of the pass rush still have the same ability that caused problems for offenses in 2020. Still, there's no denying the first three games were a rough patch. The good news is they have the skill to get back on track.
"One thing we're not going to do is stop," Young said. "Right now, we're not playing our best football, but we're gonna keep going."