As it still searches for a new name, Washington prepares to kick off its NFL campaign on Sept. 12 at home against the LA Chargers. Question marks still surround the team’s offense, but the Washington Football Team‘s defense is ready to obliterate the NFL.
Washington is stacked on the defensive line and has weapons at every level. Ryan Fitzpatrick has made a career out of being a journeyman game manager, but that could be all the Football Team’s dominant defense needs to make a Super Bowl run.
The Washington Football team’s defense is underrated and often gets lost in the NFC East drama
An up-and-coming defense that isn’t flashy doesn’t get the headlines in a division that’s full of it. Washington’s dominance on that side of the ball isn’t as sexy as Jerry Jones, Dak Prescott, and Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas. It’s not as dramatic as Doug Pederson’s and Carson Wentz’s exits from Philadelphia. It’s not as attention-grabbing as multiple training camp fights in New York. The Football Team’s defense just produces.
As a unit, Washington’s defense was ranked fourth in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. It was in the top three in the league in terms of yards allowed, first downs allowed, and passing yards and touchdowns allowed. The Football Team was also fifth in interceptions.
It’s the best unit in the entire division by a good margin.
The team’s defensive talent and ferocity is ready to obliterate offenses across the league
Washington has spent its last five first-round draft picks on defense, and it starts four defensive linemen drafted with first-round picks from 2017-20. The 2021 draft saw the team select linebacker Jamin Davis. The four seasons prior, it was Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, and Jonathan Allen. Young was one of the best defensive ends in the league his rookie season, and Sweat was even better. Allen has proven himself to be a force on the interior.
Davis will slot in as Washington’s starting middle linebacker. Last year was also a breakout season for cornerback William Jackson III, who was signed as a free agent from Cincinnati.
Sweat is 24 and heading into his third NFL season. Young is 22 and was named the 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Allen is 26 heading into his fifth season. The potential for improvement along the Football Team’s defensive line should terrify the rest of the NFL.
It’s an offensive league, but defenses can still carry a team
Washington won the NFC East last year with a 7-9 record. The team threw only 16 touchdown passes and was in the bottom seven of the league in both points and total rushing yards. The defense has already carried the team to a playoff berth once.
Adding Fitzpatrick behind center, if he can keep his turnovers in check, is an upgrade over the combination of Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, and Kyle Allen. The team has one of the most underrated wideouts in the league in Terry McLaurin. Antonio Gibson is a dual-threat running back, and The Football Team may have unearthed a gem in undrafted rookie Jaret Patterson. Patterson is skyrocketing up fantasy boards after rushing for 71 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in Washington’s Week 2 preseason game against the Bengals.
Quarterbacks and spread offenses now rule the NFL, but the old adage that defenses win championships still has merit, and the Washington Football Team’s defense is one of the best. The team has good odds to repeat as division champs in 2021, and once the playoffs start, anything can happen.
The ability to keep offenses in check and put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks should give Washington a legitimate shot at a deep playoff run this coming season.
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference unless otherwise noted.