• Erica Blackburn

Washington's defense has high expectations

Washington will enter this season trying to accomplish a feat they haven’t done since 2004, and that’s repeat as NFC East champions. The defense is the backbone of the team, but can you depend on them again to carry them to another playoff berth?

With success comes expectations, and the expectations are high for the Washington Football Team. They won the NFC East with a 7-9 record last season and hosted their first playoff home game since 2014. Despite not finishing with a positive record, last season actually gave Washington some hope. Their defense was one of the top units in the NFL. Washington finished fourth in the NFL in points allowed per game (20.6), second in total yards conceded (304.6), second in passing yards (191.6) and fifth in sacks at 2.9 per game. With some smart additions in free agency in the draft, Washington’s defense is loaded at almost every position.

Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Montez Sweat are the straws that stir the drink for Washington, and will be for the foreseeable future. If you can get after the quarterback, you’re going to put yourself in a great position to win a lot of games. Sweat is 24 years old, Payne is 24, Allen is 26 and Young is the youngest at 22. They are virtually babies of the NFL with room for growth.

Cornerback William Jackson, who spent the first four years of his career with the Bengals, should be a perfect complement opposite former third-rounder Kendall Fuller. First-round pick Jamin Davis is an excellent addition to the linebacker room alongside Jon Bostic and Cole Holcomb. A rejuvenated Landon Collins with a couple young safeties the franchise likes in the mix, and you have yourself a formidable defense.

“The more that we play and the more that we get a groove for each other, the easier it is to play off one another,” said defensive tackle Tim Settle. “So once we get it going, it's going to be hard to stop.”

Year two in Jack Del Rio’s defense should help the defense build off the success of 2020 and compete for the title of top defense in 2021. The key for the defense will be about everybody buying into the system.

“Once guys get a feel for the fact that we don't need one guy conquering and winning and destroying everybody,” said head coach Ron Rivera. “We need everybody to be disciplined, do your jobs and make the plays you're supposed to. The plays will come to the guys. That's the thing they've got to understand is the play comes to you and then you gotta make it and that's where we are now. I think the discipline part of it is really big for us. But the thing that I really think that you see now as they're playing faster, they're communicating better. That's the important thing because once that happens, playing fast is at an optimal because that's when you make plays."

The 2021 Washington Football Team is talented from top to bottom on defense, but ultimately a lot of their success will depend on how they handle high expectations.

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