SNIDER: Who messed with the WFT defense?


Who would have guessed the Washington Football Team's biggest problem is not its quarterback, but the defensive line?

Washington defeated the New York Giants on the backs of quarterback Taylor Heinicke's sudden start and receiver Terry McLaurin and Co. catching everything. The WFT flipped its predicted offseason script by scoring at will, getting a big break on a New York mistake at the end and surviving defensive woes.

Surviving defensive woes? On what planet was this defensive line expected to play poorly two straight games? Of a defense with little pressure up front beaten too often by an opposing quarterback who barely does anything versus the league's other 30 teams?

But there was Heinicke overcoming his own near-fatal turnover to rally Washington once more down the field in one of the best games ever at FedEx Field. Heinicke was the one to counterpunch, not defensive ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat.

It's easy to blame defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio for not dialing up more blitzes, but Young and Sweat weren't winning individual battles, much less double teams. Each made only three tackles with Sweat adding a sack. Their presence was lacking and perplexing.

"There are too many good football players for us not to play better than what we did," coach Ron Rivera said. "That is the big disappointment because they are good football players, and we just have to correct some things."

Without pass pressure, the secondary was left naked and afraid. A bit inconsistent, too. William Jackson III has a handful of great plays over two games, but just as many gaffes. Is he in the right position? Same for Kendall Fuller. Sometimes opposing passers/receivers just made great plays, but this isn't a lockdown secondary with rookie corner Benjamin St-Juste getting everyone's best shot.

And that first-round linebacker supposed to be the final piece of the 1985 Chicago Bears defense? He finally showed up on radar, but remains an unidentified bogey.

Del Rio started slowly last season, but that was forgiven after no offseason program or preseason games to learn his players. Eventually, Del Rio's decision-making improved. So what's the excuse this year? Getting beat on the first drive in both games is being unprepared. Del Rio had no counter for much of the game. Some of that is on players, some is on coaching. Rivera won't say it, but knows he needs to spend more time on the defensive side after Heinicke has seemingly bailed the team out at quarterback.

Washington's season is temporarily saved at 1-1 after two home games before heading to a gauntlet of a schedule. New York knows its 0-2 is a massive hole to escape. Washington can at least pretend its postseason hopes are very alive. But, that defensive line better live up to expectations or darkness is coming quickly.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks.

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