The Washington Football Team's defense was supposed to be the reason it won a bunch of games in 2021, but so far it is a major reason for the team's 1-2 record through the first three weeks of the season.
Football minds outside the team continue to weigh in on what's keeping Washington's defense from playing up to expectation, ranging from the scheme to a few players' selfishness on the defensive line.
Former Cowboys receiver and Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin gave his own take to Brian Mitchell and JP Finlay on 106.7 The Fan on Friday, and he seems to think their issues start with the cushion Washington cornerbacks are giving to opposing wideouts.
"One of the most impressive things about what I saw with Dak Prescott since he's returned is he's getting the ball out of his hands quicker," Irving said. "The offensive line was where we were hurting last year, but now Dak's supplementing that getting the ball out of his hands much quicker. In order to make [a quarterback] hold it, you've gotta come up. You got to be willing to take that chance at that ball being thrown over the top just to hold [the quarterback] up."
Irvin is alluding to Washington's zone-heavy scheme preventing the cornerbacks from playing closer to the line of scrimmage. The benefit press or man coverage gives a defense is it makes it harder for receivers to create separation and ultimately gives the pass rush more time to get home.
But in Jack Del Rio and Ron Rivera's scheme, they're relying on the defensive line to get home with little-to-no help in terms of extra rushers. That hasn't exactly worked out, as opposing offenses have nickel-and-dimed Washington to the point where they rank 31st in yards allowed through three games.
And not only does it make life easier on the quarterback, but opposing receivers are almost guaranteed short catches against that kind of defense.
"You're just giving it to me," Irvin said. "This is easy, this is easy. You could pop off four or five yards right now, and especially if [the cornerback is] eight yards off. If I can run to five [yards], you're eight yards off and your first steps are back. So your first steps are back, and I'm playing basketball with you. Either way, you just throw the ball on whichever side you're not on and I'm going to stop and then box you out. That's an easy thing to do."
Rivera and Del Rio have pointed to poor execution as the reason for the defensive struggles rather than scheme, while Del Rio remains confident his group can turn things around despite all the outside noise.
Whatever the real problem is, Washington should have an easier time executing against the Falcons in Week 4. If they can't put together consecutive stops against that offense with an aging Matt Ryan, then it might be time to worry.