Football Team

Now is a good time to stop lauding Washington's pass defense

Football Team

It's obnoxious when writers tell you how to think, so let's call the following sentence a suggestion.

Can we all stop looking at the Washington Football Team's pass defense as one of the NFL's best? Please?

Entering their meeting with the Lions, no one in the league allowed fewer passing yards per game than the Burgundy and Gold (185.6).

Now, Matt Stafford went on to throw for 276 in Detroit's 30-27 win, so Washington may fall down a spot or two in the overall rankings once Week 10 is over. However, they'll still be very close to the top of the sport when it comes to that particular category.

Don't pay attention to that. It's simply not a useful number. These three, on the other hand, are:

  • Going into Sunday, only the Patriots (26.4) faced fewer opponent passing attempts per contest than Washington (28.9). Obviously, a group is going to give up fewer yards if their foes aren't testing them nearly as much as they do so versus others.
  • The Stafford-to-Marvin Hall 56-yard touchdown was the eighth 40-plus yard connection that Washington has conceded this year. That's tied for most in the NFL.
  • Jack Del Rio's unit is just middle of the pack in terms of average yards-per-attempt allowed (7.2). They were 15th before losing to the Lions, and they should fall more after what Stafford did.

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Because the Football Team trails so much, there's not much incentive to consistently attack them through the air, hence the limited attempts. That's what the first bullet point reveals.

The second and third, meanwhile, say that when they are attacked that way, they are far from elite and especially forgiving on deep shots.

As Del Rio has said multiple times this season, the defensive line and the secondary have to be in sync together. Unfortunately, the D-line isn't coming close to what most thought they'd be heading into 2020, which certainly isn't making the back end's job easier. 


But the safeties and corners certainly deserve a lot of the heat for a lot of the failures; there's no excusing them. At times, like on the Hall score at Ford Field, it comes down to a single individual not performing. Yet on others — the Robert Woods touchdown in Week 5 comes to mind — multiple players are at fault.  

As a whole, the defense is improved under Del Rio compared to what it was under Greg Manusky. This story doesn't exist to claim otherwise. Yet, as of now, the pass defense specifically comes across much better on paper than it does on grass.

So, the next time you hear an announcer or a fan tout that aspect of the operation, instead of taking it in, let it fly right on by. Come to think of it, that'd actually be a fitting tribute to Washington.