In both of the Washington Football Team's games in the 2021 season, its defense has been taken advantage of in different ways.
In Week 1, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert used his strong arm to throw laser after laser against Washington's defense. The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year finished with 337 passing yards in LA's 20-16 win while the offense converted a whopping 14 third downs at a 78% clip.
In Week 2, Giants signal-caller Daniel Jones used his underrated athleticism to run all over Jack Del Rio's unit. Washington simply couldn't stop the read-option, as Jones finished with 95 rushing yards on just nine carries. Although Washington escaped with a 30-29 victory, Jones looked quite impressive that evening.
This upcoming Sunday, Washington has its biggest challenge yet: slowing down Josh Allen, who is capable of wrecking games with both arm and his legs. Speaking with reporters Thursday, Washington boss Ron Rivera knows that in order to limit Allen's impact his defense must show more discipline than they have thus far.
“Well, I think his ability to run is obviously something that we've got to be disciplined about," Rivera said. "We saw it last week with Daniel Jones. So the emphasis has been on that, making sure we're prepared for it, make sure we understand what our role is and how we fit that role. I think that's one of the things that we've got to be really sharp with."
Through the first three years of his career, Allen has averaged over 500 rushing yards per season. Over that same span, he's scored on the ground 25 times. While those aren't Lamar Jackson numbers, the Bills QB is a threat with his legs every time he drops back.
At 6-foot-5 and nearly 240 lbs., combined with his impressive athleticism, Allen is one of the league's toughest quarterbacks to tackle. Despite this, Chase Young is confident in Washington's defense that bringing down the Bills' QB won't be an issue come Sunday.
"I'm not really too worried about that," Young said. "I know if [Montez Sweat] gets his hands on him, [Daron] Payne, Jon [Allen] or Matt [Ioannidis], they're going to get him down. We're not really worried about how big the quarterback is. All we're worried about is doing our jobs."
Payne echoed Young's comments on Thursday but made it clear that Washington's defensive front must take advantage of the opportunities to bring Allen down when they have the chance to do so.
"You just got to take him down. He'll slip out of a tackle real quick," Payne said. "You have to be aware of him in the pocket when you're rushing and just get him down when you get the chance."
Despite his excellent size and athleticism, what originally made Allen an early-first-round pick in 2018 was his unprecedented arm strength.
In 2020, the former Wyoming star had a breakout season throwing the football, as Allen finished the year with 4,544 passing yards and 37 touchdowns. He's one of the NFL's best deep throwers, too, and has multiple wideouts with the ability to stretch the field.
With Buffalo's offensive unit having home run-ability on every play, opposing defenses have to prepare for that each down. Buffalo has used that to its advantage and become one of the league's best teams on play-action. That's specifically something Rivera is looking to stop this weekend.
"I think [Allen's] ability to throw, especially throw the deep ball, the hard play-action they give, he's really good at the play fakes which allows for the receivers to get downfield, to get in behind those linebackers," Rivera said. "We have to be, again, disciplined reading our keys and then getting back to where we need to be to force the higher throws.”