Through four weeks of the 2020 season, much of the criticism when it comes to the Washington Football Team has been centered around the offense. It's fair, given that the unit has struggled as a whole and failed to find much consistency yet.
Still, the other side of the ball has its own problems. Washington has allowed at least 30 points in three consecutive contests, and opposing teams have been able to move the ball with ease more often than not.
Against the Ravens on Sunday, that was seen yet again. While many expected the Ravens to potentially drop 40 or 50 on Washington, the score doesn't mean the unit actually played well. Some will say that the absence of Chase Young and Matt Ioannidis played a role, and it did. Still, a major concern for the defense isn't focused on that front seven, but rather the safety position on the back end.
Landon Collins was brought in to be a key piece on the defense in 2019, and the six-year, $84 million deal proved that. So far in 2020, NBC Sports Washington Insider JP Finlay hasn't seen the play match the expectations. Not just in coverage, but in Collins' ability to stop runners from making it to the next level of the defense.
“Washington has to get better tackling from Landon Collins. He’s making [fifteen million dollars] a year, he’s on the books at least through 2021. He played well last season in 2019, but his play through four games is not what you’d hope or expect from a guy of his caliber," Finlay said on Washington Football Postgame Live. "I don’t think he helped his team today.”
The problems don't start or end with Collins, however. The other part of the equation at safety is Troy Apke, who has had his fair share of blunders early on as well.
For former Washington Football player and current NBC Sports Washington analyst Brian Mitchell he has noticed Collins struggled, but Apke's involvement in big plays has been a glaring problem as well. He feels that more often than not when a team is celebrating a big gain, it's Apke who is part of the blame.
“I just think the safety play has not been very good for this football team in the first four games. I understand early on they talked about Apke and said ‘Well he’s playing better than we think.’ Every time you see someone going down the field, Apke is chasing him," Mitchell said in response to Finlay. "Every time you see someone breaking the play after they get to the line of scrimmage, it’s normally Landon Collins. Those two guys have to play a lot better."
Mitchell is referring to Ron Rivera's past statement that Apke's play has been better than what a few moments show. That came around the same time that Mitchell had noted that it looked like the safety was playing like "he has cement in his shoes."
There's not one player or portion of the Washington Football Team that can front the blame for the poor start, but the safety play is included in the negatives. As the last line of defense, the position needs to keep players in front of them whether it be in coverage or with tackling. So far in 2020, that has been a struggle.
Overall, each week is a battle for the defense. The other team is going to come out swinging, and Washington needs to be ready to take hits and give their own back. Against the Ravens, that just wasn't the case.
“I think the Ravens played the game like a heavyweight boxer. They start punching you in the body, they punch you in the body, they punch you in the body. Then later on in the fight, you can't lift your arms," Mitchell said. "All of a sudden, you saw as that game went on, they were able to run that ball at will because they kept hitting them with it.”