In my previous article, I broke down each Washington Football Team position group on offense and provided a midseason progress report grade on their performance. Now we are going to take a look at the defensive unit. The defense has looked dominant at times and at others they looked as though they couldn't stop a runny nose. They have shown the ability to get to the quarterback with their front seven, but losing Matt Ioaniddis has clearly affected the defensive line. The secondary has improved as the season continues and the linebacker core looks to be trending upward with the emergence of Cole Holcomb. Let's take a look at the defensive progress report...
The defensive line has been the most consistent and look the closest to being a legit group going forward. They have been able to stop the run, get pressure on the quarterback fairly consistently, and have excellent depth. The emergence of second year defensive end Montez Sweat has had a considerable amount to do with the way this unit is playing currently, and he seems to be benefiting as well from having rookie Chase Young on the opposite side. Young is a beast, and will continue to be a force as long as he can stay healthy. Defensive tackle Daron Payne has quietly played consistently and hard all season. Defensive tackle Jonathan Allen has flashed here and there, but he hasn't exactly been anything close to dominant. This group can only get better especially with the growth of rookie defensive end James Smith-Williams and 3rd year defensive tackle Tim Settle continuing to make more contributions the more they are in the rotation. GRADE: A-
Three weeks ago, I would have said the linebacker unit was the weakest that we have seen here in recent years. I have to change that notion because Cole Holcomb looks to be morphing into a heck of a football player in this Ron Rivera system right before our very eyes. Holcomb has been everywhere and Kevin Pierre-Louis has been consistent this season. The rest of the linebacker unit has been virtually nonexistent. Jon Bostic leads the team in tackles, but it seems like his name hasn't been mentioned much outside of almost decapitating Andy Dalton last week in the Cowboy game. If Washington can get Reuben Foster back, they could receive an extra body, and a solid contributor who will only upgrade that unit even more. The linebackers will need to upgrade their tackling during this bye week and discuss some remedies for that. GRADE: C
Right now, the cornerbacks should change their name to "Kendall Fuller and the crew" because he seems to be the only one out there interested in making a play on the football. Fuller has 4 of the defenses 8 interceptions in just four games played. The cornerbacks early in the season looked to be confused and lost at times. Since Fuller's return from injury, the unit has played more cohesively as the weeks have gone on, and they are making less mental mistakes. Ronald Darby has stepped his play up in recent weeks as he struggled early on. The entire cornerback crew is doing a better job at staying disciplined in their coverages, and have been staying true to their techniques. The second half of the season will be interesting because they have to face Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, and Teddy Bridegwater, all quarterbacks who can extend plays, and make you cover for a long time. Continued growth in the secondary will need to take place, but the potential is there, and they are trending upward. GRADE: B-
The safety position has been the defense's weakest link for a large portion of the season. Coming into the season, the coaching staff clearly thought safety Troy Apke had arrived, as they cut off season acquisition Sean Davis from the team in favor of starting Apke. Six games into the season, Deshazor Everett is now the starting free safety after Apke did not play up to expectations. Missed tackles, blown coverages, and flat out poor play doomed him. That's not to say he was alone because strong safety Landon Collins had his struggles throughout the season as well. In his defense, he was having his best game of the year prior to his injury. He was making an impact on the game all over the field, which is exactly what the coaches expected from him weekly coming into this season. Washington will turn to Kamren Curl as the full-time starter for the remainder of the season barring some sort of trade or free agent acquisition. Curl has flashed in limited time and looks like he has the ability to make some impactful plays out there. He and Deshazor Everett will have to step up and set a precedent that teams can not look at them as liabilities. GRADE: D+
Field Goal/ExtraPoint: D
Photo Credit: Elijah Walter Griffin Sr/The Washington Football Team