By Adam Aniba
After giving up 22 points to Jacksonville in a win, Jack Del Rio's defense gave up 36 points in the loss to Detroit. In fact, the team was down 0-22 in the first half, surrendering 425 total yards in the game and 808 total yards through two games.
In '21 Washington ranked 22nd in total defense, given up 359.3 yards per game with 25.5 points per game. Although they were better against the run in '21, ranking 8th in the league (104.4 yards per game), the statistic is misleading. The defense was more aggressive and just had a different energy in '20, when they won the NFC East title.
In saying that, the defensive coordinator is responsible for putting his players in the best position to succeed. During the offseason, fans heard a lot about the 5-man front Del Rio would be employing.
Not having Young and losing Mathis certainly had a negative effect on Del Rio's plans, but JDR has continued to be outcoached regardless of who's on the field.
The play above embodied the defenses short comings. The defense allowed Lions RB D'Andre Swift to make the short reception on 3 and 15, fall down and immediately jumped up scampering for the TD. The play was a back breaker, in a game that was still in reach late.
Pass rusher Chase Young and Kam Curl are integral pieces to Washington's defense, so getting Curl back this week should significantly help the backend issues and potentially reduce miscues.
The bigger issue seems to be scheme though. Game after game, JDR continues to have his corners play 10+ yards off the ball in key moments. With high priced CB WIlliam Jackson III more proficient as a press corner, it's a bit of a head scratcher to why they continue to have him play so far off the ball.
Most recently, Del Rio publicly called out second year linebacker Jamin Davis for his issues running his scheme. The comments were just another case of the defensive coordinator, taking no responsibility for his players or his role in the units shortcomings.
Former defensive line coach Sam Mills was reportedly let go based on his relationship with some of the players and a difference in philosophy. Many believe this is also the case with Del Rio. It's unlikely after only a few games that Ron Rivera would move on from his long time friend, but there is an inhouse option.
Defensive backs coach Chris Harris is well respected in the locker room and played in the league from 2006-2013.
Rivera's relationship with Harris dates back to '06, when the two were together in Chicago. Rivera was the defensive coordinator for the third-ranked defense in terms of points allowed with Harris his starting free safety. They advanced to Super Bowl XLI, ultimately losing to the Indianapolis Colts 29–17.
Although Harris might not be the long term solution as DC for the Commanders, making a change early could help preserve a potential winning season. One thing is certain, Del Rio is a dinosaur in an age of innovation and he's likely lost the locker room.
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