Offense wins games but defense win championships. Or, that's the formula for coach Ron Rivera and the Washington Football Team for the 2021 season, at least.
Washington is looking to contend in the NFC East - and win it again - thanks to a star-studded defense. Rivera made sure over the past two seasons to solidify each level and create little room for errors overall.
After a free agency and draft that potentially added five starters come Week 1, WFT is ready to join the ranks to top unit in the NFL. According to CBS Sports' Jared Dubin, they will be the core no offense is looking toward facing on a Sunday this upcoming fall.
Did you know that Washington finished second in yards, fourth in points, and third in DVOA last season? Did you know that Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Da'Ron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Matt Ioannidis are all back, and that Ioannidis is the oldest of the bunch at just 27 years old? They added rangy linebacker Jamin Davis in the draft, and underrated cornerback William Jackson III in free agency. Ron Rivera had these guys absolutely flying all over the field last season, and they're even more talented this year than a year ago.
The holes were few and far between in 2020 at nearly every position. WFT needed a free safety, depth at cornerback, a No. 3 pass rusher and cover linebacker to go from good to great.
Challenge accepted, challenge completed following April's NFL Draft.
The addition of Jackson on the outside might give Washington another top-five tandem at cornerback with Kendall Fuller improving last fall. Jackson, the former Cincinnati Bengals standout, graded out a notch below former starter Ronald Darby in both run defense and coverage for last season, according to PFF.
Davis is a three-down linebacker with the ability to work in both the pass rush and coverage sets. In his lone season as as starter with Kentucky, he recorded 102 total tackles and three interceptions — one of which was returned for a touchdown.
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The WFT's second primetime game of the year comes against the Seahawks who're trying to save its season, while Washington looks to further its year past the regular season.
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Washington also added a potential defensive helper in Benjamin St-Juste out of Minnesota. Over the past two seasons, the former Golden Gopher has allowed just two touchdowns in coverage and under 400 receiving yards against Big10 receivers.
WFT also drafted Penn State's Shaka Toney and Baylor's William Bradley-King to help replace the production of Ryan Kerrigan. Combined, the two 4-3 defensive ends recorded 38 sacks during their time in college.
Washington added Bobby McCain following his release with the Miami Dolphins. He is expected to compete for a starting role at free safety.
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers come in at No. 2 in CBS' thoughts, while the Cleveland Browns enter as the bronze-place winners. Both teams made sure to address defensive issues this offseason with Tampa Bay keeping all its starters for at least another season and Cleveland adding depth in free agency.
Should the new additions hit, Washington likely is a consensus top-three defense. If they exceed expectations, they could be No. 1. With the offense hopeful that Ryan Fitzpatrick can be the starter for a season, a season above .500 is well in WFT's favor.
Consider that in large part to the defensive play from the 11 starters in 2021.