It's no secret the Washington Football Team defense has been a disappointment so far in 2021.
And all eyes are on the defensive front as the entire group continues to struggle at critical times, including in Sunday's 33-22 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
While even blame could be passed around to the offense as well, a first-half-ending "Hail Mary'' completion, and a wide-open pass from Saints quarterback Jameis Winston to Deonte Harris for a 72-yard touchdown, are unacceptable plays that continue to shine a light on the defense as a whole.
Of course, it's hard to blame the defensive line for those plays, right?
The angst about the trench group is about consistency in play, not talent. Meanwhile, many question the level of talent in players struggling behind them.
Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, and Jonathan Allen are all talented. Nobody is questioning that. Even while some question just how talented certain members of the quartet might be.
Let's take Young.
The 2020 second-overall pick in the NFL Draft, and top pick of the Washington Football Team, won last year's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, and had 7.5 sacks in his first season as a professional pass-rusher.
Coming into the season, however, there were questions about whether Young could produce for his defense consistently.
Consistency is something Young found more of in the back end of 2020, recording a sack in three of the team's final four games. Before that stretch, Young already had 4.5 sacks in the season, but had gone through a stretch where he only notched one in a span of six games.
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Look again at 2021, and Young recorded his first sack and forced fumble, on the same play. A great play, and one which certainly shifted the momentum towards Washington for the moment. He finished the game with that sack, and one more hit on Winston.
The strip-sack was Young's fifth forced fumble of his career, which is top-10 among NFL players through their first 20 games, and is third-most since he entered the league.
Meanwhile, his defensive end partner on the other side, Sweat, had a league-leading sack streak going earlier this season.
Since having the sack streak broken against the Buffalo Bills, Sweat has just one sack in the last three games, and two on the year.
Defensive tackle Jonathan Allen started the year hot, with three sacks in the first two games. But he's been shut out since, and even with three hits on Winston in Week 5, only just matched his quarterback hit total from the first two games, in the last three.
While Allen continues looking for his next sack, Payne joined Young in getting his first sack of the season this past weekend. He also added a quarterback hit, his fourth of the year, and notched his first tackle for loss.
The Washington Football Team was supposed to have a foursome of impact defensive linemen. So far, they've had one or two show up in each game. When one stands out, the others fade.
This is not what dominance looks like, and dominance is what the unit was looking for.
With the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers on deck, and a date with the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers just over the horizon, the time to figure it out has come ... and hopefully not gone.
If the defense doesn't have it figured out next week, the WFT can all-but-forget NFC East Division title conversations. The focus then shifts to surviving the next four games with realistic playoff chances intact - again, not the lofty goals coach Ron Rivera's group set for itself.