Commanders Del Rio knows his unit can reduce the big plays

Jack Del Rio saw a good effort against the Patriots Sunday; then suddenly, the Commanders gave up two big plays.

“I thought we did a good job defensively last week. We had two plays that got away from us. One in the pass, one in the run. And other than that, we played real, real well.”

Indeed, the Commanders defense limited the Patriots on the way to a 20-17 victory. The two big plays?

Washington led 10-7, and the Patriots, from their own 16, had a 1st & 10. Lining up three eligible receivers tightly on the right side, Mac Jones faked a handoff and then found JuJu Smith-Schuster running across the field from tight right to the left side wide open. Smith-Schuster made the catch at the 23 and was pushed out of bounds on the 36, a 20-yard gain.

On the very next play, Washington ran a stunt, and linebacker Jamin Davis did not plug the closest gap to the right of tackle Daron Payne. New England’s Rhamondre Stevenson exploded through the hole into the secondary. He was met by safety Percy Butler, but he missed the tackle on Stevenson, who then raced 64 yards for a go-ahead Pats touchdown.

In two plays, the Commanders defense had surrendered 84 yards and a touchdown.

So, when defensive coordinator Del Rio was asked Thursday what is keeping this unit from rating as highly as the defensive unit last season in 2022.

“Yeah, explosive plays allowed. That’s been the big problem. We’re playing solid in a lot of areas, but the explosive plays allowed. Many of them kind of gift-type situations are the ones that keep us from ranking well and being able to beat our chest and say, look at our rank right here, which doesn’t mean a whole lot. I think what really means the most is give your football team a chance to win, play complementary football, and make sure we’re getting the ball back for our offense as often as possible.”

One player who was giving up some explosive plays prior to last week was rookie corner Emmanuel Forbes, Jr.  However, last week, Forbes played well enough that PFF graded Forbes as the highest Commanders defensive player last week. The performance pleased Del Rio.

“I think he’s just working at it. You know, he’s a good young player. We believe in him. He’s just gotta grind and work. That’s what he has done, and that allowed him to get himself back in the game, and then he played well.”


Story originally appeared on Commanders Wire