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As WFT's defense gets questioned, Del Rio remains confident originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
While almost everyone who is not directly associated with Washington's defense continues to critique and condemn it, coordinator Jack Del Rio maintained on Thursday that the group is only slightly off from being the dominant force most initially expected it to be.
"We all need to be this much better," Del Rio told reporters while holding his index finger and thumb about an inch away, "and then it gets a lot better for all of us."
One season after finishing near the top of the league in numerous categories, what's largely the same collection of players along with a few notable and skilled additions presently finds itself near the bottom of the sport in those exact areas.
So, how can a defense that was bolstered, experienced a full spring and summer of training and entered 2021 in a system that they thrived in a year ago disappoint this much?
To Del Rio, the problem that's plaguing his side the most is that they're simply too geared up to stand out. It's an explanation that Ron Rivera and a few key defenders have also given the past few weeks.
"Desire to make plays," Del Rio said when asked to identify the primary issue. "We're at our best when we're all doing our job, on point, kind of on a mission. We all have assignments within the mission. So it gets better and more fun when you're on point. When you're not, it doesn't go quite as well."
Despite all the outside angst over the September struggles, it sounds like inside the locker and meeting rooms, there's a serious focus on not fracturing.
So far, what appeared to be a heated conversation between Del Rio and Chase Young in Buffalo last Sunday has been the most public display of frustration, but Del Rio downplayed that talk in his presser before expressing trust in the entire operation.
"We're about sticking together," he said. "We're a group. I love my players, I love my coaches. We work with really good people every day. We've got great energy and focus."
Sunday's matchup with the Falcons offers the defense yet another opportunity to begin reversing the ever-growing narrative that they were overhyped this offseason. Del Rio, for one, isn't wavering or adjusting what he believes his depth chart is capable of.
"We don't hand out trophies after three weeks," Del Rio said. "Hasn't been the start that we all wanted or even expected, but it is what it is. We'll deal with it, man up, take responsibility and accountability. It starts with me. I've made that very clear with our group."
If someone unfamiliar with the Burgundy and Gold dropped in to watch Del Rio speak on Thursday, they'd likely conclude that his current duties were going very smoothly. That's how he should be acting, too, as he attempts to clean up the early mess that's occurring under his watch.
That calm approach won't resonate for much longer, however. At some point (and some point soon, honestly, considering the franchise's 1-2 record and upcoming schedule), the results must follow.
Without them, any chatter about "sticking together" or having strong "energy and focus" will be ignored, just like opposing offenses have ignored Washington's defense through three contests.