Washington: Ron Rivera’s defensive unit is not in command

Oct 5, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera looks on from the
Oct 5, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera looks on from the / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It’s early in 2023 and it’s hardly a surprise to see the Washington Commanders with a 2-3 record. The club finished last in the NFC East a season ago with an 8-8-1 record. The franchise hasn’t finished with a winning mark since 2016, although it won a division title in 2020 with a 7-9 resume.

What is somewhat unsettling is the fact that Ron Rivera’s club is having its issues on the defensive side of the ball. This was a unit that finished third in the league in total defense last season, allowing a highly-respectable 304.6 total yards per game.

The Commanders opened 2023 with wins over the Cardinals and Broncos. However, Rivera’s team has now dropped three consecutive games and were humbled at home on Thursday night, 40-20, by a Bears’ club that came into the evening with a 14-game losing streak.

In its last four outings, Washington has 33, 37, 34 and 40 points, respectively. Over that span, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s group has given up a disturbing 412.8 total yards per contest. The Commanders have surrendered at least three offensive touchdowns in each contest and a total of 14 offensive TDs (4 rushing, 10 passing) in those games.

A year ago, the Commanders allowed 30 or more points just twice in 17 contests and gave up a total of 36 offensive touchdowns in 2022. Despite the talent up front, Washington defenders are allowing opposing ground attacks to average 133.6 yards per contest in five outings. In the losses to the Bills (Week 3) and Bears (Week 5), the Commanders were gashed for 168 and 178 yards, respectively, rushing.

Things don’t get any easier for Rivera’s team when they return to action. The Commanders will play four of their next five games on the road, starting in Week 6 at Atlanta. The Washington defense was supposed to be strong suit and a constant for this club. Over the past four weeks, Del Rio’s unit has been a constant disappointment.