The Bears took care of business last Thursday night against the lowly Giants, yet, somehow, the victory left something to be desired. This Sunday, Chicago (4-2) will take on a Washington (1-4) team that has done nothing but disappoint thus far in 2013, after making the playoffs a year ago. Washington’s only victory came at Oakland in Week 3, when the Raiders started Matt Flynn at QB as Terrelle Pryor nursed a concussion. This Washington team is constructed almost identically as it was last year from a personnel standpoint. Why the struggles then? Many will point to second-year QB Robert Griffin III’s gradual recovery from offseason ACL and LCL surgery, which is valid, but most of the blame should be placed on the Washington defense. The Bears, now boasting a borderline dynamic offense, should have their way on Sunday. Let’s go inside the numbers, supported by the great analytics from Pro Football Focus.
Washington has one of the worst defenses in the NFL, with a (-46.5) overall grade from PFF. Only the Chargers and Jaguars have worse defensive units. The terrible grade can be largely attributed to Washington’s inability to cover receivers, where they sport a second-to-last (-28.7). Many times, teams can make up for deficiencies in one area by accentuating their strengths in another. Washington, however, does not have that luxury since they also have terrible run support (-25.7), according to Pro Football Focus. Clearly, then, defense remains the achilles heel of what should be a team contending for the NFC East title, given the division’s overall mediocrity.
A couple weeks back, this column stated the Bears possessed one of the worst starting safety combinations in the league. Chris Conte’s improvement since then has helped Washington achieve the dubious status of league worst. Washington’s Bacarri Rambo and Brandon Meriweather have joined forces to allow opposing offenses to impose their will with vertical passing attacks. Both safeties clock in as bottom 15 producers, with their average PFF grade resting at (-6.7). The Washington safeties receive little help from their cornerback brethren as DeAngelo Hall (-2.0) and David Amerson (-4.7) both rank in the bottom 32 for CB’s.
Despite the horrid defensive backs, Washington does possess two stud linebackers in Ryan Kerrigan (2.9) and Brian Orakpo (6.8). Both player knows how to bring the heat as they each have at least 13 QB Hurries apiece, third best for 3-4 OLB pass rushing duos behind Buffalo and Kansas City. The hole in Washington’s LB corps rests in the middle with former gladiator London Fletcher. The 38-year old has played in 240 consecutive games over the course of 15 years. It appears, however, that Fletcher is nearing the end, as evidenced by his (-12.0) PFF grade. The Bears know something about watching a Pro Bowl caliber middle linebacker struggle from an ability standpoint (ahem, #54). Fletcher has been manhandled at the point of attack this year, so the Bears might look to exploit this deficiency. Washington’s other inside linebacker, Perry Riley, has been slightly below average as his (-1.3) grade indicates. Nose tackle Barry Cofield has done a good job of getting to the QB (6.4), but he does struggle to anchor against the ground game (-2.7).