Washington jumped 10 spots in Mark Maske’s power rankings this week, and while much of the conversation by national pundits about Sunday’s game focused on what Carson Wentz and the Eagles did wrong to blow a 17-0 lead, Washington’s dominant defensive line, which took advantage of Philadelphia’s injury-ravaged offensive line to register eight sacks, also earned some praise.
“Chase Young and company getting it done,” Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio said Monday. “Man, if they can keep that up, maybe they’re the best team in the NFC East.”
“I don’t know if I’m ready to say that, but certainly it shows they’re going to be a pain in the butt in the NFC East,” co-host Chris Simms replied. “That’s for sure. Their front four can dictate football games. They can change a game and that’s what it did [Sunday]. As much as I want to sit here and praise Washington for what they did and hanging in there and all of that, I still look at that game and go, ‘Eh, I more look at it as the Eagles just being stupid and playing careless and I don’t know what the hell they’re doing.”
On NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football,” Peter Schrager, who has been hyping Washington’s defensive line for months, likened the team’s debut performance to the defense San Francisco rode to the Super Bowl last season.
“The 49ers had a method to their madness last year,” Schrager said. “Let’s just use all of our great defensive linemen, unleash them and hope our offense can score enough to get us to the next week. This Washington defense came out of the gates looking unbelievable [Sunday]. … They can carry them this year. I’ve been saying it all offseason, it might be the best defensive line in all of football.”
Co-host Kyle Brandt said he wants to see how Washington’s defensive front fares against a Cardinals team that upset the defending NFC champion 49ers on Sunday before he declares Coach Ron Rivera’s squad a contender.
“Next week Washington goes against Arizona, on the road, a suddenly scary Arizona team with Kyler [Murray] running around and Kenyan Drake and DeAndre Hopkins,” he said. “… If they take that team out, then we’ve got a sensation. Then we’ve got, ‘Oh my gosh, can Washington win the NFC East?’ Because I was not impressed by Dallas, I was not impressed by Philly. New York, who knows? Great, great day. Still a lot to prove.”
The last time Washington opened the season 2-0 was in 2011, Mike Shanahan’s second year at the helm. That team lost seven of its next eight games and finished 5-11. Since then, every team except the Browns, Colts, Titans and Washington has started at least one season 2-0. Of the 62 teams to start 2-0 over the last eight seasons, 57 percent went on to make the playoffs, with an average final record of 10-6.
On ESPN, former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears offered a warning for Washington’s future opponents — and referred to the team by its retired name.
“For everybody else out there in the NFL that’s going to play the Washington [Football Team],” Spears said, “… be careful if you fall behind, because you may not have your QB the following week.”
Meanwhile, former NFL executive Joe Banner, who spent 18 years as the Eagles’ president, threw some cold water on the idea that Washington is dramatically improved.
“By the end of the season,” Banner tweeted, “the Washington team will have proven that the Eagles yesterday lost to one of the worst teams in football.”
When challenged about that assessment, Banner pointed to Philadelphia’s depleted offensive line, Washington’s inability to run the ball and a lack of long scoring drives.
“Washington is not a good team and the season will prove it,” he said.