LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden wanted to make one thing perfectly clear as he began speaking to reporters after a second consecutive poor showing by his team’s defense: “There are no excuses to be had.”
And then, one by one, he began offering up, well, excuses — for why his team is 0-2 after a 31-21 loss to the visiting Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, for why the defense is following good starts with terrible finishes, for why giving up 50-yard TD passes is a regular occurrence.
“We have a very talented group on defense,” Gruden said. “We’re obviously not reaching them.”
Asked whether any sort of personnel or coaching change might be needed, Gruden quickly replied, “No.”
“I don’t think,” he said, “we have to hit the panic button yet.”
Which leaves open the question of when “yet” might arrive.
Gruden noted that defensive lineman Jonathan Allen is out with an injury. He mentioned that he’s “minus a couple of pieces in the secondary.” And he later reiterated those issues.
He made reference to the Cowboys — who trailed 7-0 at the outset Sunday — and the Philadelphia Eagles — the team Washington led 17-0 and 20-7 before losing to 32-27 in Week 1 — as having “two of the best offensive lines in pro football.”
He made sure everyone realizes there are some rookies and other new additions, so it’s a “very young defense” and “it’s not like we’re the most experienced group.”
At least Gruden and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky get an extra day to devise things to stop their next opponent, because the Chicago Bears come to town on a Monday night for Week 3.
“I need some veterans to step up and take this team by the throat,” Gruden said, “and I think it’ll happen.”
The defense was the side of the ball that, in theory anyway, was going to keep the Redskins in games and, if all worked according to plan, help them win some this season.
Things started off well enough for Washington’s defense on Sunday.
The Cowboys’ initial possession resulted in a three-and-out and a punt.
Their next drive concluded with a poor pass by Dak Prescott going off a receiver’s hand and ending up intercepted by safety Montae Nicholson.
And Dallas’ third turn on offense led to another three-and-out.
Not too shabby.
And then? Well, after that, here is how Dallas’ drives went: TD; TD; TD; field goal after penalties on Dallas negated a TD; then, yes, yet another TD.
What at one point was a 7-0 lead for the Redskins was suddenly a 31-14 deficit.
It wasn’t all that different from went transpired in Week 1.
Prescott ended up 26 for 30 for 269 yards and three touchdowns through the air, plus a 42-yard run. Ezekiel Elliott ran for 111 yards on 23 carries and a 1-yard TD, part of a 213-yard day on the ground for Dallas (2-0).
“We can’t give up 200 yards rushing to anybody. Anytime, any place, anywhere,” Gruden said. “So that’s something we really have to hone in on.”
The team’s splashiest veteran addition of the offseason was safety Landon Collins, who arrived as a free agent from the division rival New York Giants. The defensive line seemed set with a young trio of Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis. The revamped linebacking corps was designed to be faster and better. First-round draft pick Montez Sweat was a supposed “steal” who would help get to the QB.
And so on.
Didn’t help that Allen got hurt in Week 1 and missed Week 2 entirely. Or that starting cornerback Quinton Dunbar was sidelined with an injury against Dallas.
But it also didn’t help that Prescott was able to complete a 51-yard TD pass to Devin Smith on Sunday, a week after Washington allowed a pair of 50-yard-plus scoring throws from Carson Wentz to DeSean Jackson.
“I’m a little bit surprised. I’d lie to you if I said I wasn’t. It’s shocking,” Norman said. “We’re much better than what we’re doing right now.”
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