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Opinion: What on Earth is Going on With the D-Line?

We are almost halfway through the season, and this bye week gives us a chance to be critical

Washington v Arizona
Defensive end Bralen Trice #8 of the Washington Huskies celebrates a sack
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It’s August, and I’ve secured my dream job — writing for none other than the world-renowned Washington Huskies, the greatest football team on the planet. While the pre-season may have been a tad slow, the excitement is building as we embark on the 30-day countdown. I’ve eagerly volunteered for a few days of action, and one of my assignments involves predicting who will dominate in the sack department on our defense this year.

As I engaged in a spirited discussion with my manager, we arrived at a resolute decision: it was time to explore a fresh angle. Perhaps we should delve into the number of times Penix, the opposing quarterback, would find himself sacked this season? “Bralen Trice will obviously be the one who achieves this feat, we don’t have an article,” we confidently asserted.

We couldn’t have been more wrong.

One sack came unexpectedly against Boise State when Ulofoshio, a linebacker (not a lineman) known for his versatility in blitzing and coverage, notched the team’s first sack of the season. Then, against Tulsa, a cornerback named Mohommad surprisingly recorded a sack of his own. It wasn’t until Week Five that the underwhelming, slightly-over-one-sack-per-game average was finally involving of Bralen Trice.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 Washington at Michigan State
Washington Huskies defensive end Bralen Trice (8) goes through pregame drills before a college football game
Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Indeed, for a defensive unit that was highly anticipated to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks, the statistics paint a perplexing picture: there have been more interceptions (8) than sacks. So, what exactly is happening here?

One could argue that the defensive coordinator’s strategy against Boise State may have leaned toward containment rather than aggressively pursuing the quarterback. However, more often than not, the circumstances were quite different. The defensive ends were in position but failed to capitalize by securing sacks. Even when facing a somewhat battered defensive line against Arizona, it’s hard to justify this as an excuse, given that the defense struggled to put pressure on Cal.

Cal’s quarterback, Ben Finley, lacked extensive experience, and while he may have appeared mobile, there were numerous instances where our defenders either bit too early or failed to take the optimal angles, allowing him to escape. A sentiment that resonates with many in Husky Nation, including myself, is that ZTF’s effectiveness seems limited to timing the snaps, and more often than not, he’s either too quick or too slow off the line. It’s a one-dimensional approach that can be easily neutralized.

Boise State v Washington
Ashton Jeanty #2 of the Boise State Broncos runs the ball during the first quarter against Bralen Trice #8
Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Bralen Trice has been non-existent in the pass rush, but lets shift our attention to the rushing defense. Maybe we have been unlucky in playing five consecutive mobile quarterbacks, but lets look at opposing runningbacks. Washington ranks 48th in rushing defense giving up 121.6 yards per game. To put this into perspective, Georgia is widely seen as weaker because their defense took a noticeable step back and they rank 37 in rushing defense. Colorado State and East Carolina both rank ahead of Washington and there are six total Pac-12 schools ahead in this list.

Ale and Tuli were both intermittently out of last week’s game due to injury, but Tulsa didn’t have the luxury of playing this week defense. And that team — a weak school from Oklahoma, rushed for 168 yards.

It’s made more noticeable by apparent strength in the team’s offense and these teams resort to passing sooner than later, having to play from behind early. With this in mind, it’s easier to say that the secondary has been a lesser source of concern and this is a complete flip from where things stood before the season started.


Which is a bigger concern for the Washington defense?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    The defensive-line
    (509 votes)
  • 16%
    The secondary
    (103 votes)
612 votes total Vote Now