©M. Samek / SCOUT

Mid-Season Grades - Defense

With the bye week in full swing, it's time to give out some grades. Friday we gave out grades for Washington’s offense. Today we'll look at the defense. Sunday we'll address special teams.

Mid-Season Grades: Offense

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DEFENSIVE LINE

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It’s cliche to say that the game of football is won and lost at the line of scrimmage, but cliches are cliches because they are true. And when it comes to the line of scrimmage for Washington’s defense, they are well taken care of. Between Elijah Qualls, Greg Gaines and Vita Vea, the Huskies don’t have to pressure much. In fact, they hardly blitz at all. This means more players to disguise coverage and confuse quarterbacks. I feel genuinely sorry for those that pick All-Pac-12 teams at the end of the year, because all three deserve to be on the first team, and I don’t see them slowing down any time soon. Add to the mix Jaylen Johnson, Damion Turpin and Shane Bowman, and UW goes legitimately six-deep along their odd front. By swapping in and out hockey-shift style, Washington is able to stay fresh and fighting fit all game long, just another reason why their defense leads the league in multiple categories so far through six games - including total defense and scoring defense. 

GRADE: A

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LINEBACKER

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Washington lost outside linebackers Travis Feeney and Cory Littleton to graduation: they replaced them with two seniors - Joe Mathis and Psalm Wooching. All Mathis and Wooching have done is combine for nearly 10 sacks so far through six games. It’s over 40 percent of the Huskies’ sack totals, totals that lead the Pac-12 by a fair margin (UW has 24 total sacks, Utah is second at 18). They have been active and disruptive forces. And then ideally with the front seven, you’d like your two inside linebackers to lead the team in tackles - and that’s what they are doing. MIK Azeem Victor has 46 total tackles, while Keishawn Bierria has 35. Bierria also leads the country in fumble recoveries with five. So when they aren’t making the stops (which they are doing most of the time), they are taking it away from the other team. There’s very little this group isn’t doing at a high level, and they are actually getting better as the season progresses. 

GRADE: A

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SECONDARY 

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Heading into the 2016 season, the defensive backs were supposed to be the strength of the Washington defense. They still are. Their yards allowed per completion is second in the country to Boise State, and they are top-20 nationally in passing yards allowed. In fact, Sidney Jones is so good right now teams are literally looking the other way. They just aren’t throwing to his side. That means UW has eliminated at least a quarter of the field from an offensive standpoint. That’s huge. Add senior Kevin King playing at a very high level in his own right and you have the best 1-2 cornerback punch in the Pac-12, arguably the country. And Budda Baker and Jojo McIntosh are doing their best Earl Thomas/Kam Chancellor imitation right now from their safety spots. You add Darren Gardenhire at corner and true frosh Taylor Rapp at safety and you have six big time defensive backs that have made life very painful for offensive coordinators and quarterbacks alike.    

GRADE: A

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TOTAL DEFENSE

©M. Samek / SCOUT

What can you say about the job Pete Kwiatkowski and the defensive coaches have done these past three years at UW? Each year it looks like they are going to take a tumble in the offseason because of graduations and players leaving for the pros, but they actually keep getting better. That’s just scary. Last year they lost both their outside linebackers and they’ve filled those spots with two more seniors that are near the top of the conference in sacks. If you’re a defensive coordinator, that’s how you draw it up. At some point the law of diminishing returns will have to kick in, but so far it’s not happening. They currently lead the league in scoring defense, total defense and pass defense. And when they aren’t trying to score, they are trying to get the ball back, and they are doing that better than anyone in the country. They’ve come up with 17 turnovers through six games, nearly three a contest. The one place they aren’t dominating is with run defense, and even there they are only one of two Pac-12 teams to hold offenses to less than 3.5 yards per carry. And when it comes to pass defense, the front seven is doing their job to help out the secondary. Nine sacks have come from the front three linemen, 9.5 from the outside linebackers. So who do you stop?

And then you have to contend with the rest of #DeathRow.

There’s not much more you can say. 

GRADE: A

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