Texas Tech football: Broderick Washington needs to return to form

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 07: Defensive lineman Broderick Washington Jr. #96 and defensive lineman Eli Howard V #53 of Texas Tech celebrate a tackle by Washington Jr. during the first half of the college football game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the UTEP Miners at Jones AT&T Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 07: Defensive lineman Broderick Washington Jr. #96 and defensive lineman Eli Howard V #53 of Texas Tech celebrate a tackle by Washington Jr. during the first half of the college football game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the UTEP Miners at Jones AT&T Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /
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If the Texas Tech football team is going to salvage its season, senior DL Broderick Washington is going to have to get back to being an impact player.

There’s no question that the Texas Tech football team is quickly approaching the point of no return in 2019.  With just three games in the win column and only four left to play, the margin for error for this team is as thin as possible if a bowl game is to be in the cards.

This is when the Red Raiders need their best players to take their games to a new level.  One player who certainly belongs in that discussion is defensive lineman Broderick Washington but the senior has seen his productivity slip in recent weeks.

Early in the season, it appeared that 6-foot-3, 300-pounder had benefitted as much as any player on the roster from the change to a new attacking style of defense.  Moved from a traditional defensive tackle position to more of a 5-technique that is often asked to rush the passer, Washington was noticeably disruptive to begin the season.

At times he looked unblockable in the first two games of the season, granted, it was against inferior competition.  With 2.5 tackles for loss after two games, Washington looked as if he might be on his way to a monster season.

Against Arizona, he had six tackles, which is the most he’s had in a game this year.  And though almost no one on the defense showed up in Norman, Washinton played well with three tackles while being credited with a half of a tackle for loss.

A week later, he had his best game of the year.  In Tech’s win over Oklahoma State, Washington again registered six tackles (1.5 for loss).  He was credited with 0.5 sacks and a fumble recovery in the 45-35 contest.

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But since then, his impact has diminished a bit more with each passing game.  Against Baylor, he was again noticeable with five tackles and a sack.

However, he was not his usual productive self against Iowa State.  As the Cyclone offense had its way with Washington and the Red Raider defense, the senior came up with just two tackles.  And last week at Kansas, Washington was able to make just one stop, a season-low.

So what’s going on with the player that should be Tech’s best defensive lineman?  First, he is likely being impacted by the Red Raiders’ lack of depth along the defensive line.  With three key reserves missing in Lawrence, the healthy Red Raider linemen were pushed beyond their limit and it was apparent that they ran out of gas as the game wore on.

Another reason Washington has been less impactful is that teams are running the ball less against the Red Raiders these days.  Knowing that the weak link of the defense is the secondary, both Iowa State and Kansas took to the air as their primary means of attack.

The Cyclones threw the ball 32 times while running it just 24.  That might seem surprising given that the Cyclones jumped out to a 20-0 lead and held a two-score advantage for most of the game.

Likewise, Kansas put the ball in the air 37 times, five more times than they threw it.  That too might fly in the face of what we expected given that the Jayhawks feature one of the nation’s most dynamic running backs, Pooka Williams.

Though Washington is one of this team’s best pass rushers, it is not what he’s best suited to do, especially 30 times a game.  It’s tough to ask any defensive lineman to give his all 50 or 60 snaps a game and not lose a step over the course of the four quarters, especially one that is 300 pounds like Washington.

In addition, he’s still a run-stopper at heart.  That’s where he shows up the most and as such, it’s not shocking to see his impact decline as teams have taken to the air more frequently.

It will be interesting to see what a week off does for Tech’s vocal and emotional leader.  When the Red Raiders return to the field next week in West Virginia, Washington will likely have to rush the passer plenty once again because the Mountaineers are throwing the ball 54% of the time this year.

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Fortunately, the Red Raiders should have some key defensive line reserves like Tony Bradford Jr. and Nelson Mbanasor back in the mix to give Washington more of a rest during the game.  If he can get back to being a disruptive force like he was in the first six games of the year, it will do wonders for a defense that is desperately searching for some playmaking along the defensive front.