Maligned and pointed to as the main cause of the team's dismal 2013 season, Washington's defense has nowhere to go but up in 2014.
Even with that said, the defense's performance in the first preseason game was startling.
Although Tom Brady and a host of other starters didn't suit up for this contest, the defense's performance against Ryan Mallett was noteworthy. With analysts like Mike Mayock raving about his qualifications to be a starting quarterback, via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, Mallett had the talent to challenge Washington's defense.
Minus both of their marquee signees, Jason Hatcher and Ryan Clark, the Redskins held the Patriots scoreless in the first half. Mallett only completed five of 12 passes for 55 yards.
Most encouraging of all, though, was the dominance of the team's defensive front. Making only subtle changes to its secondary, any improvement on defense will be a direct result of Washington's front seven.
With the pressure of this unit, Washington held New England to just 63 rushing yards and, with the exception of one pass to Brian Tyms, limited the Pats' aerial attack to short gains.
Already toting a litany of weapons on offense, it won't take a dominant defensive performance like this for Washington to win games in 2014. But if the Redskins, even if it's just in spurts, can dial up this type of pressure, the team will be well positioned to win a wide-open NFC East.