Essendon coach John Worsfold admits vice-captain Zach Merrett played poorly in the Bombers' 72-point AFL opening-round loss to GWS but says he was far from alone.
Merrett, an All-Australian in 2017, drew criticism from club greats Tim Watson and Matthew Lloyd for a lack of effort early in the match.
"Zach had a poor game, I think - he didn't really impact at anywhere near the level where we know he can," Worsfold said on Tuesday.
"But in fairness to Zach, if you extended out any period of play you would see several other players also not playing with the intensity that we needed to play at.
"Whether it's Zach as our vice-captain, whether it's (captain) Dyson (Heppell) or whether it's our young players, there are plenty of examples there across the board where we didn't put the effort in that's required at this level."
Merrett was held to 16 possessions by the Giants - more than 10 below his average in each of the past three seasons - but it was a half-hearted tackle attempt late in the first quarter that drew the ire of Watson and Lloyd.
"It's almost as if he's given up. This is as bad as it can possibly be," Watson told Channel Seven's Talking Footy on Monday night.
"This is tough on Zach Merrett, he's a youngish type player - that is not AFL standard.
"There is not a coach in the competition that would accept that as effort."
Lloyd also singled out the efforts of Merrett.
"Zach Merrett wouldn't do this last year, just put an arm out there," Lloyd told Footy Classified.
"Either he's injured or bereft of confidence. You can't be lacking confidence in round one."
Merrett battled an ankle problem during the pre-season but Worsfold insisted on Tuesday that he was now fully fit.
Much was expected of Essendon this year after they won 10 of their last 14 games in 2018 and recruited on-baller Dylan Shiel during the trade period.
But after two losses in the pre-season competition and the round-one drubbing they are already under pressure heading into Saturday's clash against St Kilda at Marvel Stadium.
"They're (the players) telling me that they're disappointed, that it wasn't what they stand for, it wasn't what they want to be known for and they want to address that," Worsfold said.
The Bombers lost the contested possession count against GWS by 41, the biggest discrepancy during Worsfold's tenure.
Australian Associated Press