Essendon coach John Worsfold has called for patience with the inconsistent early form of his team.
Worsfold says application rather than effort was the problem in last Sunday's loss to the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium after starting the season with such a strong home win against AFL Grand Finalist Adelaide.
"Our high-performance guys tell us that was our hardest running game of the year," said Worsfold. "So, the effort is there.
"We've worked all summer on playing a brand of footy we want to play and we've seen bits of it. We're three weeks into the season and we're learning all the time."
Worsfold says with the squad changing in recent times - Josh Green and James Stewart were not there a couple of seasons ago and Jake Stinger, Adam Saad and Devon Smith are new additions - it will take a while to work through their best mix.
But he has little sympathy for Zach Merrett, as the young midfielder deals with extra attention this season.
"Our mids have specific roles and structures they play. Our focus is not on the need to help Zach Merrett to get more possessions, we want Zach to help us be a great team and we'll help him be a great player as well.
"When you say can we help Zach out, there's an enormous amount of help going on. This morning I spoke to Zach, two days ago different players spoke to Zach. His teammates are around him. He has a role to play on game day and our expectation is that our players play their role." said Worsfold.
He added public criticism this week was based on limited knowledge, but he doesn't want his players to totally ignore it in the build up to Sunday's game against ladder leaders Port Adelaide at Etihad Stadium.
On defender Conor McKenna's three-game suspension for biting, Worsfold said: "Things happen in footy, we make wrong decisions at times. We deal with the consequences, we don't dwell on it and we focus on going forward.
"I don't really want to know why (he did it). Do you reckon in the heat of that moment, after he had sprinted 100m, got run down and was disappointed in the tackle and something happened in a fraction of a second, that he thought through it?"