Washington Football Team Defense: 2018 vs. 2020
By Jonathan Eig
Of the five defenders who played at least eighty percent of the snaps in 2018, three of them were in the defensive backfield. Two of them, cornerback Josh Norman and safety D.J. Swearinger, are gone. The other, Fabian Moreau, should be a key member of this 2020’s secondary.
The Washington Football Team’s other emerging cornerback from 2018, Quinton Dunbar, is also gone, a year after rating as Pro Football Focus’ second-best cornerback in 2019. The other major contributors from 2018, safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Montae Nicholson, are long gone.
This group played fairly well in 2018, though Norman’s declining skills and Swearinger’s volatility kept them from being as good as they should have been. As with the linebacking corps, this year’s group will have a lot of young talent to choose from.
From the group of Moreau, Kendall Fuller, Ronald Darby, Jimmy Moreland and perhaps Greg Stroman (who played a fair amount in 2018 before injuries sidelined him last year), the Washington Football Team needs to identify three reliable corners. I have high hopes for Fuller and Moreland, and if Darby can stay healthy, he should perform well. Moreau and Stroman, along with vets Aaron Colvin and Ryan Lewis, should provide passable depth.
On the back end, Landon Collins, Troy Apke and Sean Davis should approximate, and perhaps exceed, the productivity of Swearinger, Clinton-Dix and Nicholson. As a whole, I’m not convinced the secondary has more talent (Norman, Dunbar, and Swearinger were all highly-skilled players, and Clinton-Dix, though he never seemed to get comfortable after his mid-season acquisition, has plus talent as well), but most of the headaches from 2018’s secondary should also be gone. New coaches Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio seem to value steady character, which should serve as a refreshing change from past seasons.
As a whole, the back seven has enough talent to equal the production of 2018’s team, and the front four should constitute a major upgrade. The effectiveness of the line should have a ripple effect, making both linebackers and defensive backs better than they would be playing behind a neutral line. This has been the hope from the moment Chase Young became the presumptive first-round draft pick. His dominance, alongside an improved Montez Sweat and an excellent interior, should elevate the entire defense far beyond where it was in 2018.
Okay — this is pretty easy. Hopkins, Way and Sundberg in 2018. Hopkins, Way and Sundberg in 2020. Hopkins, Way and Sundberg forever! Unless one of them gets lured away by an offer to appear in Kindergarten Ninja 2: Who’s Ready For First Grade?