Heading into the 2021 NFL regular season, Montez Sweat and Chase Young spoke of their lofty goals. The Washington Football Team duo is aiming to break the sack record for teammates in a single season.
Two games into the season, however, the dynamic edge rushers have accounted for two combined sacks. The former Mississippi State Bulldog has recorded both of them.
The perceived strength of Washington was supposed to be the defensive line. So far in 2021, the unit has not lived up to expectations. In the season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, the defense pressured Justin Herbert on only 12% of his dropbacks. Luckily, Washington’s defense was somewhat better in Week 2.
Although Daniel Jones accounted for nearly 400 total yards of offense, Montez Sweat and company pressured Jones on over 50% of his passes. After recording a sack and turnover against the Chargers, Sweat recorded another sack versus the Giants. He also accounted for two quarterback hits and three tackles.
Over the first two weeks of the regular season, Bills quarterback Josh Allen has yet to regain his 2020 MVP-caliber form. Fortunately, Washington is catching Buffalo at the right time. In the Bills season-opening loss to Pittsburgh, the Steelers battled from a 10-0 deficit to win 23-17. The Bills’ offensive line was overwhelmed by TJ Watt and the Steelers’ defense, as Watt accounted for two of Pittsburgh’s three sacks, in addition to five quarterback hits. Pittsburgh also forced four fumbles and recovered two.
The Steelers defense also forced six holding penalties, as well as 24 total quarterback pressures. Per Pro Football Focus, the Bills played six offensive linemen in that game. The average pass-blocking grade of the group was 49.5.
The Buffalo Bills rebounded in a big way as they shut out the Dolphins 35-0 in week two. However, the Bills’ offensive line struggled again in week two as they allowed 12 total pressures. Through the first two weeks of the season, the pass rush for the Washington Football team has been non-existent at times.
So far in 2021, Montez Sweat has been a more consistent player than Chase Young. Against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, the WFT will need Sweat to be the best player on the field. Despite his struggles to start the season, Allen is more than capable of replicating Daniel Jones’ output against the Washington defense. In the first two games of the season, Allen is completing only 56% of his passes, is averaging 5.3 yards per attempt, and has a 77.9 passer rating.
Like Washington’s defense, Bills quarterback Josh Allen has gotten off to a slow start as well. The defense as a whole can ill-afford a “get right” game from the MVP candidate from a year ago.
Can Montez Sweat continue his hot start against the Buffalo Bills?
Of Washington’s 32 total quarterback pressures on the season, Montez Sweat has accounted for six. He has also recorded two of Washington’s six sacks on the season. Against the Bills, he’ll likely draw assignments between tackles Daryl Williams and Dion Dawkins. Both players have struggled to start the season. Williams also allowed a sack last week versus the Dolphins.
In these particular games, Washington needs their best players to elevate their game. Josh Allen has yet to regain his 2020 form, just like Montez Sweat and the rest of Washington’s defense. A lot of that stems from opposing offenses game-planning more for Sweat and his fellow defensive linemen. Coach Ron Rivera all but confirmed this to Washington beat writers on Thursday.
"“The guys who are doubled have to put it upon themselves to understand how to rush the doubles,” Rivera said. “How to attack them, and that’s one of the things we’ve been talking about. We’ve been working with in terms of getting both Chase and Montez to understand what is going to happen. Part of it is understanding that if I’m going to get this action from this guy, will I attack it that way? If I’m getting this, then I go ahead and do that. They have to understand what is going to benefit them as far as attacking double teams.”"
Simply put, these are the games where the best players on the Washington Football Team have to rise to the occasion. Montez Sweat is playing arguably the best football of any Washington defender in 2021. Against the Bills, he’ll need a dominant outing if the WFT is to have a chance to pull off the upset in their first road contest of the season.