Analyzing the Commanders concerning lack of defensive depth

(Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports) Chase Young and Montez Sweat
(Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports) Chase Young and Montez Sweat /
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Believe it or not, the Washington Commanders’ offense doesn’t have more questions than its defense heading into training camp. In fact, following the Terry McLaurin extension, the offense is mostly set in terms of personnel.

The trio of McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel at wide receiver can be one of the most dynamic trios in the NFC, the offensive line is reloaded with an abundance of depth, while the running back and tight end rooms provide multiple capable skillsets.

Despite Carson Wentz’s well-documented flaws, he is a significant upgrade over his predecessors in Washington. On paper, the Commanders should feel comfortable with their offensive personnel. The defense is a different story though.

The eleven projected starters on Washington’s defense have the makings of an exciting defensive unit. The two most unproven links — Jamin Davis and Benjamin St-Juste — are second-year players with oodles of physical potential.

But it is not Washington’s starters on defense that are the problem. Headlined by their four first round picks on the defensive front, Washington starters can be put up against any in the league to be frank.

What becomes concerning, however, is the depth— or lack thereof. At all three levels of the defense, there is a startling lack of proven or quality depth. Washington could be just a few injuries away from giving full-time snaps to lackluster backups and rotational snaps to fringe roster players.

Ron Rivera stated in a recent interview with JP Finlay following the Terry McLaurin press conference, that the focus had shifted towards the defense. In what was hinted at both the short and long-term on the defense, Rivera stated that they would look around the market for any last-minute additions to the defense.

Frankly, Washington shouldn’t just be looking. They need to be actively seeking out quality depth across the board on defense.

Analyzing the Commanders concerning lack of defensive depth 

1. An elite front four, with mediocre depth- The Defensive Line

The Commanders’ depth behind Chase Young and Montez Sweat is better than other places on the defense. Efe Obada was one of Washington’s lone free-agent signings, who has positional flexibility. James Smith-Williams will be the main rotational piece as a solid run defender and Casey Toohill has athletic upside as a pass rusher. Deeper down the chart, Shaka Toney and William Bradley-King flashed in their limited appearances in 2021.

Still, Washington could be without Chase Young for the beginning portion of the 2022 season. Some medical professionals say the graph he had on his knee can extend the recovery process on his ACL. So while most of the edge depth pieces are serviceable the Commanders should tentatively begin searching for a legitimate veteran option via trade or free agency.

The interior of the defensive line is where Washington has the most potential concerns along their four-man front. Allen, Payne, and Mathis make a formidable three-headed trio. But if one of the three has to miss anytime, Washington has a lackluster collection of pieces behind them.

Both Obada and Smith-Williams have the capability of sliding in as a 3-tech but it’s not an ideal compromise. Especially against the run, Washington’s defense could suffer with its lack of depth along the interior defensive line.

Players to eye: DT Star Lotoulelei, DT Malik Jackson, DT Ndamukong Suh, DE Carlos Dunlap