3 critical observations from Commanders trading Montez Sweat and Chase Young

Chase Young and Montez Sweat
Chase Young and Montez Sweat / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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Commanders past

Since 2000, the Washington Commanders have selected 22 players in the first round of the NFL Draft. Montez Sweat and Chase Young become the fifth and sixth first-rounders the team has traded away for draft picks.

They join Rod Gardner, Patrick Ramsey, Jason Campbell, and Trent Williams on that dubious list.

The first two trades barely mattered. Campbell was jettisoned after Washington acquired Donovan McNabb. And Williams was dealt from a position of extraordinary weakness based on a highly fractured relationship.

But to the best of my knowledge, the Commanders have never traded two former first-rounders on the same day. At least the haul was better than those previous trades. The previous three yielded just one Day 2 selection along with four Day 3 picks.

Looking back, the biggest takeaway from Tuesday is that this constitutes a total repudiation of the strategy that this team has been employing over the past decade. That has enormous implications for the future, which we will get to shortly.

Before we do, let’s do a quick post-mortem on the “dominant defensive line” – the line comprised of four first-round draft picks that were supposed to anchor the Commanders’ return to prominence.

None of those four players was a bust, and that’s no small statement. But they did not live up to the hype. Young’s injury slowed the progress, but you can’t blame any of this on his inability to stay healthy. The injury track record isn’t too bad.

This line, which was always above average, simply was never consistently dominant.

Like most observers, I’ve been brutal in my assessment of Commanders linebacker play of late. But if you watch really good defenses, you will note that linebackers like Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw in San Francisco, or Nick Bolton in Kansas City, or even Nicholas Morrow in Philadelphia, all have much easier paths to the ball carrier because their defensive lines are tying up linemen.

This season, Jamin Davis and Cody Barton are often getting blown out of the play by bigger offensive linemen. That doesn’t absolve them, but it does suggest that this defensive line is not as dominant as it was supposed to be.