Commanders DE depth
Montez Sweat and Chase Young are the starting defensive ends. I think James Smith-Williams is the first option behind them. And Efe Obada’s positional flexibility means he has a spot as well.
The Washington Commanders will keep either five or six defensive ends. This means that veteran Casey Toohill may be competing against 2023 draftees K.J. Henry and Andre Jones Jr. for the remaining one or two spots.
This could well be one of those cases in which the rookies will play a lot more than the veteran. But I wouldn’t read too much into that. The Commanders know what Toohill can do. He is a very active athletic edge player who is also quite good on special teams.
That will be one of the things to watch for with the rookies. See how often and how well Henry and Jones line up for kick coverage.
This could also be a situation in which one big play could in fact win someone a job. For all its pedigree and potential, the Commanders have not had a defensive end record double digits in sacks since Ryan Kerrigan did it in 2018.
Sweat is a quality pass rusher, and Young is eager to show what he can do now that he is healthy. But this team desperately needs more pressure from its edge players.
The entire defense is predicated on this. If Henry or Jones shows this ability against the Cincinnati Bengals – one big sack or consistent pressure across multiple series - that could be what it takes to get them a spot on the final roster.
Toohill will certainly play because Sweat and Young will play very little - if at all. The experienced presence can help himself with a sack as well. But I think he goes into this game with his reputation already in place. It’s up to the rookies to prove that they can top each other, and the veteran.